“The Mighty, Quasi-Sovereign”: Eunuch Bagoas in the History of the Achaemenid Empire

Orlov Vasiliy P., Rung Eduard V.

The article offers a detailed examination of the activities of the eunuch Bagoas who was the de facto ruler of the Achaemenid Persian empire at the end of the reign of Artaxerxes III Ochus (359–338 BC), Arses (338–336 BC) and at the beginning of the reign of Darius III Codomannus (336–330 BC). The main problem addressed in this article is the reasons for the increase of Bagoas’ influence at the royal court. The examination of the main aspects of Bagoas’ career leads to the conclusion that he was able to exercise informal influence on the King Artaxerxes III due to his position as a court eunuch. However, holding military and administrative positions in the Achaemenid empire, and, finally, the office of chiliarch who ensured the protection of the king, controlled the access of visitors to him and occupied almost the second place in the state, allowed Bagoas not only to effectively influence decision-making by the king, but also to take charge of many issues of domestic and foreign policy personally. When a king attempted to limit such activities, Bagoas physically eliminated him. Such was the fate of Artaxerxes III and Arses, and it was also prepared by Bagoas for Darius III, however, the latter monarch who had come to power with his assistance disposed of Bagoas. Furthermore, as part the context for Bagoas’ activities, more general issues are considered related to the position of eunuchs in the Achaemenid Persian Empire, their role at the royal court, and their influence on politics.

Keywords: Bagoas, eunuchs, Persians, Persia, Achaemenids

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