Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 78 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here
Artacoana Chosen For Showdown
Satibarzanes Flees To Bessus – Men to Mountains
Alexander Subdues Aria
Diodorus begins Chapter 78 by finishing Chapter 77. He notes that even though Alexander adopted Persian customs and dress only ‘sparingly’ some people still complained. They were ‘silenced… with gifts’. I’ve made that sound very dramatic but the ellipsis really does only signify that I have missed a word out.
Meanwhile, Satibarzanes, the satrap of Aria, ‘made common cause with Bessus’, murdered his Macedonian guard and fled to Chortacana (aka Artacoana), a city of ‘great natural strength’ where he intended to hold out against Alexander.
This is Satibarzanes’ first appearance in Diodorus’ narrative. He holds an important position within it, however, as one of Darius’ murderers. The Footnotes appear to suggest that Satibarzanes and Alexander first met on the battlefield as they refer to Alexander defeating before confirming him in his satrapy. After doing so, he sent Satibarzanes on his way with a detachment of Macedonian soldiers to make sure he behaved.
On hearing of Satibarzanes’ betrayal, Alexander set out against him. The two never met, however, for as the Macedonian army approached, the satrap took fright at its size and reputation. He leapt onto his horse and with two thousand men rode for Bactria. Those followers who did not ride with him were told to hide in an unknown mountain.
We never found out what happened to the last people who ran into the mountains to escape Alexander but this time, Diodorus says that the king followed Satibarzanes’ men to their destination, laid siege to the place and brought about their surrender. A month later, all of Aria was under his control.
Once this was done, it seems that Alexander returned to Hyrcania again as Diodorus has him leaving there and moving on ‘to the capital of Dranginê [aka Drangianê], where he paused and rested his army’.
Why did Satibarzanes rebel against Alexander? Did he really think that Bessus would be able to do what Darius could not? Bessus must have been a very charismatic man to persuade him otherwise. I imagine that Satibarzanes was also swayed by Bessus’ rank. Bactria was the satrapy of kings. It’s where the heirs to the Archaemenid empire learned their trade before succeeding to the throne (See Livius here). Darius may not have had Bessus in mind to be his successor – he had a son, after all – but now that Codomannus was dead and Ochus was in Alexander’s hands – perhaps Bessus satrapal importance, the fact (?) that he had royal blood in him, and all that charisma made an irresistible combination.
As mentioned above, the Footnotes say that Alexander confirmed Satibarzanes as satrap of Aria ‘after defeating him’. I don’t know in what sense they mean this. Arrian says that the two men met in the Arian town of Susia where the confirmation took place. Curtius has Alexander confirming him after Satibarzanes enters the Macedonian camp and reports Bessus’ rebellion.
Opening This Week at an Amphitheatre Near You
Catch Me If You Can
A play about a satrap who conned his followers
into thinking he had any guts before doing a
Image from the British Museum