Arsames

Arsames (Old Persian: Aršâma): name of the grandfather of the Persian king Darius I the Great. He must have lived in the mid-sixth century BCE.

Arsames is mentioned in the prologue of the Behistun Inscription, in which its author, Darius the Great, mentions his ancestors.

I am Darius, the great king, king of kings, the king of Persia, the king of countries, the son of Hystaspes, the grandson of Arsames, the Achaemenid

King Darius says: My father is Hystaspes; the father of Hystaspes was Arsames; the father of Arsames was Ariaramnes; the father of Ariaramnes was Teispes; the father of Teispes was Achaemenes. 

King Darius says: That is why we are called Achaemenids; from antiquity we have been noble; from antiquity has our dynasty been royal.note

This list of ancestors is also offered by the Greek researcher Herodotus of Halicarnassus,note and although he may not be an independent source of information that confirms the Behistun Inscription, there is no reason to believe that Darius did not remember the names of his grandfather.

Arsames was still alive in 520 BCE, because his grandson Darius (r.522-486) mentions him as "still living" in the inscription from the royal palace at Susa known as DSf. (The construction of this palace cannot have started before 520.)

King Darius says: Ahuramazda, the greatest of the gods created me, made me king, bestowed upon me this kingdom, great, possessed of good horses, possessed of good men. By the favor of Ahuramazda my father Hystaspes and Arsames my grandfather were both living when Ahuramazda made me king in this earth.

Arsames had at least three sons, but we know only two names: Hystaspes, the father of king Darius the Great, and Pharnaces, who served as Darius' treasurer.

Inscription AsH

A brief inscription by Arsames, known as AsH, was found in 1945 on a gold tablet in Hamadan (ancient Ecbatana) and runs like this:

Inscription AsH
  1. Aršâma \ xšâyathiya \ vazraka \ x
  2. šâyathiya \ xšâyathiyânâm \ x
  3. šâyathiya \ Pârsa \ Ariyâramna \ xš
  4. âyathiyahyâ \ puça \ Haxâmanišiya
  5. \ thâtiy \ Aršâma \ xšâyathiya \ Au
  6. ramazdâ \ baga \ vazraka \ hya \ mathiš
  7. ta \ bagânâm \ mâm \ xšâyathiya
  8. m \ akunauš \ hauv \ dahyâum \ P
  9. ârsam \ manâ \ frâbara \ tya \ ukâram
  10. \ uvaspam \ vašnâ \ Auramazdâha \ im
  11. âm \ dahyâum \ dârayâmiy \ mâm \
  12. Auramazdâ \ pâtuv \ utâmaiy \ v
  13. itham \ utâ \ imâm \ dahyâum \ tya \
  14. adam \ dârayâmiy \ hauv \ pâtuv
Arsames, the great king, king of kings, king in Persia, son of king Ariaramnes, an Achaemenian. King Arsames says: the great god Ahuramazda, greatest of gods, made me king. He bestowed on me the land Persia, with good people, with good horses. By the favor of Ahuramazda I hold this land. May Ahuramazda protect me, and my royal house, and may he protect this land which I hold.

It is unclear when this text was made. It can be a fraud (modern or ancient), but it may be an original document.

This page was created in 1997; last modified on 8 January 2017.