*ČIΘRAFARNAH (Elamite Zi-ut-ra-bar-na, Assyrian Ši-dir-pa-ar-na/ni, Gk. Tetraphérnēs), Iranian personal name meaning “with shining splendor” (Iran. farnah-), also attested in a variant with the first element Persianized, *Čiçafarnah- (Gk. Tissaphérnēs, S(e)isiphérnēs, Aramaic Ššprn, Lycian Kizzaprñna, Zisaprñna; see Iranisches Personennamenbuch V/4, pp. 22, 28; Schmitt, pp. 83-84; Hinz and Koch, p. 1306).

Known bearers of such names include:

1. *Čiθrafamah-, leader of Pa-tu-uš-ar-ra/ri “the Pateischorians” (cf. Greek Pateischoreîs, OPers. Pātišuvariš) of Media (on the border of the Salt Desert, near the lapis lazuli mountain Bikni), mentioned in several inscriptions of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon, who deported him together with Eparna, their followers, and rich booty to Assyria (Borger, pp. 34, 55, 100, 127).

2. *Čiçafarnah- (Aramaic Ššprn), subtreasurer (OPers. *upaganzabara-, Aramaic ʾpgnzbrʾ) under the treasurer Bagapāta at Persepolis in the years around 444-43 b.c.e. (year 21 of Artaxerxes I; see Bowman, nos. 50.3; 53.5, pp. 58, 121, 123).

3. *Čiçafarnah- (Gk. Tissaphérnēs, Lycian Kizzaprñna, Zisaprñna), son of Vidṛna-, Persian satrap in Sardis under Darius II and Artaxerxes II. He bore the title of “commander of the coastlands” (stratēgòs . . . tôn kátō; Thucydides, 8.5.4), obviously associated with a rank higher than that of an ordinary satrap.

The fact that his father’s name (Gk. Hydárnēs, Lycian Widrñna; cf. the Xanthos stele: Kizzaprñna Widrñnah “K. [son] of W.,” Tituli Lyciae, 44c, 11-12) was identical with that of one of the famous Seven Persians of the year 522 b.c.e. (DB 4.84; Kent, Old Persian, pp. 130, 132; Herodotus, 3.70.2) suggests that *Čiçafarnah- was descended from a leading Persian family (see esp. Lewis, pp. 83f.); he may have been born between 455 and 445 b.c.e. The details of his life are known mainly from the classical sources, where it is reported that after the rebellion of Pissoúthnēs had been quelled and its leader liquidated, in about 413 b.c., Tissaphernes succeeded him as satrap of Sardis (Ctesias, F 15 par. 53 J.) and perhaps shortly afterward also as commander in chief (Gk. káranos) of Asia Minor, that is, of all the Achaemenid forces on the Aegean coast.

His main immediate tasks were to put down the Carian revolt led by Pissouthnes’ bastard son Amórgēs and to reaffirm the Persian claim to all Greek cities in Asia Minor by collecting tribute from them. The Athenians seem not to have observed the rules of “Callias’ peace” on all points, however, so that Tissaphernes tried to come to an agreement with Sparta and its Peloponnesian allies, enemies of Athens. The entire involvement of the Persians, and especially the western satraps Tissaphernes and Pharnábazos (of Daskyleion), in the Peloponnesian War is described in detail by Thucydides (8.5-109) and Xenophon (Hellenica 1.1.1-2.1,15). A first treaty with the Lacedaemonians, signed in 412 b.c.e., guaranteed subsidies for Sparta in return for delivering all Greek cities and territories in Asia Minor to the Persian king (Thucydides, 8.18). Shortly afterward, during the winter of 412-11 b.c.e., in order to settle differences over the Greek soldiers’ wages, the treaty had to be renewed and the obligations of both sides made more precise (8.37). In the meantime, Tissaphernes, irritated by a change in Spartan policy and influenced by Alcibiades, had also begun negotiations with Athens, which were unsuccess­ful, however. As he had failed in this attempt to play one Greek state off against the other, Tissaphernes then con­cluded a third treaty with Sparta, which was formulated with great precision but contained no long-term provisions (8.58); he was thus able to retain full freedom of action for the time being. The complete texts of all three of these treaties of 412-11 b.c.e. are given by Thucydides (8.18, 8.37, 8.58).

Tissaphernes’ vacillating policy toward the Greeks led to a serious setback in the following years, and the royal court apparently realized the necessity for adopting an­other; Tissaphernes was replaced by the king’s younger son, Cyrus, in 407 b.c.e. and was reduced to governing Caria (Xenophon, Hellenica 1.4.1ff.; Anabasis 1.1.2, 1.9.7). His political influence seems to have been slight in the ensuing years. But, when Cyrus’s older brother Artaxerxes succeeded to the throne after Darius II’s death in 405-04 b.c.e. and rivalry between the two brothers grew more heated, Tissaphernes supported Artaxerxes and warned the king to beware of the intrigues and maneuvers of Cyrus (Anabasis 1.2.4-5). Cyrus initiated his revolt in 401 b.c.e., an event de­scribed in detail in Xenophon’s Anabasis; Tissaphernes joined the king’s forces, and it was a spectacular victory by the cavalry under his command that decided the outcome at the decisive battle of Cunaxa, during which Cyrus died. Afterward Tissaphernes escorted Cyrus’ 10,000 Greek soldiers, whose military superiority he feared, up the Tigris, where he invited their officers to a conference, then had them arrested and executed.

As a reward for Tissaphernes’ loyal support against Cyrus, Artaxerxes gave him one of his own daughters in marriage and in 400 b.c.e. appointed him once again to his former post as commander in chief of Asia Minor (Diodorus 14.26.4). His return opened a new phase in the struggle with the Greeks in Asia Minor and in Greco-Persian relations in general. Sparta sent an army to assist the Greek cities, and for several years there was minor skirmishing that never developed into pitched battle. Finally, in 395 b.c.e. a painful, though not decisive, defeat was sustained by Tissaphernes’ forces on the river Pactolus near Sardis; this defeat, combined with the strong opposition constantly fomented by Cyrus’s mother, Parysatis, who was furious at Tissaphernes’ role in blocking her son’s bid for the throne, was enough to bring about his fall in the summer of the same year. At a meeting with the royal delegate Ariaeus in Colossae (Phrygia), he was suddenly seized and put to death; his head was sent to the king (Xenophon, Hellenica 3.4.25f.; Diodorus, 14.80.3ff. and passim).

Tissaphernes has been described, on the one hand, as impetuous and forthright, on the other, as a liar and treacherous deceiver (to Xenophon, he seemed “the supreme example of faithlessness and oath-breaking in the Anabasis”; Hirsch, p. 41). Nevertheless, as one scholar has noted, “it is only fair to him to say . . . that in an epoch when disloyalty was becoming the norm he remained the most loyal subject of the two Kings whom he served” (Cook, p. 208). That Tissaphernes appeared to the Greeks as one of their most dangerous enemies and no doubt the model of an unscrupulous diplomat is not surprising; this bias has so deeply marked Greek traditions that it now seems nearly impossible to form a balanced judgment about him, especially as no Persian sources are available and the pertinent sections of the Lycian Xanthos stele are not yet understood.

Tissaphernes was the first satrap to put his own portrait on silver coins (not only tetradrachms) issued after 412­-11 b.c. (Bodenstedt, p. 71).



Given in the text. See also F. Bodenstedt, “Satrapen und Dynasten auf phokäischen Hekten,” Schweizer Münzblätter 26, 1976, pp. 69-75.

R. Borger, Die Inschriften Asarhaddons, Königs von Assyrien, Graz, 1956.

R. A. Bowman, Aramaic Ritual Texts from Persepolis, Chicago, 1970.

A. R. Burn, “Persia and the Greeks,” Camb. Hist. Iran II, pp. 342ff., 352ff., 358ff.

W. A. P. Childs, “Lycian Relations with Persians and Greeks in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries Re-examined,” Anatolian Studies 31, 1981, pp. 55-80.

J. M. Cook, The Persian Empire, London, 1983.

W. Hinz and H. Koch, Elamisches Wörterbuch, AMI, Ergänzungsband 17, 2 vols., Berlin, 1987.

S. W. Hirsch, The Friendship of the Barbarians. Xenophon and the Persian Empire, Hanover and London, 1985.

D. M. Lewis, Sparta and Persia, Leiden, 1977.

A. T. Olmstead, History of the Persian Empire, Chicago, 1948.

H. Schaefer, “Tissaphernes,” in Pauly-Wissowa, Suppl. VII, cols. 1579-99.

R. Schmitt, “Achaimenidisches bei Thukydides,” in H. Koch and D. N. MacKenzie, eds., Kunst, Kultur and Geschichte der Achamenidenzeit und ihr Fortleben, Berlin, 1983, pp. 69-86.

Tituli Lyciae Lingua Lycia Conscripti, ed. E. Kalinka = Tituli Asiae Minoris I, Vienna, 1901.

(Rüdiger Schmitt)

Originally Published: December 15, 1991

Last Updated: October 21, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. V, Fasc. 6, pp. 636-637