The Financial Conquests Of The Banker-Tyrant, Eubulus, In the War-torn 4th Century BCE

A certain Eubulus (not to be confused with the Athenian statesman with the same name), was a banker or moneylender who operated in the region of Anatolia during the reign of King Artaxerxes II of Persia (r. 404-358 BCE). It was a profitable place for a war profiteer, as satraps and vassals from the Anatolian region continuously rebelled against King Artaxerxes during his reign. Both the rebels and the loyalists needed money for their military goals, and Eubulus was there to lend it—for interest and sureties, of course.

Artaxerxes’ own brother, Cyrus the Younger (who governed the Anatolian regions of Lydia, Cappadocia, and Phrygia) rebelled in 401 BCE and died trying to usurp his brother’s throne. Although Cyrus was killed, the revolt lived on in many Greek settlements in Anatolia, which refused to submit to Artaxerxes II’s authority. Sparta aided these rebellious Anatolian cities for the first half of the 390s BCE, but Spartan attentions were soon called back to the Greek mainland by the Corinthian War (c. 395-387 BCE). Just as Artaxerxes’ loyalists were regaining momentum in Anatolia, King Evagoras (in Cyprus) rebelled against the Persians, persisting in his unsuccessful revolt for around a decade, lasting from about 391/390 to 381 BCE. Although a decade of relative peace in Anatolia followed Evagoras’ defeat, an even greater uprising was brewing—the so-called Satraps’ Revolt.

In 368 BCE, Datames (satrap of Cilicia and Cappadocia) rebelled against Artaxerxes II, and the revolt was joined by Ariobarzanes (satrap of Hellespont Phrygia) the next year, in 367 BCE. Although loyalist forces were again dispatched to crush the rebellion, the revolt only grew. By 364 BCE, reportedly all of the major Anatolian satraps had joined the rebellion, and Orontes (satrap of Armenia) also took the opportunity to rebel. Yet, after about 362 BCE, the rebellion began to lose momentum. In the following years, internal dissension, assassinations, and the surrender of key rebel leaders back to the side of Artaxerxes II led to the downfall of the revolt. Before the rebellion was finally over, however, the aforementioned banker and moneylender, Eubulus, had already made some interesting deals.

Eubulus evidently was a ruthless negotiator in his terms, as can be seen from what he obtained from the Persians during the years of profitable chaos. Somehow or other, Eubulus was able to loan and lend his way into seizing power and lordship over certain Persian lands. Through his terms and conditions, the banker is known to have taken possession of at least two cities—Atarneus and Assos—where he ruled as an authoritarian tyrant.

After the Satraps’ Revolt had run its course, the Persians tried to retake Eubulus’ cities. The philosopher, Aristotle (who was a friend of Eubulus’ successor, Hermias), recorded for posterity a story of how Eubulus dealt with Persian attacks on Atarneus. Aristotle wrote:

“When Autophradates [satrap of Lydia] was about to lay siege to Atarneus, its ruler Eubulus told him to consider how long it would take to complete the capture of the place, and then count the cost of a war of that duration. ‘For,’ he added, ‘I am willing now to abandon Atarneus in return for a smaller sum of money than that.’ These words of Eubulus caused Autophradates to think again and to abandon the siege” (Aristotle, The Politics, Bekker page 1267a).

Eubulus was able to maintain power, ruling his realm independently from the Persians. He died around the year 355 BCE, by which time Hermias took over the reins of government. Under Hermias’ rule, Assos became a center for learning, attracting prominent scholars from mainland Greece. As was hinted earlier, Aristotle was one of the philosophers who traveled to Assos. Besides studying, Aristotle also found a wife while he was abroad, for he married Hermias’ adopted daughter, Pythias.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribution: (An Exchange of Money from the Psalter manuscript BL Royal 2 B III, f. 51, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and The British Library).



Leave a Reply