Tiribazo e la veste del re

Stefano Ferrucci


In the Life of Artaxerxes 5, 3-4, Plutarch reports an anecdote relating to an exchange of clothes between the king and Tiribazus during a royal hunt. The narrative has a light tone and is not easy to explain. The interpretations understand it either as a manifestation of the Persian king’s benevolence and of Tiribazus’ arrogance (Briant, Binder) or as the portrayal of a potential rebellion to the king, based on the high symbolic value of royal vests (Sancisi-Weerdenburg), or as a representation of the ritual of the substitute king, attested for the Assyrian-Babylonian world (Frazer, Germain, Orsi). This paper aims at rediscussing the meaning of the anecdote by reconsidering its main components: the figure of Tiribazus and his relationship with Artaxerxes II; the role of royal hunts in Achaemenid court, and their use in Cyrus the younger’s self-promotion against his brother; references to the symbolism of real dresses and headdresses in Greek sources. I propose to understand the passage rather as connected to a ritual of inversion, filtered by the Hellenic perspective of Plutarch and probably already of his sources. Moreover, Plutarch uses the story to unmask the true essence of a Persian king, associated with "women and madmen", just as Artaxerxes paradoxically does towards his subject unexpectedly dressed like him.

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