Artaphernes the Elder (fl.500-492 BC) was the Persian satrap of Sardis during the Ionian Revolt, and a half brother of the Emperor Darius I.
Before the outbreak of the revolt Artaphernes was contacted twice by the Athenians asking for assistance. In around 505 the Athenians requested help against Sparta, but were told that they would have to acknowledge Darius's authority. A few years later Hippias, the exiled former tyrant of Athens (expelled in 510 BC) was in exile in Persia. The Athenians sent an embassy to Artaphernes asking him not to interfere in Athens, but he effectively told them to recall Hippias.
In 500 Aristagoras, tyrant of Miletus, convinced Artaphernes to give his support to an attempt to restore a party of aristocratic exiles at Naxos. Artaphernes convinced Darius I, who provided troops for the expedition. The attack, which was launched in 499, ended in failure after a four month long siege of Naxos.
In the aftermath of this failure Aristagoras decided to rebel against Persian authority, triggering the Ionian Revolt. He was either motivated by a desire to shield himself from the consequences of a dispute with the Persian commander, or possibly encouraged by letters from his predecessor as Tyrant and father-in-law Histiaeus. By the end of 499 the Ionian cities had overthrown their tyrants, appointed generals for their armies, and appealed to help from mainland Greece.
In the spring of 498 the rebels attacked Sardis, apparently catching Artaphernes by surprise. He was besieged in the citadel, and was unable to prevent the rebels from burning the town. He was rescued by Persian reinforcements, and the Greeks were chased back to Ephesus where their army suffered a heavy defeat.
After the revolt broke out Histiaeus convinced Darius that he could put down the rebellion, and he was allowed to return home. Artaphernes wasn’t won over, and eventually Histiaeus was forced to flee from the Persians, becoming a pirate based at Byzantium
In 497 Artaphernes accompanied an army commanded by Otanes, a son-in-law of Darius, as it recaptured Clazomenae in Ionia and Cyme in Aeolis. These successes unnerved Aristagoras, who decided to flee into exile in Thrace where he was soon killed in battle.
After the destruction of the Ionian fleet in c.495 Artaphernes finally caught up with Histiaeus and had him crucified at Sardis. After that Artaphernes the Elder disappears from the records, although he had been replaced as satrap of Sardia by Mardonius by 492 BC.
Artaphernes was the father of Artaphernes the Younger, one of the defeated Persian commanders at the battle of Marathon in 490 BC.