Xerxes I

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Xerxes I
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{{short description|Ancient Persian king}}{{Other uses|Xerxes (disambiguation){{!}}Xerxes}}{{pp-move-indef}}

Xerxes I ({{IPAc-en|ˈ|z|ɜr|k|s|iː|z}}; Xšayaṛša ({{audio|Khashayarsha.ogg|Khshāyarsha|Khshayarsha=}}) BOOK
, The Persians
, Allesandro Bausani
, St. Martin's Press
, 1971
, Chapter 1: The Aryans on the Iranian Plateau: The Achaemenian Empire
, 27
"ruling over heroes",WEB,weblink Xeres I. The Name – Encyclopaedia Iranica,, 2011-09-30, 2014-07-25, Greek XérxÄ“s {{IPA-grc|ksérksɛːs|}}; 519–465 BC), called Xerxes the Great, was the fifth king of kings of the Achaemenid dynasty of Persia. Like his father and predecessor Darius I, he ruled the empire at its territorial apex. He ruled from 486 BC until his assassination in 465 BC at the hands of Artabanus, the commander of the royal bodyguard.
Xerxes I is one of the Persian kings identified as Ahasuerus in the biblical Book of Esther.WEB,weblink Ahasuerus,, 2014-07-25, BOOK,weblink Encyclopaedia perthensis, or, Universal dictionary of the arts, sciences, literature, etc.: intended to supersede the use of other books of reference, Google Books, 2014-07-25, 1816, BOOK, Law, George,weblink Identification of Darius the Mede, Google Books, 2010-06-04, 2014-07-25, 978-0982763100, He is also notable in Western history for his failed invasion of Greece in 480 BC. His forces temporarily overran mainland Greece north of the Isthmus of CorinthBOOK, The Defence of Greece, 490–479 B.C., Lazenby, J.F., 1993, Aris & Phillips, 978-0856685910,weblink 2016-09-07, Brian Todd Carey, Joshua Allfree, John Cairns. Warfare in the Ancient World Pen and Sword, 19 Jan. 2006 {{ISBN|1848846304}} until losses at Salamis and Plataea a year later reversed these gains and ended the second invasion decisively. However, Xerxes successfully crushed revolts in Egypt and Babylon. Roman Ghirshman says that, "After this he ceased to use the title of 'king of Babylon', calling himself simply 'king of the Persians and the Medes'."Roman Ghirshman, Iran (1954), Penguin Books, p. 191.Xerxes oversaw the completion of various construction projects at Susa and Persepolis.

Early life

Rise to power

Xerxes was born to Darius I and Atossa (daughter of Cyrus the Great). Darius and Atossa were both Achaemenids as they were both descendants of Achaemenes. While Darius was preparing for another war against Greece, a revolt spurred in Egypt in 486 BC due to heavy taxes and the deportation of craftsmen to build the royal palaces at Susa and Persepolis. Under Persian law, the king was required to choose a successor before setting out on dangerous expeditions. When Darius decided to leave (487–486 BC), Darius prepared his tomb at Naqsh-e Rustam (five kilometers from his royal palace at Persepolis) and appointed Xerxes, his eldest son by Atossa, as his successor. However, Darius could not lead the campaign due to his failing health and died in October 486 BC at the age of 64.{{sfn|Dandamaev|1989|pp=178–179}}File:National Meusem Darafsh 37.JPG|thumb|left|Probable depiction of Xerxes I as crown-prince, in the Audience scene of Darius, PersepolisPersepolis{{Hiero|Xerxes (XaÅ¡ayaruÅ¡a/ḪaÅ¡ayaruÅ¡a)Jürgen von Beckerath (1999), Handbuch der ägyptischen Königsnamen, Mainz am Rhein: von Zabern. {{ISBN|3-8053-2310-7}}, pp. 220–221|< xA-SA-i*i-A-rw-SA-A >|align=right|era=egypt}}{{Hiero|XerxesWEB, The Xeres Quadrilingual Alabastron,weblink The Schoyen Collection, 28 March 2017, |< W10-SA-i*i-A-rw-SA-A >|align=right|era=egypt}}Artobazan claimed the crown as the eldest of all the children; while Xerxes, on the other hand, urged that he was sprung from Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus, and that it was Cyrus who had won the Persians their freedom. Xerxes was also helped by a Spartan king in exile who was present in Persia at the time, Eurypontid king Demaratus, who argued that the eldest son does not universally mean they have claim to the crown, as Spartan law states that the first son born while the father is king is the heir to the kingship.Herodotus 7.1–5 Some modern scholars also view the unusual decision of Darius to give the throne to Xerxes to be a result of his consideration of the unique positions that Cyrus the Great and his daughter Atossa enjoyed.R. Shabani Chapter I, p. 15 Artobazan was born to "Darius the subject", while Xerxes was the eldest son born in the purple after Darius's rise to the throne, and Artobazan's mother was a commoner while Xerxes's mother was the daughter of the founder of the empire.(#ref|Olmstead: The history of Persian empire)Xerxes was crowned and succeeded his father in October–December 486 BCThe Cambridge History of Iran vol. 2. p. 509. when he was about 36 years old.{{sfn|Dandamaev|1989|p=180}} The transition of power to Xerxes was smooth due again in part to the great authority of AtossaSchmitt, R., "Atossa" in Encyclopaedia Iranica. and his accession of royal power was not challenged by any person at court or in the Achaemenian family, or any subject nation.The Cambridge Ancient History vol. V p. 72.Almost immediately, Xerxes crushed revolts in Egypt and Babylon that had broken out the year before, and appointed his brother Achaemenes as satrap over Egypt. In 484 BC, he outraged the Babylonians by violently confiscating and melting downR. Ghirshman, Iran, p. 191 the golden statue of Bel (Marduk, Merodach), the hands of which the rightful king of Babylon had to clasp each New Year's Day. This sacrilege led the Babylonians to rebel in 484 BC and 482 BC, so that in contemporary Babylonian documents, Xerxes refused his father's title of King of Babylon, being named rather as King of Persia and Media, Great King, King of Kings (Shahanshah) and King of Nations (i.e., of the world). This comes from the Daiva Inscriptions of Xerxes, lines 6–13.Roland G. Kent in "Language" Vol. 13 No. 4


Invasion of the Greek mainland

File:Xerxes all ethnicities.jpg|thumb|400px|The soldiers of Xerxes I, of all ethnicities,Soldiers with names, after Walser on the tomb of Xerxes I, at (Naqsh-e Rostam]].The Achaemenid Empire in South Asia and Recent Excavations in Akra in Northwest Pakistan Peter Magee, Cameron Petrie, Robert Knox, Farid Khan, Ken Thomas p. 713BOOK, NaqÅ¡-e-Rostam – Encyclopaedia Iranica,weblink en, )Darius died while in the process of preparing a second army to invade the Greek mainland, leaving to his son the task of punishing the Athenians, Naxians, and Eretrians for their interference in the Ionian Revolt, the burning of Sardis, and their victory over the Persians at Marathon. From 483 BC, Xerxes prepared his expedition: The Xerxes Canal was dug through the isthmus of the peninsula of Mount Athos, provisions were stored in the stations on the road through Thrace, and two pontoon bridges later known as Xerxes' Pontoon Bridges were built across the Hellespont. Soldiers of many nationalities served in the armies of Xerxes from all over his multi-ethnic massive Eurasian-sized empire and beyond, including the Assyrians, Phoenicians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Jews,Farrokh, Kaveh (2007). Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War. Oxford, UK: Osprey. {{ISBN|1846031087}}, p. 77 Macedonians, European Thracians, Paeonians, Achaean Greeks, Ionians, Aegean islanders, Aeolians, Greeks from Pontus, Colchians, Indians and many more.According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Xerxes's first attempt to bridge the Hellespont ended in failure when a storm destroyed the flax and papyrus cables of the bridges. In retaliation, Xerxes ordered the Hellespont (the strait itself) whipped three hundred times, and had fetters thrown into the water. Xerxes's second attempt to bridge the Hellespont was successful.Bailkey, Nels, ed. Readings in Ancient History, p. 175. D.C. Heath and Co., 1992. The Carthaginian invasion of Sicily deprived Greece of the support of the powerful monarchs of Syracuse and Agrigentum; ancient sources assume Xerxes was responsible, modern scholarship is skeptical.G. Mafodda, La monarchia di Gelone tra pragmatismo, ideologia e propaganda, (Messina, 1996) pp. 119–136 Many smaller Greek states, moreover, took the side of the Persians, especially Thessaly, Thebes and Argos. Xerxes was victorious during the initial battles.Xerxes set out in the spring of 480 BC from Sardis with a fleet and army which Herodotus estimated was roughly one million strong along with 10,000 elite warriors named the Immortals. More recent estimates place the Persian force at around 60,000 combatants.Barkworth, 1993. "The Organization of Xerxes' Army." Iranica Antiqua Vol. 27, pp. 149–167

Battle of Thermopylae and destruction of Athens

File:Achaemenid king killing a Greek hoplite.jpg|thumb|Achaemenid king killing a Greek hoplite. Impression from a cylinder seal, sculpted c. 500 BC–475 BC, at the time of Xerxes I. Metropolitan Museum of ArtMetropolitan Museum of ArtAt the Battle of Thermopylae, a small force of Greek warriors led by King Leonidas of Sparta resisted the much larger Persian forces, but were ultimately defeated. According to Herodotus, the Persians broke the Spartan phalanx after a Greek man called Ephialtes betrayed his country by telling the Persians of another pass around the mountains. At Artemisium, large storms had destroyed ships from the Greek side and so the battle stopped prematurely as the Greeks received news of the defeat at Thermopylae and retreated. File:Foundations of the Old Athena Temple (foreground).jpg|thumb|left|Foundations of the Old Temple of Athena, destroyed by the armies of Xerxes I during the Destruction of AthensDestruction of AthensAfter Thermopylae, Athens was captured. Most of the Athenians had abandoned the city and fled to the island of Salamis before Xerxes arrived. A small group attempted to defend the Athenian Acropolis, but they were defeated. Xerxes ordered the Destruction of Athens and burnt the city, leaving an archaeologically attested destruction layer, known as the Perserschutt.Martin Steskal, Der Zerstörungsbefund 480/79 der Athener Akropolis. Eine Fallstudie zum etablierten Chronologiegerüst, Verlag Dr. Kovač, Hamburg, 2004 The Persians thus gained control of all of mainland Greece to the north of the Isthmus of Corinth.

Battles of Salamis and Plataea

Xerxes was induced by the message of Themistocles (against the advice of Artemisia of Halicarnassus) to attack the Greek fleet under unfavourable conditions, rather than sending a part of his ships to the Peloponnesus and awaiting the dissolution of the Greek armies. The Battle of Salamis (September, 480 BC) was won by the Greek fleet, after which Xerxes set up a winter camp in Thessaly.Holland, pp. 327–329According to Herodotus, fearing that the Greeks might attack the bridges across the Hellespont and trap his army in Europe, Xerxes decided to retreat back to Asia, taking the greater part of the army with him.Herodotus VIII, 97 Another cause of the retreat might have been continued unrest in Babylon, which, being a key province of the Achaemenid Empire, required the king's own attention.WEB,weblink, Bêl-Å¡imânni and Å amaÅ¡-eriba – Livius, 2016-09-07, He left behind a contingent in Greece to finish the campaign under Mardonius, who according to Herodotus had suggested the retreat in the first place. This force was defeated the following year at Plataea by the combined forces of the Greek city states, ending the Persian offensive on Greece for good.

Construction projects

File:Tomb of Xerxes.JPG|thumb|right|200px|The rock-cut tomb at Naqsh-e Rustam north of Persepolis, copying that of Darius, is usually assumed to be that of Xerxes.]]After the military blunders in Greece, Xerxes returned to Persia and oversaw the completion of the many construction projects left unfinished by his father at Susa and Persepolis. He oversaw the building of the Gate of All Nations and the Hall of a Hundred Columns at Persepolis, which are the largest and most imposing structures of the palace. He oversaw the completion of the Apadana, the Tachara (Palace of Darius) and the Treasury, all started by Darius, as well as having his own palace built which was twice the size of his father's. His taste in architecture was similar to that of Darius, though on an even more gigantic scale.Ghirshman, Iran, p. 172 He had colorful enameled brick laid on the exterior face of the Apadana.BOOK, Fergusson, James, A History of Architecture in All Countries, from the Earliest Times to the Present Day: 1. Ancient architecture. 2. Christian architecture. xxxi, 634 p. front., illus, 211, He also maintained the Royal Road built by his father and completed the Susa Gate and built a palace in Susa.Herodotus VII.11


In August 465 BC, Artabanus, the commander of the royal bodyguard and the most powerful official in the Persian court, assassinated Xerxes with the help of a eunuch, Aspamitres. Although Artabanus bore the same name as the famed uncle of Xerxes, a Hyrcanian, his rise to prominence was due to his popularity in religious quarters of the court and harem intrigues. He put his seven sons in key positions and had a plan to dethrone the Achaemenids.Iran-e-Bastan/Pirnia book 1 p. 873Greek historians give contradicting accounts of events. According to Ctesias (in Persica 20), Artabanus then accused the Crown Prince Darius, Xerxes's eldest son, of the murder and persuaded another of Xerxes's sons, Artaxerxes, to avenge the patricide by killing Darius. But according to Aristotle (in Politics 5.1311b), Artabanus killed Darius first and then killed Xerxes. After Artaxerxes discovered the murder, he killed Artabanus and his sons.Dandamayev Participating in these intrigues was the general Megabyzus, whose decision to switch sides probably saved the Achaemenids from losing their control of the Persian throne.History of Persian Empire, Olmstead pp. 289/90



Vision in the kings council according to Herodotus

File:Persepolis, Iran (2471048564).jpg|thumb|Xerxes I at the Hadish Palace of Xerxes, PersepolisPersepolisIn Histories, Herodotus relates that the Persian King invites council of noblemen from Persia, with which he decided to share the following plans. Earlier attacks from Hellenic forces incited a need for recompense. Therefore two out of a handful noblemen were brave enough to cite their advice on the potential warfare coming up. One of which is Mardonius, who with slightly flattering words seemed to spur the king to his decision, and agreed on the matter. When Mardonius finished, it was said that slandering the neighbouring nation is not only hurting the man absent, but also the man deciding on it, implying the words were of no use to his decision. Artabanus, Xerxes uncle and brother of Darius I whose speech was heard made an impression on the king, wherewith the king furiously ascribed his advisor with cowardice. And fittingly disabled him to battle with the army, and stay home with the women. However, remarkably, later that night, he struggled on Artabanus words, and changed his mind. It was said Xerxes received a vision of a tall and handsome man reminding him the unfaithfulness of changing his mind, and emphasizing the decision made, should be pursued. The next day, his uncle was excused, and the Ionian and Dorian people were left in peace. However, that same night again, a vision was given to Xerxes. Son of Darius, have you then plainly renounced your army's march among the Persians, and made my words of no account, as though you had not heard them? Know for certain that, if you do not lead out your army immediately, this will be the outcome of it: as you became great and mighty in a short time, so in a moment will you be brought low again.The king, perplexed and confused, did not find the confidence to follow up its implications. Therefore Artabanus was told by the king he, on one term, decided to attack again. Before he made this verdict, he gave his uncle the order to wear his clothes and sleep in his bed, so that he would have that same vision. Darius brother squinted the eyes of disbelief, but determined not much later, to agree. Chapter seven ends. Chapter eight starts with the faring assertive naval armies from Greece.BOOK,weblink Herodotus, with an English translation, Godley, Alfred Denis, 1921–24, Histories book 7, 1610641, {{PD-notice}}

Artaborus about god

The story of the council above mentions the uncle of Xerxes. In his spoken words, he mentions a god that strikes whoever strives to attain anything above greatness. A god that humbles the people, and does not suffer their pride. From the factual information this seems to imply monotheism, which is in accordance with Zoroastrian beliefs of the time.

Zoroastrian origin

Although Herodotus' report in the Histories has created debate concerning Xerxes' religious beliefs, modern scholars consider him a Zoroastrian.M. Boyce, Achaemenid Religion in Encyclopædia Iranica. See also BOOK, Boardman, J., The Cambridge Ancient History Vol. IV, 2, 1988, 0-521-22804-2, Cambridge University Press, etal, p. 101.


File:Designation of Xerxes I.jpg|thumb|Xerxes being designated by Darius I. Tripylon, Persepolis. The ethnicities of the Empire are shown supporting the throne. AhuramazdaAhuramazdaBy queen Amestris: By unknown wives:

Cultural depictions

File:Trilingual inscription of Xerxes, Van, 1973.JPG|thumb|Trilingual inscription of Xerxes at Van (present-day Turkey.)]]Xerxes is the central character of the Aeschylus play "The Persians". Xerxes is the protagonist of the opera Serse by the German-English Baroque composer George Frideric Handel. It was first performed in the King's Theatre London on 15 April 1738. The famous aria "Ombra mai fù" opens the opera.The murder of Xerxes by Artabanus (Artabano), execution of crown prince Darius (Dario), revolt by Megabyzus (Megabise), and subsequent succession of Artaxerxes I is romanticised by the Italian poet Metastasio in his opera libretto Artaserse, which was first set to music by Leonardo Vinci, and subsequently by other composers such as Johann Adolf Hasse and Johann Christian Bach.{{fact|date=January 2019}}File:Esther haram.jpg|thumb|upright|left|Queen Esther, a Jewish queen of Xerxes. Edwin LongEdwin LongLater generations' fascination with ancient Sparta, particularly the Battle of Thermopylae, has led to Xerxes' portrayal in works of popular culture. He was played by David Farrar in the fictional film The 300 Spartans (1962), where he is portrayed as a cruel, power-crazed despot and an inept commander. He also features prominently in the graphic novel 300 by Frank Miller, as well as the film adaptation 300 (2007) and its sequel (300: Rise of an Empire) (2014), as portrayed by Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro, in which he is represented as a giant man with androgynous qualities, who claims to be a god-king. This portrayal has attracted controversy, especially in Iran.Boucher, Geoff "Frank Miller returns to the '300' battlefield with 'Xerxes': 'I make no apologies whatsoever'", The Los Angeles Times, June 1, 2010, accessed 2010-05-14. Ken Davitian plays Xerxes in Meet the Spartans, a parody of the first 300 movie replete with sophomoric humour and deliberate anachronisms.Other works dealing with the Persian Empire or the Biblical story of Esther have also featured or alluded to Xerxes, such as the video game Assassin's Creed II and the film One Night with the King (2006), in which Ahasuerus (Xerxes) was portrayed by British actor Luke Goss. He is the leader of the Persian Empire in the video game Civilization II and III (along with Scheherazade), although Civilization IV replaces him with Cyrus the Great and Darius I.{{citation needed|date=June 2013}}File:Xerxes by Ernest Normand.jpg|thumb|upright|Xerxes (Ahasuerus) by Ernest NormandErnest NormandGore Vidal, in his historical fiction novel Creation (1981), describes at length the rise of the Achemenids, especially Darius I, and presents the life and death circumstances of Xerxes. Vidal's version of the Persian Wars, which diverges from the orthodoxy of the Greek histories, is told through the invented character of Cyrus Spitama, a half-Greek, half-Persian, and grandson of the prophet Zoroaster. Thanks to his family connection, Cyrus is brought up in the Persian court after the murder of Zoroaster, becoming the boyhood friend of Xerxes, and later a diplomat who is sent to India, and later to Greece, and who is thereby able to gain privileged access to many leading historical figures of the period.Gore Vidal, Creation: A Novel (Random House, 1981)Xerxes (Ahasuerus) is portrayed by Richard Egan in the 1960 film Esther and the King and by Joel Smallbone in the 2013 film, The Book of Esther. In at least one of these films, the events of the Book of Esther are depicted as taking place upon Xerxes' return from Greece.{{fact|date=January 2019}}Xerxes plays an important background role (never making an appearance) in two short works of alternate history taking place generations after his complete victory over Greece. These are: "Counting Potsherds" by Harry Turtledove in his anthology Departures and "The Craft of War" by Lois Tilton in Alternate Generals volume 1 (edited by Turtledove).{{fact|date=January 2019}}

Etymology and transliteration

Xerxes is the Greek version of the Old Persian name Xšaya-ṛšā, which is today known in New Persian as Khashayar ().

See also




Ancient sources

  • {{ws | s:History of Herodotus/Book 6|The Sixth Book, Entitled Erato]] in History of Herodotus}}
  • {{ws | s:History of Herodotus/Book 7|The Seventh Book, Entitled Polymnia]] in History of Herodotus}}

Modern sources

  • JOURNAL, Barkworth, Peter R., The Organization of Xerxes' Army, 1993, Iranica Antiqua, 27, 149–167, 10.2143/ia.27.0.2002126, refbarkworth,
  • BOOK, The Cambridge Ancient History, Cambridge University Press, 1988, 0-521-22804-2, V, refcah-vv, John, Boardman,
  • ENCYCLOPAEDIA, Boyce, Mary, Achaemenid Religion,weblink Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 1, Routledge & Kegan Paul, refachaemenidr-EI,
  • Bridges, Emma (2014). Imagining Xerxes: Ancient Perspectives on a Persian King. Bloomsbury. {{ISBN|978-1472511379}}
  • ENCYCLOPEDIA, Dandamayev, M.A., Encyclopædia Iranica, Artabanus,weblink 2009-02-25, 1999, Routledge & Kegan Pau, refartabanus-ei,
  • Dandamayev (1989), A Political History of the Achaemenid Empire
  • BOOK, Frye, Richard N., The Heritage of Persia, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1963, 0-297-16727-8, 301, reffrye-hop,
  • BOOK, The Cambridge history of Iran, 2, Ilya, Gershevitch, William, Bayne Fisher, J., A. Boyle, Cambridge University Press, 0-521-20091-1, 1985, refchi-v2,
  • Holland, Tom (2005). Persian Fire. London: Abacus ({{ISBN|978-0-349-11717-1}}).
  • BOOK, Macaulay, G.C., The Histories, Spark Educational Publishing, 2004, 1-59308-102-2, refherodotus-macaulay,
  • ENCYCLOPAEDIA, McCullough, W.S, Ahasuerus,weblink Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 1, Routledge & Kegan Paul, refMcCullough-EI,
  • JOURNAL, Schmeja, H., Dareios, Xerxes, Artaxerxes. Drei persische Königsnamen in griechischer Deutung (Zu Herodot 6,98,3), 1975, Die Sprache, 21, 184–188, refschmeja,
  • ENCYCLOPAEDIA, Schmitt, Rüdiger, Achaemenid dynasty,weblink Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 3, Routledge & Kegan Paul, refachaemenids-EI,
  • ENCYCLOPAEDIA, Schmitt, Rüdiger, Atossa,weblink Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 3, Routledge & Kegan Paul, refatossa-EI,
  • BOOK, Shabani, Reza, Khshayarsha (Xerxes), What do I know about Iran? No. 75, Cultural Research Bureau, 964-379-109-2, 2007, Persian, 120, refshabani-xerxes,
  • ENCYCLOPAEDIA, Shahbazi, A. Sh., Darius I the Great,weblink Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 7, Routledge & Kegan Paul, refdariusithegreat-EI,
  • BOOK, Xerxes: A Persian Life, Richard, Stoneman, Yale University Press, 978-0300216042, 2015,weblink
  • BOOK, History of the Persian Empire, A.T., Olmstead, University of Chicago Press, 978-0226497648, 1979, 1948, refartaxerxes,

External links

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  • EB1911, x, Xerxes,
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