Friday, June 5, 2015

King Ahasueros Unveiled as King of the World-Xerxes I

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                        

Xerxes I of Persia could have been the Biblical Ahasueros, King of Persia married to Esther (Hadassah) who saved her people by confessing to her husband that she was Jewish and would be killed by Haman, his advisor.  Xerxes was the 4th king of the kings of the Achaemenid Empire.  He ruled from 486 BCE until his murder in 465 BCE by Artabanus, the commander of the royal bodyguard. Xerxes I was only 54 years old at death.   He is noted for his invasion of Greece in 480 BCE.

The story starts with King Darius I of Persia who was the son of Hystaspes.  He married a relative, Atossa, who was the daughter of Cyrus the Great.  Actually, though they were from different family lines, they were both descendants of Achaemenes, and this strengthened Darius's position as king.

Darius was an active emperor.  He kept busy with building programs in Persepolis, Susa, the capital of Persia and today's Iran, Egypt and other places.  Around the end of his reign, he prepared to punish Athens, but first he had to suppress a new revolt that took place in Egypt that was probably led by the Persian governor.

Under Persian law, the Achaemenian kings were required to choose a successor before setting out on a serious expedition that could take their life.  He decided to leave between 487-486 BCE and prepared his tomb at Naqsh-e Rostam and appointed Xerxes, his eldest son by Atossa, as his successor.  Darius had failing health at this time, so he couldn't lead the campaigns and died in October 486 BCE.

There was an older son by another wife, Artobazan, and he claimed the crown as the eldest.  This was the custom all over the world for the eldest to have the pre-eminence.  Xerxes, pled that he was the eldest of Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus, and it was Cyrus who had won the Persians their freedom.  Such a legal case!
Artobazan was born to Darius the subject and his mother was a commoner..
Xerxes was the eldest son born after Darius's rise to the throne, born in the "purple" and his mother was the daughter of the founder of the empire, a princess.

Xerxes, born in 519 BCE in Persia,  won the crown and  became king between October-December 486 BCE when he was about 36 years old  Almost immediately he acted and crushed the revolts in Egypt.  Babylon had revolts also that had broken out the year before, so he appointed his brother, Achaemenes, as satrap over Egypt.  In 484 BCE, he outraged the Babylonians by violently confiscating and melting down 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 BCE and again in 482 BCE, 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-of the world.  This comes from the Daiva Inscriptions of Xerxes Lines 6-13.

Xerxes's religious beliefs are considered to have been a Zoroastrian.  We know that human sacrifices were not permitted within the Persian religion. 

The man who murdered King Xerxes sounds vaguely like Haman since Haman had 7 sons and planned to kill all the Jews in the Persian Kingdom, which was vast.  I hate to think of Ahasueros (Xerxes) winding up as a murder victim by jealous men.  

 "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.  Artabanus had a eunuch, Aspamitres, assist him in the assassination. Greek 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  Artabanus killed Darius first and then killed Xerxes. After Artaxerxes discovered the murder, he killed Artabanus and his sons.   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.  
According to their history, Amestris was Xerxes's wife and mother of King Artaxerxes I, of Persia.  Her father was  Otanes,    "Otanes was honoured with royal marriages. Darius I married Otanes' daughter Phaedymia while Otanes married a sister of Darius, who gave birth to Amestris.  " She was known to have been poorly regarded by ancient Greek historians, considered by the Greeks to be a cruel woman."  It looks like the family was quite interrelated.  Believing the Greeks about the Persians might be like listening to the Palestinians say things about the Israelis.  
Tryouts in Miss World Pageant in Indonesia

Ahasueros could have had many wives at that time, and Esther could have been only one of them, but the Bible doesn't give us this impression.  Esther was selected in a beauty pageant. Probably their clothing was much skimpier than these ladies.   

"The second Persian invasion of Greece (480–479 BC) occurred during the Greco-Persian Wars, as King Xerxes I of Persia sought to conquer all of Greece. The invasion was a direct, if delayed, response to the defeat of the first Persian invasion of Greece (492–490 BC) at the Battle of Marathon, which ended Darius I's attempts to subjugate Greece. After Darius's death, his son,  Xerxes,  spent several years planning for the second invasion, mustering an enormous army and navy.

The Athenians and Spartans led the Greek resistance, with some 70 city-states joining the 'Allied' effort. However, most of the Greek cities remained neutral or submitted to Xerxes.  

This sounds to me like history being replayed.  We have a coalition dealing with Iran today and they seem to be submitting  to Iran's wishes.  

As for the Jews of this period, "After the Persian defeat at Marathon in 490 BC, the Egyptians rebelled in 486 BC, the beginning of a period of Egyptian unrest. Xerxes put the initial revolt down with great severity when he came to the throne (485 BC). He made his son, Achaemenes, Satrap, but he fomented more uprest with his cruelty. When Xerxes was assasinated (465 BC), the Egyptians revolted again, led by the son of Psammetichus III, prince Inaros, who became a legendary figure. The rebels were defeated and Inaros executed in 454 BC.                                                                 

Nehemiah was sent to restore the temple of Jerusalem about this time.  This would have been the 2nd Temple.  Nehemiah was the Governor of Judah.  While serving as a cupbearer to the Persian king Artaxerxes I, he heard of the terrible conditions in Jerusalem and asked permission from the king to go there.  He was made governor in 444 BCE.  He organized the repair of walls.  After 12 years, Nehemiah returned to Susa, but later went back to Jerusalem to renew his activity.  He took steps against mixed marriages along with Ezra.  


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