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Xerxes: A Persian Life

The first full-scale account of a Persian king vilified by way of history

Xerxes, nice King of the Persian Empire from 486–465 B.C., has long past down in historical past as an indignant tyrant choked with insane ambition. The stand of Leonidas and the three hundred opposed to his military at Thermopylae is a byword for braveness, whereas the failure of Xerxes’ day trip has overshadowed all of the different achievements of his twenty-two-year reign.
 
during this vigorous and finished new biography, Richard Stoneman exhibits how Xerxes, regardless of sympathetic therapy via the modern Greek writers Aeschylus and Herodotus, had his attractiveness destroyed by way of later Greek writers and through the propaganda of Alexander the nice. Stoneman attracts at the most modern examine in Achaemenid experiences and archaeology to provide the ruler from the Persian viewpoint. This illuminating quantity doesn't whitewash Xerxes’ failings yet units opposed to them such triumphs because the architectural beauty of Persepolis and a attention of Xerxes’ non secular commitments. What emerges is a nuanced portrait of a guy who governed an unlimited and multicultural empire which the Greek groups of the West observed because the antithesis in their personal values.

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The parallel account in Esdras places the disturbance for the period of Zerubbabel,7 i. e. within the reign of Darius. One attainable interpretation of those passages is that there has been a riot, or civil clash, in Judah at first of Xerxes’ reign, which prompted the Temple to be behind schedule and/or broken, and basically restored below Ezra within the 440s. although, the chronological symptoms are so contradictory, the names of the kings so muddled, and the outline of the concerns so obscure, that it truly is unwise to base a lot upon them. we won't effectively say that Xerxes’ issues within the west prolonged to Judah. eight there has been, even if, potentially a major insurrection in Babylon, as is said via Ctesias. nine The catalyst could have been elevated taxation. 10 A record from Babylon dated to August 482/1 names Belšimanni as ‘king of Babylon’. eleven it's been notion that he could have remained in strength as low as weeks, yet most likely his insurrection all started in 484. There might in truth were usurpations in Babylon in Xerxes’ 12 months 2, to pass judgement on from the interruptions within the information. 12 Ctesias says that the Babylonians murdered their governor Zopyrus, yet Herodotus makes this Zopyrus a normal of Darius I who devised a striking ruse to urge the Babylonians to open their gates to the Persian military in 522/1. thirteen Zopyrus went as far as to mutilate himself and announce to the Babylonians that it was once Darius who had got rid of his nostril and ears, and that accordingly he used to be in uprising opposed to his king. whilst the Babylonians believed him and allow in Zopyrus’ troops, it became out that this used to be the imperial Persian military; and therefore Babylon used to be retaken. Darius’ military is expounded to have destroyed the town wall and torn down the gates, and impaled 3,000 males. 14 If this is believed, Zopyrus then remained in Babylon as governor, regardless of his disfigurement, till he used to be murdered within the rebellion of Belšimanni. Ctesias, we're advised through Photius, set the full tale within the subsequent new release: whilst Zopyrus was once overthrown, his son Megabyzus mutilated himself, went to the Babylonians accountable King Xerxes for his disfigurement, and so forth. ‘So Babylon was once taken due to Megabyzus. ’ Xerxes made him a gift of what Ctesias calls a golden millstone, ‘which is the main esteemed royal reward of all among the Persians’. 15 Whichever common it was once who captured Babylon, Xerxes definitely went there himself and observed ‘the tomb of Belitanas’, the king who have been Semiramis’ gardener and had succeeded her while she died. Aelian paraphrases Ctesias: Xerxes, son of Darius, dug his method into16 the tomb of the traditional god Belus and located a pitcher sarcophagus, within which the physique lay in olive oil. The sarcophagus used to be no longer complete, the oil was once possibly an inch in need of the rim. within reach lay a small stele with the inscription: ‘For the fellow who opens the tomb and doesn't fill the sarcophagus, it's going to no longer be so reliable. ’17 whilst Xerxes learn this he used to be afraid and gave orders to pour in oil instantly. however the sarcophagus didn't refill. He gave the order to pour once more.

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