A powerful Persian King whose name means "ruling over heroes". He was the son of Darius I and his wife Atossa, a daughter of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire. Xerxes was crowned when he was about 36 and became King of Persia and Media, Great King, King of Kings, the King of Nations.
Stairway leading to ceremonial complex (Apadana), Persepolis, Iran. Persians. C. 491-486 BCE. -relief sculpture -Darius holds an audience while his son Xerxes listens behind the throne. -Once brightly painted.
The armies of Persia incorporated soldiers from Babylon, Phonecia, Mesopotemia, Egypt and Israel. Darius I died while assembling an army to attack and punish Athens for defeating the Persians at Marathon. Xerxes was left with this task and he planned to invade Athens. His first attempt to cross Hellespont failed when a storm destroyed the bridges he had ordered built. His second attempt was successful and many of the smaller Greek states along with other powerful kingdoms joined sides with Persia.
Xerxes killing a Greek hoplite, perhaps Leonidas....seal from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
After the defeat of the Spartans and King Leonidas at The Hot Gates Xerxes captured Athens. What happened in Athens has forever stayed in Athens. Tales raced through Greece that Xerxes ordered the city burned in a fit of anger and retribution. But, why would such a strategic, forward thinking King destroy such a vital trade port. Some legends tell of the burning of the city as an accident set about by the panic that ensued before the attack as terrified and frightened citizens fled for the Isthmus of Cornith. Other legends whisper of it being a Scorched Earth, a strategic military manuever where everything that may be an asset to an incoming enemy is destroyed; food supplies, wells, shelter, equipment are all burned. This tactic had been used against his father by the Scythians years earlier. It would also be considered as a means to keep out the armies of the Alexander the Great several years later.
15 years after his encounter with King Leonidas, Xerxes and his eldest son are murdered.
This same Xerxes is the Persian King of the Biblical tale of the young girl Esther.
Esther before Xerxes TINTORETTO 1547-48 Oil on canvas
This week we give you the Artz of Xerxes.