See also

Family of Xerxes I + and Amestris +

Husband: Xerxes I + (510-465)
Wife: Amestris + (505-425)
Children: Achaemenes + (490-c. 675)
Antaxerxes I + (485-424)
Amytis (470- )
Darius (465- )
Hystaspes (460- )
Rhodogune (455- )

Husband: Xerxes I +

Name: Xerxes I +
Sex: Male
Father: Darius I + (550-486)
Mother: Atossa + (545- )
Birth 0510 B.C.
Occupation King of Persia
Title King of Persia
Death 0465 B.C. (age 44-45)

Wife: Amestris +

Name: Amestris +
Sex: Female
Father: Otanes II + (535-480)
Mother: -
Birth 0505 B.C. Persia
Occupation Queen of Persia
Title Queen of Persia
Death 0425 B.C. (age 79-80) Persia

Child 1: Achaemenes +

Name: Achaemenes +
Sex: Male
Title frm 0705 B.C. to 0675 B.C. (age -216--185) King of Anshan
Death 0675 B.C. (est) (age -186--185)
Cause: murdered by Egyptians
Birth 0490 B.C.
Occupation King of Anshan

Child 2: Antaxerxes I +


Antaxerxes I +

Name: Antaxerxes I +
Sex: Male
Spouse: Cosmartidene + of BABYLON (520- )
Birth 0485 B.C. Persia
Occupation King of Persia
Title frm 0465 B.C. to 0424 B.C. (age 19-61) King of Persia
Death 0424 B.C. (age 60-61) Persia

Child 3: Amytis

Name: Amytis
Sex: Female
Birth 0470 B.C.

Child 4: Darius

Name: Darius
Sex: Male
Birth 0465 B.C.

Child 5: Hystaspes

Name: Hystaspes
Sex: Male
Birth 0460 B.C.

Child 6: Rhodogune

Name: Rhodogune
Sex: Female
Birth 0455 B.C.

Note on Husband: Xerxes I +

Xerxes I of Persia also known as Xerxes the Great, was the fourth Zoroastrian king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire.


Immediately after seizing the kingship, Darius I of Persia (son of Hystaspes) married Atossa (daughter of Cyrus the Great). They were both descendants of Achaemenes from different Achaemenid lines. Marrying a daughter of Cyrus strengthened Darius' position as king.[1] Darius was an active emperor, busy with building programs in Persepolis, Susa, Egypt, and elsewhere. Toward the end of his reign he moved to punish Athens, but a new revolt in Egypt (probably led by the Persian satrap) had to be suppressed. Under Persian law, the Achaemenian kings were required to choose a successor before setting out on such serious expeditions. Upon his great decision to leave (487-486 BC),[2] Darius prepared his tomb at Naqsh-e Rostam and appointed Xerxes, his eldest son by Atossa, as his successor. Darius' failing health then prevented him from leading the campaigns,[3] and he died in October 486 BC.[3]


Xerxes was not the oldest son of Darius, and according to old Iranian traditions should not have succeeded the King. Xerxes was however the oldest son of Darius and Atossa hence descendent of Cyrus. This made Xerxes the chosen King of Persia.[4] 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 have had.[5] Artobazan was born to "Darius the subject", while Xerxes was the eldest son born in the purple after Darius' rise to the throne, and Artobazan's mother was a commoner while Xerxes' mother was the daughter of the founder of the empire.[6]


Xerxes was crowned and succeeded his father in October–December 486 BC[7] when he was about 36 years old.[2] The transition of power to Xerxes was smooth due again in part to great authority of Atossa[1] and his accession of royal power was not challenged by any person at court or in the Achaemenian family, or any subject nation.[8]


Almost immediately, he suppressed the revolts in Egypt and Babylon that had broken out the year before, and appointed his brother Achaemenes as governor or satrap (Old Persian: khshathrapavan) over Egypt. In 484 BC, he outraged the Babylonians by violently confiscating and melting down[9] 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).


Although Herodotus' report in the Histories has created certain problems concerning Xerxes' religious beliefs, modern scholars consider him a Zoroastrian.[10]



Xerxes lashing the HellespontDarius left to his son the task of punishing the Athenians, Naxians, and Eretrians for their interference in the Ionian Revolt and their victory over the Persians at Marathon. From 483 BC Xerxes prepared his expedition: A channel was dug through the isthmus of the peninsula of Mount Athos, provisions were stored in the stations on the road through Thrace, two bridges were built across the Hellespont. Soldiers of many nationalities served in the armies of Xerxes, including the Assyrians, Phoenicians, Babylonians, Indians, Egyptians and Jews.[11]


According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Xerxes' first attempt to bridge the Hellespont ended in failure when a storm destroyed the flax and papyrus bridge; Xerxes ordered the Hellespont (the strait itself) whipped three hundred times and had fetters thrown into the water. Xerxes' second attempt to bridge the Hellespont was successful.[12] Xerxes concluded an alliance with Carthage, and thus deprived Greece of the support of the powerful monarchs of Syracuse and Agrigentum. Many smaller Greek states, moreover, took the side of the Persians, especially Thessaly, Thebes and Argos. Xerxes set out in the spring of 480 BC from Sardis with a fleet and army which Herodotus claimed was more than two million strong with at least 10,000 elite warriors named Persian Immortals. Xerxes was victorious during the initial battles.



Relief of an Achaemenid king, possibly Xerxes or Darius, on the wall of Persepolis Palace[13]At 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. After Thermopylae, Athens was captured and the Athenians and Spartans were driven back to their last line of defense at the Isthmus of Corinth and in the Saronic Gulf. The delay caused by the Spartans allowed Athens to be evacuated.


What happened next is a matter of some controversy. According to Herodotus, upon encountering the deserted city, in an uncharacteristic fit of rage particularly for Persian kings, Xerxes had Athens burned. He almost immediately regretted this action and ordered it rebuilt the very next day. However, Persian scholars dispute this view as pan-Hellenic propaganda, arguing that Sparta, not Athens, was Xerxes' main foe in his Greek campaigns, and that Xerxes would have had nothing to gain by destroying a major center of trade and commerce like Athens once he had already captured it.



Inscription of Xerxes the Great near the Van CitadelAt that time, anti-Persian sentiment was high among many mainland Greeks, and the rumor that Xerxes had destroyed the city was a popular one, though it is equally likely the fire was started by accident as the Athenians were frantically fleeing the scene in pandemonium,or that it was an act of "scorched earth" warfare to deprive Xerxes' army of the spoils of the city.


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. 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 29, 480 BC) was won by the Greek fleet, after which Xerxes set up a winter camp in Thessaly.[citation needed]


Due to unrest in Babylon, Xerxes was forced to send his army home to prevent a revolt, leaving behind an army in Greece under Mardonius, who was defeated the following year at Plataea.[14] The Greeks also attacked and burned the remaining Persian fleet anchored at Mycale. This cut off the Persians from the supplies they needed to sustain their massive army, and they had no choice but to retreat. Their withdrawal roused the Greek city-states of Asia.


Construction projects

The rock-cut tomb at Naqsh-e Rustam north of Persepolis, copying that of Darius, is usually assumed to be that of XerxesAfter the military blunders in Greece, Xerxes returned to Persia and completed the many construction projects left unfinished by his father at Susa and Persepolis. He built 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 completed the Apadana, the Palace of Darius and the Treasury all started by Darius as well as building his own palace 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.[15] He also maintained the Royal Road built by his father and completed the Susa Gate and built a palace at Susa.[16]

Xerxes was murdered by Artabanus, the commander of the royal bodyguard and the most powerful official in the Persian court (Hazarapat/commander of thousand). He was promoted to this prestigious position in the Achamenid court through his successful withdrawal of the second Persian army from Greece, even though this involved refusing to help Mardonius in Plataea. 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 Achamenids.[17]


In August 465 BC, Artabanus assassinated Xerxes with the help of a eunuch, Aspamitres. Greek historians give contradicting accounts of events. According to Ctesias (in Persica 20), Artabanus then accused the Crown Prince Darius, Xerxes' eldest son, of the murder and persuaded another of Xerxes' 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.[18] Participating in these intrigues was the general Megabyzus, whose decision to switch sides probably saved the day for the Achamenids.[19]


ChildrenBy queen Amestris


Amytis, wife of Megabyzus

Artaxerxes I

Darius, the first born, murdered by Artaxerxes I or Artabanus.

Hystaspes, murdered by Artaxerxes I.

Achaemenes, murdered by Egyptians.


By unknown wives


Artarius, satrap of Babylon.


Arsames or Arsamenes or Arxanes or Sarsamas satrap of Egypt.



Xerxes is the protagonist of the opera Serse by the German-English Baroque composer George Frederic Handel. It was first performed in the King's Theatre London on 15 April 1738. The famous aria "Ombra mai fù" opens the opera.


Later generations' fascination with ancient Sparta, and particularly the Battle of Thermopylae, has led to Xerxes' portrayal in works of popular culture. For instance, he was played by David Farrar in the 1962 fiction film The 300 Spartans, 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 movie adaptation (portrayed by Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro), in which he is represented as a giant. This portrayal has attracted controversy, especially in Iran.[22]


Other works dealing with the Persian Empire or the Biblical story of Esther have also referenced Xerxes, such as the video game Assassin's Creed II and the film One Night with the King, 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.


Gore Vidal, in his historical fiction novel Creation, describes at length the rise of Achemenids, and especially Darius I and presents the life and death circumstances of Xerxes. His vision of history goes against the grain of Greek histories.


American rapper King Gordy released an album titled Xerxes the God King on August 1, 2010.

Note on Wife: Amestris +

Amestris or Amastris (Friend in Old Persian) was the wife of Xerxes I of Persia, mother of king Artaxerxes I of Persia.[1] She was known to have been poorly regarded by ancient Greek historians.[2][3][4]


Amestris was the daughter of Otanes, one of the seven nobleman who killed the magus impersonator of the Persian king Bardiya in 522 BC. After this, Darius I the Great of Persia started his reign. According to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, Otanes was honoured with royal marriages. Darius I married Otanes' daughter Phaedymia while Otanes married a sister of Darius, who gave birth to Amestris.


When Darius died in 486 BC, Amestris was married to the crown prince, Xerxes. Herodotus describes Amestris as a cruel despot:


I am informed that Amestris, the wife of Xerxes, when she had grown old, made return for her own life to the god who is said to be beneath the earth by burying twice seven children of Persians who were men of renown.

Herodotus, Histories 7.114.

The origin of this story is unclear, since known records and accounts indicate that human sacrifices were not permitted within the Persian religion. Also since most accounts of the time are from Greek sources, and due to the involvement of Greece as an opponent of Persia, it is possible that not all accounts are accurate.


Given the similarity of names, and the parallel identification of Ahasuerus with her husband Xerxes I, it is possible that Amestris is the Biblical Vashti. Wilson, who identified Ahasuerus with Xerxes I and Vashti with Amestris, suggested that both "Amestris" and "Esther" derived from Akkadian words Ammi-Ishtar or Ummi-Ishtar.[5] Hoschander alternatively suggested Ishtar-udda-sha ("Ishtar is her light") as the origin with the possibility of -udda-sha being connected with the similarly sounding Hebrew name Hadassah. The Bible and Talmud both expound that Esther and Hadassah are the same person.1,2


1William Smith, "Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology" (Little, Brown and Co.).