X is for Xerxes ….

X is for Xerxes…

Xerxes I of Persia, also known as Xerxes the Great, lived from 519 to 465 BC, and ruled from 486 (ish) to 465 BC. I say “ish” to the dates, because there was the whole eldest-son-of-his-father-Darius-I-claiming-the-throne-after-Darius’s death thing. Yes, Xerxes was Darius’s son by Atossa (daughter of Cyrus the Great) AFTER Darius became king. Before Darius seized the throne, he had been married to a commoner and that eldest son, Artabazanes, was the result of that marriage. So, at 36 years old, Xerxes succeeded his father, and no one dared challenge him further.

Now, you’ve probably heard of Xerxes in popular culture. Freaky-dude in The 300? The one who was trying to take out Sparta? Who commanded The Immortals (who wouldn’t want to fight in a group called THAT)? That’s Hollywood’s idea of Xerxes. Here’s a pic. He’s almost an androgynous character in the movie. I’m not quite sure where that whole vibe came from….

The name actually means “ruling over heroes.” There is no doubt Persians were kick-butt when it came to decisive land battles *cough* Thermopylae *cough*. 10,000 elite Immortals (and, according to Herodotus one MILLION other combatants, although feeding an army that large makes later historians roll their eyes and discount Herodotus’ estimate, so let’s just put it down to A LOT of other combatants) invaded Greece. Spartans held them off for a bit, but were obliterated in the pass. Xerxes was not happy when Athenians fled before him (apparently, he had never heard the old Conan quote about “driving your enemies before you.” Either than or he was ticked he missed out on the “lamentation of the women”). When he found Athens deserted, he, in a fit of pique, ordered it razed. It was. The next day, he had a change of heart and ordered it rebuilt. It was. We think. Sorta. That it was razed and rebuilt. There’s a better than even chance that’s a bit of pan-Hellenic propaganda.

Xerxes ended up being assassinated by a commander of the royal bodyguard named Artabanus (not to be confused with Xerxes’ Uncle Artabanus because that’s a different Artabanus). Upon his death, there was a bit of fighting over the succession. Sex was involved. Women were involved. Harems were involved. Ah, politics. It never changes, right? The issue gets cloudy—yes, Artabanus assassinated Xerxes (one account says he had help from a eunuch named Aspamitres). Artabanus tried to frame Xerxes’ eldest son, Darius, and then convinced another of Xerxes’ sons (Artaxerxes) to kill Darius. Or, maybe Artabanus killed the son, Darius first and then Xerxes. And then, maybe, Artaxerxes got angry and murdered Artabanus. Bottom line, Artaxerxes ended up ruling, and that was only because a general (Megabyzus) switched sides in the dispute and supported him. Don’t worry. After Megabyzus was rewarded with the satrap of Syria, he revolted, too. Ah politics … It never changes, right?

Poetry Form: Rhopalic Verse

A very deceptive form that at first appears simple but in fact it requires a lot of hard work to accomplish a satisfactory piece. The rules are simple, with each line the first word is monosyllabic the second word has two syllables the third three syllables and so on.

(from www.thepoetsgarret.com )


War crafting curious alliances

And stranger bed-fellows.

One battle decisive

Won.  Weirder politics manipulate

Fate. Kingdoms satisfied, proliferate

Grow, endure, vacillate

Fall. Later

Dust remains, effigies devastated.

All recalled pageantry, ceremony

Now wilted, disappeared,




One Reply to “X is for Xerxes ….”

  1. Wow. Politics hasn’t changed! I wonder how many stories in history have a bodyguard and a eunuch conspiring to kill someone in power. I’m googling it now.

Comments are closed.