I was still a very young girl when I lost both of my parents. If you are an orphan, you will have an idea what I went through at that time. But God cares about orphans, and He sent my uncles Marduka or Mordecai to give me a home and love and an appreciation for the Tanakh, the sacred writings of God’s prophets.
Let us listen to Esther as she tells us about the history of the king she married:
Xerxes the Great, was the fourth King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire. The first one was Cyrus and his son Cambyses ruled and then comes my husband.
He was the son and successor of Darius the Great (r. 522–486 BC) and his mother was Atossa, a daughter of Cyrus the Great (r. 550–530 BC), the founder of the Achaemenid empire. I was so proud having her as my mother-in-law. What common ground was there between Atossa and I?
The Bible stories of her father who’s coming was predicted almost 200 years from his birth. We also talked about Daniel who predicted the fall of the Babylonian Empire and the rise of the Medo-Persian Empire.
Darius the Great, my father-in-law, ruled from 522 BC until his assassination in 486 BC at the hands of Artabanus, the commander of the royal bodyguard.
This was quite a shock to my husband as you can appreciate. His Greek name Xerxes means “ruling over heroes.”
Upbringing and education
According to the Greek dialogue First Alcibiades, which describes typical upbringing and education of Persian princes; they were raised by eunuchs. When reaching the age of 7, they learned how to ride and hunt; at age 14, they were taught by four teachers of aristocratic stock, who taught them how to be “wise, just, prudent and brave”.[
Persian princes were also taught on the basics of the Zoroastrian religion, to be truthful, have self-restraint, and to be courageous.
The dialogue further added that “Fear, for a Persian, is the equivalent of slavery.” At the age of 16 my began their “national service” for 10 years, which included practicing archery and javelin, competing for prizes, and hunting.
Afterwards he served in the military for around 25 years and were then elevated to the status of elders and advisers of the king. Families in this time, including Xerxes’ my husband, would intermarry.
This account of education among the Persian elite is supported by Xenophon’s description of the 5th-century BC Achaemenid prince Cyrus the Younger, with whom he was well-acquainted.
This was the type of upbringing and education that Xerxes my husband experienced. Starting from 498 BC, he resided in the royal palace of Babylon.
Relief of Xerxes at Doorway of his Palace, Persepolis, Iran
While Darius my father-in-law was preparing for another war against Greece, a revolt was spurred in Egypt in 486 BC due to heavy taxes and the deportation of craftsmen to build the royal palaces at Susa and Persepolis.
Under Persian law, the king was required to choose a successor before setting out on dangerous expeditions. When Darius decided to leave (487–486 BC), he (Darius) prepared his tomb at Naqsh-e Rustam (five kilometers from his royal palace at Persepolis) and appointed Xerxes his eldest son by Atossa, as his successor. However, Darius could not lead the campaign due to his failing health and died in October 486 BC at the age of 64.
Xerxes was crowned and succeeded his father in October–December 486 BC when he was about 32 years old. The transition of power to Xerxes was smooth due again in part to the great authority of Atossa and his accession of royal power was not challenged by any person at court or in the Achaemenian family, or any subject nation.
I must tell you something about my husband’s soldiers. They were, of all ethnicities, on the tomb of Xerxes I, at Naqsh-e Rostam. He built this huge tomb before his death.
On this seal impression you see my husband the king, killing a Greek soldier.
After the military blunders in Greece, Xerxes returned to Persia and oversaw the completion of the many construction projects left unfinished by his father at Susa and Persepolis. He oversaw the building of 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 oversaw the completion of the Apadana, the Tachara (Palace of Darius) and the Treasury, all started by Darius, as well as having his own palace built which was twice the size of his father’s. His taste in architecture was like that of Darius, though on an even more gigantic scale.[
He had colourful enamelled brick laid on the exterior face of the Apadana. He also maintained the Royal Road built by his father and completed the Susa Gate and built a palace in Susa.
In August 465 BC, Artabanus, the commander of the royal bodyguard and the most powerful official in the Persian court, assassinated Xerxes my husband with the help of a eunuch, Aspamitres. Has this happened to you? To forgive someone who killed one of your loved ones can only be done by special support of God.
Xerxes my husband was a firm believer in Ahura Mazda, whom he saw as the supreme deity. On his treatment of other religions, Xerxes followed the same policy as his predecessors; he appealed to local religious scholars, made sacrifices to local deities, and destroyed temples in cities and countries that caused disorder.
You are looking at a Trilingual inscription of Xerxes. This learned from his mother, Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus the Great. She wanted him to behave kindly to people as did his grandfather.
I want to take you to the time when Daniel was alive. Atossa told me about the close ties that existed between this Hebrew prophet and her father. It is a fascinating prophecy. See you next time.