Persia 24: The Wives and Sons of Darius, Revisite

The leading women of the early Persian Period were:

1) the unnamed sister of Darius who married Gobryas.
2) the unnamed daughter of Gobryas who was a wife of Darius.
3) Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus who became the second wife of Darius.
4) Cassadane/Kassaya/Parmys the daughter of Bardiya/Nebuchadrezzar.

Darius has now been identified as Osorkon V/Montu-hir-khepshef in Egypt. His mother Mehytenweskhet/Shepenwepet II/Takhuit did have a prominent daughter named Meryet-neith B/Ankhnesneferibre. The father of this princess was Tanuatamon/Psamtik II. As such, she was a half-sister of Darius and therefore an ideal reproductive match for him (in royal terms). Nevertheless, no heirs were produced and Ankhnesnefibre was compelled to find other partners. The situation is reflected in the Biblical story of Queen Vashti (a Persian transliteration of the Libyan goddess Bastet-Neith) in the Book of Esther. The King Ahasuerus II/Darius finds an excuse to remove Vashti as queen and replace her with Atossa.

Note: Vashti might alternatively represent Nitocris II the daughter of Meryet-neith/Ankhnesneferibre. (Both were considered consorts of Darius.) The name Nitocris also derives from the Egyptian goddess Neith, which is closely associated with the Libyan goddess Bastet.

Ankhnesneferibre did have at least one son and one daughter. The son was pharaoh Ahmose II, child of the moon (god), after the silent one Thoth. His father was her half-brother, the quiet prince High Priest Harkhebi (Biblical Nethaniah/Nathan-Melech). Note: Both Ankhnesneferibre and Harkhebi were children of Shepenwepet II.) Pharaoh Ahmose is better known by the Greek form of his name, Amasis. His Biblical name, Ishmael (II), also reflects the moon deity Thoth/Simeon, who was the second son of the pantheon. See,

The Persian identity of Amasis was Mardonius. He turns up in the Book of Esther as the Jew Mordecai. He could also be counted among the sons of Darius under the name Arsames, because his mother was considered to be one of Darius wives. He was however called a son of Gobryas, because his mother was best known as the wife of Gobryas. The name Arsa-mes would designate him as an heir (an honorary one at least) of King Arsa (Tiglath-pileser III), his son Haremakhet/Osorkon IV, and his (legal) son Harkhebi.

In the Book of Jeremiah (chapter 41) Ishmael assassinates the governor Gedaliah as part of a killing rampage. He is not brought to justice, even when the forces of Nebuchadrezzar take Jerusalem. Ishmael/Amasis went on to defeat his step-father Apries/Gobryas son of Tanuatamon/Cambyses II in Libya. This event coincides with the disastrous march to Libya by Cambyses II in which he lost a whole army is a so-called sandstorm, leading to his ultimate downfall. Amasis was evidently rewarded by Darius with the rule of Egypt.

Apries/Gobryas, as the son of Tanuatamon/Psamtik II, was therefore the half-brother of Ankhnesneferibre, and a suitable royal partner for her. Unlike Darius, Apries was able to sire a child by Ankhnesneferibre, a daughter named Nitocris II, who became Gods Wife-elect. This princess was later claimed by Cyrus the Great, but her sons are all attributed to Darius, namely Artobarzanes/Artabanus the eldest, and Ariabignes the youngest. She perhaps had a middle/second son Arsamenes, if this prince has not been confused with Arsames/Amasis the son of her mother.

As discussed previously, the elder Gods Wife Nitocris/Neskhons also had a daughter named Neskhons II, and she was appointed Gods Wife of Amun, as well. Neskhons II in turn had sons named Tjanefer and Masaharta and daughters Itawy and Nesitanebetashru. (Recall that Nesitanebetashru was the name of an earlier Gods Wife of Amun.) Her difficult name was evidently simplified at the Persian court as Atossa (Hadossa), derived from -betashru. The Biblical name Esther (Es-tare) also makes a convenient abbreviation, and is not a Hebrew/Jewish name.

Although Tjanefer and Itawy could have been the children of Pinedjem II (or other kings/princes), Nesitanebetashru and Masaharta emerge as children sired by Pasher/Cyrus, with Masaharta being named after the father of Cyrus. This son would also correspond to Artaphrenes II, heir of Cyrus/Artaphrenes. Furthermore, it becomes clear that Pasher and Pinedjem competed over more than foreign policy, but the affections of the Gods Wife Neshkons II.

Note: Cyrus had a second prominent daughter, Artystone, who was also married to Darius, and the mother of two sons, Abrocomas and Hyperanthes.

Nesitanebetashru (a.k.a. Nakht-Basteru/Nakht-Basterau) was very much desired even as her mother. From Persian sources, the young Atossa was considered the consort of both Bardiya (Nebuchadrezzar) and Smerdis (Assurbanipal) before her marriage to Darius. In Egyptian sources, only one daughter is known, Neskhons III. However, we know that she also had four prominent sons, the youngest of which was sired by Darius and became his successor in the Great Throne as Xerxes.

Note: Nesitanebetashru daughter of Neskhons II is a name from the priestly 21st Dynasty genealogy. Nakhtbasteru (Bastet is Victorious) was a daughter of a Wedjarenes in the Libyan 23rd Dynasty genealogy. Nakhtubasterau is named as a consort of Ahmose II/Amasis of the 26th Dynasty. See Hilton and Dodson, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, p 226, 244. One son of Nakhtubasterau is named Ahmose after his father, and the other is called Pasen-khonsu, perhaps after her father Pasenhor/Pasher/Ankhenhor/Ankhefenkhonsu.

The Female Dynasty of Shepenwepet II thus continued through her daughters daughters daughter, Nesitanebetashru, and possibly even through her daughter Neskhons III, if she was in fact the daughter of Otanes that Xerxes made his chief (and only attested) wife.