Persia 07: Xerxes, Hero of Heroes

- Darius did not officially declare Xerxes successor until very late in his reign. There was little time for him to solidify his election. Xerxes not only had to contend with the many other royal sons of Darius, but also those of Cyrus II.

- Only one son/heir of Cyrus II/Artaphrenes is known for certain, Artaphrenes II. Another eminent name that carried over from the reign of Darius to Xerxes was Aspathines. It is not yet entirely clear whether there was one minister by this name or two, as in the case of Artaphrenes, or whether Aspathines was in fact just an epithet of Nes-Ptah/Cyrus the Great. This topic will be revisited in a later installment when more evidence presents itself.

- The marriage of Xerxes did not necessarily strengthen his claim to the throne. The father of his leading (and only known) wife Amestris is not certainly identified. He is variously named as Onophas or Otanes. The name Onophas is rather obscure. The closest match seems to be a “scientist of Heliopolis” at the time named Oenuphis. The variant, Otanes, could represent the “deputy” of Darius and Cyrus at Sardis by that name. (This high official also seems to have been referred to by the variant Hydarnes). The father-in-law of Xerxes is possibly to be associated with the Biblical Daniel, and if so, the marriage of his daughter to the king would certainly help explain the enduring veneration of Daniel in Jewish tradition.

- Alternately, Otanes/Hydarnes may represent the earlier magnate called by that name, Cambyses II. The daughter of that Otanes was first the wife of Darius. Darius may have given her to his son after he was unable to have any children by her. The imperious Amestris would then correspond to the formerly disgraced Phaidime (barren wife of Darius). This would have allowed Xerxes to claim inheritance from three Great Kings, Cambyses (father of his wife), Cyrus (father of his mother), and Darius (his father). However, Herodotus informs that the father-in-law of Xerxes was still alive and in charge of the Persian infantry in 480 BC during the invasion of Greece. If true, then that would rule out Cambyses as father-in-law.

- The typecasting of Xerxes (Xs-ay-arsa/Khsayarsa, “ruler of heroes”) was a mixed blessing. His father Darius was the “second coming” of Achaemenes/Assurdan III, founder of the Persian Dynasty. As the successor of Darius, Xerxes would therefore have been considered a new Arsa/Tiglath-pileser III son of Achaemenes/Assurdan III. (In Egypt, that corresponds to a new Takelot III son of Osorkon III.) Although his role model had carried off the kingship from Egypt to Assyria, he did not savor it for long, if at all. The reign of Tiglath-pileser III was one of the most traumatic ever.

- The reign of Arsa did however witness the rise of Greek prowess, that is, the “Coming of the Sea Peoples”. Although Takelot III/Arsa left little impression in Persian memory and was denounced in the Bible as the wicked King Ahaz, he was nonetheless highly honored among Greeks (under the name Sabacos). Xerxes would cleverly find it to his advantage that the Greeks be glorified again.

- The primary role model of Xerxes, Tiglath-pileser/Arsa had a composite typecasting of Judah and Issachar. As a Judah/Issachar, he had been assassinated by Si-Amun and Pa-Nehesy as the Simeon and the Levi of that generation. The throne subsequently passed to the Joseph/Benjamin-figure, Piye/Sargon.

- Xerxes was then a Judah/Issachar with at least one Simeon and Levi pair potentially wanting to kill him, and at least one Joseph-figure spoiling to take the birthright. These rivals can be identified as follows:

- The second and third sons (Simeon and Levi) of Darius’ first wife were Arsamenes/Amasis (pharaoh of Egypt) and Ariabignes. The second and third sons of Darius’ second wife were Masistes/Ariamenes (satrap of Bactria) and Hystaspes (named for the father of both Cyrus the Great and Darius).

- The leading Joseph figure at the Persian court was Mardonius/Mordecai. Xerxes had already been promoted over Mardonius (and therefore the line of Joseph), at least militarily. During the first campaign in Greece Mardonius was wounded and relieved of duty by Xerxes/Datis. Still, Mardonius would have been viewed by Xerxes as a possible threat based on typecasting alone.

- Xerxes did have one thing going for him. Because he was the seventh/youngest overall son of his father, Xerxes had a secondary typecasting of Benjamin. If he intended to survive as a Great King, he would have to find a way to shed the Judah/Issachar aspect and become primarily a Benjamin-type king.

- Early in his sole reign, Xerxes began to shape his typecasting toward a more positive outcome. The second son of Atossa, Ariamenes (“The Simeon”), initiated a revolt in Bactria. Xerxes quickly appeased him with the offer of being made second in the throne, that is, a new supportive and fruitful "Joseph" (apparently to eventually replace Mardonius) rather than a conspiring "Simeon".

- Achaemenes/Darius, the firstborn son of Atossa, was made the new satrap (“judge”) of Egypt in the tradition of earlier Reuben figures, such as Ur-Bau/Mentuemhet the eldest son of Inyotef/Sargon of the 11th Dynasty. The cult of Amun-Re in Egypt was treated harshly at this time by order of Xerxes and ostensibly in retribution for any role it had played in the unrest associated with Darius’ passing.

- Xerxes himself, formerly king/viceroy of Babylon, made an appearance at the Temple of Marduk to be acknowledged as lord of the greater throne of Media and Persia. Soon after departing, two more Simeon-figures promptly emerged, Belsimanni and Shamash-eriba (Shamash = Thoth/Simeon) to lead a rebellion. The appointed satrap of Babylon, Zopyrus, was killed, perhaps as a surrogate Issachar in place of Xerxes.

- Afterwards, the general Megabyzus (son/grandson of the general of Darius by that same name), was sent out by Xerxes to deal with the “insurrection”. Although Megabyzus encountered little or no resistance, he proceeded to act on the order of Xerxes to destroy the city’s fortifications. (“Belsimanni” and “Shamash-eriba” will appear again later in the secret service of Xerxes.)

- In his persecution of Marduk (Egyptian: Re), Xerxes went beyond previous Judah figures. The great Esagila temple of Marduk was dismantled along with the colossal ziggurat. The statue of Marduk was not only carried off into exile, but was also said to have been melted down (to prevent it ever being restored). Extensive property in Babylon was handed over to Persian dignitaries and unscrupulous bankers. Babylon ceased to exist as a separate province.

-Sennacherib, an earlier Judah figure, had also carried off Marduk-Bel. He was later murdered by his two “sons” who took on the roles of Simeon and Levi. Recall that when archetypal Judah, Horus the Elder, rose to power in Egypt it was at the expense of the exiled Marduk-Re. Subsequently, Horus the Elder/Judah was killed by Set/Levi (as Osiris/Issachar had also been killed by Set/Levi with the help of Thoth/Simeon). It was not until after the death of Horus the Elder that Marduk-Re was said to have returned to Egypt and delivered souls from the Great Flood.