Persia 08: Xerxes, Hero of Heroes (continued)

- Xerxes next turned his attention to Greece.

- Herodotus presents a scenario that parallels the Biblical interaction between the Judah-figure Gideon/Mamre (Tao II) and “the Lord”/Abram of Judges 6/Genesis 14.

- “Herodotus’s tale is structured around literary motifs and human stereotypes that were easy for his listeners and readers to interpret. It was standard practice to contrast two counselors, one ambitious and stupid, the other wise and deliberate. This had the result [in this particular case], if not the intention, of portraying Xerxes as indecisive, even cowardly, which fits well with the traditional Greek presentation.” (quoting Pierre Bryant, ‘From Cyrus to Alexander’, p 526)

- The Persian minister in favor of the campaign was Mardonius. The one that advised Xerxes against it was Artabanus. Likewise Gideon, concerning which side he should take in the looming battle, was torn between “the Lord’s” will and pleasing other family members. Like Gideon, Xerxes receives three signs. He also changes his mind twice before committing to action. In the Kings/Chronicles account, the other name of Gideon, Tao/Baal, is modified to Toi, “the Waverer”.

- Ultimately, Xerxes combined the advice of both ministers. He had every member of the court participate in the campaign that his father Darius had intended to lead personally. Any attempt to excuse oneself from this duty would have been perceived as an insult to the dead king and a personal disgrace. Herodotus composed a colorful (if not altogether accurate) list of the many appointed leaders and the units they commanded, a Who’s Who of the Persian Empire, all assembled for the purpose of subjugating tiny Athens, or so it seemed.

- The mission, painstakingly organized over a four-year period, was to become the most successful failure of all time. As Gideon delivered the Israelites from the hand of the Midianites, so Xerxes determined to save Greeks from the Medes and put a number of Median lords (and his rivals) to the sword. He would lead the eastern hordes as a Tidal or an Arioch, but also bring about their destruction like Gideon/Mamre.

- The dual typecasting of Xerxes was made doubly clear upon his arrival in Greece. As a new Benjamin/Joshua, he determined to cross over into Greece on dry land with his army. Xerxes forded the Hellespont by tying together hundreds of ships in the form of a temporary bridge. After an initial attempt ended in failure, Xerxes realized that he had neglected to strike the waters as Joshua. However, he did not strike the waters a single time, but 300 times, 300 being the number of the earlier Judah-figure, Gideon/Mamre. Only then was he successful in getting his forces over.

- The leading prince, Bupales/Harpalus, probable heir of general Megabyzus, was literally sidelined by a commission to dig a seemingly useless canal through Greek holy ground. Harpalus further lost face due to the collapse of the initial boat-bridge constructed across the Hellespont. His brother-in-law Alexander I of Macedonia was later sent to Athens as a mediator and ignominiously rejected.

- Megabyzus was the Persian general that conquered Thrace and Macedonia on behalf of Darius and established Alexander I as their king.

- Oracles streamed forth from the shrine of Apollo at Delphi cautioning that Greek “resistance was futile” against the might of the Persians. However, a separate oracle was sent to Sparta informing them that either their city would be ripped apart and possessed, or one of their kings would have to suffer that fate for them. A second message was also sent to Sparta from their former king Demaratus and decoded by Queen Gorgo - Xerxes was indeed coming (what you must do, do quickly)!

- Previously Sparta had been visited by two messengers from Persia that demanded earth and water as a token of submission. They were told to fetch it for themselves and then thrown down a well to their deaths. Sparta later thought better of their defiance and sent two noblemen to Xerxes in exchange. Xerxes refused to take their lives and was even jocular about it. His purpose had already been served. What’s more, on the eve of the invasion, Xerxes had something else in mind. He himself would provide the obligatory sacrifice.

- The use of doubles is attested in the early Persian Period. The most famous example is Gaumata the double of Bardiya, who was declared a fraud by Darius and killed.

- The oracle of Delphi did not specify which co-king of Sparta would have to die. Xerxes’ brother Darius/Achaemenes, the Spartan co-king Leotychidas, would have been a suitable candidate. He could be the one to take the fall (literally or figuratively) in battle. He would in the process make Xerxes more than a Benjamin, but also a new Perseus/Apollo, for Horus the Elder/Judah was vanquished by Set/Levi, the Greek Perseus/Apollo.

- However, upon his ascension, Xerxes no longer needed his own regional identity of Leonidas of Sparta. In fact, if anything, he had a strong desire to sacrifice it. Leonidas reflected the “Lion of Judah” typecasting that he so badly wanted to rise above. Leonidas and not Leotychidas was “chosen” to engage Xerxes in a Greek Armageddon. As a further sign of his fatalistic Judah role, exactly 300 Spartans (who had sons to survive them) were hand-picked to go with him.

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Xerxes and the Number Seven