The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Vol. 4

By Geoffrey W. Bromiley; Everett E. Harrison et al. | Go to book overview
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XANTHICUS zan thi-kəs "Gk. Xanthikos" (2 Mace. 11:30, 33, 38). The name of a month that corresponds to Nisan (March/April) of the calendar used by the Jews. See CALENDAR II.A.2.

XERXES zûrkrsēz "Old Pers. xšayāršan; Elamite ik-še-iriš-šaAkk. ḫi-ši-'-ar-ša; Heb. ('aḥašwērôš; Gk. Xerxēs". The name of two Persian kings.

1. Xerxes I, son of Darius the Great and Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus the Great and sister of Cambyses. Xerxes was designated heir-apparent by his father and served as satrap of Babylon from 498 B.C. to his accession in 486. He is portrayed with his father on the reliefs at Persepolis, where Darius sits on his throne in his robe of state and behind him stands the crown prince (see picture in FOOTSTOOL). The winged Ahura-Mazda floats above the scene. This sculpture confirms Xerxes's statement that his father “made me the greatest after himself.”

Xerxes lacked the toleration and sensitivity of CYRUS and the foresight of DARIUS (2). Soon after his accession he brutally crushed revolts in Egypt and Babylon. Xerxes did not have the military ability of his predecessors, but urged on by bad advisers he began an assault on Greece in 480 B.C. Herodotus's description of Xerxes' army (vii.56-99) is a most valuable ethnographic document; although he exaggerated the number of soldiers (1,700,000, excluding naval forces), his figure of 1200 ships is confirmed by Aeschylus. Xerxes' preparations included digging a canal near Athos and having a bridge built over the Hellespont by Phoenician and Egyptian engineers. When a storm destroyed the bridge Xerxes ordered the engineers' heads cut off and the waters of the Hellespont given three hundred lashes. A new double bridge was built, and the army crossed over. After being delayed by the Greeks at Thermopylae, the Persians pushed on to Athens and burned the city. Later that year the Persian fleet suffered a disastrous defeat at Salamis, and Xerxes ordered the execution of the Phoenician admiral; after this both the Phoenician and Egyptian fleets deserted him. Xerxes withdrew from Greece, leaving the army in the hands of his general Mardonius. In 479 the Greeks defeated the Persian army at Plataea and, on the same day, the Persian fleet at Mycale. In 466 the Persians were defeated again and forced to give up all the territory that Darius had gained outside of Asia Minor. Xerxes returned home and concentrated on building at Persepolis and Susa. Construction attributed to him at Persepolis includes the completion of the Apadana, his own palace, and the harem (See pictures in ARCHEOLOGY OF IRAN).

The three main pillars of the gatehouse of Xerxes at persepollis
(L. A. Willis)

Xerxes inherited an empire that was basically sound, but he was not equal to the task of maintaining its vitality. The description of his character in Esther (where he is called King AHASUERUS "1") agrees with evidence from other sources. His undisciplined temper and moral weakness cost him everything he had gained. He died by the hand of an assassin in 465 B.C.


Part of the audience hall at Persepolis, begun by Darius and finished
by Xerxes (W. S. LaSor)

2. Xerxes II son of Artaxerxes and Damaspia, who was killed after a reign of forty-five days (424 B.C.) by his halfbrother Secydianus.

Bibliography.–R. Collins, Medes and Persians (1974), pp. 138-148;
W. Culican, Medes and Persians (1965), pp. 80-82; B. Dicks, The
Ancient Persians: How They Lived and Worked (1979), pp. 45-47;
R. Ghirshman, Iran (1954), pp. 190-94; A. T. Olmstead, History of
the Persian Empire (1948), pp. 230-288.



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