Friday, April 27, 2018

Xerxes I

Xerxes I  519-465 BC

Oriental Institute, the University of Chicago

Here is a map of Persepolis Terrace, the entire palace complex. Darius I the Great started construction on this palace project around 518 BC. It was laid in ruins by Alexander the Great around 331 BC.

Other Names for Xerxes I
Xerxes is believed to have been the king Ahasuerus who is mentioned in the bible book Esther. Xerxes' old Persian name was Khshayarsha.

Xerxes had an elder brother, Artabazanes (or Artabanus). Why then didn't Artabazanes become king instead? Two reasons:
First reason: They had different mothers. Xerxes was the son of Darius I and Atossa. Artabazanes was the son of Darius and another woman, not Atossa. Let's remember, Atossa was the princess, Darius I was only a noble. Xerxes, therefore, was of royal blood. Artabazanes wasn't.
Second reason: Artabazanes was born before Darius I became king. Xerxes was the first son born after Darius became king.
Thus, Xerxes became king.
Xerxes went to conquer the Greeks with an army of approx. 360,000 men and 800 ships. Herodotus says it was 5,000,000 troops out of 50 nations, but you can't always take the good man literally. Fact is, it was a huge army.
The march from what is today Turkey to Greece was a major operation. A bridge was built over what is today's Dardanelles Strait and an important victory was won at the Battle of Thermopylae  in mid-August 480 BC. It was the destruction of the three hundred Spartans.

Also in August 480 BC, the naval Battle of Artemisium was fought for three days and won by the Persians. Indecisive actions between the Persian and Greek fleets near Artemisium, located on the north coast of Euboea, came to an end when the Greek vessels withdrew southward after having received the news of the Greek defeat at Thermopylae.

Later that year, on September 21, 480 BC, Xerxes sacked Athens.
However, the huge size of Xerxes' army had its weak point: logistics. The Greeks had major difficulties supplying their troops and, after a defeat in the naval Battle off the Salamis   near Athens on September 29, 480 BC, Xerxes was eager to get back home ASAP.
Xerxes left Mardonius in charge of fighting the Greeks and returned to Asia.

Back home in Persia, Xerxes launched a huge construction program.
Meanwhile in 479 BC, Mardonius and his Persian troops lost the Battle of Plataea, in which Mardonius was killed. Another Greek victory was secured at the Battle of Mycale. The Greeks were on the roll.

Damage assessment: The Persians lost all their conquests in Europe, and many on the coast of Asia.
Continuing court intrigues finally found Xerxes himself a victim. Xerxes was murdered by the chief of his guard, Artabanus.
Xerxes's son Artaxerxes I succeeded him to the throne.

Why Did Xerxes I Want to Invade Greece?
Xerxes wasn't the first to think of an invasion of the Greeks. His father, Darius I, was defeated in the Battle of Marathon in September 490 BC. Darius prepared right away for a vengeance expedition against Greece but died before he could carry it out.

Exactly ten years later, in September 480 BC, Xerxes pillaged Athens.

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