(ah hahz yoo ay' ruhs) HEBREW: AHASWEROS
"mighty one"

The Persian king featured in the book of Esther is better known to history as Xerxes I. The son of Darius I, he reigned from 486 to 465 B.C. His domain, according to the Bible, stretched "from India to Ethiopia over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces," and he "sat on his royal throne in Susa the capital" (Est. 1:1-2).

When Ahasuerus rejected Vashti as his queen for her refusal to appear at a royal banquet and chose Esther to replace her, he unwittingly set in motion events that immortalized Esther and her cousin Mordecai and marked his grand vizier Haman as one of the Bible's worst villians. The story is celebrated in the Jewish feast of Purim.

In traditional Purim celebrations, Ahasuerus is a somewhat farcical and pathetic figure, remembered for his futile decree requiring wives to obey their husbands and for a command that resulted in Haman's being forced to give Mordecai the triumph he had planned for himself.

What is known about Xerxes (Ahasuerus) outside the Bible may be found in the works of his near contemporary, the Greek historian Herodotus. In addition, Old Persian inscriptions from Xerxes' time purport to reveal the king's own words.

Herodotus tells of Xerxes' invasion of Greece by land and sea in 480 B.C. following his erection of a pontoon bridge to cross the Hellspont, the waterway separating Europe from Asia Minor. However, his fleet soon suffered disastrous losses at Salamis, and a year later his armies were exhausted in an indecisive battle at Plataea. Although hostilities between the rivals continued for 30 years, the invasion was ended. Little is known about Xerxes between his retreat from Greece and his assassination in 465.

Archeologists have uncovered inscriptions attributed to Xerxes that depict his fealty to the Zoroastrian divinity Ahuramazda and also reveal his attitude toward the religions of the peoples he conquered: "Among these countries there was a place where false gods previously were worshiped. Afterward, by the favor of Ahuramazda, I destroyed that sanctuary of the false gods, and I made proclamation, 'The false gods shall not be worshiped!' Where previously the false gods were worshiped, there I worshiped Ahuramazda."

{E2 Dictionary of Biblical People}

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