Xerxes I Pharaoh, The Great (486-466 BC)

Xerxes I, detail of a bas-relief of the north courtyard in
the treasury at Persepolis, late 6th -early 5th century BC

Xerxes I - (Xerxes the Great) (zűrk´sz) - was the third ruler of the Twenty-seventh Dynasty. His name in Old Persian is Khshayarsha, in the Bible Ahasuerus.

Xerxes became king of Persia at the death of his father Darius the Great in 485, at a time when his father was preparing a new expedition against Greece and had to face an uprising in Egypt. According to Herodotus, the transition was peaceful this time.

Because he was about to leave for Egypt, Darius, following the law of his country had been requested to name his successor and to choose between the elder of his sons, born from a first wife before he was in power, and the first of his sons born after he became king, from a second wife, Atossa, Cyrus' daughter, who had earlier been successively wed to her brothers Cambyses and Smerdis, and which he had married soon after reaching power in order to confirm his legitimacy. Atossa was said to have much power on Darius and he chosed her son Xerxes for successor. When his father died, in 486 BC, Xerxes was about 35 years old and had already governed Babylonia for a dozen years.

One of his first concerns upon his accession was to pacify Egypt, where a usurper had been governing for two years. But he was forced to use much stronger methods than had Darius. In 484 BC he ravaged the Delta and chastised the Egyptians.

Xerxes then learned of the revolt of Babylon, where two nationalist pretenders had appeared in swift succession. The second, Shamash-eriba, was conquered by Xerxes' son-in-law, and violent repression ensued: Babylon's fortresses were torn down, its temples pillaged, and the statue of Marduk destroyed; this latter act had great political significance.

Xerxes was no longer able to "take the hand of" (receive the patronage of) the Babylonian god. Whereas Darius had treated Egypt and Babylonia as kingdoms personally united to the Persian Empire (though administered as satrapies), Xerxes acted with a new intransigence.

Having rejected the fiction of personal union, he then abandoned the titles of king of Babylonia and king of Egypt, making himself simply "king of the Persians and the Medes.˛ It was probably the revolt of Babylon, although some authors say it was troubles in Bactria, to which Xerxes alluded in an inscription that proclaimed: "And among these countries (in rebellion) there was one where, previously, daevas had been worshipped. Afterward, through Ahura Mazda's favour, I destroyed this sanctuary of daevas. Let daevas not be worshipped. There, where daevas had been worshipped before, I worshipped Ahura Mazda."

Xerxes thus declared himself the adversary of the daevas, the ancient pre-Zoroastrian gods, and doubtlessly identified the Babylonian gods with these fallen gods of the Aryan religion. The questions arise of whether the destruction of Marduk's statue should be linked with this text proclaiming the destruction of the daeva sanctuaries, of whether Xerxes was a more zealous supporter of Zoroastrianism than was his father, and, indeed, of whether he himself was a Zoroastrian.

It is said that the slaves' lives were much harder during the time of Xerxes. It is not certain whether this is true since Xerxes was much more involved elsewhere and paid little attention to Egypt.

During his reign he put down uprisings in both Egypt and Babylon, but his efforts to invade Europe were thrown back by Greece in 480.

Xerxes was assassinated in 465 BC. Some believe that it was his son who had him assassinated, but there is no proof.

Xerxes' Hall of the 100 Columns is the most impressive
building in the Persepolis Complex. jumble of fallen
columns, column heads, and column bases.


The Gate of Xerxes at Perespolis shows that the Winged Lion was placed at the corner of one entrance. When you stood in front of the gate you saw a lion with four legs and when you were inside the gate you also saw a lion with four legs.

Artaxerxes I 465-424

The king of ancient Persia (464-425 BC), of the dynasty of the Achaemenis. Artaxerxes is the Greek form of łArdashir the Persian.˛ He succeeded his father, Xerxes I , in whose assassination he had no part. The later weakness of the Persian Empire is commonly traced to the reign of Artaxerxes, and there were many uprisings in the provinces.

The revolt of Egypt, aided by the Athenians, was put down (c.455 BC) after years of fighting, and Bactria was pacified. The Athenians sent a fleet under Cimon to aid a rebellion of Cyprus against Persian rule.

The fleet won a victory, but the treaty negotiated by Callias was generally favorable to Persia. Important cultural exchanges occurred between Greece and Persia during Artaxerxes' reign. He was remembered warmly in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah because he authorized their revival of Judaism.

Darius II (424-404 BC)

Darius II was the fifth king of the Twenty-seventh Dynasty. 404 B.C., king of ancient Persia (423?­404 B.C.); son of Artaxerxes I and a concubine, hence sometimes called Darius Nothus [Darius the Bastard].

His rule was not popular or successful, and he spent most of his reign in quelling revolts in Syria, Lydia (413), and Media (410).

He lost Egypt (410), but through the diplomacy of Pharnabazus, Tissaphernes, and Cyrus the Younger he secured much influence in Greece in the Peloponnesian War.

Artaxerxes II succeeded Darius, but the succession was challenged by Cyrus the Younger.

During his reign, he did some work on the temple of Amun is the Kharga oasis.

There were also many foreigners in Egypt during this time, mostly Greeks and Jews.

He died in the spring of 404 BC.


Amyrtaios (Amyrteos) 404-399 B.C.

Amyrtaios was the only ruler of the Twenty-eighth Dynasty. He is thought to have been a Libyan. He ruled Egypt from Sais for six years. He began his reign after the death of Darius II when there was a renewed revolt in Egypt. They achieved independence for a short time again. On the Elephantine Papyri, there is documentation of a loan contract that is written in the year 5 of this king. This is indication that he was recognized in Upper and Lower Egypt. He must have driven the Persians out of the whole country.