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AHASUERUS-XERXES (Heb. אחשורש; Aram. Papyri חשי(א)רש; Dura Synagogue חשורש; Old Persian Xšayāršā; Gr. Ξερξης). If one ignores the vowels, the biblical consonantal text is a close approximation of the king's name. The Persian king known to the Greeks as Xerxes i (reigned 486–465 b.c.e.) was the son of *Dariusi. As soon as he ascended the throne, Xerxes was confronted by a revolt in Egypt. At the same time, the enemies of Judah apparently tried to incite him against its inhabitants (Ezra 4:6). After reducing Egypt "to a worse state of servitude than it was in under Darius" and crushing another revolt in Babylon, he attempted a more ambitious undertaking, the subjugation of Greece. After the disastrous outcome of this adventure, which took place between the third and seventh years of his reign, Xerxes settled down to a life of self-indulgence, reflected in the account of Ahasuerus in the *Scroll of Esther, which agrees with the Greek authors in its conception, or even caricature, of life at the Persian court. Ahasuerus is represented in the Book of Daniel as the father of *Darius the Mede (Dan. 9:1) and, in one recension of the Book of Tobit, as allied with Nebuchadnezzar at the capture of Nineveh (Tob. 14:15). Since Nineveh was actually captured (in 612 b.c.e.) by kings Cyaxares of Media and Nabopolassar of Babylon, it is natural to surmise that later generations confused Cyaxares with Ahasuerus-Xerxes just as they confused Nabopolassar with Nebuchadnezzar. The Book of Esther does not mention the death of Xerxes in a bloody court coup.


H.T. Olmstead, History of the Persian Empire (1948), 214 ff.; R.N. Frye, The Heritage of Persia (1962), index; R.G. Kent, Old Persian (19532), 147–53. add. bibliography: P. Briant, From Cyrus to Alexander (2002), 515–68.

[Isaiah Gafni /

Harold Louis Ginsberg]