Xerxes I (Xerxes the Great) was the fourth and most well-known ruler of Persia’s Archaemenid dynasty. He inherited the throne from his father, Darius I, and became King without having to prove his worth. Due to his excellent eye for building and several beautiful structures he created, Xerxes became one of the most well-known rulers of his time, but his credibility as a strong ruler was weakened when he lost a battle with Greece in 480 BCE. To combat the Greek armies, he gathered friends and amassed a formidable force that was thought to be unbeatable. It was the most powerful force known to humans at the time. Several adjacent states, including Egypt and Babylon, revolted when his father handed over the throne to him, but Xerxes crushed them. However, his preparations fell short against the Greek army, and he was defeated in 480 BCE. Later, Xerxes conquered northern Greece for a time, only to lose it a year later in the Salamis and Plataea battles.
Childhood, Early Years, and Ascension to Power
Around 518 BC, Xerxes was born into a royal Persian household, the son of Darius I, King of Persia, and Atossa. Despite not being Darius’ eldest son, his mother was the daughter of Cyrus the Great, which played a significant part in his coronation as king.
Due to the rebellion in Egypt, his father was forced to leave for a risky mission, and as per Persian custom, he had to choose a successor before departing for Egypt, and he chose Xerxes. Due to King’s bad health, he was unable to travel to Egypt and died in 486 BC, leaving 36-year-old Xerxes as the ruler of a huge and strong empire.
Artabazenes, Darius’ half brother and eldest son, claimed the throne in front of the council, as was customary in Persia and the rest of the world. However, Artabazenes’ claim was lost due to the fact that his mother was a commoner and Xerxes’ mother was the daughter of a strong monarch, Cyrus the Great.
Xerxes’ cousin and commander-in-chief of the Persian army, Mardonius, persuaded Xerxes into leading the army to seize Greece, a feat his father had attempted as well. The Greeks were a skilled military nation who were difficult to subdue, so Xerxes’ uncle and top advisor Artabanus tried but failed to reason with his nephew. Because Xerxes was a young and impressionable emperor, he assembled and led a vast army to Greece. But first, he needed to suppress the uprising forces in Egypt and Babylon, which occurred during his father’s death.
Invasion of Greece
After restoring peace in the enormous Persian Empire, he turned his attention to capturing Greece, which was famed for its fierce barbarian warriors who were not known for bending the knee to foreign invaders, even if they were dead. Xerxes was fully aware of this, and he was also well aware of his father’s failures in defeating the Greeks. He spent at least a half-decade preparing himself and his armies to attack Greece, and he enlisted the help of men from all throughout his empire.
By that time, Xerxes had demonstrated his brutality by insulting the gods of the Egyptians and Babylonians, the Persian state’s two closest friends during his father’s reign. When a dreadful portent appeared on his route to fight the Greeks, Pythias, one of his closest allies, requested that Xerxes remove his son from the army, because he wanted at least one heir to the kingdom of Sardis alive. As an atheist, Xerxes became angry by this demand and killed Pythias’ son by chopping him in half.
Xerxes’ vast army had a couple of million troops and a few thousand ships, more than enough to smash Greece, or so he imagined. Several omens appeared during Xerxes’ march to Thermopylae, but he ignored them and marched his army across bridges into Hellespont. The Greeks were also apprehensive to undertake all-out war, so King Leonidas of Sparta had to command a considerably lesser army against Xerxes due to bad omen. The fight was fought, and Leonidas led his army to a seemingly impossible victory, but treason by a Greek man, Ephialtes, resulted in defeat, and Thermopylae fell into Xerxes’ hands.
Following his victory against Leonidas, Xerxes marched towards Athens, which he rapidly took in a matter of days, giving him control of practically the whole mainland of Northern Greece. Overconfidence led him to engage in a conflict with Greek troops at Salamis without knowing the enemy’s capabilities or the terrain, and as a result, he was defeated. This caused Xerxes to evacuate to Asia, leaving Mardonius with a fleet on the battlefield. Mardonius was unable to hold his ground for long and was defeated at the Battle of Plataea in 479 BCE.
Work in Construction
In order to fulfill another wish of his father, Xerxes travelled to Susa to supervise the construction of monuments that his father had begun. His taste in design was grandiose, and he created monuments larger than his father anticipated, such as the Gate of All Nations and the Hall of Hundred Columns. He also oversaw the construction of Darius’ palace in Persepolis and erected his own palace, which was more than double the size of Darius’. He also created the Royal Road and spent far more money than his father to ensure his empire’s architectural dominance.
The large sums of money spent on these monuments put a strain on the treasury, and as a result, the weight of taxes was imposed on the common populace, resulting in widespread turmoil. Historians argue that the Archaemenid Empire’s decline was precipitated by high expenditures on lost wars in Greece and unplanned construction work in Susa and Persepolis.
Personal Death & Life
Xerxes married Amestris, Otanes’ daughter, and she bore him six children: four sons and two daughters.
Xerxes was a noted womanizer, and his attraction to attractive women prompted him to pursue Masistes’ young wife.
Xerxes wasn’t patient or righteous, so he married her daughter to one of his sons in order to start an affair with her. But when he saw Masistes’ daughter Artaynte, he was totally over heels in love with her, and the persistent pressure from his side forced Artaynte to give up his wishes and they began an affair.
When Xerxes’ wife learned of the affair, she devised a plan to kidnap and execute the mother. This caused a great deal of animosity between Xerxes and his brother Masistes. As a result, Xerxes murdered his brother and all of his sons.
All of these policies sparked enormous unrest, and Xerxes became the kingdom’s most loathed monarch. Several schemes were devised to assassinate him, and one of them was successful. Artabanus, the captain of the royal bodyguard and the most powerful figure in the Persian court, killed Xerxes in August 465 BC. With the help of a eunuch named Aspamitres, Artabanus carried out his scheme.
After Xerxes’ death, his oldest son Darius sought vengeance and killed Artabanus in order to reclaim Persia’s throne.
With queen Amestris, Xerxes had several offspring. Amytis (Megabyzus’ wife), Darius (Artaxerxes I or Artabanus), Hystaspes (Artaxerxes I), Artaxerxes I, Achaemenes (murdered by Egyptians), and Rhodogune were among them.
In addition to queen Amestris, he fathered children with a number of other women. Artarius (Babylon’s satrap), Tithraustes, Arsames or Arsamenes or Arxanes or Sarsamas (Egypt’s satrap), Parysatis, and Ratashah were among them.
Xerxes I Net Worth
Xerxes I net worth is unknown.