7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Xerxes

“Goosh bede ta begam ba to niyatamo, Daran az ben mibaran hoviatamo…”  -Yas

In lieu of recent revisionist historical fabrications with an overt xenophobic slant, here are 7 things you probably didn’t know about Xerxes, fourth Shah of the Achaemenid Persian Dynasty.

1. Xerxes was NOT a pierced-up androgynous bald guy.
Based on ancient carved stone reliefs remaining from the Achaemenid Dynasty, Xerxes is actually depicted as having long curly hair and beard, adorned with a crown and royal robe.  If you think about it for a second, it’s obvious as to why they purposefully chose to drastically change what he looked like by darkening his skin and taking away his masculinity.  However, he probably did have pierced ears, for it was the fashion of men at the time in ancient Persia.

National Museum of Iran

2. The correct pronunciation of his name is “Khashaayaar” not “Zerkseez”.
It is not surprising that many words and names become lost in translation as well as pronunciation when going from one language to another.  Today, Khashayar is still a common name in modern Iran.

3. Xerxes was the grandson of Cyrus The Great.
While slavery and the subjection of humans was the norm in the historical western world such as Greece and Rome, two generations prior to when Xerxes took the throne, his grandfather, Cyrus the Great abolished slavery in all its forms.   Along with the abolition of slavery, Cyrus also established by law, freedom of religion and other inalienable human rights. This can be found in what is referred to by historians today as the Cyrus Cylinder, which was decreed over 2500 years prior to Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.  Xerxes continued to uphold the laws and freedoms that his grandfather, Cyrus the Great established.

The Cyrus Cylinder

4. Xerxes was married to Esther.
Yes, the same Esther from the Bible. One of the most famous Jewish women from the Old Testament was the beloved partner to Xerxes and Queen of Persia.   The Holy Jewish Holiday of Purim is directly correlated to Esther and Xerxes.   Although Xerxes was a Zoroastrian by faith, he did not force his beliefs upon anyone, including his wife.


5. He had big shoes to fill.
Both Xerxes’ father, Darius the Great and grandfather, Cyrus the Great were revered throughout Greater Asia for their righteous character and social accomplishments.  While Cyrus founded the Achaemnid Dynasty, it was Darius who legitimized it.  Darius partook in many social achievements such as the creation of the Suez Canal, the establishment of a formal judicial system, a uniform monetary system, and initial construction of the Persian Capital of Persepolis.  During the twilight years of Darius’ life, Spartan and Athenian forces attacked and sacked the Persian City of Sardis. (You’ll be hard pressed to find western history books that mentions Greek forces attacked first. This fact seems to be conveniently edited out in most sources.)   Not being one to put up with bullying foreign attacks, Darius retaliated by sending military forces to Greece so they would check themselves before they riggity-wrecked themselves.  Darius knew his time was short so he left his son, Xerxes the throne along with the responsibility of finishing what he began, by completing the construction of Persepolis as well as dealing with the attack on Sardis.  While the majority of retaliating forces were Persian and Median, Xerxes’ military was actually a United Nations Coalition that also comprised of Assyrians, Armenians, Scythians, Israelites, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Ionians, Phrygians, Elamites, Bactrians, as well as Aeolian Greeks, Aegean Greeks, Pontus Greeks, among others.

Persian & Median Soldiers

6. He is buried near Shiraz Iran.
One can visit Xerxes’ tomb along with his father’s, Darius the Great and other Achaemenid Shahs at the ancient Historical Landmark called Naghsh-e-Rostam, located not far from the city of Shiraz.  Above his tomb, adorned on the cliff-side rock is a relief carving of Xerxes holding his right hand up as a symbolic gesture of his devotion to Truth while he faces a winged Farvahar, the Zoroastrian symbol of Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds.

Xerxes from Naghsh-e-Rostam

7. Xerxes recognized people’s right to be Happy.
Thousands of years before Thomas Jefferson wrote down his famous words “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, Xerxes also immortalized Mankind’s right to Happiness as divinely given by Ahura Mazda (God).  His words can still be found today written in ancient Persian cuneiform script on the remaining walls of Persepolis.

Art by André Lima Araújo

So given with all this, I think it’s safe to say that Xerxes and Ancient Persians were in fact not the uncivilized evil monsters they are portrayed to be.  You see, with a little bit of homework, you can uncover truths and facts that are conveniently left out.   As George Orwell appropriately put it, “He who controls the present, controls the past.”

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