Xerxes, the Great King beyond his father Darius
Xerxes the Great, also known as Xerxes I of Persia, (Old Persian: 𐎧𐏁𐎹𐎠𐎼𐏁𐎠; X?ayār?ā)[1] (reigned 485?465 BC) was a Zoroastrian Persian Shahanshah (Emperor) of Achaemenid Empire.

Xerxes was the son of Darius the Great and Atossa and a descendent of Cyrus the Great. He succeeded his father in 486 BC with a very smooth transition of power challenged by no subject nation of the huge Achaemenid empire.
Immediately after seizing the kingship, Darius I of Persia (son of Hystaspes) married Atossa (daughter of Cyrus the Great). They were both descendants of Achaemenes from different Achaemenid lines. Marrying a daughter of Cyrus strengthened Darius' position as king.[9] Darius was an active emperor, busy with building programs in Persepolis, Susa, Egypt, and elsewhere. Toward the end of his reign he moved to punish Athens, but a new revolt in Egypt (probably led by the Persian satrap) had to be suppressed. Under Persian law, the Achaemenian kings were required to choose a successor before setting out on such serious expeditions. Upon his great decision to leave (487-486 BC)[10], Darius prepared his tomb at Naqsh-e Rostam and appointed Xerxes, his eldest son by Atossa, as his successor. Darius' failing health then prevented him from leading the campaigns,[11] and he died in October 486 BC.[11]

Xerxes was not the oldest son of Darius and according to old Iranian traditions should have not succeeded the King. Xerxes was however the oldest son of Darius and Atossa hence descendent of Cyrus. This made Xerxes the chosen King of Persia.[12] Some modern scholars too view the unusual decision of Darius to give the throne to Xerxes as a result of his consideration of the unique positions that Cyrus the Great and his daughter Atossa have had.[13]

Xerxes was crowned and succeeded his father in October-December 486 BC[14] when he was about 36 years old.[10] The transition of power to Xerxes was smooth due again in part to great authority of Atossa[9] and his accession of royal power was not challenged by any person at court or in the Achaemenian family, or any subject nation.[15]

Almost immediately, he suppressed the revolts in Egypt and Babylon that had broken out the year before, and appointed his brother Achaemenes as governor or satrap (Old Persian: khshathrapavan) over Egypt. In 484 BC, he outraged the Babylonians by violently confiscating and melting down[16] the golden statue of Bel (Marduk, Merodach), the hands of which the rightful king of Babylon had to clasp each New Year's Day. This sacrilege led the Babylonians to rebel in 484 BC and 482 BC, so that in contemporary Babylonian documents, Xerxes is refused his father's title of King of Babylon, being named rather as King of Persia and Media, Great King, King of Kings (Shahanshah) and King of Nations (i.e. of the world).
Although Herodotus' report in the Histories has created certain problems concerning Xerxes' religious beliefs, modern scholars consider him as a Zoroastrian.[17]
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