Darius I of Persia and Xerxes

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John Vinson
John Vinson

YEAR 12 ANCIENT HISTORY

HSC COURSE 2012

Part three – Personalities in their Times

OPTION E: XERXES

ASSESSMENT TASK 5

The Question: Assess the importance of Xerxes’ family background in his accession to kingship.

Xerxes’ family background was a contributing factor in his accession to kingship although it was not the reason for his attainment of the throne. There are several reasons for Xerxes’ family background being insignificant to his accession to kingship for example he had two older brothers who could have possibly been contenders for the throne. This, and other factors also suggest that it was unlikely that Xerxes’ would ever become king. Also according to modern historian Russel Granger, Xerxes’ mother, Queen Atossa, was not acknowledged in any of the monumental royal inscriptions, treasury texts or the fortification texts. In fact it was Xerxes’ personal qualities that made him King of the Persian Empire such as his ruthlessness, drive and ambition to become leader.

Similar to Xerxes’, his father Darius, former king of Persia, was also an unlikely contender for the Persian throne. This was because Darius was not heir to the throne, although he was of royal descent. When Cambyses, the king at the time, died, a supposed “imposter” by the name of Smerdis took the throne. Darius stated that he killed this imposter, calling him Guamata, during battle and as a result was appointed king of Persia with the support of the Persian army in 522BC. Many saw this as an assassination by Darius in order to claim the throne and this sparked a revolt against Darius by the supporters of Smerdis, also known as Baridya. The way in which Darius handled the revolts of Babylon, Elam, Media and Armenia, at the beginning of his accession also proved that he was very capable of being a successful king. These revolts made Darius’ accession to kingship very controversial.

Darius spent his reign justifying his claim to the throne...
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