Ancient and modern sources present differing views of Xerxes. It’s difficult to make a judgment of Xerxes character and effectiveness as a King since there is a bias in a majority of these sources.
Ancient Persian sources are mostly inscriptions and reliefs found in Persepolis though there are also inscriptions found in other parts of the Persian Empire. An example are the Daiva inscriptions “A great god is Ahuramazda, who created this earth … who made Xerxes king, one king of many, one lord of many”. This states that Ahuramazda made Xerxes king and supports Xerxes. It emphasizes his right to rule through divine sanctions. In many bas-reliefs Xerxes is much larger than his counterparts. The size of the king, the robes he wears, his position, the number of servants, etc. are designed to emphasis his importance. Xerxes is always larger than the people around him, which aided his image as a capable ruler and great king. An example is the Apadana reliefs. Also, inscriptions found near Persepolis present Xerxes as the most capable of Darius’ sons: “ While there were other sons of his... Darius my father, after himself me he made great.” Other reliefs portray Xerxes as a great hunter, hero and warrior. Its important to note that Xerxes used reliefs and inscriptions as propaganda tools and to maintain control of his empire as “King of Kings”, therefore, making ancient Persian sources biased and only portraying Xerxes in a positive light.
Herodotus was an ancient historian born just after the reign of Xerxes. In his book The Histories, Herodotus doesn’t attack Xerxes but describes him in two ways. Firstly, a typical King whose subjects feared him and secondly, a ruler punished by the gods for his arrogant use of power. Herodotus uses the bridging of Hellespont and destroying the Greek temples as examples of Xerxes arrogance. Herodotus also writes about instances of Xerxes being short tempered. Examples of this are: -
A man named...
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