Xerxes has been bestowed the title of King of Kings and so chooses a new wife. A wife who may just go on to be more revered, worshipped and remembered in the annals of history than even he himself.
XERXES: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF DARIUS AND THE RISE OF ALEXANDER #3
Story: Frank Miller
Artist: Frank Miller
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Additional Illustration: Frank Miller & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: Dark Horse
What You Need to Know:
Darius has fallen in his quest for retribution in his defeat at Marathon and his son, the new Persian king thirsts for vengeance despite his fathers dying words.
What You’ll Find Out:
Xerxes emerges from a cave reborn the God King and self-appointed greatest at any and all achievements, from horseman to marksman and the fourth known King of Kings. Presumably, this would be 486 BC when Xerxes was known to have become ruler. Flash forward to 465 BC and we find the king has fallen. Assassinated by Artabanus, commander of the royal bodyguard, with the aid of a eunuch and the general of the army.
Rumour is rife, however, as to how the mighty King of Kings could have been felled. Betrayed and stabbed in the back, slain in great combat or poisoned are some of the whispered theories. But one thing was for certain. His people mourned. Yet some still wondered if a god-king could truly die. Or would he be cursed to wander forever more, denied and disgraced?
Back again fourteen years before, to 479 BC and the celebration of a new queen. Xerxes must take a wife. Ruler of the greatest empire ever witnessed strolls among his people searching for a suitable consort. The Persian kingdom is scoured, looking for the perfect woman. When she is brought before him he towers above her and she asks but one favor before becoming his bride. He bows before her and agrees.
And so they are joined together and Xerxes marvels at her beauty. Two visions are then shown, one of the people of Zion being cast out and on mass exodus, but also one that states Esther filled him with such love that he halted the genocide and her bravery gave rise to the festival of Purim.
But while his people celebrate through the night he broods alone in his chamber and plots and plans. Many more millions must bow to him and so he must set forth on a quest to rule the world.
What Just Happened?:
Though the art is still visually rich, it is somewhat less focussed than the previous two issues and is also far removed from the intrinsic detail of the first 300 series. However, it is a riot of splashy color, especially in the fantastic visions of the varied rumors put forward of the fall of Xerxes.
And so I take this change to be the depiction of the opulence of the Persian king in his element and not out in the field of battle. And although not as detailed as we remember him, Xerxes is still shown almost as he was first seen in the original 300, dripping with ornamentation and gold, just not as refined an image.
But this time he has been shown with a new trinket. The ultimate trophy wife, Esther. Not much is said of her here, other than the fact she entreaties Xerxes to save her people, the day of which is celebrated and commemorated with the Jewish festival known as Purim, also mentioned in the narrative. Thus is born a detail which will make her even more worshipped than he, with the creation of the Book of Esther of the Old Testament, itself a large part of the religious festival even to this day. Unlike last issue with the Greek fire, this issue is more accurate historically speaking, with the inclusion of Esther, the festival of Purim and the true cause of the death of Xerxes in 465 BC.
However, a little artistic license is still at play here. Historically Xerxes was recorded to have taken Esther as his consort around 482-478 BC, when she was just fourteen years old, and not 475 BC as stated. And she was also chosen from the royal harem and not from a vast search of the kingdom as depicted and then only once her predecessor, Vashti, was divorced for disobedience. Also 473 BC is the year recorded of her having interceded on behalf of the Jewish people of the kingdom to prevent their annihilation at the hands of the Haman, the kings previous vizier (a role she herself would later claim) and so was already queen for some five years or so before she even made the plea, which caused the incidence of the festival and not on the day he chose her as his bride and not even as part of the agreement to the terms of their union.
With these liberties taken with historical text and also the zipping back and forth in time, from his rise to power, then to his assassination and then back again to his marriage to Esther, this was by far more disjointed and dizzying than the tale previously seen. But it’s possible all this has been truncated to fit such a large chunk of Persian history into one issue. No mean feat by anyone’s standards. The opening of the narrative plays heavily on the actual ethos of the Persian “King of Kings” motif. As ruler during the Greco-Persian Wars Xerxes, also known as Xerxes the Great, behaved as a self-righteous god and passed his judgment from one land to the next. As such under his rule, the entitlements he bestows on himself here are fully in keeping with the mindset of the man who believed himself all-powerful conqueror and ruler of the known world. So this is still a true enough narrative despite any criticism of the text, given that Miller also provided the art as well as the extra art piece we see each issue, this time depicting the Ephor priests of the Spartans who’s betrayal caused Leonidas to be so ill-equipped to face Xerxes troops.
Final Thought: Xerxes has risen. We need now only to see the man who will rival him, in the form of Alexander.
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