[Avodah] persian era

Lisa Liel lisa at starways.net
Tue Feb 19 08:07:24 PST 2013

On 2/19/2013 3:12 AM, Eli Turkel wrote:
> The standard Persian cronolgy is
> Cyrus - Cambysis (son)
> Darius - Xerxes (son) - Artaxerxes (son).
> Darius usurps the crown and as Lisa points out the exact events are murky.
> These events are noted in various writings on walls and other writings 
> that survived
> (see for example The Persian Empire: A Corpus of Sources from the 
> Achaemenid Period 
> <http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0415552796/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER> 
> - by Amélie Kuhrt)
> Lisa writes
> <<Chazal actually don't say much about how long Darius and Cyrus 
> reigned.>>
> However they give the total Persian rule as 54 years

Again, with all due respect, I have to correct this.  They give the 
total Persian rule *after the fall of Babylon* as 54 years.  The 
Persians and Medes existed as kingdoms even when Babylon was overlord of 
the whole region, and many of the stories the Greeks record as having 
happened under those rulers may have happened during the Babylonian period.

It's notable that Herodotus apparently never heard of Nebuchadnezzar.  I 
mean... that's sort of like a modern historian who never heard of 
Napoleon.  But it makes sense if the Greeks only had contact with 
Nebuchadnezzar's Persian and/or Median proxies.

The Tanakh records Nebuchadnezzar invading and destroying Egypt.  
There's no archaeological evidence of such a Babylonian campaign.  But 
we don't consider Yechezkel a navi sheker, so it probably happened.  
Greek sources describe the Persian king Cambyses invading and destroying 
Egypt in much the same way, though Persian and Egyptian sources talk 
about Cambyses son of Cyrus in much more positive terms.  The Cambyses 
who destroyed Egypt may have been the other Cambyses Darius mentions in 
his Behistun inscription.  The father of Cyrus the Great.  And he may 
have undertaken that campaign at the behest of Nebuchadnezzar, in much 
the same way that the king of Edom went to war against the Moabites at 
the behest of his overlord in Jerusalem.  It's how things worked back then.

> standard chronolgy says Darius I ruled from 522 to 486 BCE (36 years)
> including the battle of Marathon
> Lisa and I both seem to agree that his son Xerxes was Achashverosh. 
> This means Achasverosh
> was the son of Darius and not the father of Darius as chazal seem to 
> state.

Might I ask where Chazal state this?  I mean, it isn't Chazal who say 
that the grandfather of Achashverosh in the Megillah was also named 
Achashverosh.  That's from Tanakh.

> In any case if Achashverosh is the son of Darius I then he reigned 
> after the Temple was rebuilt in the days of Darius

But we don't agree that he was the son of Darius I.  Darius I, also 
known as Darius the son of Hystaspes, was the king whom Chazal call 
Darius the Persian, who reigned *after* Achashverosh of the Megillah.

> Again Ezra and Nehemia seem to use the same names as the standard 
> secular chronolgy. Seder Olam Raba is written in EY about 500 years 
> later while the more detailed Gemara statement are about 1000 years 
> after the events.

Let me explain what I think happened:

Cyrus II            Cyrus the Great
Cambyses II         Cambyses II
Darius I            Darius the Persian
Xerxes I            Ahasuerus III
Artaxerxes I        Darius the Persian
--------------      --------------------
Darius II           Darius the Mede
Cyrus III           Cyrus the Great
Artaxerxes II       Ahasuerus II
Artaxerxes III      Darius the Persian
Arses (Xerxes II)   Ahasuerus III
Darius III          Darius the Persian

The column on the left is a list of the kings of Persia that you'll find 
in any history book.  Ignore the break in the middle, which I only 
inserted to make the match to the right side more clear.  On the right, 
there are two lists.  The first is the list of Persian kings according 
to Chazal (I'll explain Ahasuerus III in a moment), and the second is 
the list of Medo-Persian kings over the same period.

As I mentioned in my previous email, Chazal describe a kind of rotating 
high kingship between the Medes and Persians.  Darius the Mede was king 
of Media *and* high king of the Medes and Persians.  Cyrus was king of 
Persia.  When Darius died, Ahasuerus succeeded him as king of Media, but 
Cyrus, who was still king of Persia, became high king of the Medes and 
Persians.  Ahasuerus killed Cyrus and became high king of the Medes and 
Persians and apparently even took the Persian throne for himself.

Ahasuerus III is there because of the story of Babylon's destruction, 
which was revenge by Darius over the murder of his son by Babylonian 
pretenders, and because it explains why Nechemiah had to return to 
Persia temporarily.

There were a lot of things the Greeks didn't understand.  For example, 
they didn't know that the Persian name of the king we call Darius was 
Daraya-wahush.  So they didn't know that the shortened form Wahush, 
which they transliterated as Ochus, was referring to Darius.  They 
didn't realize that the hypercoristic form of Kshay-arsha was Arsha, or 
more familiarly Arsha-ka, so they created transliterated names of Arses 
and Arsaces, not realizing that these were just nicknames for the king 
they otherwise called Xerxes.

Chazal say that Artaxerxes (Persian Arta-khshatra) was a title used by 
multiple Medo-Persian kings.  See, all of the various maamerei Chazal 
fit together into a coherent account of the history of that time period.

> Everyone agrees that the Greek accounts need to be taken with a very 
> large grain of salt both because they were prejudiced and because they 
> didnt use modern historical methods for determining the truth.
> Nevertheless they present Persian-Greco wars from about 500 to 450 (50 
> years).
> It is  hard to believe they made up battles between themselves and the 
> Persians.

Nor am I suggesting that they did.

> If the entire Persian empire lasted only 54 years then these wars 
> began immediately after the conquest of Babylonia and then immediately 
> following the end of these wars Alexander invaded Persia (implying 
> that the Peloponnesian wars never occurred).

See above, regarding the existence of both Persia and Media during the 
Babylonian period.  In fact, the king of the Medes is known to 
conventional history as one of Nebuchadnezzar's vassal-allies in the 
destruction of Assyria and the rise of Babylon.


-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.aishdas.org/pipermail/avodah-aishdas.org/attachments/20130219/a00e4f61/attachment-0002.htm>

More information about the Avodah mailing list