Esther, Queen of King Cyrus
Damien F. Mackey
Can we find queens of a king of Persia appropriate to the biblical Vashti and Esther?
Firstly it was necessary to identify:
“King Ahasuerus” of Book of Esther
my conclusion there being that: “ “King Ahasuerus” was Darius the Mede/Cyrus”.
Now, presuming that I am correct about the “Great King” of the Book of Esther, “Ahasuerus”, being the well-respected Cyrus - but also a Darius - it should not be too difficult to track a queen of his appropriate to the biblical Queen Esther (and to Queen Vashti as well).
Some would argue that to attempt to do so is quite a waste of time, because the Book of Esther is merely a wonderful fiction, and not properly historical.
New World Encyclopedia tells of the historically differing range of views about the Book of Esther: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Esther,_Book_of
The historical accuracy of the Book of Esther is disputed. For the last 150 years, critical scholars have seen the Esther as a work of fiction, while traditionalists argue in favor of the story being historical.
As early as the eighteenth century, the lack of clear corroboration of the details of the story with what was known of Persian history from classical sources led scholars to doubt that the book was historically accurate. It was argued that the form of the story—with its Cinderella-like plot—seems closer to that of a romance than a work of history, and that many of the events depicted therein are implausible and unlikely.
From the late nineteenth century onwards, scholars explored the theory that the story is not only a myth related to the festival of Purim, but may have been related to older Mesopotamian legends. According to this interpretation the tale celebrates the triumph of the Babylonian deities Marduk (Mordecai) and Ishtar (Esther) and/or the renewal of life in the spring. Although this view is not widely held by the religious scholars today, it remains well known. It is explored in depth in the works of Theodore Gaster.
Traditionalists argue that Esther derives from real history. They argue that because the feast of Purim is integral to Jewish history, there is strong reason to believe this story is indeed based upon a true, though obscure, historical event. Also, parallels between Herodotus' account of Xerxes 1 and the events in Esther have been noted.
Others have argued for different identifications, particularly noting traditions referring to Ahasuerus as "Artaxerxes" in Greek. In 1923, Jacob Hoschander wrote The Book of Esther in the Light of History, in which he posited that the events of the book occurred during the reign of Artaxerxes II Mnemon, in the context of a struggle between adherents of the basically monotheistic Zoroastrianism and those who wanted to bring back the Magian worship of Mithra and Anahita.
Some Christian readers consider this story to contain an allegory, representing the interaction between the church as 'bride' and God. This reading is related to the allegorical reading of the Song of Solomon and to the theme of the Bride of God, which in Jewish tradition manifests as the Shekinah.
[End of quotes]
The problem facing such critical scholars as referred to in the above quote, who have been unable to ‘corroborate the details of the story with what was known of Persian history from classical sources’, is that - according to my revision, at least - Chaldean to Medo-Persian history has been grossly over-stretched. The name “Artaxerxes”, for instance, already a title of the King Ahasuerus of the Book of Esther, has been duplicated and applied to invented “kings” of supposedly later periods. Thus it may be possible that a religious struggle during the reign of a so-called Artaxerxes II ‘Memnon’, as referred to above - he being conventionally dated to c. 400 BC - is a reminiscence of a real situation that had prevailed during the actual reign of Cyrus, i.e., during the reign of Ahasuerus (= Artaxerxes), conventionally dated about two centuries earlier than ‘Memnon’.
Esther as Atossa
Name-wise, the standout historical queen for the biblical Esther is Atossa, wife of a Persian king. The similarity between the name “Atossa” and the Hebrew name of Esther, “Hadassah” (see my):
Well-Respected Mordecai. Part Five (c): The Names, Susanna, Hadassah and Esther
has often been noted. However, since this Atossa is considered to have been the daughter of the relevant king Cyrus, and the wife of Darius, I have not previously felt inclined to attempt to integrate her into my historical reconstructions of the Book of Esther.
That there were various queens “Atossa” in the classical sources would not concern me considering the unwarranted multiplications of kings “Artaxerxes”, and the fact that (according to my revision) king Cyrus was also called “Darius”.
Anyway, some potential new light on the situation may have been shed by Richard E. Tyrwhitt in his book, Esther and Ahasuerus: An Identification of the Persons So Named (p. 185, IV), when he writes:
To this conjecture, however, regarding the true significance of the term Daughter of Cyrus, when applied to Darius’s queen Atossa, it may be supposed to be an objection, that the surname or description is applied equally to another of his wives, Artystonè by name, whom he is said to have particularly loved and to have commemorated by a golden image. But Akhshurush [Ahasuerus], that is, Darius, had two crowned wives in succession, Vaśhti and Hadassah.
That the term, “king’s daughter”, is properly applicable to a spouse is suggested in Matthew Poole's Commentary on Psalm 45:13, at: http://biblehub.com/commentaries/psalms/45-13.htm
The king’s daughter, i.e. the spouse; so called, either because she was the daughter of one king, and the wife of another; or because the spouse or wife is sometimes called the husband’s daughter; partly because she is supposed to be younger than he; and partly because of that respect and subjection which she oweth to him, and that fatherly care and affection which he oweth to her.
Queen Esther (“Hadassah”) was indeed “younger than” King Ahasuerus.
It was quite beyond the Greek writers, such as the so-called “Father of History”, Herodotus, to sort out the complexities of Medo-Persian history, the multiple names of its protagonists - just as it was beyond their ability properly to recall the Egyptian, Mesopotamian or Syro-Palestinian histories.