1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ahasuerus
AHASUERUS (the Latinized form of the Hebrew אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ; in LXX. Άσσούρος, once in Tobit Άσύηρος), a royal Persian or Median name occurring in three of the books of the Old Testament and in one of the books of the Apocrypha. In every case the identification of the person named is a matter of controversy.
In Dan. ix. 1 Ahasuerus is the father of Darius the Mede, who “was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans” after the conquest of Babylon and death of Belshazzar. Who this Darius was is one of the most difficult questions in ancient history. Nabonidos (Nabunaid, Nabu-nahid) was immediately succeeded by Cyrus, who ruled the whole Persian empire. Darius may possibly have acted under Cyrus as governor of Babylon, but this view is not favoured by Dan. vi. 1, vi. 25, for Darius (v. 31) is said to have been sixty-two years old at the time (638 B.C.). This would make him contemporary with Nebuchadrezzar, which agrees with Tob. xiv. 15, where we read “of the destruction of Nineveh, which Nebuchadnezzar and Ahasuerus took captive.” As a matter of fact, however, Cyaxares and Nabopolassar were the conquerors of Nineveh, and the latter was the father of Nebuchadrezzar. Cyrus did, on ascending the throne of Babylon, appoint a governor of the province, but his name was Gobryas, the son of Mardonius. The truth is, no doubt, as Prof. Sayce points out, that the book of Daniel was not meant to be strictly historical. As Prof. Driver says, “tradition, it can hardly be doubted, has here confused persons and events in reality distinct” (Literature of the Old Test. (6) p. 500).
In Ezra iv. 6 Ahasuerus is mentioned as a king of Persia, to whom the enemies of the Jews sent representations opposing the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem. Here the sequence of the reigns in the Biblical writer and in the profane historians- in the one, Cyrus, Ahasuerus, Artaxerxes, Darius; in the other, Cyrus, Cambyses, Smerdis, Darius—led in the past (Ewald, &c.) to the identification of Ahasuerus with Cambyses (529–522 B.C.), son of Cyrus. The name Khshayārshā, however, has been found in Persian inscriptions, and has been thought to be equivalent to the Xerxes (485–465 B.C.) of the Greeks. On Babylonian tablets both the forms Khishiarshu and Akkashiarshi occur amongst others. Modern scholars, therefore, identify the Ahasuerus of Ezra with Xerxes.
In the book of Esther the king of Persia is called Ahasuerus (rendered in LXX. “Artaxerxes” throughout). The identification of Ahasuerus with Artaxerxes I. Longimanus, the son and successor of Xerxes, though countenanced by Josephus, deserves little consideration. Most students are agreed that he must be a monarch of the Achaemenian dynasty, earlier than Artaxerxes I.; and opinion is divided between Darius Hystaspes and Xerxes. In support of the former view it is alleged, among other things, that Darius was the first Persian king of whom it could be said, as in Esther i. 1, that he “reigned from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces”; and that it was also the distinction of Darius that (Esther x. 1) he laid “a tribute upon the land and upon the isles of the sea” (cf. Herod. iii. 89). In support of the identification with Xerxes it is alleged (1) that the Hebrew ’Ahasḥvērosh is the natural equivalent of the old Persian Khshayarsha, the true name of Xerxes; (2) that there is a striking similarity of character between the Xerxes of Herodotus and the Ahasuerus of Esther; (3) that certain coincidences in dates and events corroborate this identity, as, e.g., the feast in the king’s third year (cf. Esther i. 3 with Herod. vii. 8), the return of Xerxes to Susa in the seventh year of his reign and the marriage of Ahasuerus at Shushan in the same year of his. To this it may be added that the interval of four years between the divorce of Vashti and the marriage of Esther is well accounted for by the intervention of an important series of events fully occupying the monarch’s thoughts, such as the invasion of Greece.
See articles “Ahasuerus” in the Encyclopaedia Biblica, Hastings’ Dictionary, the Jewish Encyclopaedia; S. R. Driver, Introd. to the Lit. of the Old Test.; Friedrich Delitzsch in the Calwer Bibellexikon (1893).