Xerxes at Troy–Some Background for Esther

September 19, 2017

The events narrated in Esther take place during the reign of the Persian King Xerxes. “The Hebrew word used throughout the book is ʾaḥašwērôš (“Ahasuerus”) which is considered a variant of Xerxes’ name. Xerxes is the Greek form of the Persian Khshayârsha” (Huey, F. B., Jr., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 797).

The book of Esther begins by telling of a great banquet in Susa, the capital,  in the 3rd year of his reign (483 BC): “in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his princes and attendants, the army officers of Persia and Media, the nobles and the princes of his provinces being in his presence” (Esther 1:3). The biblical author’s intent was not to give the details as to the why of this banquet, but historical sources are helpful. Xerxes was on a mission to gather strength and support for his invasion [ill-fated] into Greece. This is the setting for the opening verses of Esther.

In the year 480 BC Xerxes marched westward to invade and attempt to conquer Greece. En route he passed through ancient Troy, where the historian Herodotus states, “he sacrificed a thousand heifers to Athene of Ilion” (Herodotus 7:43). Ilion is the Greek name for ancient Troy.

Our photo shows the Troy sanctuary area, Stratum VIII (dated ca. 700-85 BC).

Troy Sanctuary Area. Here Xerxes, King of Persia (r.486-464 BC) offered 1,000 heifers in sacrifice to the goddess Athena, in preparation for his war on Greece. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Xerxes’ invasion of Greece was a failure. It was after his return from his disappointing catastrophe that the Jewish maiden Esther became his queen, in the “seventh year of his reign” (Esther 2:17), which would be 479 BC.

Regarding the site in our photo above, Manfred O. Korfmann writes, “The earliest structures representing a sanctuary at the nearly deserted site are those established by the Aeolian Greeks sometime after 700 BCE, thus apparently existing within the lifetime of Homer! Votive offerings confirm the existence of much earlier sacred precincts as well” (TROİA/WIL̇USA p.62).

Of the city of Troy itself Korfmann continues, “Illion became the religious and political capital of a federation of municipalities, and to the south and east of the acropolis a lower city (on a grid-plan) arose – overtop and partially dug into remains from Trois VI/VII” (ibid.63).

The ancient city Troy consists of 46 occupational levels which date back to a total of nine different cities!

Our map shows Troy, which is a site on the Unesco World Heritage List.

Map of Troy in today’s Turkey, in relation to Greece.

I have previously posted on Troy here and here.

It is good to be reminded that the events of the Bible did not take place in a vacuum. The covenant people of God interacted with the people of their day, sometimes including the world powers as was the case in the Persian period, the setting for Esther.

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Odeion at Troy

April 1, 2016

Ancient Troy has been made famous by Homer’s Iliad. Troy is located within the province of Çanakkale, located in extreme western Turkey. Troy’s extensive remains are the most significant and substantial evidence of the first contact between the civilizations of Anatolia and the Mediterranean world. This past Spring, 2015, we were able to visit Troy. Among the fascinating ruins there was the Roman Odeion, a small theater where concerts, lectures and other events took place.

Roman Odeion at Troy, Turkey. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Roman Odeion at Troy, Turkey. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The skene, stage building included a larger-than-life statue of the Emperor Hadrian (AD 117-138). Also, a sculpted head of Augustus was found at the odeion, causing some to surmise that this may have been erected in honor of his visit here in 20 BC. Beyond the odeion at the back you can see a portion of the fortification wall of Troia VI.

The Roman odeion is in Troy’s Level IX. Over the centuries there were nine levels of occupation.

Cross-section of Troy, showing 9 occupation levels. Istanbul Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Cross-section of Troy, showing 9 occupation levels. Istanbul Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin. 

Wikipedia has this helpful chart:

Troy I 3000–2600 BC (Western Anatolian EB 1)
Troy II 2600–2250 BC (Western Anatolian EB 2)
Troy III 2250–2100 BC (Western Anatolian EB 3 [early])
Troy IV 2100–1950 BC (Western Anatolian EB 3 [middle])
Troy V: 20th–18th centuries BC (Western Anatolian EB 3 [late])
Troy VI: 17th–15th centuries BC
Troy VIh: late Bronze Age, 14th century BC
Troy VIIa: c. 1300–1190 BC, most likely setting for Homer’s story
Troy VIIb1: 12th century BC
Troy VIIb2: 11th century BC
Troy VIIb3: until c. 950 BC
Troy VIII: c. 700–85 BC
Troy IX: 85 BC–c. AD 500

Biblical significance: It was here at Troy (Ilium) at the temple of Athena that Xerxes (Ahasuerus) of the book of Esther sacrificed 1,000 head of cattle en route on his march through the Hellespontine region towards Greece. This was 480 BC.

We have previously posted on Troy here.


Troy

March 29, 2015

This morning my group said goodbye to Greece  and crossed the border into Turkey. We boarded a ferry at Galipoli, (the site of horrific casualties in WWI), and crossed the Dardanelles into Asia Minor. We had a facinating visit at Troy, and from there on to Troas.

Our guide Orhan instructing group regarding ancient Troy. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Our guide Orhan at left instructing group regarding ancient Troy. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

At the time we were at the site of Schliemann’s trench.

Schliemann's Trench at Troy. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Schliemann’s Trench at Troy. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Perhaps you have heard of the “Trogan Horse.”

Trogan Horse at Troy.  Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Trogan Horse at Troy. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Tomorrow we are to begin our tour of the cities of the Seven Churches (Rev. 2-3).