Prologue: When trying to come up with a proper “Dust Bunny” for the two of you who may be reading, I thought I’d trot out another history lesson. Don’t worry, this will probably be it for a while. I may have something to say about a visit to the dentist next week. Or maybe not. Won’t be a history lesson, though. You two have suffered enough. You’re welcome.
I remember a movie I watched last Easter (okay, so it’s almost Valentines Day…give me a break) when The Ten Commandments got so doggarned preachy.
Sure to be a future Easter classic (perhaps not), 300 on TNT is the story of three hundred (that’s where they get the title…duh) Spartans led by King Leonidas and his loincloth against the evil Persians of…uh…Persia.
You know these crazy cats better as Iranians. Yeah, for reals.
For almost two hours, the brave warriors used sword, spear, and pectoral muscles against the very best the enemy could fling at them (which included some funky-as-shit looking elephants). It’s only after the treachery of some guy who would make Michael Moore look attractive that the Greeks were defeated.
After I got over my initial sadness that there was no nudity (female) in this “Modified For Television” feature, I grew curious about Leonidas’ opponent, Xerxes.
Was he the most powerful individual in antiquity? Did he hold sway over all the world, except for China, the Mafia, South America, the Eskimos, New Jersey, Tony Fauci, the Super Friends, George Soros, Batman, and Betty White? Was he the raging flamer who showed an inordinate interest in Leonidas’s fighting prowess and loincloth?
Since I’d been disappointed by Hollywood before (I honestly thought a man-and monkeys-could fly), I decided to do some digging. Figuring a source which gave us Bernie’s mittens, dancing babies, and Tik Tok nurses couldn’t steer me wrong, I consulted the Internet.
After getting Al Gore’s permission, of course.
Xerxes the Great was born in 519 BC to Atossa and Darius the Great. Both of his parents were descended from Achaemenes, but of different Achaemenid lines. The source documents were pretty clear on that as they wanted to leave no doubt there was no incest hanky-panky going on (this isn’t Game of Thrones, you know). After all, they weren’t Egyptians. If those people wanted kids with feet growing out of their foreheads, that was their business. But, the Persians played it on the up and up.
Anyway, Darius knew that marrying a daughter of the great Cyrus the Great (but I repeat myself)) would certainly help his plan for kingship. And grease (homophone for “Greece.” Ain’t I frikkin’ clever!?) his application to the Nineveh Country Club approved.
NOTE: Apparently, the suffix “the Great” was a pretty big honorific in ancient Persia. Which was why Darius’ brother, Herschel the So-So, was never taken seriously.
Anyway, Darius was all pissed at off at everyone, from Babylon to that guy who sold him those Kinoki foot pads. But, he was most hacked off at the Greeks. Who, besides having grass and a recipe for some kick-ass souvlaki, had some of the sweetest nude beaches in the Mediterranean. So, he made intense preparations for an invasion of…Egypt.
Hey, I didn’t write this stuff.
Before he left the country, Persian law (wasn’t he the boss?) dictated that he name a successor. I guess this was just in case he got whacked by an errant throw of a petrified papyrus roll. Or was having too much fun on a Greek beach.
Before doing so, he contracted with Gambino and Sons building contractors to build him a tomb. After permits were finally approved once the Zoning Officer found the head of a camel in his bed, construction began at Naqsh-e Rostam (yeah, I’m not going to look it up, either). Freed from the stress of planning his final resting spot and picking out window treatments, Darius then named his son, Xerxes, as his successor.
He chose the little freak mostly on the strength of he being the son of the daughter of Cyrus the Great. And because he threw paper when his older brother, Artobazan, threw rock.
Then, having finished construction of his tomb, Darius made ready to invade Egypt. As if the revolting Egyptians (go ahead, feel free, make a joke here) weren’t bad enough, he was totally hacked off because their pyramids were much bigger than his ziggurats. Apparently size mattered, even in the ancient world.
But, wouldn’t you know it, Darius died before the Susa AAA Office could finalize his Trip-Tiks and his reservation for a non-smoking room at the Saqqara Days Inn could be confirmed.
Good thing he had that tomb built, huh?
Almost immediately (by “almost immediately,” I mean “a year”), Xerxes the Great (“the Great” being passed down to him in the will) put down the revolts in Egypt. And, for good measure, he decided to jump ugly with the Babylonians. If only because he didn’t really trust the Husseins of Tikrit.
In 484 B.C. (i.e., “Before Cable.” Okay, not really. Look it up yourselves), he outraged the Babylonians when he violently confiscated and melted down (yep, I think the word “violent” just about does it) the statue of “Marduk” (luckily the statue of “Marmaduke” was spared). Either that or he farted on it. The Greek historian, Herodotus, is unclear on this matter. He may have been drunk.
Outraged by this sacrilege, the people revolted again in 484 B.C. and again in 482 B.C., when they remembered they were still pissed off.
Because of this, Xerxes rejected his father’s title, King of Babylon. Instead, he named himself “King of Persia,” “Great King,” “King of Kings,” “Sky King,” “King Creole,” “King Kong,” “Don King,” “Chicken a la King,” and “King of Nations.”
The little dude was full of himself, huh?
Meanwhile, as if there wasn’t enough on his plate, Xerxes took on the task started by his father: punishing the Greeks for their interference with the Ionian Revolt (I don’t feel like looking it up), the burning of Sardis, their victory at Marathon (yep, that’s where the long ass race came from. Only without Kenyans), and for effing up his order of baklava take-out. Well, that and putting in a spare bedroom at the palace.
From 483 B.C. onward, Xerxes prepared his expedition. A channel was dug through the isthmus (NOTE: fancy word for “small strip of land between two bodies of water.” Rhymes with “Christmas.”) of the peninsula of Mt. Athos, provisions (including granola, paraffin-coated matches, and sewing kits) were stored in the stations on the road through Thrace, and two pontoon bridges (known as “Xerxes Pontoon Bridges,” totally pissing off their designer, Leonard the Meek) were built across the Hellespont (which I sincerely hope was water).
Soldiers of many nationalities made up the Persian army: Assyrians (getting their “freak” on), Phoenicians (who brought the alphabet and potato salad), Babylonians (who finally forgave Xerxes for that farting thing), Egyptians (who were so bored they started mummifying cats), and Jews (legal counsel to the King of Kings in all matters pertaining to invasion).
Setting out from Persepolis (after having to turn back because the damn Assyrians left the water running), Xerxes decided it would be quicker to go by way of the Hellespont. But, only if there was a nice clean gas station along the way, the Phoenicians complained.
Resisting the urge to fire back, “Yeah, as if YOU people ever wash your hands,” the King of Nations grudgingly agreed.
After all, they did bring the potato salad.
The journey was an arduous affair, made even more so when they had to detour around construction of the “Death to America” monument and the fact that nobody remembered to bring the horses.
Finally reaching the Hellespont, the strait of water which separated Asia from Europe (and crazy people from other crazy people), nobody remembered where they parked the pontoon bridges left the previous year. Unfortunately, by the time they found them, a fierce storm (taking Chief Meteorologist Chip “Hurricane” Achaemenes completely by surprise) destroyed the only way to Thrace (NOTE: this is in Greece. I looked it up).
In a fit of rage, Xerxes ordered the Hellespont whipped 300 times and had fetters thrown in the water. Despite Ahmed Fetters swearing he had nothing to do with the storm.
Finally, after getting help from the Trojan AAA office, new bridges were built and the army invaded Greece. Threatening local people with the loss of their lands, rape of their women, and vicious titty-twisters (or Indian Burns. Source documents are unclear), Xerxes picked up allies along the way. Thessaly, Thebes, Argos, and France (who figured, “you never could be too sure”) took up the Persian banner as Xerxes moved to face his greatest foes, Athens and Sparta.
Taking up winter quarters in Sardis, because there was no sense visiting nude beaches in the winter, Xerxes set out in the spring of 480 BC. His fleet and army had been estimated by Herodotus (noted drunk) to number 1,000,000, along with 10,000 elite warriors known as the Immortals (the Avengers having bowed out because the Hulk couldn’t find a suit of armor which fit).
First concentrating on Sparta (since Athens was still in the shower), the Persian army clashed with those 300 warriors led by King Leonidas (thought I had forgotten, huh?). Even though initially rebuffed by fierce Spartan resistance and an inability to understand why the Spartan king had a Scottish accent, the 300 were slaughtered after a traitor showed the Persians the rear entrance (Greeks being very familiar with rear entrances).
After Sparta, Athens was captured. Some historians claim Xerxes ordered the cradle of democracy burned while Persian scholars claimed he did nothing of the sort. Who would be crazy enough to destroy a major center of trade and commerce?
Oh, I don’t know. Anyone who’d whip water a couple hundred times?
Xerxes then decided to attack the Greek fleet at Salamis in September, 480 BC. This proved to be a disaster because, despite outnumbering their foe, the Persian warships were no match for the maneuverable little Greek vessels. Plus, they should have known better to attack right after lunch, when all they wanted to do was take a nap.
Using the excuse of unrest in Babylon (who really never got over the fact that he farted on their god), Xerxes sent most of his army home. He left a token force behind in Greece under command of Mardonius, but they were overrun by a Greek Amish family and herd of sheep at Plataea the following year. After a few Persian ships anchored at Mycale were destroyed, the Greek city-states once more felt the breath of freedom.
To continue to kill each other.
In 465 BC, Xerxes was murdered by Artabanus, commander of the royal bodyguard (how frikkin’ ironic is that?).
What transpired next has led to confusion among historians (hey, cut them some slack. It was almost 1,500 years ago and Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet yet). Let’s see…Artabnaus accused Crown Prince Darius of the murder and persuaded his brother, Artaxerxes (NOTE: Persian for “sucky name”) to kill him.
However, according to Aristotle, noted Greek philosopher, mentor to Alexander the Great, and owner of a chain of diners in the Peloponnesus, Artabanus killed Darius first before killing Xerxes with the help of a eunuch, who undoubtedly was cranky because he didn’t have coffee. Or balls. Then, once Ataxerxes found out who the real culprit was, he whacked Artabanus.
Seriously, though, who really cares? They’re all dead now, anyway.
Xerxes-one of the great leaders of the ancient world, source of pride for the Persian people (who really haven’t had all that much to brag about since), and reason why the letter ‘X’ is pronounced like the letter ‘Z.’
There’s much more to his story, to be sure. For instance, I omitted the details of his public works initiatives, construction projects, religious beliefs, and his tempestuous 72 day marriage to Artossa Kardashian. Yes, the King of Kings was much more than a megalomaniac bent on assimilation of all the peoples of the known world.
He also liked body piercings and balloon animals.
But, like what Rosie O’Donnell looks like naked, I’ll just leave that to your imagination.
You may want to have that imagination steam-cleaned though.