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Xerxes – 486-450 BC

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Monetary History of

Xerxes-Artaxerxes I

486-450 BC BC

Xerxes I was the son of King Darius I and Atossa, daughter of Cyrus the Great. Xerxes was born about 519 BC. He succeeded to the Persian throne upon the death of his father in 486 BC. At first. Xerxes was faced with a rebellion in Egypt, which diverted him from his father’s planned invasion of Greece. After suppressing Egypt, Xerxes then spent the next three years preparing his great fleet and army to for his invisioned conquest of mainland Greece.

The Greek historian Herodotus gives his account of this epic invasion with a calculation of Xerxes’ land and naval forces at an unbelievable total of 2,641,610 warriors. Truly, it is hard to believe that such a huge force was at his disposal at this time. Nevertheless, Xerxes crossed the Hellespont by constructing a bridge of boats more than a mile in length. He also ordered a canal to be cut through the isthmus of Mount Athos.

During the spring of 480 BC, Xerxes finally marched with his army through Thrace and then on into Thessaly and Locris. When Xerxes reached the narrow pass at Thermopylae, his vast army was stopped by a mere 300 Spartans lead by their king, Leonidas I. The 300 Spartans made a courageous stand, which managed to delay the Persians for ten days. By the bribing a goat herder, Xerxes managed to sent a contingent around the rear of the Spartans and killed all who stood in his way. A monument stands today on the very spot of the Battle of Thermopylae.

After Thermopylae, Xerxes advanced southward into Attica and upon reaching the abandoned city of Athens, he burned the city and its temples. The next confrontation came at the Battle of Salamís later in the same year of 480 BC. Despite vastly outnumbering the Greeks, the Persian fleet was defeated by a much smaller contingent of Greek warships commanded by the Athenian Themistocles. With his once superior naval fleet destroyed, Xerxes personally withdrew to Asia Minor, leaving his army in Greece under the command of his brother-in-law, Mardonius. Nonetheless, the fortunes of war had turned against the Persian Empire and Greece would now emerge as the next great empire of western society. Mardonius was eventually slain at the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC and Xerxes himself was murdered at Persepolis by Artabanus, the captain of the palace guard. Still, the dynasty prevailed for Xerxes was succeeded by his son Artaxerxes I (465-425 BC).

Monetary System


AU Daric (8.35 grams)
AR Siglos (5.35 grams)

Monetary History of the World
© Martin A. Armstrong