When the King of Kings, also known as Xerxes I of Persia took a wife, he chose Amestris (or Amastris in other text). Throughout history, the record of her existence has been clouded by a reputation for being quite wicked or at least what ancient Greek historians claim her to be. In this article, we will touch upon the details surrounding her presence in ancient history.
Amestris was born to Otanes, who was known as one of the seven individuals who conspired and succeeded to kill the Persian rebel king by the name of Gaumata. This event took place in 522 BCE. It was after this occurrence that Darius I the Great of Persia began to take hold as ruler. When reading the words of Greek researcher, Herodotus, who was quite popular during 5th century BC, we learn that Otanes was given accolades for his efforts by receiving what was called a “diplomatic marriage.”
As a result, the newly crowned king took Otannes’ daughter, Phaedymia as his own and in return, Otanes married one of Darius’ sisters, who eventually brought Amestris into the world. When Darius passed away in 486 BC, Amestris went on to marry the crowned price, who was called Xerxes at that time. At that time, she was calculated as being in her thirties. When it came time to describe Amestris, he did not hesitate to describe her as an unkind individual.
He stated in Histories 7.114:
I am informed that Amestris, the wife of Xerxes, when she had grown old, made return for her own life to the god who is said to be beneath the earth by burying twice seven children of Persians who were men of renown.”
She wasn’t earning the right kind of rep with the people, let alone the historians that would be responsible for retelling her life. The words Herodotus speaks is cryptic, but when I first read the passage, the first thing to come to my mind, it led me to believe that she signed a pact with devil-like God that would take the lives of others to fulfill her requests.
When scanning other known records and text, it is noted that human sacrifices had no place within the Persian religion. The passage will have many different meanings to whoever happens upon it. For some researchers, they conclude that the god spoken in the text is probably one such as Angra Mainyu, who is known as a “hostile” spirit.
Another tale dealing with Amestris was passed down, revealing her as quite the jealous female. One story tells of Xerxes returning from the Greco-Persian War. During this battle, he happened to fall in love with the wife of one of his own sons (Crown Prince Darius). The woman was named Araynte. The woman wanted some sort of gesture to solidify that her attention and affection was not in vain. She requested to receive a cloak of special meaning that Amestris had made for her husband.
The time came when the queen saw her opponent wearing the cloak. She grew very jealous of her daughter-in-law and decided to punish her by giving the order to have her mother mutilated. After Xerxes passed away, Amestris still had power to flex. During the reign of her son, she used her influence, which eventually led to the ability of punishing an Egyptian leader for the murder of one of her sons. In the end, Amestris is thought to have died in 440BC, living quite a long life.