Palaces and Parties

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http://www.bible-history.com/archaeology/persia/cyrus-cylinder.html: Material - Baked Clay CylinderPersian dynastyDate: 559-530 BC. Length:  22.86 cmBabylon, southern IraqExcavated by: Robert Koldeway 1899-1914Location: British Museum, LondonItem: ANE 90920Room 52, Ancient Iran, case 6, no. 7 All information directly copied from: http://www.bible-history.com/archaeology/persia/cyrus-cylinder.jpg: Cyrus CylinderBabylonian, about 539-530 BCFrom Babylon, southern IraqA declaration of good kingshipThis clay cylinder is inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform with an account by Cyrus, king of Persia (559-530 BC), of his conquest of Babylon in 539 BC and capture of Nabonidus, the last Babylonian king. Cyrus claims to have achieved this with the aid of Marduk, the god of Babylon. He then describes measures of relief he brought to the inhabitants of the city, and tells how he returned a number of images of gods, which Nabonidus had collected in Babylon, to their proper temples throughout Mesopotamia and western Iran. At the same time he arranged for the restoration of these temples, and organized the return to their homelands of a number of people who had been held in Babylonia by the Babylonian kings. Although the Jews are not mentioned in this document, their return to Palestine following their deportation by Nebuchadnezzar II, was part of his policy.This cylinder has sometimes been described as the 'first charter of human rights', but it in fact reflects a long tradition in Mesopotamia where, from as early as the third millennium BC, kings began their reigns with declarations of reforms. In fact, to tie this into Torah, kings would often begin their reigns by freeing slaves, something that only God does, and in the seventh or Jubilee year.

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The top image seems to be of the same scene as the one underneath it, just a wider shot that captures more of the relief. What’s interesting is that some scholars think the figure in the draped and hooded garment, second from the left, might be Jewish, someone like Nehemiah, who was a Cupbearer in Darius’ court. Darius I was the Darius of the Daniel and Nechemiah stories, while Darius II was the Darius who allowed the Jews to rebuild the Second Temple, something Cyrus promised to do but never let happen in the end.

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Reconstruction drawing: http://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Images2/Achaemenid/Persepolis/Persepolis_Recon_Drawing.jpg Top reconstruction drawing: http://www.iranchamber.com/history/persepolis/images/persepolis_map.gif Persepolis contains many areas that are familiar from the Purim story, although the Susa complex is a bit different. Nevertheless the style of entertaining was similar. There was an apadana, an audience hall that was comprised of columns (known as a hypostyle hall) and could hold thousands. There were palace gardens that could hold a party the size of the Shushan party and there were throne halls where a king might greet visitors like Esther. There was also obviously a harem. The public and private areas can be seen – the apadana and harem districts, respectively.

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These images show the rich diversity of the Persian empire. The Persian kings demanded fealty, but their cosmopolitan manner shows itself in the tolerance for the myriad costumes and garb they allowed their subjects to wear and that they depicted in the reliefs with which they honored themselves and the empire. Though the Greeks believed the Persians barbaric for their tyrannical monarchies, the Persians were also much more urbane and cultured than, for example, the more martial Assyrians. Bottom image: Notice the Greek influence in the relief: variety of positions and interactions among figures. Middle image: Notice the different types of tribute being brought to the king Top: Notice how the figures are made to appear as if walking up the stairs. Think about how far we’ve come in art since Paleolithic times!

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Entryway to palace garden of Darius I, Persepolis: http://www.fourmilab.ch/images/eclipse99/iranimages.html Darius slaying an evil spirit

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The bottom image is an earring; it is finely crafted and made of precious materials such as gold and lapis lazuli and semi-precious materials such as carnelian. The intricacy of the earring is a testimony to the skill of Persian craftsmen. Image on top: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/acha/ho_54.3.1.htm. The bowl has inscriptions in cuneiform that mention Darius I, Darius the Great. The images are from the Achaemenid Dynasty, 5th-4th century and are made of such precious metals and stones such as gold, silver, lapis lazuli and carnelian. All are testimony to the rich and luxurious court life of the Achaemenids.

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http://www.livius.org/su-sz/susa/susa.htm Persepolis is the better known Persian palace complex, but here is the one in Shushan ha-Bira. When Alexander the Great conquered Susa, he found 40,000 talents of precious metal.

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http://www.livius.org/su-sz/susa/susa.htm

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Image on bottom right: http://www.asia.si.edu/collections/singleObject.cfm?ObjectId=22578 Image on left: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/acha/ho_54.3.3.htm Image on top right: http://antiquesandthearts.com/GH0-12-12-2000-11-40-18

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http://www.iranmania.com/News/Photoes/General/Top/p121.jpg

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Rhyton: http://content.answers.com/main/content/wp/en/thumb/1/16/200px-Rython_boz.jpg Achaemenid king, Darius I: http://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Images2/Achaemenid/Bistun/Darius_the_Great_Bistun01_small.jpg

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http://www.malaspina.com/jpg/herodotus.jpg

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http://www.caryn.com/holiday/purim/images/art_esther_a_banquet.jpg

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Palaces and Parties The Art of the Purim Story

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The Achaemenid Dynasty Famous Achaemenid Kings: Cyrus the Great (559-530 BCE): Allowed the Jews to return to Israel in 539 BCE after the first churban of the Beit HaMikdash in 586 BCE Darius I regrouped and expanded the Persian Empire. He put it on a gold and silver coinage system and built infrastructure for easy trade, such as extensive roads. Notice how many messages and edicts easily get disseminated in the megillah. Fun fact: Some Persian words that made their way into the English language because of good trade routes: bazaar, shawl, sash, turquoise, tiara, lemon, melon, peach and asparagus. The Edict of Cyrus, the famous Cyrus Seal, which allowed people Cyrus had conquered to return to their homelands. Jews could return to Israel!

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Map of the Achaemenid Dynasty אסתר פרק א ויהי בימי אחשורוש הוא אחשורוש המלך מהדו ועד כוש שבע ועשרים ומאה מדינה: It happened in the days of Ahasuerus—that Ahasuerus who reigned over a hundred and twenty-seven provinces from India to Ethiopia. . . .

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Darius I, the Great: Made Susa the capital of the Persian Empire and began building Persepolis, one of the biggest architectural achievements of the Achaemenid Dynasty In ancient Near Eastern art, gods or rulers were depicted seated

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Persepolis Though Darius I, or Darius the Great, built Persepolis, Xerxes and later Achaemenid kings added on to the palace It was built from 510 BCE and existed until 330 BCE, when Alexander the Great defeated Darius III

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Persepolis: Reconstruction

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The Many Faces at Persepolis

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Palace garden

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אסתר פרק א (ה ובמלואת הימים האלה עשה המלך לכל העם הנמצאים בשושן הבירה למגדול ועד קטן משתה שבעת ימים בחצר גנת ביתן המלך: Esther 1:5: At the end of this period, the king gave a banquet for seven days in the court of the king’s palace garden for all the people who lived in the fortress Shushan, high and low alike Did you ever wonder what a palace garden is?

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Esther 1:4: אסתר פרק א פסוק ד בהראתו את עשר כבוד מלכותו ואת יקר תפארת גדולתו ימים רבים שמונים ומאת יום: For no fewer than a hundred and eighty days he [King Ahasuerus] displayed the vast riches of his kingdom and the splendid glory of his majesty.

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One of the bull capitals from the columns in the apadana in Susa, now in the Louvre Museum

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Esther 1:7: The drinking vessels were golden beakers, beakers of varied design אסתר פרק א ז: והשקות בכלי זהב וכלים מכלים שונים ויין מלכות רב כיד המלך:

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Like all good Persian kings, Ahasuerus was a generous host! Rhytons: A rhyton is a drinking vessel with a horn-like opening. The pointed heads of rhytons were often shaped like animals.

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Esther 1:8-9: And there was royal wine in abundance as befits a king. And the rule for the drinking was,“No restrictions!” אסתר פרק א ח והשתיה כדת אין אנס

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י: ביום השביעי כטוב לב המלך ביין אמר למהומן בזתא חרבונא בגתא ואבגתא זתר וכרכס שבעת הסריסים המשרתים את פני המלך אחשורוש: On the seventh day, when the king was merry with wine . . . .

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What decision does Ahasuerus make when drunk? A Greek historian records that Persian kings preferred to make important decisions when drunk They would rethink their decisions when they were sober The Greek historian Herodotus

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The Purim Feast: The Persians feasted The king shared food with friends “High and low alike”: The feast of Ahasuerus was for everyone, rich and poor. We still feast We still share food with friends We still also give gifts to the poor

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Are these stories still relevant today? You tell me!

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Role of Uncertainty Purim does not end with perfect certainty: the Jews still have to fight, they are still in exile Moreover, the arc of the story demonstrates that in one moment one’s fate can go from good to bad, or the reverse The debate about whether Esther belongs in the Biblical canon must be considered Since chazal included it, we must look not only at the megillah itself but the body of books of which it is a part: Tanakh

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God’s Absence God’s absence is notable in Esther especially in contrast with His presence in all other Biblical books Esther, with all its focus on the vagaries of fate, really comes to teach us the importance of free will We are the ones who must bring God into the story, into our story We have to take responsibility for our lives, for our Jewish life and for Jewish life as a whole

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Esther’s Choice is Our Choice 4:14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then will relief and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, but thou and thy father's house will perish; and who knoweth whether thou art not come to royal estate for such a time as this?' יד  כִּי אִם-הַחֲרֵשׁ תַּחֲרִישִׁי, בָּעֵת הַזֹּאת--רֶוַח וְהַצָּלָה יַעֲמוֹד לַיְּהוּדִים מִמָּקוֹם אַחֵר, וְאַתְּ וּבֵית-אָבִיךְ תֹּאבֵדוּ; וּמִי יוֹדֵעַ--אִם-לְעֵת כָּזֹאת, הִגַּעַתְּ לַמַּלְכוּת.

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Haman’s Downfall, Sistine Chapel Ceiling by Michelangelo, 1508-1512.

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