“Daiva Inscription” of Xerxes

Yakubovich, Ilya S. 2023. “Daiva Inscription” of Xerxes: Historical account, ideological statement, or propaganda. Journal of Ancient History 83(1). 5–26.

The so-called “Daiva inscription” of Xerxes found at Persepolis addresses the activity of this Achaemenid Persian king in two lands, one of which is said to have been in commotion, while the other is alleged to have been characterized by unacceptable religious practices. Xerxes stresses his involvement in the restoration of order in both countries but does not mention their names. Egypt, Babylon, Greece and Bactria were all adduced as candidates by twentieth century scholars, while the recent mainstream of scholarship tends to interpret the same accounts as abstract ideological statements without an anchor in time or space. The new approach advocated in this paper assumes that Xerxes resorted to historical narratives only in order to provide his own apologetic version of embarrassing events. In particular, his self-professed involvement in the destruction of the cults of evil gods is to be interpreted as a twisted account of the destruction of the Acropolis of Athens by the Persian army in 480 BC. In the wake of the disastrous war against the Greeks, Xerxes strove to present it as a successful special operation against the Greek deities.