Gertoux, Gérard. 2018. Dating the reigns of Xerxes and Artaxerxes. In Pascal Attinger et al, (eds.), Text and Image Proceedings of the 61e Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, Geneva and Bern, 22–26 June 2015. 179-206. Leuven – Paris – Bristol, CT: Peeters.
The pivotal date of 465 BCE for the death of Xerxes has been accepted by historians for many years without notable controversy. However, according to Thucydides, a historian renowned for his high chronological accuracy, Themistocles met Artaxerxes, who had succeeded Xerxes, his father, just after the fall of Nexos which occured after the fall of Skyros dated at the beginning of the archonship of Phaedo in 476 BCE, according to Plutarch (Life of Theseus §§35,36). Thus, the meeting with Themistocles would have occurred soon after 475, not 465. The present Achaemenid chronology comes mainly from official Babylonian king lists which ignore coregents and usurpers. This official version is contradicted by contracts dated in “year, month, day” proving the existence of frequent co-regencies and usurpers. In addition, according to the astronomical tablet referenced BM 32234 the death of Xerxes is dated 14/V/21 between two lunar eclipses, one dated 14/III/21 (26 June 475 BCE), which was total, and a second dated 14/VIII/21 (20 December 475 BCE), which was partial. Thus the death of Xerxes has to be dated 24 August 475 BCE. Likewise, the death of Artaxerxes I is fixed precisely by Thucydides just before a partial solar eclipse (21 March 424 BCE) which would imply an absurd co-regency of Darius II with a dead king for at least one year! In fact, Plutarch and Justinus have effectively described a long co-regency of Artaxerxes but with his first son Darius B (434-426), not Darius II, and afterward two shorts reigns: Xerxes II for 2 months then Sogdianus for 7 months, which occurred before the reign of Darius II. The title of Xerxes (496-475) in Egypt and the data of Diodorus confirm the co-regency of 10 years with Darius, as do Elephantine papyri with many double dates both in civil and lunar calendars.