This projects primarily draws from two sources, namely the Book of Esther from the Hebrew Scriptures as well as the ancient work “The Histories” of Herodotus, a classical Greek historian.
The Book of Esther was originally written in Hebrew sometime between 400 – 300 B.C. However, according to historians, around the year 240BC the king of Egypt, Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285BC – 246BC) requested that the entire Hebrew Scriptures be translated into Greek. The Macedonian king Alexander the Great had swept through the ancient near east a century earlier and had left a thoroughly Hellenzied civilization in his wake.
The new document, called the Septuagint, or LXX (because it was supposedly composed in only 70 days) was soon completed. However, the translators decided (for unknown reasons) to add 6 chapters to the original story. The additions expanded the story, changing it here and there, and illuminated the narrative in a way that made it more providential and apocalyptic. This type of literature was common and very popular in the 2nd century BC at the time the translators were performing their arduous task. I decided to use the Septuagint version of the text to enhance the story and to make it more adaptable to modern audiences. Some liberties were taken in the arrangement of the material to ensure it flowed more succinctly.
The Jews were well treated under the Persian Achaemenid Empire, which lasted from 550 BC – 323 BC, at which time Alexander the Great appeared on the scene and brought it to an inglorious end. They were allowed to thrive culturally and economically, and they were even permitted to freely practice their religion. However, as we will learn, not everyone was thrilled that this foreign entity was allowed to participate in society and even attain high positions in the Persian government.
Herodotus, the great Greek historian, also known as the “Father of History,” lived from 484 BC – 424 BC. He wrote his 9 volume work, “The Histories,” which covers the first installment of the Greco-Persian Wars that would last, on and off, from 490 BC – 323 BC. Chapters 7 – 9 cover the stories of the Persian kings Cyrus, Darius, and Xerxes, the last of which features in this project.
The Northern kingdom of Israel had been defeated by the Assyrian Empire in 722 BC. The Assyrians were a brutal civilization known for their unsurpassed cruelty. When they defeated a nation, they typically removed all high-ranking officials and intellectuals (anyone likely to cause trouble or foment a rebellion.) They would then repopulate the devastated nation with foreign peoples in an attempt to wipe out any cultural linkage with the past.
The Southern kingdom of Israeal was annihilated in 586 BC by the Babylonians, who had conspired with the Medes (a future partner in the Medo-Persian Empire) in defeating the Assyrians in 612 BC, effectively ending their fierce dominance of the ancient world. The city of Jerusalem was brought down by and the Temple destroyed, beginning the ominous exile of the Jewish people.
Which brin gs us full circle to the Persians once more.
King Cyrus, who had a Persian father and a Median mother (hence the “mule” mentioned in the song “The Great Invasion”) defeated his former ally, the Babylonians in 539 BC. Fortunately for the Jews, the Persians, unlike the Babylonians who tended to keep their occupied peoples subjugated, tended to treat their new subjects with dignity and respect. The “mule,” Cyrus, agreed to allow the Jews to return to their former nation, and even offered to finance the rebuilding of their Temple.
Darius, his successor on the throne, was extremely benevolent toward the Jews. It was under his reign that the Greco-Persian Wars commenced, and the scene upon which this current project is based begins to take shape. He is followed by Xerxes, also known as Ahusuerus in the Scriptures. The Achaemenid Empire was ruled at the time of Xerxes from the epic city of Susa. It is in this court that most of the events of this project will take place.
The song entitled “The King Meets the Queen” (which was the first song composed for the project, incidentally) brings Esther and Xerxes together for the first time. The song was originally going to be designed as a ballet, but it later found its way into the middle of this current saga.
Everything at this point in the musical venture seems to be fortuitously heading to a dramatic conclusion. However, although the end of the first movement of the project brings a sense of closure as the king and queen unite their destinies, events soon become ominous as darker elements in the plot arise and the protagonists are forced to deal not only with these sinister agents, but with the well-guarded secret the queen keeps hidden that, if discovered, could bring disaster and destruction upon her own people.