Xerxes I was the fourth ruler of the Achaemenid empire. In modern popular culture, Xerxes is perhaps best known as the main antagonist in Frank Miller’s 300, a film based on the comic series of the same name. In these modern works, Xerxes, as ‘the other’, is portrayed, amongst other things, as effeminate, despotic, and decadent. In a way, these qualities serve to highlight the difference between Xerxes and his Greek adversaries, in particular the Spartan king who opposed him at Thermopylae, Leonidas.
Such negative portrayals of Xerxes (and the Persians in general), however, are not limited to modern times, and were already in existence during the king’s lifetime. As may be expected, these depictions were often made by his Greek enemies.