Vashti: Queen of the Ancient Medes-Part I (Volume 1) [Paperback]
Description of the Book
Queen Vashti, the Median queen who refused her husband King Astyages’ (Ahasuerus) order to attend his debauched official banquet in the year 582 BCE has long stood in the shadow of the woman who succeeded her, Queen Esther of Jewish Purim festival fame. Now her story has been brought to light within the context of the two and a half thousand year old Kurdish culture, of which she was one of the progenitors.
When she risked the loss of her crown by defying the world’s most powerful man, Queen Vashti qualified to become the political and ideological inspiration for contemporary Kurdish women, who fight alongside their men in Kurdistan today to regain the territories of their forbears, the Ancient Medes.
Just as political and religious powers jostle for control in these regions today, so did the ancient Babylonian, Median, Assyrian, Egyptian and lesser empires compete for the land and material wealth of the Middle East.
Born into a civilisation whose religious ideology granted equal status to men and women Vashti’s family lineage descended from the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti. Her grandfather established the empire around the great Sar-Kalai citadel palace of the capital Ecbatana, now the city of Hamadan in Iran. With its Hanging Gardens from which the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar modelled his own renowned palace gardens for his wife, Vashti’s sister-in-law Queen Amytis, the palace was the seat of power for King Cyaxares’ rule of the Median Empire, stretching from the Halys River in today’s Turkey to India in the east, Babylonia in the west and the northern coasts of the Persian Gulf.
Today the Median Empire would have covered half of Turkey, the northern part of Syria and Iran and Iraq. Now seeking to make what they consider a legitimate claim on these territories the Kurds wage guerrilla warfare to free their people, particularly their women, from the regimes which have appropriated their lands and oppressed their peoples for thousands of years.
Set in the era of 630 BCE to 539 BCE Vashti’s story traces her life from her birth into the royal family, through her training in the writings of the prophet, the source of the empire’s spiritual guidance. She learns the same hunting and horsemanship skills as the military, but falls prey early to her cousin and third son of King Cyaxares and Queen Holyah, the alluring Prince Astyages, who illegally attempts to court her. But tragedy strikes in the battle of Nineveh, interrupting the budding romance. When the king supports his eldest son and heir to the throne in his bid for Vashti, Astyages harbours resentment against those who thwart his plans and vows revenge.
When unexpected loss again assails Vashti and the royal family, Cyaxares looks to his niece as the most suitable marriage choice for the indulged and wayward Astyages. Resigned to a life of service to the empire Vashti marries her former love, but soon suffers the vagaries of his temper and his infidelities.
Unable to assuage her husband’s discontentment Vashti immerses herself in her work for the king and the women of the empire, giving birth in 602 BCE to a son, Darius, while mediating the Medes’ alliance with King Nebuchadnezzar through Queen Amytis. Their support for Babylonian military engagements with Egypt, Assyria and Judea is waylaid by the war with Lydia, following which the death of the king sees the ascension of Queen Vashti and King Astyages to the Imperial Median thrones. Three years later Vashti faces her greatest ordeal.
Her suffering must resonate with many young Kurdish women today as they face hanging, stoning and torture, in their struggle to regain the long held rights granted their ancestors. To shocked and horrified westerners, particularly women, who now enjoy the rights and freedoms also mostly won through bloodshed and sacrifice in past eras, the contemporary plight of the descendants of Queen Vashti and the Airyanem Vejah people seems totally unacceptable. Her story and theirs merge to tug on the heartstrings of freedom lovers around the world.
As the cries of the women guerrillas echo across the valleys below the remote peaks of the Qandil Mountains of Kurdistan (northern Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria) and mingle with the crack of gunshots against their repressive and intransigent foes, the tears of anguish shed during Queen Vashti’s courageous defence of the women of Ancient Media water their indomitable spirit of resistance.