Have you ever seen the movie 300 and wondered how tall the historical figure Xerxes really was? In the film, he is depicted as very tall, but we all know that many Hollywood productions take liberties with the truth, so how tall was Xerxes, and is the movie close to accurate, or is it just a fantastical depiction?
Unfortunately, nobody knows how tall Xerxes was, although there is a lot of misinformation available online about this. A misquoted historical passage referencing the king appeared on Quora, stating that he was almost 8 feet tall (around 2.43 meters). Artistic depictions have led to further mistaken beliefs that Xerxes was a giant of some kind.
In this article, we’ll be exploring why the existing information about Xerxes is incorrect, and looking at a few other facts about this famous historic figure, to give you insight into who he was and the lack of accuracy in modern portrayals.
How Tall Was Xerxes?
If you search for this question online, you will find sources that state Xerxes was around 8 feet tall, and some even suggest he was close to 9 feet tall (2.74 meters). However, if you do a little digging, it doesn’t take long to find that these sources are almost certainly incorrect.
Almost all of this information appears to stem from an answer that was given on Quora, which refers to a passage written by Herodotus in Histories. According to the answer, Herodotus said that he was only about “four fingers” short of being 5 royal cubits.
The answer goes on to explain that a royal cubit is thought to be around 20 inches (0.51 meters). To do the math quickly, you would multiply 20 by 5 to get 5 cubits, and then divide it back into feet.
That equals 8 foot 4 inches (2.54 meters). He was said to be a little under that, which is how people arrived at the answer of around 8 feet (2.44 meters).
The calculations all check out, but if you go back to the source being quoted, you can see that the information given here is fundamentally wrong. The person answering the question has said that the passage is talking about Xerxes, and has inserted Xerxes’ name at the start of the passage.
However, if you look back at the source, you can see that Herodotus was actually talking about a man called Artachaees, who was “the tallest man in Persia.” The passage says that Xerxes favored Artachaees, but it is clearly not referring to Xerxes when it mentions the height of 5 cubits. Unfortunately, this erroneous answer has been repeatedly quoted, without checking the source, which has led to a lot of misinformation about Xerxes’ height.
There are no current texts that specifically state how tall Xerxes was, which means it’s not really possible for anybody to accurately answer this question – which could be why the false information has spread so successfully.
It is likely that Xerxes was not exceptionally tall or short, since this is more likely to have been noted down than if he was of average height. However, there really isn’t any way for us to know how tall he was, since no surviving records give us this information.
Why Is Xerxes Depicted As A Giant?
You may have seen depictions of Xerxes in which he appears much larger than anybody else, and that might lead you to wonder if the claims about 8 feet are accurate after all. However, it should be noted that this way of depicting leaders and important people was very common at the time, and it doesn’t necessarily tell us anything about his height.
The Achaemenid relief carvings do show him as a large figure compared with other people, but this doesn’t tell us much. His size in these carvings is much more likely to be a reflection of the fact that he was a powerful and important individual, rather than a reference to his actual size.
Evidence to support this lies in how small other people appear in some of the depictions. You can see gods and goddesses portrayed as enormous, and other important leaders are also shown this way. These carvings therefore don’t give us any real information about how tall Xerxes was.
How Old Was Xerxes?
It is thought that Xerxes was approximately 53 when he died. He was around 32 when he ascended to the throne following the death of his father Darius, which was viewed as surprising as he was not the oldest son.
His ascension may have been partly due to having the support of an exiled Spartan king who was in Persia at this time, called Demaratus. It’s also worth noting that Xerxes was the first son born while his father ruled; his older brother Artobazan was born before Darius was the ruler of Persia.
Xerxes was assassinated in 465 BC, although historical accounts differ slightly on what happened and how. He was killed by Artabanus, who was the commander of the royal bodyguards and a particularly powerful member of the Persian court. He was succeeded by Artaxerxes I.
How Much Did Xerxes Weigh?
As with Xerxes’ height, there’s really no way to know how much this famous leader weighed. In the movie 300, he was depicted by Rodrigo Santoro, who weighs around 192 lb (87 kg).
However, it should be remembered that in this movie, Santoro was digitally altered to appear larger than the other characters on the screen. This is thought to have been an inaccurate exaggeration, and it doesn’t really tell us anything useful about Xerxes’ weight.
Overall, we can’t find out how much Xerxes weighed, and even carved depictions of him are not likely to be true enough to life to give us anything like an accurate guess.
As you can see, not much is known about Xerxes’ height or weight, although we are able to estimate his age. Most of the information surrounding his height is inaccurate, based on a mistake made regarding a historical passage about somebody different – it’s very unlikely that Xerxes was truly anything like 8 feet tall.