By Mike F
In the 2006 documentary 300, we saw firsthand the might of the Persian army as led by Xerxes I. And while the exact size of the army that stormed over most of the known world is still sort of up in the air (some historians peg it at around 250,000, some at two million), one thing is generally agreed upon by most people that have studied Xerxes and his pals: They really knew how to conquer.
Also, they were enormous dicks.
Sure, it makes sense that an invading army isn’t going to be super-friendly with the locals. But the Persians, while making big innovations in military strategy and “hammering human beings into subjugation through brute force,” were simultaneously creating a How-To guide for every terrible houseguest to be born over the next two thousand years. If Xerxes wrote a book on hospitality, it would be titled “This is Mine Now; Go Fuck Yourself.”
Here’s the basic gist: While on their way to or from a battle, Xerxes accompanied by around 15,000 soldiers and his ridiculous entourage, would naturally have to stop in various towns to rest and eat. When this occurred, the town in question was not only expected to host the army, but to make dinner. And serve it. On handmade gold and silver dishes. To every single Persian that happened to be around.
It’s estimated that creating the dishes, building a pavilion for the king and feeding the Persians would cost around $100 million in current money. That’s enough to buy a terrible MLB team (besides the Cubs). Not to mention the fact that everything in the town would need to be put on hold while preparing for Xerxes’ arrival, dealing with him and his followers and cleaning up the mess they left behind. Basically, one visit from Xerxes was enough to send a town careening into financial devastation.
But that’s not all. The really crappy thing about the Persians isn’t that they demanded a town eviscerate its own economy to throw them a party, but that they then stole everything that wasn’t nailed down when they decided to move on. After dining and resting, Xerxes and crew would pack up all of the gold dishes and silverware made specifically by the town for that one meal and take it along to the next place, where they would repeat the same ridiculous procedure.
There’s one upside to the story. In theory, it means someone in the Persian army had the official job of “Guy Who Carries Around Huge Boxes of Dishes and Silverware.” Which makes the whole thing kind of worth it.
To us, of course. The towns rendered bankrupt by one Xerxes-themed party probably found the idea less hilarious.