Esther and the King (1960)





Director:     Raoul Walsh.

Starring:     Joan Collins (Esther),  Richard Egan (King Ahasuerus),  Denis O'Dea (Mordecai), Sergio Fantoni (Haman), Rik Battaglia (Simon),  Renato Baldini (Klydrathes), Gabriele Tinti (Samual). 

U.S.-Italian film.  Filmed in Italy.


Spoiler Warning:

This is an o.k. movie.  At least these Biblical films have good-looking female leads, this one with Joan Collins.

The King's Chief Advisor, Haman, had the Queen of Persia killed.  He hoped to replace the Queen with the woman he loved.  With the death of the Queen, the searches, or the abductions, for the fairest maidens begin to see if they will find favor with the King and perhaps become the next Queen of Persia. 

Esther was all set to marry Simon. but she was abducted by the Persians and taken to the harem to see if she could be the one chosen as a possible bride for the King of Persia.  The King is pleased with Esther and wants the Jewish maiden to be his next queen. (This, of course, does not please Haman.)

Haman tries to get rid of Esther and the King's Jewish adviser, Mordecai, in a purge of the Jews in Persia.  He decides on the date by casting castes (purim).  Haman plants evidence in the temple so Mordecai will be imprisoned and then hanged.  He also forces Esther to reveal her real faith to the Persian King. This creates doubts about Esther in the King's mind. 

Will Esther return to Simon or stay with the King of Persia?  And how will she save the Jews in Persia?    


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.  

Historical Background: Persia


553  --  Cyrus II, the Great, of Persia (to -529) conquers Lydia, the Medes, and Babylonia, transforming Persia into a vast empire.

529  --  Cyrus II succeeded by his son Cambyses II (to -522), who conquers Egypt and has himself crowned Pharaoh.

522  --  Darius I (to -485), his successor, divides empire into 20 provinces (satrapies), introduces far-reaching reforms including a common currency, regular taxes, and a standing army.

492  --  Darius I demands tribute of earth and water from Greece.

490 --  Persian army defeated by Greeks under Miltiades at Marathon.

488 --  Miltiades, in disgrace, dead.

485 --  Darius I, of Persia, dead; Persian decline begins.

485 -- Xerxes I, king of Persia (to 465); Athens is burned by Xerxes I, the Acropolis destroyed; Athenians destroy Persian fleet at Battle of Salamis.

Esther lived among those Jews who chose, after the proclamation of Cyrus, to remain in foreign lands. The book of Esther in the Bible tries to explain how the feast of Purim came to be celebrated by the Jews. A decree was sent forth by the king that every Jew in his kingdom should be put to death on a certain day. The massacre had been plotted by the king's chief minister, Haman, and the date decided by casting lots (purim). Esther, the beautiful Jewish wife of king Xerxes I, and her cousin Mordecai persuade the king to retract the order for the general annihilation of Jews throughout the empire.

Instead of Mordecai going to the gallows, Haman ends there. On the day planned for their annihilation, the Jews destroyed their enemies. The Jewish Esther is said to have saved her people from devastation in Persia in the 4th-century B.C. Nice story but legendary because no one really knows what historical events provided the basis for Purim.

480 --  Spartans under King Leonidas defeated by Persians at Thermopylae.

479  --  Greeks under the Spartan general, Pausanias, defeat Persians at Plataea; Persians capture and destroy Babylon.

477 to 449 --  Cimon, son of Miltiades, campaigns against the Persians.

466 --  Cimon destroys the Persian army and navy at the Battle of the Eurymedon.

465 --  Xerxes I assassinated; succeeded by his son Artaxerxes I (to 424).

449 --  Persians, finally defeated at Salamis in Cyprus, in the Peace of Callias recognize the independence of the Greek city states.


For more historical background see Esther (1999).


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