Now turn we to the days of Assuerus, that was lord of a hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India on this side to Ethiopia on that,
and was firmly established on the throne of his kingdom, with the city of Susan for his capital.
It was now the third year of his reign, and he held high feast for all his lords and vassals; Persian warriors, Median notables, and the governor of every province, were his guests.
All should have proof of his royal splendour, of the power and pride that were his; and long they kept holiday, for a hundred and eighty days together.
And when the festivity drew to an end, he would entertain all the folk of Susan, high and low; for a whole week a banquet was spread for them at the gates of his garden, amid trees planted by art at the royal bidding.
On every side, fastened by ivory rings to marble columns, hung canopies, some white, some flaxen, some violet, with cords of fine linen and purple thread; couches of gold and silver were set here and there on a floor of malachite and marble, wondrously patterned.
From golden cups they drank, and the very trenchers on which the meat was served were ever of new design. Wine they had in plenty, and of rare vintage, as befitted a king’s state;
nor was any man compelled to drink; the king had set one of his nobles at the head of each table, bidding him see that each man drank as drink he would.
For the women the queen, Vasthi, held a banquet too, in Assuerus’ own palace.
The seventh day had come; the king’s heart was merry, warmed by long draughts of wine; and now he had an errand for the seven chamberlains that waited on him, Maumam, Bazatha, Harbona, Bagatha, Abgatha, Zethar and Charchas.
They were to bring queen Vasthi into the king’s presence, wearing the royal crown, so that he might display her person to the rabble as well as to his lords; hers was no common beauty.
Vain was the royal summons the chamberlains brought her; she would not come. Whereupon the king broke out into a great passion of rage,
and was fain to take counsel of the wise men that were ever about his person, after the fashion of courts; theirs was still the advice he followed, theirs the knowledge of ancient law and precedent.
(The chief of them, and the nearest to his person, were Charsena, Sethar, Admatha, Tharsis, Mares, Marsana and Mamuchan; these seven princes of Persia and Media attended on him always, and had places next himself.)
What sentence should he pass on queen Vasthi, to whom he, king Assuerus, had sent a summons through his chamberlains, and in vain?
Thereupon, in the hearing of the king and his nobles, Mamuchan thus spoke: Queen Vasthi has put a slight, not upon the king’s grace only, but on all men, high and low, in his dominions.
All our women-folk will hear what she has done, and all will set their husbands at defiance, reminding them how king Assuerus sent for queen Vasthi, and she would not come.
Not a wife in Persia or Media but will disobey her husband more lightly for this example; the king has good reason to be angry.
So please thee, let an edict go out in thy name, by the laws of Persia and Media irrevocable, forbidding Vasthi ever to come into the royal presence again. Let the crown pass to some head worthier than hers.
In all the broad lands under thy domain let this decree be published; so to all husbands, high and low, their wives shall pay due honour henceforward.
King and nobles liked the plan well, and the king did as Mamuchan had advised,
sent a letter to each nation in the tongue it spoke, the characters it used, decreeing that a man should be lord and master in his own house, and the whole world must take note of it.