Dear Rabbi Simon,
At a certain point in antiquity, there was extensive deliberation over whether Megillat Esther should be included in the Bible. Detractors of the idea argued that it could unnecessarily antagonise those not favourably disposed towards Jewry. However, proponents of its inclusion maintained that the events were already widely known throughout the civilised world; the chronicles of the Kings of Persia bore collaborative witness to the story. The proponents won the day and Esther won its place in the biblical canon (albeit that not a single trace is to be detected amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls).
If I referred to the Persian annals, where might I uncover the state version of this tumultuous period – an epoch that very nearly meant the annihilation of our people? It might be easy to suggest that such evidence was destroyed or forgotten over the millennia, but if it remains extant it would be of fascinating interest to the historian in me.
TY for your interesting question. The historicity of the Purim story has long confounded and divided scholars, with many taking a dim view of the matter. 19th-century Reform scholars, for example, were eager to pour scorn on the Scroll of Esther because the raucous celebrations associated with Purim were an embarrassment to them, and they considered the idea of a genocidal plot against the Jews inherently implausible, if not downright preposterous. (This view is found, for example, in the Jewish Encyclopaedia of 100 years ago; now in the public domain and online, BTW.) This latter objection was put to rest after the horrors of the 1940’s became apparent.
Turning to the substance of your question, I am not expert in the annals of ancient Persia, but I am delighted to recommend a new book from someone who has done remarkable and wide-ranging research into the subject. It is called Purim and the Persian Empire, but Rabbi Yehuda Landy. View it here http://www.amazon.com/Purim-Persian-Empire-Yehuda-Landy/dp/1598265199 and buy it from Torah Treasures on Golders Green Road: http://www.torahtreasures.co.uk/.
Best wishes and see you on Purim!
Rabbi Rashi Simon