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It is shortly after the conquest of Egypt by Cambyses, about 5oo years before Christ, that the history of Esther and Ahasuerus must be placed. This king of Persia, called by the foregoing name in the Bible, is considered the same as Darius, son of Hystaspes, who first espoused the daughter of Cyrus, but that queen having refused to conform to the king's orders , was repudiated, and several young and beautiful damsels were sought from which to select her successor. Esther, a poor and orphan Jewess, brought up by her uncle Mordecai, was one of those presented to the sovereign, and chosen as queen from her superior beauty. But Haman, the king's favourite courtier, wishing to satiate his vengeance on Mordecai, who had refused to kneel before him, obtained an edict from Ahasuerus to put all the Jews to death.

Mordecai applied to Esther to save the people of God; but she answered him : « It is well known that whosoever, whether man or woman, enters into the king's inner chamber, who is not called by his orders, is infallibly and instantly put to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out his royal sceptre as a sign of clemency that they may live. » Notwithstanding this fear, Esther presented herself before the king, and as soon as he saw her she found favour in his sight, and he held out to her the golden sceptre in his hand. So Esther drew near and kissed the top of the sceptre. Then said the king unto her : « What wilt thou, queen Esther ? and what is thy request ? even to the half of my kingdom it shall be given to thee. »

This fresco adorns one of the arches of the chapel of Bandini, in the church of Saint-Silvestre, at Monte-Cavallo; it has been engraved by Gerard Audran; the three others have been published at no 56, 8o and 1oo.

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