Martin Schwartz, Apollo and Khshathrapati, the Median Nergal, at Xanthos



The Old Iranian epithet Khshathrapati ("Lord of Power/Dominion/Realm" or the like) in the Aramaic portion of the Letoon of Xanthos (Lycia, SW Anatolia) in effect corresponds to Apollo, who is indicated in the parallel Greek portion. The consensus view, that Khshathrapati is Mithra, has seemed supported by a variety of data. The present paper refutes the alleged evidence for the equation of Khshathrapati with Mithra. It is argued here that Apollo at Xanthos maintains his archaic underworld aspect, and that Khshathrapati, as is shown from Armenian evidence, is likewise an underworld god, and is modeled after the Mesopotamian god Nergal. The conception of Nergal (and the basis of his name) as lord of a great underworld city, is calqued in the epithet Khshathrapati, which, at the beginning of the Hellenistic period, could be translated as "Lord of the City." The phonology of the epiithet and of other Iranian forms reflected in the Aramaic text, taken with the Armenian and Mesopotamian data, point to Khshathrapati being a god of Media. This divinity would accordingly have been brought to Xanthos at the time of Cyrus the Great, when the Mede Harpagos and his compatriots (re)founded Xanthos.