The Gemara in Megillah 13b says that Bigsan and Seresh were two Tarsians:

אמר רבי יוחנן בגתן ותרש שני טרסיים הוו והיו מספרין בלשון טורסי

R' Yochanan said: Bigsan and Seresh were two Tarsians, and they were speaking in the Tarsian tongue.

Why is it important that Bigsan and Seresh are specifically Tarsians as opposed to speaking any unspecified foreign language?

Related: What country is Tarsia / טרסי?

  • I think they are Thracians en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thrace
    – simyou
    Feb 24, 2020 at 19:15
  • How would you know they speak a foreign language?
    – Lo ani
    Feb 25, 2020 at 12:03
  • @Loani Let the Gemara just say that they were foreigners speaking in a foreign tongue. Why does it have to mention that they were specifically from Tarsia?
    – DonielF
    Feb 25, 2020 at 14:03

1 Answer 1


The following is just a theory I have, and if you think it should be moved to the comments, I'll do that.

Based on the understanding that Tarsia is Tarshish or Tarsus, we can understand a bit of the hatred Bigtan and Teresh held for the king.

According to Wikipedia, some modern opinions are that Achashverosh was King Artaxerxes II, who at one point, waged war against his brother, Cyrus the Younger. Tarsus was the capital city of a region call Cilicia, eventually a satrapy (province) (from satrap, or achashdarpan (אחשדרפן) in the Tanach) in the Persian-Median Empire. Cilicia chose to side with Cyrus the Younger, who eventually lost to Artaxerxes II (an event that's possibly referenced by Rashi on Esther 1:2: "When King Achashveirosh had established himself, etc. When the kingdom was firmly established under his control."). Prior to the war, Cilicia had a vassal king. After siding with Cyrus the Younger and losing, the vassal king was dethroned and Cilicia was turned into an ordinary satrapy (province).

Having been internationally disgraced by Artaxerxes/Achashaverosh, it's no wonder that Tarsians such as Bigtan and Teresh were out to get him. The emphasis on them being both Tarsians and speaking the Tarsian tongue may be there to tell us that these were Tarsian nationalists; zealous extremists plotting to assassinate a powerful enemy monarch to avenge the honor of their country.

  • I think modern scholarship thinks it's Xerxes I. Artaxerxes is ארתחששתא.
    – Double AA
    Feb 28, 2020 at 12:10
  • @DoubleAA do you mean modern Torah scholars or scholars in general? Because scholars in general appear to disagree on that...en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahasuerus#Book_of_Esther
    – Harel13
    Feb 28, 2020 at 12:13
  • @DoubleAA changed it to "some modern opinions".
    – Harel13
    Feb 28, 2020 at 12:25
  • 1
    I'm not the expert, but my impression is it's largely settled at this point and Wikipedia is just paying lip service to old theories because it has to present everything. Just because there were a handful of theories 100 years ago doesn't mean it's still in dispute.
    – Double AA
    Feb 28, 2020 at 12:32

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