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Megilla 11a says "Three ruled over the world - Achav, Achashverosh and Nebuchadnetzar." It suggests a few other names that weren't on the list and rejects them because they didn't rule over one territory or another.

Now, I think it's reasonable to exclude peoples living in the Americas and Australia from "the world" because, as the Gemara discusses above, "from Hodu until Kush" seems to be considered as the whole world, i.e. the Old World. The question becomes, did Achashverosh indeed rule over the "whole (old) world"?

Or were there any peoples, like maybe the Greeks or the Chinese that escaped his rule? For example, in the Greco-Persian Wars, Persia did invade Greece, although they weren't exactly successful. And in China, the Eastern Zhou Dynasty of the time seemed to be isolated from the Persians. Did he rule over them? Are these locations not what the Gemara is talking about (just like it's not talking about the Americas)??

It may also worth considering that the Gemara describes Achashverosh's reign as starting with 7 provinces, expanding to 20 (perhaps the 20 listed in the map below), and finally to 100 provinces (perhaps much more expanded but very temporarily?). However that theory seems to weaken later when the Gemrara says, "Daryavesh established his reign over 120 provinces" (in that he ruled over 7 less than Achashverosh).

Map of Achaemenid Empire at fullest extent:

Map of Achaemenid Empire at fullest extent

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    What about China? What about Native Americans?
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 6:59
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    I suggest that you edit into your question your understanding of the g'mara as referring to the old world (it currently explicitly says "did Achashverosh indeed rule over the whole world?"), so that you get the answers you're looking for and not (e.g.) ones that address whether the rules was over only the old world.
    – msh210
    Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 17:46
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    @msh210 Edited.
    – A L
    Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 19:27
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    See Ben Yehoyada there who provides a limited scope to the "world" ruled by Achashverosh.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 3:19
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    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achaemenid_Empire The Achaemenid Empire also called the First Persian Empire was an ancient Iranian empire based in Western Asia and founded by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC. It reached its greatest extent under Xerxes I, who conquered most of northern and central ancient Greece. At its greatest territorial extent, the Achaemenid Empire stretched from the Balkans and Eastern Europe in the west to the Indus Valley in the east. The empire was larger than any previous empire in history, spanning a total of 5.5 million square kilometers (2.1 million square miles).
    – pcoz
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 4:38

2 Answers 2

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The Gemara you quoted says that Shlomo Hamelech also ruled the whole world, but he was not listed because he did not finish his reign. Rav Chaim Kanievsky in the beginning of Derech Emunah vol. 2 asks that if so, the entire world should have the kedusha of Eretz Yisrael, because כבוש רבים שמיה כבוש (oversimplified explanation: land conquered by the entire Jewish people under their king becomes part of Eretz Yisrael)?

He answers that when the Gemara says Shlomo Hamelech (and by extension the other kings listed) ruled the entire world, it does not mean his kingdom literally extended that far. It means his influence did. (Kind of like the American president being called "leader of the free world".)

This is also apparent from the Gemara's description of Achav. He was not the actual king of those countries, he just had enough power to force them to listen to him.

I also think that the Gemara only meant he had influence over the known world of the day, whatever that was.

enter image description here

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  • Very informative answer. It would be best if you understood that rabbis could only know as far as the historians of their times, and therefore each later rabbi reinterprets the texts to fit new empirical findings. Early rabbis who had no idea about real history took the scriptures pretty literally, for example, the imaginary kingdom of Solomon.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jul 12, 2022 at 10:57
  • @AlBerko Please reread my answer more carefully. I demonstrate that the text never claimed these kings empires extended over the whole world, just their influence. I believe you are confusing actual scholars with people in general, who just repeat things without analyzing them.
    – N.T.
    Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 4:05
  • I completely understood that. I merely attribute the attempt to re-interpret texts metaphorically to the empirical findings. I.e. once everybody around us knows it did not exist, we turn to metaphors.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 12:17
  • @AlBerko You just repeated yourself? This is not an attempt to reinterpret texts, it is fixing a popular misconception.
    – N.T.
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 17:10
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The meddrash ( ester rabbi 1:5 ) says …….that Koresh ruled the whole world and achahverosh inherited it from him . But then he lost half ,due to vashti convincing him stopping binyan bais hamikdash

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  • Where does the meddrash say this?
    – Aaron
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 0:22
  • אסתר רבה א. פסיק ה
    – user19400
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 0:31
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    You should put that in your answer.
    – Aaron
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 0:35

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