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Iranian queen.jpg
Bust of Atossa
Queen of Persia
Predecessor Cassandane
Successor Amestris
Born 550 BC
Died 475 BC
Burial Naqsh-e-Rustam
Spouse Cambyses II
perhaps Bardya[1] (or maybe Gaumata)
Darius the Great
Issue Mandane
House Achaemenid
Father Cyrus the Great
Mother Cassandane
Religion Zoroastrianism

Atossa was an Achaemenid empress and daughter of Cyrus the Great and Cassandane. She lived from 550 BC to 475 BC and was a sister-wife of the Persian king Cambyses II[1] and wife of Darius I.


The name Atossa (or Atusa) mean "the girl with beautiful legs". it also mean "well trickling" or "well granting". Atossa is Grecized (Ancient Greek: Ἄτοσσα) of Old Persian name Utauθa. her name in Avestan is Hutaosā.[2]


Atossa was born in 550 BC in Pasargadae. she was eldest daughter of Cyrus the Great and Cassandane.

Whe Darius I defeated the followers of a man claiming to be Bardiya (Smerdis), the younger brother of Cambyses II in 522 BC, she married to Atossa and her sister Artystone.[3] Atossa played an important role in the Achaemenid royal family, as she bore Darius the Great the next Achaemenid king, Xerxes I.

Atossa had a "great authority" in the Achaemenid royal house and her marriage with Darius I is likely due to her power, influence and the fact that she was a direct descendant of Cyrus.[3]

Herodotus records in The Histories that Atossa was troubled by a bleeding lump in her breast. She wrapped herself in sheets and sought a self-imposed quarantine. Ultimately, a Greek slave, Democedes, persuaded her to allow him to excise the tumor.[4]

Xerxes I was the eldest son of Atossa and Darius. Atossa lived to see Xerxes invade Greece. Being a direct descendant of Cyrus the Great, Atossa had a great authority within Achamenian imperial house and court. Atossa's special position enabled Xerxes, who was not the eldest son of Darius, to succeed his father.[3]

Literary references[edit]

The ghost of Darius appears to Atossa in a scene from The Persians.

Aeschylus included her as a central character in his tragedy The Persians. Atossa is also one of the major characters in the Gore Vidal novel Creation.

Atossa is also included in Herodotus' The Histories and is shown to be a strong woman with a lot of influence. He even goes as far as to suggest that her wanting a Greek maiden was a reason for why Darius the Great decided to begin his campaign to Greece.

In his history of cancer, The Emperor of All Maladies, Siddhartha Mukherjee imagines Atossa traveling through time, encountering different diagnoses and treatments for her breast cancer. Atossa becomes emblematic of cancer sufferers through history.[5]


Atossa Genetics was named after Queen Atossa by its founder, Dr. Steven Quay, in 2009. The NASDAQ public company is dedicated to helping women with breast cancer through its development of pharmaceuticals to treat early stage tumors. The company's logo is a rendition of a bust of Atossa held in the National Museum of Iran.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Boyce, Mary (1982). A History of Zoroastrianism: Volume II: Under the Achaemenians. BRILL. p. 78. ISBN 9004065067. Retrieved 12 July 2018. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c Schmitt, Rüdiger (1989). "Atossa". Encyclopaedia Iranica. vol. 3. Encyclopaedia Iranica Foundation. ISBN 0-7100-9121-4. 
  4. ^ Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies, p.41. See Herodotus, The Histories, OUP, 1998, pt. VIII
  5. ^ Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies, pp. 463–467
  6. ^ "Atossa - The Celestrial and Terrestrial Lady of Ancient Iran". Iran Chamber Society. 


  • Mukhjerjee, Siddhartha (2011). The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-725092-9.