Heroine and central figure in the book of Esther. She was a beautiful Jewish woman, the wife of the Persian king Ahasuerus (Xerxes I). She and her cousin Mordecai persuaded the king to cancel an order for the extermination of Jews in his realm, plotted by the king's chief minister, Haman. Instead, Haman was hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai, and the Jews were given permission to destroy their enemies. The Jewish festival of Purim celebrates this event. The book of Esther was probably written in the 2nd century BC.