King of Kings

King of Kings[n 1] was a ruling title employed primarily by monarchs based in the Middle East. Though most commonly associated with Iran (historically known as Persia in the West[7]), especially the Achaemenid and Sasanian Empires, the title was originally introduced during the Middle Assyrian Empire by king Tukulti-Ninurta I (reigned 1233–1197 BC) and was subsequently used in a number of different kingdoms and empires, including the aforementioned Persia, various Hellenic kingdoms, Armenia, Georgia, and Ethiopia.

The title King of Kings was prominently used by Achaemenid Persian kings such as Darius the Great (pictured). The full titulature of Darius was Great King, King of Kings, King in Fārs, King of the Countries, Hystaspes’ son, Arsames’ grandson, an Achaemenid.

The title is commonly seen as equivalent to that of Emperor, both titles outranking that of king in prestige, stemming from the medieval Byzantine emperors who saw the Shahanshahs of the Sasanian Empire as their equals. The last reigning monarchs to use the title of Shahanshah, those of the Pahlavi dynasty in Iran (1925–1979), also equated the title with "Emperor". The rulers of the Ethiopian Empire used the title of Nəgusä Nägäst (literally "King of Kings"), which was officially translated as "Emperor". The female variant of the title, as used by the Ethiopian Zewditu, was Queen of Kings (Ge'ez: Nəgəstä Nägäst). In the Sasanian Empire, the female variant used was Queen of Queens (Middle Persian: bānbishnān bānbishn).

In Judaism, Melech Malchei HaMelachim ("the King of Kings of Kings") came to be used as a name of God. "King of Kings" (βασιλεὺς τῶν βασιλευόντων) is also used in reference to Jesus Christ several times in the Bible, notably in the First Epistle to Timothy and twice in the Book of Revelation. In Islam, both the terms King of Kings and the Persian variant Shahanshah are condemned, particularly in Sunni hadith.