The Persians notes

The Persians notes - T he Persians, Aeschyluss oldest...

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The Persians , Aeschylus’s oldest surviving play, was produced in 472, just eight years after the events on which it is based. The play describes King Xerxes’s return to Persia after his defeat at the hands of the Greeks at Salamis. The play is unique among the surviving Greek tragedies in dealing with a historical rather than mythical subject. It also seems unusual as a piece of post-war entertainment. One might expect Greek playwrights immediately after the victory over the Persian invaders to produce triumphal, patriotic plays and odes glorifying the victors and rubbing the noses of the enemy in their defeat. Contrary to idealized perceptions, the Greeks were known to taunt defeated opponents, in war and in sporting events (Crowther 1999). The newly enfranchised Athenians had great reason to celebrate: they had averted the destruction of their fledgling democracy and likely enslavement by the Persians. However, as Murray (1972) makes clear, The Persians is no such triumphal propaganda. Less than a decade after the defeat of the Persians, Aeschylus presents to an audience filled with fellow veterans an account of that fateful battle told entirely from the viewpoint of the vanquished. There is no villainizing or caricaturing of the Persians; Aeschylus offers an altogether human, even sympathetic portrayal of the very recent (and even then still threatening) enemy.
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Make no mistake: The Persians is no revisionist play seeking to subvert Athenians’ pride in their victory. Various passages in the tragedy portray the Greeks favorably. For example, a dialogue between the chorus and the Persian queen (Aeschylus, 1952a, lines 230–247) gives a brief account of the Greek’s military strength, weaponry, wealth, and even their democracy. Entering battle, the Greeks issue “a great concerted cry” (401), answered in contrast by the “babel Persian tongues” (406), suggesting to the audience that the Greeks were more unified. While acknowledging these justifications for the Athenians’ patriotic
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The Persians notes - T he Persians, Aeschyluss oldest...

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