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Persians


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A: Aeschylus Pf: 472 bc, Athens Tr: 1777 G: Greek trag. in verse S: The Persian royal palace at Susa, 480 bc C: 3m, 1f, chorus (m)The chorus of old men sings of the massive army that the Persian King Xerxes is leading against the Greeks to avenge the shame of his defeat at Marathon. They and Xerxes' mother Atossa, wait anxiously for news from the battle. A messenger arrives with the terrible news that the Persian army has been destroyed by the Greeks. Amidst the general mourning, the ghost of the last king Darius appears. He foretells the destruction of the last remnants of the Persian army. Xerxes now returns, and the play ends with his lamentation and self-reproach.

A: Aeschylus Pf: 472 bc, Athens Tr: 1777 G: Greek trag. in verse S: The Persian royal palace at Susa, 480 bc C: 3m, 1f, chorus (m)

Persians is the earliest extant Greek tragedy and the only one to be based on a historical rather than a mythical incident: the victory of the Greeks at the sea battle of Salamis in 480 bc, in which Aeschylus himself took part. It formed the central piece of a trilogy, possibly following one about the Battle of Marathon (in 490 bc) and preceding one that celebrated the Athenian victory. As it stands, we have a remarkable piece that, far from being a jingoistic celebration of the most decisive victory in Greek history, focuses on the suffering of the vanquished. At the same time, it reflects the Greek tragic view that hubris (pride), as displayed by the great Xerxes, is followed by nemesis (retribution). It offers a warning to the Athenians that they should not themselves now become hubristic, for fear of the consequences. Persians also employed dramatic devices that were to become well used by subsequent writers: the messenger's report and the ghostly apparition.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Aeschylus (525—456 bc) Greek dramatist


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