Literary Essay Sample: Aeschylus' Persians and Other Stories

Published: 2022-09-28
Literary Essay Sample: Aeschylus' Persians and Other Stories
Type of paper:  Term paper
Categories:  Literature Ancient Greece Ancient history
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1908 words
16 min read

The Aeschylus Persians is a tragic narration of the ancient Greek that was published earlier in 472 BCE and considered the oldest play ever. The play occurs at Susa at the Persian Empire and begins with the song of the old men as they wait for news from King Xerxe about the mission against the Greeks. All of a sudden, the mother to mother of the king appears and narrates a dream about the pattern of the western theatre while showing her nervousness and worries. There and then, a messenger also comes in and explains the Battle of Salamis and the glory of the outcome.

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Moreover, he lets them know of the Persian's defeat and narrates the bloody itching fight of the Greeks. The mother of the king then orders a chorus to question the ghost that led to the death of Xerxe's father who was known as Darius the great. In the summoning, the father condemns the son's decision to attack the Greeks that angered the gods hence the overcoming of the Persians in the battle (Grene 61). As the king reaches, the singers sing a chorus that was lamenting about the defeat of Persia. As the spirits of Darius the great departs, it prophesies another battle where the Persians will be defeated at the Battle of Plateau.

This book earned many critics since it praised the Persians who were defeated at the war instead of the Greeks who were the victors. Aristotle describes this book as a sympathetic narrative to the Persians. However, some people such as Aristophanes held that this was a celebration of the Greek tragic defeat of the Persians (Ellis 18). Therefore, it glorifies the triumph of Athens and the entire country on the destruction of their enemies. Hitherto, the play has wide popularity in Roman, Byzantine Empires and all over the world.

In the histories of Herodotus, he attempts to illustrate what caused the war. The war between Greece and the Persian began during the reign of Darius as the king of Persia who felt that it had been a long time since his kingdom had taken time before winning a territory. As a result, King Darius decided to attack Greece since he saw Athens as blocks that hindered them from the western progress to the richer lands of Sicily and Italy (Grene 113). Due to the authority from the Ionian revolt, he obtained all the strength necessary to attack Greece since the democratic Athenians became disobedient and disrespectful hence needed to be punished.

Considering his efforts for two decades as a king who had enhanced various matter including peace, prosperity, and stability in the Persian Empire, he was considered a failure. Since the reign of early rulers in Persia, Herodotus described them as follows, Cyrus was branded as a father and Cambyses a master, and Darrius a shopkeeper (Hopman 63). This classification was based on the number of territories they had acquired to the empire. As a result, Darrius decided to conquer Athenians. However, the Athenians are always known to be energetic, restless and curious and by no means would allow their conquest by Persia.

In the Ionian revolution, they also sought to expand their territories and had colonized the Asia Minor currently Turkey that brought them in a confrontation with the Persia hence the emergence of conflicts. Both the empires had the urge to expand their territory, and since Persians had interest in Turkey, they had to intervene thus the war was inevitable (Hopman 58). The Spartans king released his army when he realized that they were stuck and only gave an option for volunteers to remain with him as they push the Persians away from invading their territory. At that moment the Greek army withdrew to Athens, and the remaining men in the battle knew they had no any other option but to die. In the analysis of this text, it is evident that in both the wars, the Persians have instigated the battle against Greece. Therefore, they were always responsible.

From my point of view, Herodotus did not fairly recount the story as the war for Greek's freedom but instead sympathized with the Persians and displayed them as the victors of the war. This is because, in the general story of Herodotus, he appraises the efforts of the Persian kings towards the conquest of Greek but at no single point does he tackle the issues and attempts by the Greek's empire to conquer other territories (Stanford 59). In this story, Greece is pictured as weaklings who rarely won any battle but consistent losers, thus the story was biased in favor of the Persians but not the Athens.

It is also depicted when the king of Spartan ordered his soldiers to quit and only requested volunteers to fight with him in the battlefield till the death. Eventually, the Persians ended up killing all the Spartans soldiers. In the battle of the marathon unlike the Persians, Greece had an advantage over the terrain of the region (Stanford 14). This was a boost that should have made them win against the Persians. However, many Athenians first died in that war and the Persian were defeated in the last minutes.

During Xerxe's reign, the ability to construct a ship that enabled them to pass through Greece and the urge to accomplish his father's mission to conquer entire Greece not only the Athens and Spartans, unlike his father, wanted. Besides, the king wanted to revenge due to his defeat at the Battle of Marathon a decade ago. Also, there was peer influence from the persuasion of Mardonius who tried to become the governor of Greece. For that matter, he urged Xerxe to attack Greece to give him a platform to achieve his dream of being the governor. Moreover, there was hostility between the Persia and Athens after Athens offered the Ionians help during their revolt. When Persia asked for earth and water to create an alliance where they agreed but later denied creating a misunderstanding between the two groups.

Xerxe is viewed as a hero that fall at the youngest age of his reign. He was viewed as a hero because he claimed the world dominion when he marched to Egypt and registered his plan to campaign against the Athens and joined the histories of the great characters such as Cyrus, Cambyses, and Darrius. Besides, he proceeded with the establishment of the greatest army as was started by Darrius to acquire different territories like Athens (Stanford 68). He was also considered as an arrogant and indecisive man of power who once has decided to invade a particular territory does not relent back and mindless about the views of other people.

However, Xerxe greatest flaw was to undermine the Greeks by assuming he could conquer them by separating them through bribery just like the father attempted in the first Greco-Persian war. For that matter, he expected to find the Greece soldiers disorganized and unprepared for the war. Unfortunately, he met the unexpected feedback when he found the Greeks fully prepared for the war. He also foolishly believed in the number of his armies and had predicted that he would overcome them and conquer the whole Greek (Stanford 84). This folly though proved futile and was defeated by Athens at the battle of Salamis. The Athens split the army from Persia and killed those who had traveled to the war. As a result, there was the failure of the Persian invasion.

The play describes war as a celebration and a competition where people goes to win titles. For that matter, no leader of Persia or Greek is making an effort to reconcile the people even though many soldiers are getting maimed in the battlefield. In this literature work, war is depicted as a measure of strength and source of pride for the king or territory whose army wins the war. However, in reality, the military soldiers who had faced battle view it to contain toxic effects and would not embrace it at any costs. Out of the war veterans, six percent suffer mental disorders, while others are committing suicide since there is no pride to be derived from the war as displayed in the play (Fergusson 16).

The display of Persian society by Aeschylus is exaggerated as it views the community as a troublesome society that always instigates war. Similarly, he brings out Xerxe as a chaotic individual who rarely listens but depends on his generated opinion to conduct raids in other communities. Besides, it brings the Xerxe as a fool is being used by bribed to attack Syria without having a clearly defined reason and plan to go for the war (Grene 213). He views himself as a god and takes his army to fight where they all end up being killed. For these matters, my opinion is that the playwright overstates the society and their king, Xerxe. Nonetheless, Aeschylus is humorous and paradox in his description of the Persian characters thus no genuine sympathy for them.

Zeus in the Prometheus Bound does not appear in the play but comes out as a major character who designs his own rules in a world where nobody but only him leaves. He does not bother about others welfares and is unsympathetic and uncaring. He is a foolish character but very powerful who do not care about other nor think about them. His rule requires that all his servants must accord him all the due respect to his will (Ruffell 12). Conversely, Prometheus is accused of giving fire to humans because of his humanity and tricking Zeus to eat bones instead of meat. Zeus gets angry and orders him to be taken the Far East to the Caucasus where he is bound on a rock, and an eagle comes to consume his liver that retains on re-growing on a daily basis.

Unlike Prometheus who was punished for being humane and helping the naked man, Io was punished for getting in love affairs with Zeus Hera's husband. While he was chained on a rock forever and an eagle would come to eat his liver daily, Io was tied on olive oil which was a holy tree and a fierce dog would come and gourd her (Ruffell 48). In my opinion, I believe Prometheus was morally justified to defy Zeus who did not have respect for humanity and disrespected his people.

In summary, the Persian and other stories illustrate a transformation in Greek history and extensively to the civilization of the Europeans. It shows how the Greco Persian war blocked Persia from occupying the largest area in the region as they had thought of by conquering other empires. Therefore, the victory of Greece in the war marked freedom for western countries who would have been slaves of Persia suppose they lost the battle. The Prometheus Bound equally shows how to be ethical in the society and do unto one what you would expect unto you when given the authority since the world is cyclic in nature.

Work Cited

Ellis, Anthony. "Emma Bridges: Imagining Xerxes: Ancient Perspectives on a Persian King." (2018): 178-183.

Ferguson, John. Moral values in the ancient world. Routledge, 2016.

Grene, David, et al., eds. Aeschylus I: The Persians, The Seven Against Thebes, The Suppliant Maidens, Prometheus Bound. University of Chicago Press, 2013.

Hopman, Marianne Govers. "Chorus, conflict, and closure in Aeschylus' Persians." Choral Mediations in Greek Tragedy (2013): 58-77.

Ruffell, Ian. Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound. A&C Black, 2012.

Stanford, William Bedell. Greek Tragedy and the Emotions (Routledge Revivals): An Introductory Study. Routledge, 2014.

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