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The Persians Aeschylus' earliest surviving tragedy holds a fascination both for readers of Greek drama and Greek history Not only is it the earliest existing play in the Western tradition it is drawn directly from the playwright's own experiences at the battle of Salamis making it the only account of the Persian Wars composed by an eyewitness And as pure tragedy it is a masterpiece Aeschylus tells the story of the war from the Persian point of view and his pride in the great victory of Greeks is tempered with a real compassion for Xerxes and his vanuished nation Lembke and Harrington have rendered this stunning work in a modern translation that loses none of the original's dramatic juxtaposition of serenity and violence hope and despair


10 thoughts on “Πέρσαι

  1. says:

    “Night advanced But not by secret flight did Greece attempt To escape The morn all beauteous to behold Drawn by white steeds bounds o'er the enlighten'd earth; At once from ev'ry Greek with glad acclaim Burst forth the song of war whose lofty notes The echo of the island rocks return'd Spreading dismay through Persia's hosts thus fallen From their high hopes; no flight this solemn strain Portended but deliberate valour bent On daring battle; while the trumpet's sound Kindled the flames of war But when their oars The paean ended with impetuous force Dash'd the resounding surges instant all Rush'd on in view in orderly array The suadron on the right first led behind Rode their whole fleet; and now distinct we heard From ev'ry part this voice of exhortation Advance ye sons of Greece from thraldom save Your country save your wives your children save The temples of your gods the sacred tomb Where rest your honour'd ancestors; this day The common cause of all demands your valour ‘’Μα η νύχτα προχωρεί κι οι Έλληνες κρυφό δρόμον᾽ ανοίξουν από πουθενά δε δοκιμάζουν·όταν όμως με τ᾽ άσπρα τ᾽ άτια της η μέραφωτοπλημμύριστη άπλωσε σ᾽ όλο τον κόσμομια πρώτ᾽ ακούστηκε απ᾽ το μέρος των Ελλήνωνβουή τραγουδιστά με ήχο φαιδρό να βγαίνεικαι δυνατ᾽ αντιβούιζαν μαζί κι οι βράχοιτου νησιού γύρω ενώ τρομάρα τους βαρβάρουςέπιασεν όλους που έβλεπαν πως γελαστήκανγιατί δεν ήταν για φευγιό που έψαλλαν τότεσεμνόν παιάνα οι Έλληνες μα σαν να ορμούσανμ᾽ ολόψυχη καρδιά στη μάχη ενώ όλη ως πέρατη γραμμή των της σάλπιγγας φλόγιζε ο ήχος·κι αμέσως τα πλαταγιστά με μιας κουπιά τουςχτυπούνε με το πρόσταγμα την βαθιάν άρμηκαι δεν αργούνε να φανούν όλοι μπροστά μαςΤο δεξί πρώτο σε γραμμή κέρας ερχόντανμ᾽ όλη την τάξη κι έπειτα κι ο άλλος ο στόλοςαπό πίσω ακλουθά· και τότε ήταν ν᾽ ακούσειςφωνή μεγάλη από κοντά «Εμπρός των Ελλήνωνγενναία παιδιά να ελευθερώσετε πατρίδατέκνα γυναίκες και των πατρικών θεών σαςνα ελευτερώστε τα ιερά και των προγόνωντους τάφους· τώρα για όλα ᾽ναι που πολεμάτε» Αυτά για να μην ξεχνιόμαστε Υ Γ Έχοντας δει αμέτρητες παραστάσεις στην Επίδαυρο από μικρό παιδί ένεκα του επαγγέλματος του μπαμπά βεβαίως βεβαίως η φετινή παραγωγή του Εθνικού Θεάτρου ήταν σαφέστατα η καλύτερη που έχω παρακολουθήσει


  2. says:

    What’s done I know is done; yet I will sacrificeIn hope that time may bring about some better fate the mother of Xerxes3 12 Bust of Aeschylus From the Capitoline Museums RomeAeschylus c 525524 – c 456455 BC is the earliest of the four great Greek playwrights parts of whose oeuvre have survived to the present day The others are of course Sophocles c 4976 – winter 4065 BC and Euripides c 480 – c 406 BC these three tragedians and the comic playwright Aristophanes c 446 – c 386 BCSeven of Aeschylus’ plays have survived with about 75 other plays known only through fragments or references to their titles The Persians is now thought to be the earliest of the seven The play was produced in 472 BC Other than comedies it is the only Greek play of the Classical era whose subject matter is taken from actual history rather than from legendThe subject of the play is the battle of Salamis which occurred in 480 BC Wilhelm von Kaulbach Die Seeschlacht bei Salamis – 1868As the painting makes clear Salamis was a naval engagement one in which the Greeks vastly outnumbered defeated the invading Persian forces led by King XerxesThe play does not however take place near Salamis nor at the time of the battle – rather it is set in the Persian royal court at Susa a few months after the battle At the beginning of the play the court has not heard from Xerxes’ army for some time and rumors and dread are rife Then a messenger arrives who tells the horrible news of what has transpired King Xerxes himself is a survivor and arrives later in the play – his mother Atossa and the ghost of Darius king prior to Xerxes make up the only three named characters The messenger and the chorus complete the castIn telling of the Persian calamity Aeschylus who is believed to have seen the battle perhaps even fought in it obviously plays to the home crowd One can almost hear the audience hooting hollering applauding as the deaths of various Persian generals are announced But though this “tragedy” a triumph from the Greek point of view seems of little interest to the modern reader as drama I found myself curiously affected by it First even as perhaps fictionalized history it did appeal to the historian in me And the last part of the play in which the glost of Darius laments the foolishness of Xerxes in falling into the trap set for him by the Greeks certainly has traditional elements of the tragic even though being presented from a point of view uite different from that of the audienceThe play is short easily read in an hour or so The translation by Philip Vellacott appealed to me as indicated by the great number of underlinings I made Recommended


  3. says:

    Yet the insidious guile of god—what mortal man can escape it? Who with agile foot can lightly overleap and escape its toils?This is a mournful gaze of the vanuished Fortuna's Wheel has spun and the Imperium has been struck The famed army of the title have been routed at Salamis There's very effective use of the chorus the tempo of such leads us to the precipice


  4. says:

    XERXES Wail wail the miserable doom and to the palace hie CHORUS Alas alas and woe again XERXES Shriek smite the breast as I CHORUS An evil gift a sad exchange of tears poured out in vain XERXES Shrill out your simultaneous wail CHORUS Alas the woe and pain XERXES O bitter is this adverse fate CHORUS I voice the moan with thee XERXES Smite smite thy bosom groan aloud for my calamity CHORUS I mourn and am dissolved in tears XERXES Cry beat thy breast amain CHORUS O king my heart is in thy woe XERXES Shriek wail and shriek again CHORUS O agony XERXES A blackening blow— CHORUS A grievous stripe shall fall XERXES Yea beat anew thy breast ring out the doleful Mysian call CHORUS An agony an agony XERXES Pluck out thy whitening beard CHORUS By handfuls ay by handfuls with dismal tear drops smeared XERXES Sob out thine aching sorrow CHORUS I will thine best obey XERXES With thine hands rend thy mantle's fold— CHORUS Alas woe worth the day XERXES With thine own fingers tear thy locks bewail the army's weird CHORUS By handfuls yea by handfuls with tears of dole besmeared XERXES Now let thine eyes find overflow— CHORUS I wend in wail and pain XERXES Cry out for me an answering moan— CHORUS Alas alas again Thats basically my daily internal monologue


  5. says:

    A celebration of a Greek victory13 March 2012 This is actually uite an unusual Greek play in that it does not deal with a mythological event Granted Aristophanes deals with historical events but he wrote comedy as opposed to tragedy and I have explained elsewhere what is meant by Greek Tragedy Excluding Aristophanes The Persians is the only historical play that we have and it is possible that it is the only historical play that was ever written during the classical period of Ancient Greece The play is about the Persian defeat at Salamis and is set entirely within the palace in Susa Once again as we always see the unities of time and place are obeyed While many seem to point to Aristotle as being the one who developed the unities we must remember that Aristotle lived at least two generations after the great dramatists Aristotle was the pupil of Plato who in turn was the pupil of Socrates who was alive when Euripides and Sophocles were producing their plays This play is pretty much a pat on the back for the Athenians for winning what was considered to be the unwinnable war It is also the second of the two sources that we have regarding the Battle of Salamis however we need to remember that this was written from the Athenian viewpoint and in turn was written by Aeschylus' viewpoint so it will automatically be biased in favour of the Athenians However it is a very useful source as numerous generals on the Persian side were named and the play also outlines the Achameid Dynasty the line of kings from whom Darius and Xerxes' were descended I won't go into too much detail regarding the battle of Salamis as this is discussed extensively in other places by me as well as others However the Battle of Salamis which was a naval battle is considered to be one of those points upon which of history swings I am not entirely convinced by this argument namely because I also believe in divine influence as we can see from the Battle of Jerusalem when Sennacerib's army was completely destroy by something during the night but then as we read through this play we can also see numerous references to the gods However Aeschylus is theologically wrong when dealing with Persian religion He seems to think that they had a polytheistic religion when in reality by Xerxes' time Persia had become Duotheistic where two gods eual and opposite are forever slugging it out with each other this is Xorastrianism in a really small nutshell One thing we must remember though is that Xerxes' survived This is actually uite unusual for a king who is defeated in battle Senacerib was killed by his sons upon his return to Ninevah namely because his defeat was evidence that he no longer had the support of the gods However there are two possible answers to why he was no deposed The first and the unlikely is that Xorastrianism did not allow for this and that defeat is not necessarily the disapproval of the gods but rather just bad luck However this as far as I am concerned is not a hugely satisfying answer The second answer to this uestion I suspect comes from the Bible namely from the Book of Esther Now the events in Esther occur during the reign of Xerxes though there is debate as to whether it is Xerxes or not however for the purpose of my argument I will take it as it stands and deals with the festival of Purim Here the Jews were marked for death and it was only the intervention of Esther that enable them to be saved Now we ask the uestion of why were they marked for death and what swayed Xerxes to listen to Haman boo hiss It is clear from the book that Haman boo hiss hated Mordechai Yay and the Jews but I doubt he could have gone to Xerxes and said 'I hate these people please wipe them out' by the way the 'yays' and the 'boo hisses' apparently come from the Jewish tradition when this book is read Okay the Bible indicates that the events in Esther occurred in the twelfth year of the reign of Xerxes which put it around 474 BC where as the Persian Wars occurred in 480 to 479 BC which is about 5 years afterwards So when I think about it it is unlikely the the attempted genocide of the Jews could have been related to the Persian Wars The reason I suggested this is because it is common for a minority group to be blamed for an empire's failure as we saw in Nazi Germany So I guess my thoughts about this pomgrom would be incorrect However let us further consider evidence from the Bible The feast at which Xerxes' first wife Vashti is set in the third year of his reign which is before the Persian wars However it also appears that Esther was married to him probably a few months after and was ueen while Xerxes was away in Greece This suggests that Amestris the Greek name of Xerxes' wife is in fact Esther Now I checked Wikipedia and they indicate that she was actually Vashti but it then goes on to expound the Akkadian root of both words and this seems to indicate that Amestris is Esther as opposed to Vashti I believe that that is the case based on the biblical record if it is correct that Ahasuerus and Xerxes are in fact the same person So I guess my point is that the reason that Xerxes' was not deposed was because he was persuaded by Haman to blame the Jews for his defeat at Salamis however through the intervention of Esther this blame was then shifted back onto Haman who was then subseuently executed Anyway this is all speculation however I do enjoy speculating about ancient historical events which is why I wrote this in the first place


  6. says:

    Written in 472 BC Aeschylus’s Persians is the oldest surviving play in the history of Western drama How astonishing then to consider that the first piece of Greek tragedy to come down to us was written not from a Greek perspective but ostensibly from that of an implacable enemy defeated a mere eight years prior; an enemy that had terrorized all the Greeks enslaved many of them and had sacked the very city in which the play was first performed Aeschylus along with many of the play’s original viewers was likely at the Battle of Salamis The graphic imagery conjured by the Persian Messenger—the sea being so cluttered with corpses and debris that one couldn’t see the water; bodies clustering on the shoreline like litter; Athenian marines using the splintered jagged ends of their rowing oars to skewer wounded Persians in the water like fish—were probably drawn not from Aeschylus’s imagination but from his memory Many of his viewers would have had similar recollections Many of them would have lost friends in the battle and some of them may have suffered from symptoms of what we would now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder For those who didn’t participate in the battle the memory of the war would have recalled the deep existential dread they must have felt for the prospect of their total annihilation at the hands of a foreign invader; a level of terror impossible to comprehend by those of us who have never lived in the path of an invading army Needless to say there were doubtless some exposed nerves in the audience that would have been touched upon seeing a play set not at Salamis or at Athens but at the Persian court at Susa There is certainly some Greek triumphalism woven into the dialogue as the characters lament the folly of trying to subdue the irrepressible Greek genius But there is also an admirable effort on Aeschylus’s part to make the Persian experience—that of the “other”—palatable to his Athenian audience The festival goers gathered at the Dionysia would have been permitted to see their great oriental nemesis no longer as a faceless terror but as a king reduced to a beggar in rags; a defeated and despondent victim of the mercurial intelligences which rule the fates of all men of all races In the world of gods and men the mighty could be cast down without notice and without recourse Such was the warning of Aeschylus to an Athens which was entering its golden age One wonders if fifty seven years later the sailors embarking from an Athens which was now the center of an aggressive and expansionary maritime empire on the doomed Sicilian Expedition spared a thought for the inconsolable Xerxes and his fawningly pitiful mother


  7. says:

    32 The Persians by Aeschylustranslated from Ancient Greek by George Theodoridis 2009performed 472 bce format 39 page length webpage read Jun 6rating ?? starsThis is apparently the oldest surviving Greek tragedy and also the only of the surviving plays on a contemporary subject The battle of Salamis where the Greeks destroyed the Persian navy and essentially ruined any hope of Persian expansion through Greece occurred in 480 bce This play is about the aftermath It's very simple People in the Persian capital including the the king's mother await word on the battle They share their hopesand then get the real news and express their woe in response The speeches are kind of moving and memorable but my main response is mostly curiosity It was interesting to me to see how simple these plays could be And it's interesting that the victorious Greeks were willing to think through the Persian perspective albeit there is an element of gloating in there somewhere As a side note on the Greek plays I think only 33 plays exist There were hundreds There was apparently even a play on the Persians that preceded Aeschylus We just have these scraps left


  8. says:

    Aeschylus wrote over ninety plays and of the 7 that survive complete today Persians is one of them This may not seem like anything particularly noteworthy any so than any of his plays having survived until you take into account its historical importance Aeschylus was Greek and fought the Persians at the Battle of Salamis during the second Persian invasion of Greece you're probably familiar with the contemporary battle of Thermopile immortalized so well in Frank Miller's book 300 This book told from the perspective of the vanuished Xerxes is therefore a firsthand account of that battle in a roundabout way—What are the chances that of ninety plays it would be one of the 7 that survive? My wife points out that its historical importance makes it a likely candidate for preservation True enough but still—wowI should probably muster up five stars for the sucker but my Grecian read Western sympathies are so deeply ingrained that I couldn't get involved in the Persians' troubles Still essential reading though This edition is the one to go for unless you're interested in reading the original Greek in which case go for the Loeb Classical Library translation


  9. says:

    Yikes This is the type of ancient Greek drama that is painful to read The plot the Persian army was routed by the Greeks That's it We are told this in the opening moments of the play and for 50 pages must read repetitive laments Chorus Oh woe Woe What happened to long list of Greek names? Xerxes They died in battle Chorus Oh WOE WOE And what of long list of Greek names? Xerxes They too died in battle Chorus Oh WOE WOE For fifty pages I'm not kidding The mother of Xerxes meets the ghost of her husband who commands her to comfort Xerxes but then we never see the mother again Does she comfort him? What happened in their emotional meeting? We never find out only of the Chorus lamenting It was just dreadful While deciding to explore Greek drama I'm glad I read Sophocles first I wouldn't have picked up another play if I had read The Persians first I can only hope that Aeschylus' other work is better than this


  10. says:

    Reading it may be an easy a way to know a bit about ancient greek culture as well as recognize that some of the main topics of literature were present even back the for there's the lament of the persinas that follows having lost the Battle of Salamis against the people from Athens attributing it to a damnation given by gods The ghost aparition of Darius allowes a reflection about death Such are the wonders that have always been fundamental to humankind One point worth nothing is that the use of premonitory dreams that the ueen Darius' wife experiences give their fate a unavoidable character this resource has been largely used in posterior writings of all agesIt's the second part of a trilogy but this is the only part that has survived Sometimes it's a bit surprising to consider the fact that something as old it's from 472 bC has persisted not only the test of time in terms of preservation but also in uality I might not have much to say but I definitely enjoyed it