The Persians

Definition

Theater

  • A tragedy by Aeschylus, first performed in Athensin 472 BC. It is the only surviving Greek tragedy to be basedon a contemporary historical event, the defeat of the Persians atSalamis in 480 BC. Aeschylus had himself fought against thePersians at Salamis (and at Marathon and Platea). The Persiansis also unusual amongst Greek tragedies in probably not being partof a tetralogy.

    The play, set at the palace of Xerxes, the Persian king, beginswith the chorus of councillors expressing concern at the lack of newsfrom their expedition against the Greeks. The mother of Xerxes entersto tell them of an ominous dream, and soon a messenger brings newsof the defeat. The spirit of King Darius is called from his tomb andexplains the disaster as part of the moral order of Zeus. The humiliatedXerxes finally returns from battle and the play ends with the king andchorus lamenting the Greek victory.

    There have been several modern adaptations. A version by Vanessa Badham, in which George W. Bush stands in for Xerxes, was presented at the 2006 Edinburgh Festival.

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