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Persians (Greek Tragedy in New Translations) Paperback – April 25, 1991
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"[An] exciting, audacious, yet careful translation....Herington's scholarly evocation of the 'archaic wholeness of vision' supports the translation brilliantly. A very useful text."--Michael shaw, University of Kansas
Text: English, Greek (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The play is interesting because Aeschylus presents Xerxes, a foreign invader, as exhibiting the same sort of hubris that afflicts the greatest of mythological heroes in these Greek tragedies. Laud and honor is given the Athenians for defeating the Persians in battle, but Aeschylus surprisingly provides a look at the Persian king's culpability in the downfall of his empire. There is a reference in the play to the tradition that Xerxes was descended from Perseus (for whom the Persian race was therefore named), but even so it seems quite odd to turn him into a traditional Greek tragic hero. Aeschylus had fought the Persians at the Battles of Marathon and Salamis, which certainly lends authenticity to his description of events.
Aeschylus won the festival of Dionysus in 472 B.C. with the tetralogy of "Phineus," "The Persians," "Glaucus of Potniae," and the satyr play "Prometheus the Fire-Kindler." Phineas was the king who became the victim of the Harpies, while this particular Glaucus was the son of Sisyphus and the father of Bellerophon who was torn to pieces by his own mares. Consequently, this particular tetralogy clearly has the theme of kings brought down by their own folly. But even within that context, the fact that Aeschylus would write of a historical rather than legendary figure, not to mention a Persian rather than a Greek, remains more than a minor historical curiosity.
Although I am far from being anything near a classicist, I did find much to enjoy about this particular play. It could be that it was based on a real historical event and I enjoy history a lot, although how it was told in the play is nothing like what would be acceptable as "real history" by modern scholars. Parts of it were boring and dragged on, this is a very different and long-dead culture one must remember so some of the context is lost to me. This particular translation certainly helped as some of the prose seemed to be charged with emotion that brought the events to life in my mind. Here's an example, with a messenger sorrowfully telling the news of the near-total loss of the Persian invasion fleet:
"Then the Greek ships, seizing their chance,
swept in circling and struck and overturned
and saltwater vanished before our eyes -
shipwrecks filled it, and drifting corpses.
Shores and reefs filled up with our dead
and every able ship under Persia's command
scrambling to escape.
We might have been tuna or netted fish,
for they kept on, spearing and gutting us
with splintered oars and bits of wreckage,
while moaning and screams drowned out
the sea noise till
Night's black face closed it all in."
I'm not usually one who enjoys poetry much, but the raw emotion conveyed in these words was palpable. It rather surprised me when I read this to have such a reaction. I felt like I could actually see the wrecked hulks of the Persian ships with the bodies of their dead floating in the sea, at least as if I was watching a movie about the battle instead of just reading a play. Look, I am by no means an expert at this but this is a play that even a novice such as myself was able to find meaning to. Yes, some of it bored me to no end and I have no desire to see the play performed live (the chorus still looks hokey even in this translation), but there is still something there to enjoy and take from this play. I know nothing about all the different translations of this play, but I can tell you that this particular one was excellent and however "authentic" it may or may not be it certainly made this ancient play accessible to an amateur like me. I cannot say the same about any other translation, so if you are looking to read this give this one a try. I highly recommend it.