June 02, 2009

"...man is mortal and must learn to curb his pride"

Persian Xerxes, by way of wikipedia.

"...Let no man
Scorning the fortune that he has, in greed for more
Pour out his wealth in utter waste. Zeus, throned on high,
Sternly chastises arrogant and boastful men."

Nearly all Greek tragedies are about mythological events. The one exception is The Persians by Aeschylus, which is the earliest surviving tragedy of the earliest tragic writer.

The play is set in the Persian royal city of Susa and it portrays the royal family and court when the news of their disastrous defeat by the Greek navy at Salamis arrives by messenger. Produced only eight years after the event by a veteran of that war, it is the earliest account we have of that decisive conflict.

Perhaps surprisingly, Aeschylus did not demonize his former foes. The Persian nobles are portrayed with respect and a degree of sympathy. As the French writer Albert Camus wrote in The Rebel, "The Greeks never made the human mind into an armed camp, and in this respect we are inferior to them."

The roots of the conflict were the efforts of Athenians to aid Greek colonies that had fallen under Persian rule. The Persian ruler Darius vowed to punish Athens and attempted a punitive expedition in 490 BC which resulted in the Greek victory at Marathon. Darius vowed a major invasion using all the resources of his empire but died before he could carry it out.

That task was left to Xerxes, who is portrayed by Greek sources such as Herodotus and Aeschylus as arrogant and full of hubris. The war began in earnest in August 480 when the Spartans inflicted heavy losses and died to the last man at the pass of Thermopylae. The naval battle at Salamis occurred a month later. Under the leadership of Themistocles, the Persian navy was basically destroyed as an effect force. A land army remained, only to be repelled the following year.

Tomorrow: the play itself.

SPEAKING OF MARATHON, here's an article about a different way of training for one.

THE RIGHT TO ORGANIZE. From the AFLCIO blog, here are links to two op-eds on the Employee Free Choice Act.

OH GOOD. Thanks to the "charity" of BB&T, more Ayn Rand propaganda came our way.

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS. Here's the messed up link to the article about Charleston's sustainability fair.


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