The Persians Background

The Persians Background

The Persians is considered to be the only existing ancient Greek tragedy that was based on actual historical events. Dating back back to 472 B.C.E, The Persians is a work by one of the most famous of all figures in Greek literature, Aeschylus. While most ancient Greek tragedies were based on mythology, The Persians is centered upon a famous naval engagement which took place in 480 B.C.E.: the battle of Salamis.

If The Persians were merely the oldest extant Greek tragedy, that would be one thing. A very impressive thing, indeed. The truth, however, is that The Persians is the oldest surviving play in the history of drama. In a way that makes this work by Aeschylus the very first full example of a work of drama since nothing else exists with which it can be accurately compared. Needless to say, the production history of the tragedy is one endowed with great historical relevance.

A subsequent play by Aristophanes, The Frogs, contains a reference to a production of The Persians. The underlying themes of military defeat and political hubris has made The Persians notably robust for metaphorical reasons. As recently as the early 21st century a production of The Persians was mounted as a vehicle for commentary upon contemporary events. A new translation allowed the ancient tragedy to be staged in 2003 as a response to the controversial decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

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