Aeschylus, a Greek, does not celebrate the Greek victory but instead sympathizes with the devastated Persians. Why is this?
The main reason for this is that he identified with the feelings of grief and loss that the Persians were feeling. Of course proud of the Greek forces who defeated the Persians so ignominiously, as a soldier he would also understand that war affects both the victor and the defeated just as negatively. Greece also suffered losses in the war. Aeschylus seems to realize that the real enemy is not another nation or another empire, but war itself, which destroys both sides in equal measure. He understood the horror of war, and the emotional toll it causes. He did not want to celebrate a Greek victory but wanted instead to show his countrymen fellow human beings scared about the future of their country and anxious for news about their loved ones who went away to join the fighting.
Is The Persians an anti-war play?
It would definitely seem that The Persians takes an anti-war position, demonstrating first and foremost that despite the fact one side can claim victory there are usually no winners in a war, and only losers in differing degree. There is a great deal in the play about grief. It is shown that losing a husband, a parent, a child in the name of war is pointless, and also something so devastating that the grief it causes is impossible to get over. The future of individual human beings is destroyed, regardless of the fate of the Empire itself. The play also shows the relative futility of war. A war does not prevent future conflict and in Aeschylus' view it seems to elevate the risk of another war occurring, primarily because leaders lack judgement and are often basing the need for war on their own personal need to be the victor. The play definitely takes an anti-war stance when it comes to the devastation caused and the destruction that can follow it.
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