The Persians

Written by:
Narrated by:
LibriVox Volunteers

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
January 2016
1 hour 6 minutes
This is one of the few Greek tragedies that deals with historical events rather than mythological ones. The elders of the Persian court await new of the outcome of the Battle of Salamis, and mourn when they find that their king, Xerxes, has lost to the Greeks.
Profile Avatar
P G.

It doesn't really make sense to rate The Persians. Rate it as what? As fiction (which it isn't), it would be extremely unsatisfying. The only plot event is that the Persians back at home learn their army was defeated. Then they spend the rest of the play wailing about it. I read it for the anthropological interest: what it tells us about ancient Greek tragedy, and about the ancient Greeks. Most historians say that Aeschylus wrote /The Persians/ to warn his fellow Athenians not to get in the business of empire-building, lest they go the way of the Persians. That makes sense; but I'm not quite convinced of it now that I've heard the play. If that was the purpose, the play should have taken time to show and contrast the characters of Darius and Xerxes, and should have cut some of the many, many lines of women wailing in order to give us evidence that Xerxes was in fact a reckless and foolish leader. It's all "tell don't show" on that point. The play is based on the historically laughable proposition that Darius became a peace-lover after his war with Greece. That's a serious flaw, whether the play was meant as history or as persuasion. Most tragedians say that The Persians was important because it shows that Athens had sympathy for their enemies, in the manner of Homer, because the play was about empathizing with the Persians, not about praising the Athenian victors. After hearing the play, I don't buy that nearly as much as I used to. I doubt the actual Persians showered the Athenians who defeated them with as many words of sparkling praise as Aeschylus' Persians did. As an author, I'm perplexed by the complete lack of any dramatic arc. It's more like a Samuel Becket play than anything else, and I don't consider Beckett plays art (they contain no deep thoughts, but are only an echo chamber for Beckett's own neuroses), but merely craft (they skillfully manipulate the audience's emotions). Is /Persians/ art? If it made the Greeks reflect on their ambitions for their new Delian League, then, yes, I think we must call it art. But doing so forces us to adopt a very broad definition of art. The voice actors are of wildly varying quality, from professional quality to comically overdone. Character names aren't announced before they speak, so you won't learn who's who just by listening to this reading.

1 book added to cart
View Cart