Remaining Aeschylus

Status: published

Next on my list was [the rest of Aeschylus](\%22\%22)![\\"\\"](\%22\%22){width="\"1\"" height="\"1\""}. The remaining plays being*Persians*, *Seven Against Thebes*, *Suppliants*, and*Prometheus Bound*.
*Persians* is a recounting of a Persian defeat at the hands ofthe Greeks from the perspective of the Persian count when they first hear thenews. Interestingly, Aeschylus was actually present during the conflict and soit is generally assumed that his portrayal of events is at least somewhataccurate. It reads like some elaborate ancient theatrical equivalent oftea-bagging. The only thing that really caught my eye was a brief segment whereit is explained that Persia and Greece are sister nations, born of the sameparentage. Linguistic evidence certainly supports this, Persian and Greek bothbeing Indo-European languages. I just find it somewhat surprising that theywere still vaguely aware of their common ancestry and that they were willing toacknowledge such a kinship with a nation they were continually at war with.
*Seven Against Thebes* is the story of Oedipus' sons' fight forcontrol of Thebes. They were unable to rule together peacefully on account oftheir cursed parentage. The bulk of the play is spent describing who willdefend which of the seven gates against a corresponding number of enemycommanders in elaborate detail. The actual battle is mostly skipped over in thetext. The story resumes after the battle, the defenders having won but the twobrothers having killed one another. Because of the characters involved, Iprobably would have gotten more out of this if I had already read Antigone andthe Oedipus plays first. Fortunately, those are all first up when I move on toSophocles next. On a sad note for any Japanophiles who may read it, however,this play definitely undermines a lot of the claims regarding the stunningoriginality of *Seven Samurai*. But classic literature does that topretty much everything.
*Suppliants* picks up the story of Io, the girl who was turnedinto a cow by Hera so that Zeus wouldn't sleep with her only to have Zeus turnhimself into a bull simply to sleep with her anyway, several generations later.Io had wandered to Egypt in cow form where she was made human again. She hadZeus human-ish child. Several generations later, one of her descendants returnsto Greece with his daughters in order to avoid forced marriages to Egyptiannoblemen who happened to be their cousins. The people of Argos and their kingchoose to defend them when the Egyptians show up and they all presumably livehappily ever after. The story is a pretty strong condemnation of involuntarymarriage. It also serves as a kind of founding myth for Argos as well as anexplanation of Greece's supposed kinship to Egypt.
*Prometheus Bound* opens with, well, the binding of Prometheusin "unbreakable" chains by order of Zeus. Though he helped Zeus in his gloriousrevolution against Cronus and the other Titans, Zeus became enraged whenPrometheus gave mankind knowledge of fire and mastery over his own thoughts.The bulk of the story is told by means of Prometheus recounting his story to Iowho just happened to wander by in cow form. Zeus is described as something of apower-mad tyrant and a fool who would not have won against the Titans withoutPrometheus' advice. Given how strongly this clashes with normal depictions ofZeus, even Aeschylus' own depictions in his other plays, I really wonder howwell this played with its contemporary audience. On the surface it seems likeblasphemy. But can a society that continually reworks the stories of its godsas popular entertainment really have a sense of blasphemy like us sillymoderns? Probably not.