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The earliest of his plays to survive is The Persians (Persai), performed in 472 BC and based on experiences in Aeschylus's own life, specifically the Battle of Salamis. It is unique among surviving Greek tragedies in that it describes a recent historical event. The Persians focuses on the popular Greek theme of hubris by blaming Persia's loss on the pride of its king. It opens with the arrival of a messenger in Susa, the Persian capital, bearing news of the catastrophic Persian defeat at Salamis to Atossa, the mother of the Persian King Xerxes. Atossa then travels to the tomb of Darius, her husband, where his ghost appears to explain the cause of the defeat. It is, he says, the result of Xerxes' hubris in building a bridge across the Hellespont, an action which angered the gods. Xerxes appears at the end of the play, not realizing the cause of his defeat, and the play closes to lamentations by Xerxes and the chorus.
resulting Battle of Thermopylae, the rearguard of the Greek force was annihilated, whilst in the Battle of Artemisium the Greeks had heavy losses and retreated after the loss at Thermopylae. This allowed the Persians to conquer Boeotia and Attica. The Allies prepared to defend the Isthmus of Corinth whilst the fleet was withdrawn to nearby Salamis Island. Although heavily outnumbered, the Greek Allies were persuaded by the Athenian general Themistocles to bring the Persian fleet to battle
wanting, Claims reverence; nor the light, that beams from power, Shines on the man whom wealth disdains to grace. The golden stores of wealth indeed are ours; But for the light (such in the house I deem The presence of its lord) there I have fears. Advise me then, you whose experienced age Supports the state of Persia: prudence guides Your councils, always kind and faithful to me. - LEADER Speak, royal lady, what thy will, assured We want no second bidding, where our power In word
cheering troop through all the ships of war. Each to the appointed station steers his course; And through the night his naval force each chief Fix'd to secure the passes. Night advanced, But not by secret flight did Greece attempt To escape. The morn, all beauteous to behold, Drawn by white steeds bounds o'er the enlighten'd earth; At once from ev'ry Greek with glad acclaim Burst forth the song of war, whose lofty notes The echo of the island rocks return'd, Spreading dismay through
o'er? - ATOSSA From shore to shore he bridged the Hellespont. - GHOST OF DARIUS What! could he chain the mighty Bosphorus? - ATOSSA Ev'n so, some god assisting his design. - GHOST OF DARIUS Some god of power to cloud his better sense. - ATOSSA The event now shows what mischiefs he achieved. - GHOST OF DARIUS What suffer'd they, for whom your sorrows flow? - ATOSSA His navy sunk spreads ruin through the camp. - GHOST OF DARIUS Fell all his host
henceforth let not pride, Her present state disdaining, strive to grasp Another's, and her treasured happiness Shed on the ground: such insolent attempts Awake the vengeance of offended Jove. But you, whose age demands more temperate thoughts, With words of well-placed counsel teach his youth To curb that pride, which from the gods calls down Destruction on his head. (To ATOSSA) And thou, whose age The miseries of thy Xerxes sink with sorrow, Go to thy house, thence choose the richest