GRANVILLE, Ohio—Political power plays have been part of human social interactions since antiquity. Fifth-century Persia was the scene of a particularly rich example, which Aeschylus, a leading Athenian playwright at the time, immortalized in his play “The Persians.” Denison University’s Rebecca Kennedy, assistant professor of classics, has been invited to lecture about this society at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles on Saturday, Sept. 13. Her lecture, “Performing Persia: Cultural Exchange and Visual Power in Aeschylus’s Persians,” will coincide with a production of the play, performed by the New York-based SITI Company. The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information visit www.getty.edu.
Athenians of the day were fascinated with Persian culture. Aeschylus utilized this attraction in his staging of the play, giving particular attention to the scene of King Darius emerging from his tomb in the middle of the play to pronounce the fate of his son Xerxes and the Persian Empire. “Aeschylus, well-known in antiquity for his use of lavish spectacles on the stage, presented this moment to his audience as a brilliant tableaux vivant, capturing and playing with the official state image crafted by the Great Kings and used on their coinage, tombs, and official monuments,” says Kennedy.
A classic Greek tragedy, “The Persians” is an emotional story of war, victory and loss experienced by an imagined Persian court. “Persians” is the sole-surviving Greek tragedy about a historical event, the battle of Salamis in 480 B.C. Aeschylus glorifies the Athenian victors but also humanizes the defeated Persians, emphasizing the universal impact of war on family and community.