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Greeks and Persians revision document Past paper questions: Literary
? Did the Greeks ever show sympathy for the Persians?
? Did the Greeks understand Xerxes?
? Discuss the role of visuality and spectacle in Greek literary depictions of Persians.
? 'Kings are complex, conflicted figures in Greek literature.' Is this true also of Persian kings?
? Herodotus cannot decide whether he sees humanity as essentially equal or Greeks as culturally superior.' Do you agree?
? Is 'the barbarian' always a stereotype in Greek texts and images?
? Is the notion of 'orientalism' applicable to Herodotus?
? 'Herodotus is writing cultural history as much as political history.' What does this mean, and what are the consequences for our assessment of his achievement in Book l?
? 'Greeks versus the Other.' Does this model of ethnic identity do justice to Herodotus' work?
? Are there any points of convergence between Persian views of Persians and Greek views of Persians?
? 'Viewers of ancient art always look up to or down on Persians - never at them'. Do you agree?
? How do fifth-century representations of Persians exploit ideas of gender and sexuality?
? 'Our perception of Persian royalty is always mediated by propaganda.' Discuss.
? Is Herodotus' portrait of Lydians and Persians unhelpfully Hellenocentric?
? How can the notion of orientalism be applied to ancient Greek art and artefacts?
? Does Greek art suggest a genuine interest in Lydians and Persians, or merely the expression of racial prejudices?
? 'There is no single consistent attitude to "the barbarian" in our fifth-century evidence.' Could this be maintained on the basis of vase-painting?
? Are Persians in Greek visual art made to look exotic or ridiculous or both or neither? How might you prefer to describe their portrayal?
General points 1/10
?????It's one thing to point out differences, it's another to make evaluative judgements on those differences. Greek fascination with Eastern culture, particularly Persians - Attic vases with oriental dress, tragedies with Eastern characters or set in Eastern lands, Eastern characters in comedy, first historian chooses to narrate rise and fall of Persian kings New fascination - Persian empire only starts to impinge on Greek consciousness in second half of 6th century - fall of Croesus, invasion of Scythia Growing sense of shared Hellenicity - Panhellenic institutions, cult centres, Homeric poems, alphabet/language - but Greeks more focused on polis After the wars, mixed feelings - satisfaction, pride, interest in alien culture Many Greeks came into contact with Persians on the battlefield or through negotiations. Huge amount of loot: no surprise the Persians had connotations of luxury. After the war many Greeks, particularly the aristocracy, began to adopt Persian customs. Booty showed that the Persians lived a luxurious life, Aeschylus may have looked down on this, but many Greeks didn't. Can talk about pottery, dress and the Odeion. Persia also began to be seen as a potential ally - diplomatic envoys went back and forth between Athens and Susa, diplomatic gifts exchanged. 'Barbarian stereotype' may have existed but does not mean that all subscribed to it. Very nature of a stereotype is exaggeration. 'Other' as 'polar opposite' or 'different in some way'
Aeschylus' Persae Performed 472, Salamis was in 480, so only 8 years later, play won first prize. It's the first surviving depiction of the post Persian wars Persians. Phrynichus' Sack of Miletus was 494, the poet was fined for 'reminding familiar misfortunes', it was decreed that no play on the subject should be put on again. Play as history People often used to assume the play was historically accurate because events were so recent. However it's a play so a certain amount of dramatic elaboration, had to operate within margins of credibility, but those margins were wide, for example the claim that the Persians had suffered a major blow. Representation of the Persians Strong contrast between Greeks and Persians. Characteristics that emerge are the opposite to the Greek ideals - Persians portrayed in
pretty negative light. One or two nuances (Darius, Athenocentrism) don't radically alter the polarity. Effeminacy:
? Only women and effeminate men on stage
? No strong male character in control
? Chorus is too old, Xerxes is too young, Darius is dead/ghost, the character on stage for longest is Atossa.
? Xerxes wears feminine garment and later tears it - female gesture
? Asia referred to as female, marriage beds and cities are 'unmanned' Immoderate luxury:
? Rich costumes
? Lots of gold, especially in the royal house - poluchrusos. Lamentation:
? Self-indulgent weeping, all done on stage, shows unrestrained emotion
? All Xerxes' lines are in lyric, particularly used in laments
? Must be careful with this point as Creon laments at the end of Antigone and nobody calls him effeminate. But masculinity associated with control. Despotism/hierarchalism:
? No freedom of speech, freedom of expression would be a challenge to the monarchy. Chorus are very aware of their rank
? Themes of slavery - the yoke
? Atossa and two kings compared to gods
? Absolute rule, Atossa says 'if he fails - he is not accountable to the community. Provided that he has survived he is still sovereign of this land'. Contrast to Athenian euthunai. Symbolism - day and light are associated with Greek actions, Persians move in the dark. Dark has connotations of furtiveness and deception Cruelty - Xerxes threatens to behead his sea captains Distinction by method of warfare, bow vs spear Attempts to capture Persian authenticity
? Pseudo-Eastern lamentation, use of what was thought to be Persian vocabulary
? Deluge of exotic names
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