Not Saussure

March 14, 2007

The Persian Version

Filed under: Books, Iran, usa — notsaussure @ 4:21 pm

I see from The Guardian that

Hollywood is already firmly established as a source of cultural decadence in Iran’s pantheon of hated western symbols.But now the country’s Islamic leadership has accused it of “psychological warfare” over its depiction of the battle between the Greeks and Persians at Thermopylae in 480BC, regarded as a key event in the birth of western democracy by some historians.

Well, of course. I’ve read my Robert Graves, and know

The Persian Version

Truth-loving Persians do not dwell upon
The trivial skirmish fought near Marathon.
As for the Greek theatrical tradition
Which represents that summer’s expedition
Not as a mere reconnaisance in force
By three brigades of foot and one of horse
(Their left flank covered by some obsolete
Light craft detached from the main Persian fleet)
But as a grandiose, ill-starred attempt
To conquer Greece – they treat it with contempt;
And only incidentally refute
Major Greek claims, by stressing what repute
The Persian monarch and the Persian nation
Won by this salutary demonstration:
Despite a strong defence and adverse weather
All arms combined magnificently together.

Yes, I know that Thermopylae was 10 years after Marathon, but it’s still a good poem, and I’m not waiting till someone makes Marathon as a sequel prequel to 300. They should be grateful no one’s made a movie of Aeschylus’ The Persians (Πέρσαι), is all I can say (and they should be even more grateful they didn’t have to translate it at school, along with sodding Horriditus).



  1. An interesting post, given that tomorrow is the Ides of March.

    Comment by jameshigham — March 14, 2007 @ 9:41 pm

  2. You’re a little hard on Herodotus. I quite enjoy parts of his works, especially his anecdotes. I love his tale of Croesus and the egyptian monarch (Cheops or Chephren?) who prostitutes his daughter to build the pyramid (She must have ben a girl!)
    Graves I always blame for the ready acceptance of Suetonius, the Sun Gossip Columnist of Roman historians, as somehow being of equal value with the likes of Tacitus and Livy.
    Thermoplae, though.
    Cracking tale.

    Comment by Crushed by Ingsoc — March 14, 2007 @ 9:54 pm

  3. Yeah, Herodotus has certainly got some fun stories; I vaguely remember the giant ants that the Indians (?) use to find gold.

    My antipathy to him is based purely on the fact he was the first Greek author we had to read at school, when I was still struggling with the language (struggling even more than eventually I did), and the chap who was teaching us was a bit of a brute.

    Tacitus, to my mind, is every bit as biased as Suetonius — he’s just far more subtle and elegant about it.

    Comment by notsaussure — March 14, 2007 @ 10:15 pm

  4. Yes, but you have to start with Herodotus because his Greek is fairly accessible (Xenophon is the other favourite, but he’s boring, like Caesar) – you can’t expect beginners to cope with Aeschylus.

    Livy was biased too, btw – the Augustan equivalent of Whig history, with everything leading inexorably to the elevation of the great Octavian (to say nothing of his frightfully generous sidekick Maecenas).

    I’m going to picket 300 with a banner demanding recognition for the Thespians.

    Comment by chris y — March 15, 2007 @ 12:28 pm

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