The Persians

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The Persians ( Greek  Πέρσαι Persai ) is one of the great tragedies of the Greek poet Aeschylus . First performed in 472 BC BC , the play is considered the oldest surviving drama in the world. The Persians dealt with the sinking of the Persian fleet in the sea ​​battle of Salamis from the fictional point of view of the Persian royal court.

Table of contents

The piece begins with a monologue by the choir leader, who, as a representative of the Persian nobles, tells in detail how the mighty army of the Persian king Xerxes I set out for Greece to atone for the defeat of his father Darius I at Marathon and the Greek Cities to join his empire. The rest of the chorus then joined in and continued the story, reporting not only about the first victories, but also about the subjugation of the sea itself - meaning the construction of a bridge over the Hellespont , which separates the continents of Asia and Europe . But the concern of lonely Persian women for their husbands who went to war is also mentioned.

Now the Queen Mother Atossa appears, wife of the late Darius, who asks the assembled choir of nobles for advice. In a dream she saw two sisters of the same tribe, one in Persian, the other in Greek, who soon got into quarrels. Xerxes tried to appease them and settle the argument by yoke them both in front of his wagon. But where one accepted this willingly, the other tore her ties and dragged the car rampantly away. As a result, Xerxes fell from the wagon in front of his father. Realizing this, he tore his clothes out of shame.

When Atossa then wants to sacrifice to the gods in order to avert possible suffering from her son, she sees an eagle , which tries in vain to get to safety at the altar from the attacking hawk , and then surrenders to it without will.

After the advice of the canons to approach the gods in humility, a dialogue ensues between Atossa and the choir, in which Atossa asks him about Athens and its customs. When she was told that Athens had no ruler, she responded with incomprehension.

Now a messenger appears who - commented on the lamentation of the choir and later in conversation with Atossa - tells in detail about the shameful sinking of the Persian fleet, which only Xerxes survived with a few faithful. After his and Atossa's departure, the choir broke out again in lamentations, pointing out the innumerable mothers who had been hit by bitter suffering, the newly married women who are now widows - but also the loss of the ships and the embarrassing flight of the ruler. Even in Asia the peoples are now refusing to pay tribute .

Atossa returns simply dressed to summon her dead husband Darius with the support of the choir. He is allowed to return from the dead for a short time. In a conversation with Atossa he denounced the iniquity of Xerxes, who wanted to tie the sea with chains by building a bridge on the holy Hellespont and thus presumptuously challenged the god Poseidon himself. But he also deplores the blasphemous, desolate destruction of the sanctuaries and the robbery of the images of gods as acts of pride , which will still have to be atone for through dire suffering. With the request to receive his son worthy of a king , he sinks back into the ground.

After the choir praises the wise Darius, who reigned with insight and wisdom, Xerxes finally appears himself, in torn clothes and with an empty quiver in his hand. Lamenting his fate and struggling with himself, he approaches the choir, which accuses him of having sent the prime of his people down into the realm of the dead, Hades . Xerxes sees himself defeated by a god and the piece ends in bitter wailing between him and the choir.

Structure of the piece

"The Persians": Who appears and when?

The Persians can be divided into 5 scenes. At first only the choir and choir leader are on stage. Then Atossa joins them. She has a long dialogue with the choir leader. When the messenger arrives, Atossa has a dialogue with him, the choir leader is silent. Only when the messenger has left does the choir leader speak again, to Atossa. In the fourth scene Atossa has a long dialogue with Darius' ghost, while the choir leader is silent as long as the ghost is present. In the last scene, when Xerxes appears, only the choir and choir leader are on stage.

Work history

Aeschylus ' work "The Persians" is based on the historical defeat of the Persian great king Xerxes I in the sea ​​battle of Salamis in 480 BC. BC , in which Aeschylus himself participated on the Greek side. It is also based stylistically on the work "The Phönissen" (= The Phoenicians ) by Phrynichos . It was founded in 472 BC. Chr. First performed and at the Dionysia awarded the first prize. Together with the lost tragedies Phineus and Glaukos Potnieus and the satyr play Prometheus Pyrkaios , it formed a tetralogy .

The tragedy The Persians is considered to be an outstanding example of how the triumphant enemy does not have to be belittled, but through the artful reflection of the "opposite side" in the midst of the whole tragedy of his defeat can. Not one's own actions, but the deeds of the gods, enraged by iniquity and hubris , decide the fate of the tragic hero Xerxes, whose people, the Persians , are seen here as sister people .

German translations

A well-known translation of the material into German comes from Lion Feuchtwanger , which Annie Rosar premiered as a recitation on March 23, 1916 in Munich . In addition, many other translations were made in the 20th century, e.g. B. von Oskar Werner (1940), Ernst Buschor (1953), M. Braun (1961), Dietrich Ebener (1976 and other), Wolfgang Schadewaldt (1983) and G. Kelling (1993). The poetic, theatrical version of Durs Grünbein (2001) was finally followed by a more philological translation by Kurt Steinmann (2017). The most common, however, is likely to be Emil Staiger's translation from Reclam's universal library. Peter Witzmann provided an up-to-date translation in 1992 with his interlinear translation . In a revision by Heiner Müller, this became the subject of more recent performances - including in June 2008 in Braunschweig as part of the “ Theaterformenfestival .

The material was further adapted by the composer Klaus Lang , who arranged it as a work for music theater , which was premiered on June 14, 2003 at the Aachen Theater under the direction of Paul Esterházy . A few days later the music theater version by Frederic Rzewski followed in Bielefeld. In July 2009, Dimiter Gotscheff repeated his famous Persian performance from the Deutsches Theater from 2007 at the Epidauros Festival in Greece.

Claudia Bosse staged "The Persians" with 3 different concepts and architectures in 3 different cities. 2006 in Geneva with 180 choir participants and four protagonists, the same year in Vienna with 12 choir participants and three protagonists, and in 2008 in Braunschweig, where the choir of 340 people was and together with four protagonists and 230 spectators, the stage of the State Theater in Braunschweig shared . The material was also part of Claudia Bosses "2481 desaster zone" in October 2009 in Vienna.

Marcus Lobbes staged it in October 2010 at Theater Dortmund ; In 2011, Karen Breece took over the project management with a performance as part of a so-called “urban space project” by the Münchner Kammerspiele in the former Bayern barracks in Freimann .

Radio play adaptations

Speakers: Liselotte Schreiner , Friedrich Domin , Mario Adorf , Benno Sterzenbach , Rolf Boysen , Otto Brüggemann , Leo Bardischewski , Alois Maria Giani , Rolf Illig , Erich Neureuther and Fritz Strassner . Length: 78'50.



  • Dietrich Böer: Aeschylus. The Persians. Basics and thoughts to understand the drama. Compiled for school use. Frankfurt a. M., Berlin, Munich, 1972.
  • Karl Deichgräber : The Persian tetralogy of Aeschylus. With an appendix: Aeschylus' Glaukos Pontios and Leon. In: Academy of Sciences and Literature: Treatises of the humanities and social science class. Born in 1974.
  • Wilhelm Kierdorf : Experience and representation of the Persian Wars. Studies on Simonides, Pindar, Aeschylus and the Attic orators. Göttingen, 1966.
  • Siegfried Melchinger : The theater of tragedy. Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides on the stage of their time. Munich, 1974.
  • Ann N. Michelini: Tradition and dramatic Form in the Persians of Aeschylus. Leiden, 1982.
  • Gustav Adolf Seeck : Dramatic structures of the Greek tragedy: Investigations on Aeschylus. Munich, 1984.
  • Ways to Aeschylus. Volume Two: The Individual Dramas. Edited by Hildebrecht Hommel . Darmstadt, 1974.


supporting documents

  1. The Choir of the Persians. Retrieved May 13, 2018 .
  2. ^ Witzmann on the website of the TU Dresden ( Memento from May 9, 2010 in the Internet Archive ); ;
  3. ^ Forms of musical theater. Dissonance (Swiss music magazine), accessed on December 3, 2018 .
  4. ^ Probably as the German premiere of the piece composed in 1985. - Frieder Reininghaus: 'Persian' boom in opera: premieres of a music theater by Klaus Lang in Aachen and by Frederic Rzewski in Bielefeld. Deutschlandfunk, June 24, 2003, accessed December 3, 2018 .
  5. Hartmut Krug: The Persians - Dimiter Gotscheff staged Aeschylus' The Persians again. Retrieved May 13, 2018 .
  6. theatercombinat: die perser / les perses. Retrieved November 26, 2019 .
  7. Stefan Bläske: 2481 disaster zone - The Persians, Coriolan, Bambiland mixed into the ultimate tragedy. Retrieved May 13, 2018 .
  8. Sarah Heppekausen: The Persians - Marcus Lobbes sets the scene for images of Western ideas. Retrieved May 13, 2018 .
  9. Sabine Leucht: The Persians - Johan Simons lets asylum seekers and senior citizens sit on sandbags at the Münchner Kammerspiele. Retrieved May 13, 2018 .