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Other titles in the Bloomsbury Studies in Classical Reception series:
Imagining Xerxes: Ancient Perspectives on a Persian King (Bloomsbury Studies in Classical Reception)by Emma Bridges
Synopses & Reviews
Xerxes, the Persian king who invaded Greece in 480 BC, quickly earned a notoriety which endured throughout antiquity and beyond. The onslaught of this eastern king upon Greek territory, culminating in the burning of Athens, ensured that the character of Xerxes soon found his way into the Greek cultural encyclopaedia as a symbol of arrogance, hubris and cruelty. The Xerxes-tradition is rich in episodes which have captured the imagination of writers throughout antiquity and into modern times, including the crossing of the Hellespont, the battles of Thermopylae and Salamis, and the destruction of Athens.
The earliest ancient Greek sources created an image of a figure to be both feared and mocked by those for whom the experience of the Persian Wars was a key moment in their own self-definition. Within this rhetorical framework Xerxes was constructed as the antitype of the virtuous Greeks who had resisted his attempt to enslave them. In later traditions this image was revisited, adapted and, in some cases, contradicted.
Imagining Xerxes is a transhistorical analysis bringing together the disparate cultural responses to the Persian king; it includes an evaluation of his portrayal in historiographical works by Herodotus and Ctesias and in the literary representations of Aeschylus, the Athenian orators, the Roman poetic tradition and Plutarch. It also considers evidence which goes beyond the Hellenocentric view, such as extant Persian epigraphic and artistic sources and the Jewish tradition.
From the image of the tyrannical yet effeminate bully seen in Aeschylus Persae, to the official picture of the rightful king portrayed in Persian inscriptions, or the cruel and enslaving despot who transgresses boundaries seen in the historical and oratorical tradition, Xerxes is a figure who has been reinvented in a remarkable variety of cultural and literary contexts.
Analysing these reinventions, this title examines the reception of a key figure in the ancient world: one whose image was in many cases inextricably bound up with notions of how the receiving societies imagined and defined themselves.
About the Author
Emma Bridges is an Associate Lecturer in Classics at the Open University, UK.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Encountering Xerxes
1. Staging Xerxes: Aeschylus and beyond
2. Historiographical enquiry: the Herodotean Xerxes-narrative
3. Xerxes in his own write? The Persian perspective
4. Pride, panhellenism and propaganda: Xerxes in the fourth century BC
5. The king at court: alternative (hi)stories of Xerxes
6. The past as a paradigm: Xerxes in a world ruled by Rome
Epilogue: Re-imagining Xerxes
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