Next on my list was the rest of Aeschylus. The remaining plays being Persians, Seven Against Thebes, Suppliants, and Prometheus Bound.

Persians is a recounting of a Persian defeat at the hands of the Greeks from the perspective of the Persian count when they first hear the news. Interestingly, Aeschylus was actually present during the conflict and so it is generally assumed that his portrayal of events is at least somewhat accurate. It reads like some elaborate ancient theatrical equivalent of tea-bagging. The only thing that really caught my eye was a brief segment where it is explained that Persia and Greece are sister nations, born of the same parentage. Linguistic evidence certainly supports this, Persian and Greek both being Indo-European languages. I just find it somewhat surprising that they were still vaguely aware of their common ancestry and that they were willing to acknowledge such a kinship with a nation they were continually at war with.

Seven Against Thebes is the story of Oedipus' sons' fight for control of Thebes. They were unable to rule together peacefully on account of their cursed parentage. The bulk of the play is spent describing who will defend which of the seven gates against a corresponding number of enemy commanders in elaborate detail. The actual battle is mostly skipped over in the text. The story resumes after the battle, the defenders having won but the two brothers having killed one another. Because of the characters involved, I probably would have gotten more out of this if I had already read Antigone and the Oedipus plays first. Fortunately, those are all first up when I move on to Sophocles next. On a sad note for any Japanophiles who may read it, however, this play definitely undermines a lot of the claims regarding the stunning originality of Seven Samurai. But classic literature does that to pretty much everything.

Suppliants picks up the story of Io, the girl who was turned into a cow by Hera so that Zeus wouldn't sleep with her only to have Zeus turn himself into a bull simply to sleep with her anyway, several generations later. Io had wandered to Egypt in cow form where she was made human again. She had Zeus human-ish child. Several generations later, one of her descendants returns to Greece with his daughters in order to avoid forced marriages to Egyptian noblemen who happened to be their cousins. The people of Argos and their king choose to defend them when the Egyptians show up and they all presumably live happily ever after. The story is a pretty strong condemnation of involuntary marriage. It also serves as a kind of founding myth for Argos as well as an explanation of Greece's supposed kinship to Egypt.

Prometheus Bound opens with, well, the binding of Prometheus in "unbreakable" chains by order of Zeus. Though he helped Zeus in his glorious revolution against Cronus and the other Titans, Zeus became enraged when Prometheus gave mankind knowledge of fire and mastery over his own thoughts. The bulk of the story is told by means of Prometheus recounting his story to Io who just happened to wander by in cow form. Zeus is described as something of a power-mad tyrant and a fool who would not have won against the Titans without Prometheus' advice. Given how strongly this clashes with normal depictions of Zeus, even Aeschylus' own depictions in his other plays, I really wonder how well this played with its contemporary audience. On the surface it seems like blasphemy. But can a society that continually reworks the stories of its gods as popular entertainment really have a sense of blasphemy like us silly moderns? Probably not.