Sophocles And Xerxes Analysis

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Themistocles and Xerxes appear to be different leaders, particularly in the Battle of Salamis. The leader of the Greek army Themistocles is pious and determined, and cares for his people. Xerxes, the leader of the Persian army, is hubristic and violent. Also, the Greek soldiers are loyal to their states, while the Persians are not necessarily loyal. Finally, Herodotus and Aeschylus both present the two sides of the battle in these ways, but do so differently. Themistocles takes care to listen to the oracle of Delphi before proceeding with battle plans. The oracle had been unclear in her message, saying only “safe shall the wooden wall continue for thee and thy children” (Herodotus 7.141). The Greeks placed great importance on the words of…show more content…
The king sometimes even appears to be mentally unbalanced in his actions. While Themistocles takes care to be respectful of religious icons like the oracle, Xerxes acts in the opposite way. Herodotus says “Darius, the son of Hystaspes, plotted to carry the statue off, but had not the hardihood to lay his hands upon it. Xerxes, however, the son of Darius, killed the priest who forbade him to move the statue, and took it away” (Herodotus 1.183). It is difficult to imagine Themistocles killing a priest, since the Greek leader appears so pious and respectful, but Xerxes dares even to kill a priest. In addition to Herodotus, Aeschylus shows Xerxes to be impious by saying “it awaits them to suffer the most abominable of evils as payment for their hybris and their godless thoughts. For in coming to the land of Hellas they did not shrink in reverence from plundering the statues of the theoi or to burn their temples” (Aeschylus 805-810). It must be noted that despite these important examples of Xerxes’ impiety, there are a few examples of how he is religiously devout, such as interpreting and following…show more content…
One Persian ship, the Artemisia, even rammed a friendly ship to save itself: “ Artemisia. . . . distinguished herself in such a way as raised her even higher than she stood before in the esteem of the king. [H]er ship was closely pursued by an Athenian trireme, she, having no way to fly, since in front of her were a number of friendly vessels . . . resolved on a measure which in fact proved her safety. Pressed by the Athenian pursuer, she bore straight against one of the ships of her own party” (Herodotus 8.87). Not only is the ship crew willing to take down members of their own army in order to save themselves, but this behavior is condoned by King Xerxes. Although this is only one example, it remains a demonstration of the Persian attitudes about loyalty. Additionally, many of the Persian soldiers were conscripted into Xerxes’ army, so they do not have that natural loyalty to the army that the Greek soldiers

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