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Scholarship Analysis: Rosenbloom, Myth, History, and Hegemony in Aeschylus

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Apr. 17th, 2007 | 08:19 pm
posted by: lizbettinger in democracy105w

1. Why does Rosenbloom conclude that “the vision of [Aeschylus’] drama implies that naval hegemony, the form of war built upon it, the power derived from it, and most of all, the delusions of conquest and justice it supports, can be deleterious to the polis,” (Rosenbloom, 95)?
2. What do you believe are the connections between history, myth, and tragedy? Was Aeschylus trying to convey a particular message?

Summary and Analysis:

Rosenbloom begins his essay by quoting Geroges Duby who argues that a societies’ mores are built on objective or mythical representations of the past (Rosenbloom, 91). Rosenbloom finds Duby’s point poignant for Aeschylus’ tragedies, in that his tragedies depict the future as resulting from a narrative sense of history. The Athenians created a new mythic tradition for themselves, having been largely excluded from the heroic traditions of the past, in the theater. However, Rosenbloom points out that tragedy distorts history based on its conventions (Rosenbloom, 91).

Rosenbloom asserts that a fundamental ideology and “an inference from history” of the Greeks, and the Athenians in particular, is “the ideology of freedom” and that this ideology is expanded upon in Aeschylean tragedies (Rosenbloom, 91). Rosenbloom see Aeschylus’ tragedies as morality tales in how Athens should function (Rosenbloom, 98). Tragedy in general, Rosenbloom argues, was for the Athenians a means of envisioning themselves as the suffering of others in another time and place (Rosenbloom, 102). However, Aeschylus tragedies also deal with the reality of Athenian imperialism. Therefore, Rosenbloom also sees Aeschylus drama as trying to reconcile freedom with the material values of imperialism.

This leads Rosenbloom into his second point based on Herodotus’ belief that “freedom is a precondition for domination” in that while Athens saw itself as the “liberator of Hellas” it was an imperialist power (Rosenbloom, 92 and 99). In the Persians, Greece must defend itself against invasion by the Persian Empire. However, after the invasion and during the time of the plays performance the Athenians dominated the areas Xerexes failed to control in his naval battles. Thus, the Persians represents the change from military to naval power in Athens (Rosenbloom, 94). Indeed it was after the Persian Wars that Athens began to cement its ideology and tragedy first flourished with the arrival of the empire.

After analyzing various plays by Aeschylus, Rosenbloom ends with the anecdote that Aeschylus left Athens after losing to Sophocles (Rosenbloom, 117). Rosenbloom believes that the generals’ preference of Sophocles over Aeschylus is telling of the tone and messages of his plays which argued against Athenian naval and imperialist power. Rosenbloom devises that with the Eumenides, Aeschylus makes his political point; that the city should seek moderation in its power.

Word Count: 455

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