Aeschylus (c.525 BC to c.456 BC) was one of the three
great Greek tragic dramatists whose works have survived. Of his many
plays, seven still remain. Aeschylus may have fought against the
Persians at Marathon (490 BC), and he did so again at Salamis (480 BC).
According to tradition, he died from being hit with a tortoise dropped
by an eagle. After his death, the Athenians, as a mark of respect,
permitted his works to be restaged in their annual competitions.
Aeschylus’ play The Persians was first produced
in 472 BC. It is the oldest surviving play in our traditions.
Persian armies launched two famous invasions against
the Greek main-land. The first (in 490 BC) was sponsored by Darius, king
of Persia. It ended at the Battle of Marathon close to Athens with a
Greek victory, in which the Athenians played the major role. The second
Persian expedition (in 480 BC) was sponsored and led by Xerxes, son of
Darius, who had succeeded his father as king, after Darius’ death.
A major reason for these invasions was to punish
Athens for its assistance to Greek cities in Asia Minor and on some of
the islands close by, an important part of the Persians’ sphere of
influence. These cities had close ethnic links to the Greeks, especially
to the Athenians, and resented Persian domination. Hence, they were a
source of conflict within the Persian Empire.