Aeschylus was the author of a famous trilogy of Greek plays titled Agamemnon.  These plays take place right after the ancient Trojan War and it gives us some insight on how the Greeks, but more specifically, Aeschylus viewed the war.

War was a central theme in Greek culture, and the context of the play enforces this idea. Men who left their homes and went off to war, gained favor and honor wherever they went for their bravery and courage. They also increased their own wealth by carrying off captive slaves and loot from conquered townships. The Greek gods  would also sometimes choose to honor a particular individual during the war. So war was viewed as an opportunity to gain favor in the sight of their peers, as well as to gain honor from the gods.

In fact, war was so central and important in Greek culture that even the old men who were no longer able to go to war, felt shame in not participating. They felt  basically useless and disgraced for having to stay at home with the women and children. To illustrate my point, here is an excerpt from Aeschylus’s play Agamemnon:

“But as for us, whose old bodies confer no honor, who were left behind when the army sailed so long ago, we wait here, using up our strength to support ourselves with canes, like children, whose power, though growing in their chests, is not yet fit for Ares, god of war. And so it is with old men, too, who, when they reach extreme old age, whither like leaves, and go their way three-footed, no better than a child, as they wander like a daydream.

Aeschylus, in his play, also portrayed the Greek women’s view of war. Certainly they thought that their men were very brave for going off to war to fight, but they didn’t like them being gone for very long. For once they left for an extended period of time, they became restless and anxious. They did not like to think of their men being away from home and the possibility of them being with someone else.

In his plays, Aeschylus points out the centrality and importance of war and revenge in Greek culture. Men needed a  purpose in life, and that purpose was defending justice.


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