“The Persian Version”

            In the year 499 BC, Darius, ruler of Persia, decided to launch an attack on Greece.  Among the most famous battle of this Persian War was the battle of Marathon, which occurred on the plain of the same name.  The battle occurred between the army of Athens and the army of the Persians; the Athenians winning the day and forcing the Persian retreat.  This is what history us.  However, victors often write the history, which causes one to ponder a simple question:  How would the Persians tell the tale of the Battle of Marathon?  Robert Graves discusses this in his poem “The Persian Version.”
            Written sometime between 1938 and 1945, “The Persian Version” discusses how the Persians might have viewed this loss—and how they might have turned this otherwise damaging propaganda into positive publicity.  Graves writes: “The Persian monarch and the Persian nation/Won by this salutary demonstration:/Despite a strong defense and adverse weather/All arms combined magnificently together” and this suggests that perhaps Darius was off on a jaunt, playing a massive war-game, feeling that he was watching a show; that the battle was for his amusement only.  After all, the Persians already held many lands won from the Greeks, why would they need Greece itself?
The theme of this piece is that truth is the first casualty of any war.  A veteran of World War I and writing during World War II, Graves had a unique perspective on the concept of truth in war:  He knew, as most soldiers come to realize, that truth in war is nothing more than an illusion made to pacify one’s side.  The Greeks may have written the history; but through Graves’ piece, it seems the Persians may have the last laugh.


Read the poem (caution: off site)