Saturday, March 17, 2007

Persian or Muslim?

In this article Victor Davis Hanson calls attention to the Islamic Republic of Iran's ironic condemnation of the recently released film "300". He also points out that the Greek city state of Thespia lost more than twice the number (700) killed in the battle at Thermopylae than the Spartans 300.
The film’s producers must be delighted at the furor of the Iranian government. But how odd! The Islamic Republic believes that history started in the 7th century with Islam, so why all of a sudden are they harkening back 1100 years to infidel Persia?

In this regard, when an unpopular government like the mullacracy wishes to rally Iranians around getting the bomb, it usually appeals to nationalism, in the manner a despised Stalin after the June, 1941 Nazi invasion, suddenly began talking of Mother Russia rather than the Soviet Union.

It is true that Xerxes in Herodotus’s account is bearded, seated on a throne, fully masculine, and a somewhat tragic figure who weeps at the fragility of the human condition. But the Iranians should at least be happy that their ancestral king was not shown decapitating Leonidas, or ordering the eldest son of Pythius to be cut in half, the torso put on one side of the royal way, the legs on the other, or having the waters of the Hellespont lashed and branded—in other words, there is an entire corpus in Herodotus of antidotes [anecdotes?] that might make the King seem far worse and sillier than the comic-book portrayal in the movie.

It is true that the surviving story of Thermopylae is from Greek sources only (Herodotus, various works of Plutarch, Diodorus, etc.), but that fact too illustrates the difference between an autocratic imperial east and the decentralized and autonomous city-state in which history was not merely the deeds of an autocrat chiseled on stone honorific monuments.

No comments: