The Persian Version by Robert Graves: Summary and Analysis

Robert Graves, one of the veterans of the First World War, wrote this poem during the the Second World War. Written from the point of view of the Persians or from the point of view of the vanquished, this poem is a marginal point of view. So, this history is not a story, but is a high-story. The Persian version of history of the battle of Marathon is a counterattack on the Greek version of history.

Robert Graves (1895-1985)

The Battle of Marathon was fought in 490 BC. It was fought between Greek and Persia and in this war Greeks were the victors and the Persians were the vanquished. The victors always construct the negative history about the vanquished. The Greek accused that the Persians were not courageous, bold and self-motivated in the war. Therefore, they were defeated.

Presenting the history from the point of view of Persians, Robert Graves claims that the Persians were unified during the war, they had no weaknesses in the war. They had tried their best to save the monarch and the nation. In fact, the Persians had the salutary demonstration in the battle of Marathon.

 The speaker accepts that the weather was adverse, and attempts were ill starred, but defense was strong. Despite these adversities, the Persians had performed the best in the battlefield. Then, whatever story Greeks present of the Persians that is none other than the continuation of theatrical tradition. Greeks are good at producing drama and they have shown their expertise even in this case. By bringing the reference of theatrical tradition the speaker has used irony against the Greek claims.

The Persian Version is an ironic poem where the poet is absolutely against the war and uncovers the absurdity of any war. The nation which got victory collect some false piece of support for the cause of the victory, whereas the defeated nation too find any excuse for the loss. In the poem too, though the Greeks blame Persians for being weak and laughed at them on their defeat, the Persians justify that they have “All arms combined magnificently together,” despite the loss and many human casualties. This is what Graves did not like about war. Both sides of the country have their own justification, but they don’t agree that overall war is futile. It does no good to anyone. He made a joke on the arms and artillery of the war when he ironically states that Persians claim that ‘All arms combined magnificently together.’ When war is lost what is the use and benefits of showing and justifying the cause of loss. As the absurdity and futility of the war is obvious, why the countries are showing the fake and so-called power to the each other. Graves had an exceptional view on the idea of truth in war:  He realizes that truth in war is just an illusion made to calm one side.  The Greeks may have written the history on their favor; but through Graves’ piece, it seems that the Persians have their own history of war, justifying themselves that the defeat was not as shameful as the Greeks prove to the world.

Related Topics

Down, Wanton, Down!: Summary and Analysis

Robert Graves: Biography