As some of the following notes bring to the illustration of Aeschylus material gathered from Persian sources, they may seem to require a word or two of preface.
When the Persae was produced, in 472 B.C., a large section of the Greek people was still in process of delivery from Persian rule, to which it had been subject for more than half a century. Persians may not have been very numerous on the Ionian seaboard and the islands, but they were the ruling class, and any eastern Greek would know quite well how they lived and how they behaved; some too had been privileged to study them at close quarters, for the Ionian ships in Xerxes' fleet carried as ἐπιβάται, Persians or Medes or Sacae (Her. 7. 184). In Athens itself, for many years before Plataea, Persia had been a subject of the most painful and pressing interest: every Athenian must have desired to know all about these Persians; and if he had no Ionian friends to ask, there were many of his countrymen who had visited Asia or even helped to sack Sardis, and the spoils of Marathon were before his eyes. After Plataea, if the desire to know was less pressing, the opportunity of knowledge was even greater, for Athenian fleets were busy in the work of liberation. And the very production of this play proves that the interest was alive.