Scholars tend to agree that Aeschylus' choice of material for the Persae was overdetermined: the battle at Salamis and its lead-up constituted a moment of the highest trauma and pride for the Athenian demos, one that could be accommodated to a well-known narrative framework (that of great pride followed by a great fall) and exploited as an exploration of the relations between (Athenian) Greek and Persian other. But in this essay I propose to set aside the tragedy's ethical or ethno-political engagements. I want to focus instead on its auditory aesthetics—what it says about sound, and how it works with it. I think that the Persae is intensely and persistently engaged with sound; so much so, in fact, that at moments it comes closer than any other Athenian drama to a kind of ‘absolute’ music. In the final 40 lines of the play, for example, when extralinguistic cries increasingly predominate, the ‘script’ starts to read more like a score, prescribing the timbral and rhythmic part of a music whose pitches have been lost. Though I will not treat its engagements with the Persian ‘other’ directly, I do think that the Persae's interest in sound is related to its choice of setting and theme. Locating the action in Persia allowed Aeschylus to explore a poetic diction that could flirt with the thick edge of signification by invoking linguistic otherness; this facilitated a way of writing in which the materiality of language, that is, its status as sound, could become more palpable. In choosing to depict the Persian court as it learns the news of the defeat at Salamis, Aeschylus had the opportunity to represent an extreme form of lamentation, and by ideologically jacking up the stakes and transforming one military defeat into the fall of an empire, Aeschylus could go to the limits of language and beyond: the play ends with an extraordinary near-abandonment of signifying language in favour of non-verbal cries. Finally, Aeschylus' version of the battle of Salamis included the Greeks using sound as a psychological tactic; the story of the battle that is the kernel around which the play crystallised was itself a story of sound and its effects.