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Literature on the Persian Empire examined at lecture


07 February 2013



Dr. Ewald says human nature reflected in Persian history


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LONDON, (CAIS) -- Modern scholars who read literature about the ancient Persian Empire can learn about human nature as a whole, according to Dr. Owen Ewald in the 2013 C. May Marston Lecture on Tuesday.


“This talk overall is a cautionary tale of looking at empires from third parties,” said Ewald, an assistant professor of classics and C. May Marston professor at Seattle Pacific.


Marston taught language classes at Seattle Pacific College from 1902 to 1947.


Ancient writings from the Persian Empire are scarce, and writings from other empires or civilizations are usually biased, said Ewald in his lecture titled “Reading the Persian Empire.”

“A lot of the Greek sources are fairly biased, or they have other agendas,” Ewald said.


Most of the original writings from the Persian Empire have been destroyed by time, Ewald said. When Alexander the Great conquered the Persians, there’s evidence he held his army back from destroying Persian cities.


Despite this, some original writings and art from the Persians have survived, Ewald said.


In particular, Ewald frequently referred to images and writings carved into the side of a cliff that depict a Persian conquest.

“The Persians cared enough about the enduring power of words that they carved into a high cliff words that can still be read two millennia later,” Ewald said.

Ewald talked about the Old Testament books of Nehemiah and Esther that reference the Persian Empire.

The story of Esther shows that Persian kings were benevolent towards the Jewish people, Ewald said.

Ewald also spoke about modern literature that references the Persian Empire, like Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Persepolis.

In Persepolis, Satrapi depicted the Shah of Iran claiming a lineage to Persian rulers of the past.

Sophomore Joshua Johnson said he appreciated hearing how the Persian Empire played a part in Biblical history.

Sophomore Kyle Nicholas said he enjoyed hearing from different literature about the Persian Empire.

“The thing that Dr. Ewald is strongest at is reading sources from all times,” Nicholas said. “It brings much more of a robust setting.”

Nicholas also said that Ewald’s comments on the Old Testament applied to his faith.

“[It has] practical applications for a Christian school,” Nicholas said.



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  Dr. Owen Ewald

(Click to enlarge)

Owen Ewald, Ph.D., grew up in Washington, D.C., a city with abundant Greco-Roman-inspired architecture. After reading historian J. David Bolter's work Turing's Man, he studied Latin for 17 years, Greek for 13 years, and some Sanskrit. He received a doctorate in classics from the University of Washington in 1999, and his dissertation explored Roman historiography. His articles on ancient funerary practices, ancient roads, and Vergil's rhyme schemes have appeared in Athenaeum, Bryn Mawr Classical Review, and Harvard Studies in Classical Philology. Dr. Ewald has taught Latin, Greek, classical literature, ancient history, and art history at Seattle Pacific University since 2001 and was named to the C. May Marston Professorship in 2005. 

In the 2013 C. May Marston Lecture, Dr. Ewald will examine Persian realities and representations in ancient and modern literature. Although Persia was one of the largest empires in human history before its conquest by Alexander II of Macedon, it remains an enigma. Since few Persian documents have not survived, we see Persia mostly through the eyes of others, especially its Greek subjects, such as the Histories of Herodotus, or Greek opponents, such as the sources for Arrian’s Anabasis. Modern novels such as Stephen Pressfield’s Gates of Fire and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis have also taken up the challenge of depicting ancient Persia. Professor Ewald will juxtapose modern and classic literature to bring to life this neglected classical civilization.

The Marston Lecture Est. 1991
The annual Marston Lecture at Seattle Pacific University is presented by the faculty member appointed to the C. May Marston professorship, named in honor of C. May Marston, whose influence extends back to the earliest years of Seattle Pacific. During a remarkable 45 years as a faculty member, Dr. Marston instilled a love for language through her classes in Latin, Greek, French, German and English. The quintessential scholar, Dr. Marston was a methodical drillmaster whose sharp sense of humor, deep concern for students and simplicity of faith won over many a reluctant intellect..










Extracted From/Source: The Falcon [*]




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