HE.S.T.A.F.T.A. - Scientific Society of Mental Health Professionals


  • Katia CharalabakiPsychiatrist, Family Psychotherapist, coordinating director of Family Therapy Unit of Attica Psychiatric Hospital

Translation:  Sophia Charalabaki

First: The play was performed in 472 BC, about a decade after the two catastrophes of Athens by the Persians and the victories for the Greek naval battle of Salamis. Outside the Dionysus Theater there are still ruins and burned wood. They are visible to viewers in an open theatre - and even in a landscape that is still a landscape of war.

Several viewers are blatant warriors. Others have lost their intimate faces from Persian arrows. Those who play the Persian elders of the Dance are former gunmen and sailors of the Athenians. The landscape of the show combines with the true landscape. The terrible voices of the invaders 8 and 18 years ago sound like voices of lamentation. But Athenian citizens are singing his lamentation. "Although the project manipulates the realities of history and Persia, it nevertheless asks the audience to stand sympathetic to the Asian Enemy," writes Rush Rehm, a professor of theatre and class studies at Stanford University.

All this tragic undertaking presents the concept of "empathy” (a deeper understanding of “the other”), as we say in psychotherapy, which in this case translates as a human acquaintance of the winner with the feelings of the loser. "Familiarization" was said by Pythagoras to be “the ability to feel the pain (but also the joy) of the other as ours”.

The framework of the project is, indeed, impressive, brave and magnanimous. The winners (Athenians, Aeschylus) mourn for the defeated Persians, experience the strange pain and represent it.

Second: How do the Persians learn about the complete destruction of their army and fleet? From the Athenian Agency, the BBC or CNN? Of course not. Nor do they learn from angels or fires sending messages.

Aeschylus recruits the unconscious to bring the news to the Persians: Atosa's dreams and the collective illusion of the Dance of the Yeron Archons, who bring a dead man, Darius, to speak and predict. Aeschylus' relatively harsh speech, without Sophocles' tragic dilemmas or Euripides' psychological portraits, highlights a writer with profound and innovative psychological thoughts for his time. Thousands of years before Freud talks about the importance of the dream and its effect on behavior, Queen Athos narrates and interprets her dream of the rivalry of Europe and Asia.

Third: Gregory Bateson, an important thinker of the systemic psychotherapeutic approach, in anthropological studies with his spouse, top social anthropologist Margaret Mead, described the concept of "schismogenesis" by observing the "schism" in neighboring tribes, neighbours in generaland people in extremely close relationships.

In the complementary schismogenesis the relations that are formed are domination-subordination, assistance-dependence, exhibition-voyeurism, leading to enslavement.

In symmetrical schismogenesis there is competition or rivalry, leading to war.

In both aspects, the concept of schismogenesis refers to the concept of envy, according to Melanie Klein. This is the paranoid-schizophrenic position, where the infant wants to "drain" the mother's breast, control and "suck", thus destroying the mother - the "other". If he stays as an adult in this position, he will be a wretched man, martial, without love and concern for the good of others.

However, as Melanie Klein described, the baby would later have to go through the depressed position whereby she would recognize her mother (the other) as a person who can love and care for her own good, which means, an adult who has embraced the concept of diversity, solidarity and humanism.

In “the Persians”, we see the winning Greeks being in the most mature "depressing position" that one can imagine, since they care and sympathize with their own enemy in the war.

The interest is that the relationship between the Greeks and the Persians was not just a relation of rivalry and war (symmetrical). At the same time, it was complementary and interethnic.

It is no coincidence to observe how many great Greeks of the time found shelter within the Persian Empire:

Dimaratos: King of Sparta around 500 BC, came into complete conflict with the other king (Sparta had two kings from two different families reigning consecutively). He left and went to Xerxes' yard. In 480 BC, his political and military advisor came with him on the Xerxes campaign in Greece.

Artemisia: As her name suggests, she was a Greek woman with a Cretan mother who was a satrap of the surrounding islands and the only woman of the Persian admirals in Salamis. She advised Xerxes not to fight there. Herodotus, her countryman from Halicarnassus, praised her for her excellent naval skills.

Panayos the Savior: Admiral of Tinos, arrived in Salamis by participating in the Persian fleet. On the evening of the naval battle, he joins the Athenian fleet with his trireme.

Themistocles: The triumphant of Salamis. His great influence caused envy, triggered his philosophical opponents, headed by Kimon, outlawed in the same year as the Aeschylus Persian. He fled first to Macedonia and immediately afterwards to Persia, where he eventually committed suicide.

After the Aeschylus tragedy has risen, the same phenomenon is repeated:

Alcibiades: A genius Athenian politician and general but also an adventurer. After his repeated changes as a general of the Athenians or the Spartans during the Peloponnesian War, he offers his services to the Grand King of Persia, where he is murdered by the Persians.

Xenophon: An oligarch and philanderer Athenian, participated as a mercenary in the campaign of the Persian prince of Cyrus, against King Artaxerxes II. The book "Cyrus Ascending", known to many as “The Lyceum”, arose from this experience.

Translator’s note (*This historical book consists of seven books. It is written in a purely Attic dialect and is considered remarkable in the description of a great military enterprise of antiquity.) (**”Ascent” means the course of a troop from the sea to the interior of a country, and “descent” is the exact opposite.)

Fourth: There are three influential Persian characters present in the work: Atossa (Darius' widow and Xerxes' mother), Xerxes (the highly adventurous and persistent King of the Persians), and the deceased Darius (formerly glorious for victories against the Greek Persian leader).

Here we see that Xerxes, alone with his mother, becomes dangerous and destructive. In a modern context, he would be referred to as a “young scoundrel”. Only when Darius appears on stage as the living ghost of the dead father, does Xerxes begin to touch reality.

According to Lacan, every child who is in a symbiotic relationship with their mother can enter the real world only through the "Father's Name". The "Father's Name" introduces the child into the meaning of the Law, Reality and Symbolic order. And the Law of Darius is clear in the text of Aeschylus. In the question of the dance "How Will Better Days Come for Persia?” Darius’ Law's answer is: "If you don’t have a war in the place of the Greeks, you will never have (better days)," (p. 784).

Xerxes, under Darius' Father's name, leaves the position of "young scoundrel" and acts as the king of Persia, in the position of his father.

Fifth: In the Homeric epics there are references to pathological psychological states, which are always caused by the gods. For example, the depression and woe of Aiah due to the weapons of the dead Achilles being given to Odysseus, or the bloody illusions of Penelope’s suitors in the Odyssey. In both cases, Athena had caused them.

“The Persians” of Aeschylus is the first case in the European Secretariat where it refers to a psychological illness as a disease."Drowning Disease" (f. 744), Darius mentions his son and attributes it to the "youthfulness of youth" (f. 738) and to "the grief of the bravura" (v. 825). It does not attribute it to a divine will, it does not characterize Xerxes as harmed by the gods, but on the contrary as "the theologian" (f. 825), that is, a man who himself damages the gods. Furthermore, the Athenian tragedy raises the wider issue of the catalytic effect that a person's disturbed personality may have on bloody and devastating moments of human history - and more broadly the relationship between psychology and politics.

Half a century before Hippocrates spoke of a "frenzy," Aeschylus and the Persians set the foundation stone of a prominent branch of medicine, psychiatry.

As an epistle: The Persian conversation with each other and the other level of logical order, through the “Persian” project of Aeschylus, the communication of the Greeks with the Persians and the representation of their pain, remind us of a modern reality: Facebook and other social media networks.

In the project everyone laments or yells at someone, as did Xerxes, for example. There is anger and pain, but there is no prospect.

So too on facebook, one comes in contact with rage and screaming, but, apart from some exceptions (Arab Spring, Yellow Vests), one does not see prospect.

However, of course, in today's Greece of Crisis (one of the centers of the World Crisis) one can observe the Greeks crying and cursing, but for now (and hopefully only for the time being) they do not see, or, from the wounds they have suffered, they no longer have the moral and the sense of trust to look for perspective.


Aeschylus, Persia, Cackt Publishing, 1991, Translation Tassos Roussos

Bateson, G. (1972). Steps to an Ecology of Mind. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, London.

Klein, M. (1975). Envy and Gratitude and Other Works 1946-1973. The Free Press.

Lacan, J. (1964-1965). XII Seminar. Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis. On the Internet: http://www.lacan.com/seminars2.htm.

Lacan, J. (1975-1976). XXIII Seminar, The Sinthome. On the Internet: http://www.Lacanonline.com/index/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Seminar

Rehm Rush, Radical Theater: The Greek Tragedy and the Mondern World, Duckworth, 1993

Thumiger Chiara, A History of Mind and Mental Health in Classical Medical Thought, Cambridge University Press, 2018

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ARTICLE 6/ ISSUE 14, April 2019

Systemic Thinking and Some Concerns about its Implementation

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