Persian king a barbarian: Parsis are not amused


March 19, 2007

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Unknown to many, Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster of the year 300 , which has caused a major uproar in Shia Iran because of its depiction of a historical battle, denigrates a much-revered Persian king, who was a Parsi by birth.

Parsis in Mumbai said they are not surprised — Western history has always portrayed their ancestors as “barbarians”.

King Xerxes of the Achaemenian dynasty is depicted as a barbarian, whose army fought the Spartans in 480 BC at Thermopylae.

Khojeste Mistree, a religious scholar who conducts tours to Iran every year, said, “As they say, history is written by the victors not the vanquished.

Yet again, we have another Hollywood blockbuster showing Hellenic triumph and glory. It may interest you to know that the word barbarian in original Greek usage, meant a foreigner who spoke no Greek.”

Mistree said, “Clearly Hollywood moguls are products of Western culture, which is based on the values found in Greek history and civilisation. Little do they realise the profound contribution that Zoroastrianism and the Magii (Zoroastrian priests) had on Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, and indeed, the religious thought of the time.”

Achaemenian kings like Cyrus and Darius the Great gave a new meaning to the phrase “religious tolerance” by enforcing human rights 25 centuries before this concept was enshrined in the United Nations’ charter, he said.

Another Mumbai-based scholar Adi Doctor said kings like Xerxes were “generous and tolerant to a fault”.

“Today’s film-makers act according to their whims and fancies by not only distorting history, but projecting the benevolent historical characters as savages and barbarians.” Iranian consul general in Mumbai, Mohammad Shokrani, said the film is a “clear distortion of Iranian history, as well as the world’s history”.

“The movie has levelled inadmissible attributes to a great nation with a glorious history,”he said.

US-based Maneck Bhujwala said, “Is it our current political antagonism towards Iran that encouraged the movie director to misrepresent Persians as monsters or was it total ignorance of history? The standing ruins of Persepolis, the palace of King Darius the Great clearly shows elegant looking carvings of King Xerxes I and Persian soldiers, that are nothing like the punk-rock looking character in the movie. And, the director is quoted as saying that he and his studio staff discussed calling the ‘bad guys’ Zoroastrians instead of Persians in light of the political sensitivities. This is even worse, and most offensive to all Zoroastrians who follow the oldest monotheistic religion founded by Zarathushtra.”

Original article here.