chapter  4
Greeks and Persians
West against East
BySimon Hornblower
Pages 14

My story is of war (polemos, πλεµς) between West and East, specifically between the Greeks (Hellenes) and the Persians (whom the Greeks sometimes called ‘Medes’, even though Medes and Persians were ethnically distinct). This story has its origins in ancient myth rather than history proper, and developed over many centuries. By the story’s end, the participants had changed their identity completely: the Romans had inherited the role of the Greeks, and the Achaemenid Persians had been identified with the Parthians (and after that with the Sasanid Persians). Long though it is, the theme of East and West is itself a mere episode in a larger phenomenon, which in the second millennium AD became that of ‘Orientalism’, the Western conception of the Orient.1