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Date of Award

Winter 2024

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Johnston, Christine L.

Second Advisor

Garfinkle, Steven J.

Third Advisor

Cerretti, Josh


This thesis is an examination of the bias writers in the ancient world had in their portrayals of Achaemenid Persians, how that bias permeated the written record for thousands of years to influence twentieth and twenty-first century historians, and how the accumulated bias in turn became part of modern popular culture. Orientalism, the mechanism for studying and understanding the negative portrayal of the Middle East in European texts conceived of by Edward Said, is applied throughout this work when discussing modern sources. These portrayals are always negatively comparing the Eastern world to the Western with Europe as the positive – the West is logical, the East is superstitious; the West is chaste, the East is perverse, etc. Despite Said’s intention that this theory is intended for texts from the modern age, I apply it in an ahistorical manner to ancient sources, particularly Herodotus’s The Histories, as I argue that an Orientalist bias appeared before the European colonialization of the Middle East and Asia. In analyzing modern popular culture sources like the graphic novel and movie 300, the film Alexander, and others, I conclude that these sources embrace the Orientalist themes, particularly the concept that the East, which is primarily made up of Black and other people of color, are invaders set on destroying the Western world. Further, I argue that inherent in these portrayals is the repeated insistence that the East is homosexual, which is always cast as a negative, and that such biased depictions are harmful to modern populations.




Orientalism, Edward Said, Herodotus, South Park, Sparta


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subjects – Names (LCNAF)


Subject – LCSH

Orientalism in literature; Orientalism in motion pictures; Achaemenid dynasty,--559-330 B.C.; Civilization, Oriental




masters theses




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