Tag Archives: Dionysia

Ancient Tragedy

– Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles

Aeschylus (c. 525-456 BC)

Aeschylus

The first of the three classical playwrights of 5th-century Athens, Aeschylus was born near Athens in 525 BCE, in the village of Eleusis. His father was called Euphorion, and was of noble descent. As a young man Aeschylus would have been influenced by two historic events: the exile of Hippias, a dictator, in 510 BC, and the establishment of democracy in Athens under Cleisthenes in 508 BC.

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Aristophanes

 – Master of Comedy

The birth year of Aristophanes (c. 448-385 BC), the great comic playwright and poet of Athens, is uncertain. He is known to have been about the same age as Eupolis, and is said to have been “almost a boy” when his first comedy (The Banqueters, since lost) was brought out in 427 BC.

Poster for The Birds, by Aristophanes, for a performance at Cambridge University. Public domain.
Poster for The Birds, by Aristophanes, for a performance at Cambridge University. Public domain.

Although tragedy and comedy had their common origin in the festivals of Dionysus, the regular establishment of tragedy at Athens preceded by half a century that of comedy. This initial period of comedy is called the Old Comedy and may be said to have lasted about 80 years (470-390 BC). Of the forty poets who are named as having illustrated it the chief were Cratinus, Eupolis and Aristophanes. Continue reading Aristophanes