Greek and Roman Theatre 500 BC-300 AD: History

Greek and Roman Theatre 500 BC-300 AD: History
Greek society-
This period in Greek history began with an unsuccessful attack by the Persians against the Athenians. Athens became powerful and was the birthplace of democracy, although slaves were held. The society was broken up between the free people and the slaves. At this same time Art literature, science and philosophy all flourished. Socrates was the philosopher of the day and tragedies were popular in theater. Society began to believe humans should live in moderation. It was believed humans, although free, would be punished by the gods for any undue pride.
Roman society-
In 215 BC the Romans began a campaign to conquer Greece. Politically they won, but personally the Romans preferred the Greek culture to theirs. Life in ancient Rome revolved around the city of Rome, the city of Rome was the largest megalopolis of that time, with a population that may well have exceeded one million people. The social structure of Rome revolved around the family. Slavery and slaves were a main part of the society. Slaves were mainly prisoners of war, but there were slave markets where people were bought and sold as slaves. At this time only non-slave men were allowed to vote. Women, children, and slaves were not allowed to vote.
In this time period there were many civil wars as well as many wars between Greeks, Romans, Persians, and many other empires which were trying to expand their empires. Around 40 BC Julius Caesar was the leader of the Roman Empire. Rome was growing and spreading through Europe at the time.
In the year 80 AD the Coliseum was completed after 8 years of building. The Roman culture was much more war-minded. If they wanted something they would take it by force. Their number one defense was their offense. This was also reflected in the people. They would go to the Coliseum to watch gladiators fight to the death or to watch them fight vicious animals like lions. A lot of their entertainment was based on fighting and strong physical competition.
Religion was a major part of Roman history. They believed all of their success was because of their good relations with the gods. During the Roman Republic their political leaders were often their religious leaders as well. They had augurs which would read the will of the gods by using dead animal organs. They would do many things based on what their augers read in the entrails. Their religion was based off of correct practice of prayer, sacrifices, and rituals. They would burn offerings to the gods, build temples and shrines to the gods, and they would pray to certain gods depending on their situation. If they were in need of a better harvest they would pray to Ceres, the goddess of grain. The Romans were all about order and religion was one order they were very serious about.
48BC the Library of Alexandria burned when Julius Caesar attacked Alexandria during Roman civil war
44BC Julius Caesar was assassinated and the Roman Republic ends.
31BC Octavian Caesar defeats Marc Antony and becomes the Emperor of Rome. Roman Empire born.
64AD Rome burns
68AD Rome experienced civil war
1-100AD Jesus Christ is crucified and Christianity begins its spread and begins to rival other major religions like the Roman worship of their gods.
http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/greecevsrome/Comparison_of_Ancient_Greece_and_Ancient_Rome.htm
http://www.ancientgreece.com/s/Culture/
http://www.csun.edu/~hcfll004/histlink.html
http://www.pbs.org/empires/romans/special/timeline_01.html
http://www.pbs.org/empires/romans/special/timeline_26.html
http://library.thinkquest.org/10805/timeline.html
http://parthia.com/parthia_timeline.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_ancient_Rome#The_arts

Famous Actors 500BC-300AD

Throughout this time period, 500B.C-300A.D, the growth of Theatre started evolving and became the stepping-stones of how Theatre is today. Greece offered theatre and a primary perspective of how the foundations for what we see everywhere today in film, theater and television occurred while advanced the spectrum of how theatre came about. Moreover, the form of theatre developed from performing acts for religious ceremonies to branching into different methods of entertainment like creating the first use of “actors”.

Greek Theatre

In the beginning of Greek Theatre, it began as a dithrambous; which meant that there were no actors to act out different roles. Instead, the Greeks used the form of maintaining a “chorus”. The chorus was one of the most important components of the play because it narrated and reflected on the action (as well as purpose) of the play. The chorus consisted of 12 members, of which they provided the overview and background information of the play. This was an important factor in Greek plays because without them, the plays would be confusing into delivering its message to the audience. In addition, the “chorus” was referred to different names for each kind of play, reflecting different emotions. In tragedy, it was referred to as “emmelia”, in comedy it was called “codrax”, and in drama it was called “sicinnis.”

The main purpose of the chorus was to sing basic information because they were the narrators of the play. Also, the chorus acted out as crowds which danced in the orchestra to show what was occurring in the scene. The chorus became the extras within the play.

The Actors

 

Thespis

Thespis

In Greek tradition, Thespis was known to be the inventor of tragedy. Thespis was most likely born in Attica, and most likely lived through the 6th century BC. Within the ‘City Dionysia’, a festival of entertainment that was held in honor of the god Dionysus, the god of wine, agriculture, and fertility of nature, who is also the patron god of the Greek stage. Moreover, throughout the festival, music, singing, dance, and poetry were featured competitions – the most remarkable of all the winners in ‘City Dionysia’ was a man named Thespis. In 534 or 535 BC, Thespis became the world’s first actor by surprising audiences in the form of reciting poetry as if he was the characters whose lines he was reading. Furthermore, it is from him that we were given the word Thespian, which means actor or “one who performs on stage”.

Thespis had supposedly modified the dithyramb, which created the exchange between the leader and the chorus, by introducing an actor separate from the chorus. Moreover, this was classified as a hyprocrite or “responder.” A spoken dialogue was developed from this idea. Thespis left a firm input into creation of Greek Theatre and an impacting impression within new acting world.

AeschylusAeschylus

Along with Thespis, Aeschylus also left an imprint in theatre. Born in 525 BC in a place called Eleusina and died in Gela in the year 456 BC, Aeschylus added a second actor into Greek Theatre. By adding the second actor into plays, it allowed for greater dramatic variety while the chorus continued to play a less important role. Although a playwright, Aeschylus may have performed in his plays due to the fact of how an attempt of murder was made to Aeschylus while he was on stage because it was quite possible that revealed a secret of the Eleusinian Mysteries. The Eleusinian Mysteries consisted of ceremonies that were held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. The cult was created and responded in secret because it was believed that people who actively participated in the cult would be given a reward in the afterlife.

Aristotle

Aristotle

Aristotle, born on 384 BC in Stagira, Chalcidice and died in Euboea in 322 BC, was a student of Plato and the teacher of Alexander the Great. He found certain ways to construct plays in a physiological manner. His writings consisted of and covered numerous subjects including ethics, government, politics, zoology, theatre, and many other subjects. Not only a Greek philosopher and polymath, Aristotle was an actor around 384-322 BC who starred in plays such as “The Insincere Man”, “The Flatterer”, “The Garrulous Man”, “The Boor”, “The Penny Pincher”, “The Absent-Minded Man”, “The Man of Petty Ambition”, and “The Lover of Bad Company.” Thus, Aristotle is one of the most important figures in Western philosophy history due to his active participation in such field.

Roman Theatre

Roman Theatre and Setup

Roman Theatre and Setup

Actually, Roman Theatre branched out from Greek Theatre. After the decline of Greek government and society, the rise of the Roman Republic and empire sprouted. The world able to have inherited much from the influence of the Roman Theatre, including the word “play” itself, which derives from a literal translation of the Latin word ludus, which means recreation or play. Moreover, many of the Roman playwrights grasps many of the different concepts given out by Greek plays.

The Actors

Roscius

Roscius

Quintus Roscius Gallus, also known as Roscius (Died 62 BC) was a Roman comic actor. He was a successful actor for his name became an honorary epithet. Roscius was born into slavery at Solonium, however, he gained so much fame from his performances on stage that he was freed by his dictator, Sulla. Moreover, Roscius was granted a golden ring that symbolized his equestrian rank. Also, he was also paid very well for his talent because he was known for his gift of improvisation. He is said to have instructed Cicero in elocution.

Masterpieces of World Literature Clodius AesopusMasterpieces of World Literature-Clodius Aesopus

Another Roman actor that has also left his mark on modern theatre is Clodius Aespous. He was the most eminent Roman tragedian who flourished during the time of Cicero. However, the dates of his birth and death are not known. Cicero was on friendly terms along with Aespous and Roscius. It was reported by Plutarch, that, while representing Atreus showing how he should revenge himself on Thyestes, Aesopus forgot himself on stage because of how deep he was when playing his role that he struck and killed one of the servants crossing the stage. His last appearance was recorded in 55 B.C, and, although he lived an adrenaline-filled stage life, he left a large fortune to his son, who did his best to use it as soon as he could.

(No image found)

Mnester was a Roman pantomime actor who grew in popularity during the reigns of Roman Emperors Caligula (47 to 41 AD) and Claudius (41 to 54 AD). He was the favorite and was admired by the Emperors so much that…”[Caligula] used to kiss the pantomime actor Mnester even in the middle of the games. And if, when Mnester was performing, anyone made the slightest noise, he had him dragged from his seat and flogged him himself.” A bronze statue was created by one of Mnester’s lovers Empress Messlina. However, Messalina also had an interest in Gaius Silius, who became her favorite, Mnester was apart of a plot to assassinate Cladius in order to make Silius the new emperor. Unfortunately, Mnester’s plot of foiled and he was executed for his involvement in 48 AD.

Lucius Ambivius TurprioLucius Ambivius Turprio

Lucius Ambivius Turpio, simply known as “Turpio”, was another famed actor during Roman Theatre. He was an actor, stage manager, patron, promoter, and entrepreneur in ancient Rome around the time of the playwright Terence (2nd century BC). Turpio was involved with the playwright Caecilus Statius while being known as a promoter of contemporary comic writers; moved on to serve as a producer and lead actor in most of Terence’s plays. Moreover, he was often gave the prologue to Terence’s comedies; Turpio showed the desires of spectators to the best of his ability and made it possible for is members of his company to “honor the arts of the stage”.

Greek Theatre has impacted the entire world of acting along with Roman Theatre who extended the arm of the development of theatre. It began and now represents itself through all the forms of theatrical media; without its beginnings, acting and the role of how theatre is played today would not be able equally achieve its greatness and impact.

 

Sources Cited:

http://www.pbs.org/empires/thegreeks/keyevents/534_c.html
http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Thespis.aspx

http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/drama/p/Aeschylus.htm

http://www.theatrehistory.com/ancient/aeschylus001.html

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/509696/Roscius

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mnester

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0104:entry=mnester-bio-1

http://www.ancientlibrary.com/smith-bio/2215.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucius_Ambivius_Turpio

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/610413/Lucius-Ambivius-Turpio

http://www.laughingaudience.co.uk/2011.html

http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/aristotle.html
www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/aristotle.html
www.aristotle.net/

http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Clodius_Aesopus

 

Greek/ Roman Actors

ARISTOTLE

Aristotle

Aristotle was born in Circa 384 B.C, in Greece, and passed away in 322 B.C. He is known for being a great Greek philosopher. He also created his own school where he put most his focus on teaching and writing. His school is the Lyceum, in Athens made in 335 B.C. He wrote notes and manuscripts with dialogues, about the studies of scientific and systematic works. He wrote about 200 documents, but only estimates 31 survived and are spoken about. Aristotle’s works were passed to his student Theophrastus and he passed them on to another student who kept them safe.
Aristotle main writings were systems for reasoning and for developing sound arguments. He also discussed matter and form, in his book Metaphysics.
Twenty-three hundred years later Aristotle is still known in our generation. He is a founder of many things like formal logic, zoology, and apart of scientific methods. He tutored Alexander the Great, who later becomes well known for his acting.

Gnaeus Naevius

Untitled.png3

He was a Latin poet from Campania. He wrote dramatic comedy in Greek Tradition. Only a few of his works are still around. He was a soldier in the 1st Punic War. He was popular in the early year s of Roman satire. Naevius produces tragedies in Rome using Greek works, but then changed the actors into Roman actors. From doing this he was punished and had to apologies; then it lead to exile. We know of the comic poems he wrote, but he wrote many tragedies.
Was born 270 b, Capua, Italy, and died 200 bc, Utica. He was the starter of historic play, that were about Roman historical old events and figures. Two plays were called, Romulus and Clastidium, after celebrating Marcus C. Marcellus for his victory in 222bc and might have produced at his funeral games in 208. Naevius plays were known for their titles, he produced 30 comedies, and 6 tragedies. His Greek plays were translated and he created them into Latin. He was the first to introduce song and recitative, taking from one play to another and adding variety. He had some negative remarks about Roman daily life, because of this he was imprisoned and maybe exile. He used Plautus which is in his comedies his characters were stereotyped, and plot, and colorful language. Tarentilla, one of the most popular plays had foreshadowed of Plautus, with the use of vivid likeness of Roman lowlife, and love relationships.

Athenodorus

Untitled

He is known for his tragic acting. He was first assigned a job at the city Dionysian, but instead he had a dream to work with Alexander the Great in Phoenicia. Since he did not go with the job offer he was in a heavy fine, which later was pain off by Alexander.
He performed at the great games in honor of Heracles. After he went back to Athens he started his victory of acting 329 bc shows. He was fined again for not attending the festival and he turned to Alexander for help but then the King paid for it instead. Athenodorus went to the sosa wedding festival with two others.

Thespis

Untitled.png1

Thespis was the first person to ever go on stage as an actor and be a character in a play. He created a new type of acting where there was one singer or actor performed the words of characters in stories. He used masks to show the difference between the characters. He was a part of making tragedy’s so popular. Thespis was the first winner of a prize for tragedy at the Great Dionysia (a drama festival) in records. He was also presented to have invented the mask. He also was the first to theatrical tour. He would travel to many cities. He carried costumes, props and masks in a horse-drawn wagon.
Referring to Thespis, actor’s thought history have been called or referred to as ‘thespians’. Some say that Thespis invented acting in the Western world. A myth says that Thespis is now a mischievous spirit, and when bad things happen it is blamed on his ghostly intervention. Thespis started out as a Dionysian priest, and then later he left the chorus and picked up the role of an actor. He spoke through Dialogue rather than a song, to create his Greek tragedies. He was the first recorded actor and first playwright.

Play Time For The Playwrights!

In a world where the stage was a market place and the word “play” was rarely heard of unless in reference to recreation, began a revolution so mighty, that not until several centuries later, was to ever be witnesses again. In the booming cities of Greece and Rome bore the art that we all cherish, the art that set the basis of entertainment from the time of it’s birth even until this day: theatre. It all began in 525 BC with a man named Aeschylus.

Aeschylus is considered the founder and father of Greek tragedy. He was born in 525 B.C. in Eleusis. Throughout his life, Aeschylus did many things. He introduced the second actor to Greek theater, and removed bloodshed from view of the audience. He tried to involve the chorus directly in the action of the play. All of these are things that made Greek theatre more interesting. He was proud, stern, and impatient, which makes sense because he fought at Marathon. He involved military terms in his plays for this reason. He also improved the costumes of the theatre.  Aeschylus is said to have written 90 plays, however only 79 of them are named but only 7 have survived the many years. He liked to write trilogies as shown in The Orestia, which contains the famous Agamemnon. Unfortunately, Aeschylus passed away in 456 B.C. The tale goes that an eagle mistook his head for a stone and dropped a tortoise on his head.

Aristophanes was the only major ancient Greek playwright who wrote comedies. The “Father of comedy” was born in 446 B.C. He was said to having been able to create the most realistic portrayal of the life in ancient Athens. Aristophanes made 46 plays but sadly, only 11 have survived.  He was known for writing “The Wasps”, “Peace”, and “The Birds. Sadly, he passed away in 386 B.C. to the sorrow of his fans.

As the years continued, so too did the playwrights. Born in 480 BC in Athens, Euripides , the third musketeer to the Greek trio, took the pen. As the years went on, he crafted the genre of tragic-comedy, love-drama, and New Comedy. Throughout his works he had a certain dignified technique that created a personal perspective, as if he were verbally writing the words. He viewed his works in a rhetorical and strategic manner rather that poetic and insightful and sought to “intrigue” his audience, a very creative twist to a common perception at the time. Although he wrote between 75 and 92 plays, only 19 survived and he maintained an inferior position to his predecessors. The imagination in his plays was derived from women (he was actually the first playwright to introduce LIVE women to the stage) and mythology such as Medea and the Helen of Troy! His women-hating habits in the script and unorthodox views degraded him in society. Interestingly, it wasn’t until after his controversial death that his popularity spiked. When the death day arrived, the cause was strangely similar to the plot of one of his most famous plays: Bacchae.

Still active in the Greek world came Sophocles. He did much service as a priest for numerous year in the footsteps of Alcon and Asclepius. He soon gave up the profession and in 468 B.C. he defeated Aeschylus in a competition of drama, and shortly after, Euripides defeated him! He was renowned for his 20 first place rankings and the conflict he had with his jealous son at an elder age, as he was accused of mental incapacitation. In defense, Sophocles successfully recited a portion of Oedipus Coloneus, a play he had recently finished. At this same time, he finished the well known work of Antigone!  His style consisted mainly of finding human character, not to mention, he was the first to add a third actor!

Across the way, Rome experienced this flourish of stage art. Terence was one of the few comedic playwrights of the Ancient Greek and Roman times. Hewas born in either Carthage or in Greece, the true whereabouts are unknown. He was forced into slavery at a young age. He was moved from Rome to Carthage as a slave. While in Rome he worked inside the household of his master. His owner freed Terence so he could write plays and receive recognition for them. He wrote 6 plays and all of them were comedies, which is surprising because of all of the tragedies that were being written at that time.  His first and last plays were Andria and Adelphoe. Terence was less liked because he was more refined than other roman playwrights, like Plautus. Sadly, he died along a trip to Greece to learn about theatre but no one truly knows what happened.

Next in line was Plautus, born in 254 BC, one of the major writers of Roman comedy to which several modern plays are based upon. Growing up as a stage carpenter (essentially a techie of those times), he was very fimiliar with the stage and its processes. As a traveling Roman soldier, he was introduced to plays overseas and thus gained inspiration (especially from Menander) to write and entertain his own people, building him a questionable reputation. In the end, he wrote around 130 pieces, such as the Pot of Gold, The Rope, and the Merchant, with only 21 surviving. In these pieces, he tried to incorporate the various settings that he had experienced in his lifetime, intertwining unique songs and dances at the end of his plays as well! He was ALL about the humor: puns, sarcasm, whatever it took to get a laugh!

“Seneca Suicide”; Seneca was born in Spain in 4 B.C. He received and education in Rome and took on the titles of a playwright, orator, and philosopher.  Seneca was the tutor to Nero and when Nero became emperor, Seneca became his advisor. Eight of Seneca’s plays have survived the many years and they are all different versions of plays written prior to his existence. He adapted the works of both Sophocles and Aeschylus with Oedipus and Agamemnon.  Seneca’s plays contained five different episodes, and the chorus separated each. He incorporated soliloquies and asides within his works as well. Seneca was best known for his scenes of violence. In Oedipus, the queen, Locasta, rips open her womb.  Unfortunately, in 65 A.D. Nero became suspicious of Seneca conspiring against him, and was forced to commit suicide.

As this method of tradition was carried throughout history, some of today’s most renowned playwrights have resulted. This journey of the stage does not come to an end, but rather a new beginning… who’s next?

Works Cited:

Images –

·         http://www.notablebiographies.com/images/uewb_04_img0265.jpg

·         http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/de/Aischylos_B%C3%BCste.jpg/220px-Aischylos_B%C3%BCste.jpg

·         http://us.123rf.com/400wm/400/400/candyman/candyman1209/candyman120900355/15111681-sophocles-497-6-bc-406-5-bc-on-engraving-from-1859-one-of-three-ancient-greek-tragedians-whose-plays.jpg

·         http://www.jimpoz.com/quotes/speakers/terence.jpg

·         http://salempress.com/store/images/editorial/aristophanes.jpg

·         http://s.fixquotes.com/files/author/plautus_XZab3.jpg

·         http://www.lowdensitylifestyle.com/media/uploads/2009/09/seneca.jpg

·

https://bnhstheatre1.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/seneca2.jpg

Documents/Information –

Aeschylus

·         http://www.ancientgreece.com/s/People/Aeschylus/

·         http://classics.mit.edu/Browse/browse-Aeschylus.html

·         http://www.theatrehistory.com/ancient/aeschylus001.html

·         http://classics.mit.edu/Browse/browse-Aeschylus.html

·         http://www.english.emory.edu/DRAMA/GreekPlays.html

·         http://www.english.emory.edu/DRAMA/GreekPlays.html

Euripides

·         http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/medeaeuripides/p/Euripides.htm

·         http://www.theatrehistory.com/ancient/euripides001.html

·         http://www.livius.org/es-ez/euripides/euripides.html

Sophocles

·         http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/clsc1.htm

·         http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/sophocles/p/Sophocles.htm

·         http://www.sophocles.net/listingview.php?listingID=30

Aristophanes

·         http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/clsc13.htm

·         http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristophanes

·         http://www.online-literature.com/aristophanes/

Plautus

·         http://www.theatrehistory.com/ancient/plautus001.html

·         http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/clsc21.html

·         http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/plautus/p/Plautus.htm

Terance

·         http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/poetsplaywrightswriters/g/Terence.htm

·         http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terence

·         http://www.theatredatabase.com/ancient/terence_001.html

Video links:

·         http://youtu.be/dmBDfl9YJY4

·         http://youtu.be/yx19OrlG38k

·         http://youtu.be/IQOPFxuiaWQ

Image Aristophanes

ImageEuripides

ImagePlautusImage SenecaImage SophoclesImage Terrence

Aeschylus

Preparing for the first pages of student work…

Our BNHS Theatre 1 Theatre History Project waits now for the first pages of student work to be published. Several weeks of reasearch, an abundance of administrative tasks attempting to get the students on the same technology page, processing research material, seeking appropriate media to add… all these things culminate in the launch of our first posts that are coming on Friday, February 15.

Please come back then, and often thereafter to see this collage of student work grow and evolve.

Thanks,

Mr. Hammer