Greek/Roman Theater by Ebrola
Sophocles (/ˈsɒfəkliːz/; Greek: Σοφοκλῆς, Sophoklēs, Ancient Greek: [so.pʰo.klɛ̂ːs]; c. 497/6 – winter 406/5 BC) is one of three ancient Greek tragedians whose plays have survived. His first plays were written later than those of Aeschylus, and earlier than or contemporary with those of Euripides. Sophocles wrote 120 plays during the course of his life, but only seven have survived in a complete form: Ajax, Antigone, The Women of Trachis, Oedipus the King, Electra, Philoctetes and Oedipus at Colonus. For almost 50 years, Sophocles was the most-fêted playwright in the dramatic competitions of the city-state of Athens that took place during the religious festivals of the Lenaea and the Dionysia. He competed in 30 competitions, won 18, and was never judged lower than second place. Aeschylus won 14 competitions, and was sometimes defeated by Sophocles, while Euripides won 5 competitions.
The most famous tragedies of Sophocles feature Oedipus and also Antigone: they are generally known as the Theban plays, although each play was actually a part of a different tetralogy, the other members of which are now lost. Sophocles influenced the development of the drama, most importantly by adding a third actor, thereby reducing the importance of the chorus in the presentation of the plot. He also developed his characters to a greater extent than earlier playwrights such as Aeschylus.
Sophocles, the son of Sophilus, was a wealthy member of the rural deme (small community) of Hippeios Colonus in Attica, which was to become a setting for one of his plays, and he was probably born there. Sophocles was born a few years before the Battle of Marathonin 490 BC: the exact year is unclear, although 497/6 is the most likely. Sophocles was born into a wealthy family (his father was an armour manufacturer) and was highly educated. Sophocles’ first artistic triumph was in 468 BC, when he took first prize in the Dionysiatheatre competition over the reigning master of Athenian drama, Aeschylus. According to Plutarch, the victory came under unusual circumstances. Instead of following the usual custom of choosing judges by lot, the archon asked Cimon and the other strategoi present to decide the victor of the contest. Plutarch further contends that following this loss Aeschylus soon left for Sicily. Although Plutarch says that this was Sophocles’ first production, it is now thought that his first production was probably in 470 BC. Triptolemus was probably one of the plays that Sophocles presented at this festival.
In 480 BC Sophocles was chosen to lead the paean (a choral chant to a god), celebrating the Greek victory over the Persians at the Battle of Salamis. Early in his career, the politician Cimon might have been one of his patrons, although if he was, there was no ill will borne by Pericles, Cimon‘s rival, when Cimon was ostracized in 461 BC. In 443/2 he served as one of the Hellenotamiai, or treasurers of Athena, helping to manage the finances of the city during the political ascendancy of Pericles. According to the Vita Sophoclis, in 441 BC he was elected one of the ten generals, executive officials at Athens, as a junior colleague of Pericles, and he served in the Athenian campaign against Samos; he was supposed to have been elected to this position as the result of his production of Antigone.
In 420 BC, he welcomed and set up an altar for the image of Asclepius at his house, when the deity was introduced to Athens. For this, he was given the posthumous epithet Dexion (receiver) by the Athenians. He was also elected, in 413 BC, one of the commissioners (probouloi) who responded to the catastrophic destruction of the Athenian expeditionary force in Sicily during the Peloponnesian War.
Sophocles died at the age of ninety or ninety-one in the winter of 406/5 BC, having seen within his lifetime both the Greek triumph in the Persian Wars and the bloodletting of the Peloponnesian War. As with many famous men in classical antiquity, his death inspired a number of apocryphal stories. The most famous is the suggestion that he died from the strain of trying to recite a long sentence from his Antigone without pausing to take a breath. Another account suggests he choked while eating grapes at the Anthesteria festival in Athens. A third holds that he died of happiness after winning his final victory at the City Dionysia. A few months later, a comic poet, in a play titled The Muses, wrote this eulogy: “Blessed is Sophocles, who had a long life, was a man both happy and talented, and the writer of many good tragedies; and he ended his life well without suffering any misfortune.” According to some accounts, however, his own sons tried to have him declared incompetent near the end of his life; he is said to have refuted their charge in court by reading from his as yet unproduced Oedipus at Colonus. One of his sons, Iophon, and a grandson, also called Sophocles, also became playwrights.
Works and legacy
Among Sophocles’ earliest innovations was the addition of a third actor, which further reduced the role of the chorus and created greater opportunity for character development and conflict between characters. Aeschylus, who dominated Athenian playwriting during Sophocles’ early career, followed suit and adopted the third character into his own work towards the end of his life. Aristotle credits Sophocles with the introduction of skenographia, or scenery-painting. It was not until after the death of the old master Aeschylus in 456 BC that Sophocles became the pre-eminent playwright in Athens.
Thereafter, Sophocles emerged victorious in dramatic competitions at 18 Dionysia and 6 Lenaia festivals. In addition to innovations in dramatic structure, Sophocles’ work is also known for its deeper development of characters than earlier playwrights. His reputation was such that foreign rulers invited him to attend their courts, although unlike Aeschylus who died in Sicily, or Euripides who spent time in Macedon, Sophocles never accepted any of these invitations. Aristotle used Sophocles’ Oedipus the King in his Poetics (c. 335 BC) as an example of the highest achievement in tragedy, which suggests the high esteem in which his work was held by later Greeks.
Only two of the seven surviving plays can be dated securely: Philoctetes (409 BC) and Oedipus at Colonus (401 BC, staged after Sophocles’ death by his grandson). Of the others, Electra shows stylistic similarities to these two plays, which suggests that it was probably written in the latter part of his career. Ajax, Antigone and The Trachiniae are generally thought to be among his early works, again based on stylistic elements, with Oedipus the King coming in Sophocles’ middle period. Most of Sophocles’ plays show an undercurrent of early fatalism and the beginnings of Socratic logic as a mainstay for the long tradition of Greek tragedy.
The Theban plays consist of three plays: Oedipus the King (also called Oedipus Tyrannus or by its Latin title Oedipus Rex), Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone. All three plays concern the fate of Thebes during and after the reign of King Oedipus. They have often been published under a single cover. Sophocles, however, wrote the three plays for separate festival competitions, many years apart. Not only are the Theban plays not a true trilogy (three plays presented as a continuous narrative) but they are not even an intentional series and contain some inconsistencies among them. He also wrote other plays having to do with Thebes, such as the Epigoni, of which only fragments have survived.
Each of the plays relates to the tale of the mythological Oedipus, who killed his father and married his mother without knowledge that they were his parents. His family is fated to be doomed for three generations.
In Oedipus the King, Oedipus is the protagonist. Oedipus’ infanticide is planned by his parents, Laius and Jocasta, to avert him from fulfilling a prophecy; in truth, the servant entrusted with the infanticide passes the infant on through a series of intermediaries to a childless couple, who adopt him not knowing his history. Oedipus eventually learns of the Delphic Oracle‘s prophecy of him, that he would kill his father and marry his mother; Oedipus attempts to flee his fate without harming those he knows as his parents (at this point, he does not know that he is adopted). Oedipus meets a man at a crossroads accompanied by servants; Oedipus and the man fought, and Oedipus killed the man. (This man was his father, Laius, not that anyone apart from the gods knew this at the time). He becomes the ruler of Thebes after solving the riddle of the sphinx and in the process, marries the widowed queen, his mother Jocasta. Thus the stage is set for horror. When the truth comes out, following from another true but confusing prophecy from Delphi, Jocasta commits suicide, Oedipus blinds himself and leaves Thebes. At the end of the play, order is restored. This restoration is seen when Creon, brother of Jocasta, becomes king, and also when Oedipus, before going off to exile, asks Creon to take care of his children. Oedipus’s children will always bear the weight of shame and humiliation because of their father’s actions. 
In Oedipus at Colonus, the banished Oedipus and his daughter Antigone arrive at the town of Colonus where they encounter Theseus, King of Athens. Oedipus dies and strife begins between his sons Polyneices and Eteocles.
In Antigone, the protagonist is Oedipus’ daughter, Antigone. She is faced with the choice of allowing her brother Polyneices’ body to remain unburied, outside the city walls, exposed to the ravages of wild animals, or to bury him and face death. The king of the land, Creon, has forbidden the burial of Polyneices for he was a traitor to the city. Antigone decides to bury his body and face the consequences of her actions. Creon sentences her to death. Eventually, Creon is convinced to free Antigone from her punishment, but his decision comes too late and Antigone commits suicide. Her suicide triggers the suicide of two others close to King Creon: his son, Haemon, who was to wed Antigone, and his wife, Eurydice, who commits suicide after losing her only surviving son.
Composition and inconsistencies
The plays were written across thirty-six years of Sophocles’ career and were not composed in chronological order, but instead were written in the order Antigone, Oedipus the King, and Oedipus at Colonus. Nor were they composed as a trilogy – a group of plays to be performed together, but are the remaining parts of three different groups of plays. As a result, there are some inconsistencies: notably, Creon is the undisputed king at the end of Oedipus the King and, in consultation with Apollo, single-handedly makes the decision to expel Oedipus from Thebes. Creon is also instructed to look after Oedipus’ daughters Antigone and Ismene at the end of Oedipus the King. By contrast, in the other plays there is some struggle with Oedipus’ sons Eteocles and Polynices in regard to the succession. In Oedipus at Colonus, Sophocles attempts to work these inconsistencies into a coherent whole: Ismene explains that, in light of their tainted family lineage, her brothers were at first willing to cede the throne to Creon. Nevertheless, they eventually decided to take charge of the monarchy, with each brother disputing the other’s right to succeed. In addition to being in a clearly more powerful position in Oedipus at Colonus, Eteocles and Polynices are also culpable: they consent (l. 429, Theodoridis, tr.) to their father’s going to exile, which is one of his bitterest charges against them.
In addition to the three Theban plays, there are four surviving plays by Sophocles: Ajax, The Women of Trachis, Electra, and Philoctetes, the last of which won first prize in 409 BC in which it competed.
Ajax focuses on the proud hero of the Trojan War, Telamonian Ajax, who is driven to treachery and eventually suicide. Ajax becomes gravely upset when Achilles’ armor is presented to Odysseus instead of himself. Despite their enmity toward him, Odysseus persuades the kings Menelaus and Agamemnon to grant Ajax a proper burial.
The Women of Trachis (named for the Trachinian women who make up the chorus) dramatizes Deianeira‘s accidentally killing Heracles after he had completed his famous twelve labors. Tricked into thinking it is a love charm, Deianeira applies poison to an article of Heracles’ clothing; this poisoned robe causes Heracles to die an excruciating death. Upon learning the truth, Deianeira commits suicide.
Philoctetes retells the story of Philoctetes, an archer who had been abandoned on Lemnos by the rest of the Greek fleet while on the way to Troy. After learning that they cannot win the Trojan War without Philoctetes’ bow, the Greeks send Odysseus and Neoptolemus to retrieve him; due to the Greeks’ earlier treachery, however, Philoctetes refuses to rejoin the army. It is only Heracles’ deus ex machina appearance that persuades Philoctetes to go to Troy.
Euripides (/jʊəˈrɪpᵻdiːz/ or /jɔːˈrɪpᵻdiːz/; Greek: Εὐριπίδης; Ancient Greek: [eu̯.riː.pí.dɛːs]) (c. 480 – 406 BC) was a tragedian of classical Athens. He is one of the few whose plays have survived, with the others being Aeschylus, Sophocles, and potentially Euphorion. Some ancient scholars attributed 95 plays to him but according to the Suda it was 92 at most. Of these, 18 or 19 have survived more or less complete (there has been debate about his authorship of Rhesus, largely on stylistic grounds) and there are also fragments, some substantial, of most of the other plays. More of his plays have survived intact than those of Aeschylus and Sophocles together, partly due to mere chance and partly because his popularity grew as theirs declined—he became, in the Hellenistic Age, a cornerstone of ancient literary education, along with Homer, Demosthenes and Menander.
Euripides is identified with theatrical innovations that have profoundly influenced drama down to modern times, especially in the representation of traditional, mythical heroes as ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. This new approach led him to pioneer developments that later writers adapted to comedy, some of which are characteristic of romance. Yet he also became “the most tragic of poets”,[nb 1] focusing on the inner lives and motives of his characters in a way previously unknown. He was “the creator of…that cage which is the theatre of Shakespeare’s Othello, Racine’s Phèdre, of Ibsen and Strindberg,” in which “…imprisoned men and women destroy each other by the intensity of their loves and hates”, and yet he was also the literary ancestor of comic dramatists as diverse as Menander and George Bernard Shaw.
He was also unique among the writers of ancient Athens for the sympathy he demonstrated towards all victims of society, including women. His conservative male audiences were frequently shocked by the ‘heresies’ he put into the mouths of characters, such as these words of his heroine Medea:
Sooner would I stand
Three times to face their battles, shield in hand,
Than bear one child!
His contemporaries associated him with Socrates as a leader of a decadent intellectualism, both of them being frequently lampooned by comic poets such as Aristophanes. Whereas Socrates was eventually put on trial and executed as a corrupting influence, Euripides chose a voluntary exile in old age, dying in Macedonia. Recent scholarship casts doubt on ancient biographies of Euripides. For example, it is possible that he never visited Macedonia at all, or, if he did, he might have been drawn there by King Archelaus with incentives that were also offered to other artists.
Traditional accounts of the author’s life are found in many commentaries and include details such as these: He was born on Salamis Island around 480 BC, with parents Cleito (mother) and Mnesarchus (father), a retailer who lived in a village near Athens. Upon the receipt of an oracle saying that his son was fated to win “crowns of victory”, Mnesarchus insisted that the boy should train for a career in athletics. In fact the boy was destined for a career on the stage, where however he was to win only five victories, one of which was after his death. He served for a short time as both dancer and torch-bearer at the rites of Apollo Zosterius. His education was not confined to athletics: he also studied painting and philosophy under the masters Prodicus and Anaxagoras. He had two disastrous marriages and both his wives—Melite and Choerine (the latter bearing him three sons)—were unfaithful. He became a recluse, making a home for himself in a cave on Salamis (The Cave of Euripides, where a cult of the playwright developed after his death). “There he built an impressive library and pursued daily communion with the sea and sky”. Eventually he retired to the “rustic court” of King Archelaus in Macedonia, where he died in 406 BC.However, as mentioned in the introduction, biographical details such as these should be regarded with scepticism. They are derived almost entirely from three unreliable sources:
- folklore, employed by the ancients to lend colour to the lives of celebrated authors;
- parody, employed by contemporary comic poets to ridicule tragic poets;
- ‘autobiographical’ clues gleaned from his extant plays (a mere fraction of his total output).
This biography is divided into three sections corresponding to the three kinds of sources.
A fabled life
Euripides was the youngest in a set of three great tragedians who were almost contemporaries: his first play was staged thirteen years after Sophocles’ debut and only three years after Aeschylus’s masterpiece, the Oresteia. The identity of the threesome is neatly underscored by a patriotic account of their roles during Greece’s great victory over Persia at the Battle of Salamis—Aeschylus fought there, Sophocles was just old enough to celebrate the victory in a boys’ chorus and Euripides was born on the very day of the battle.The apocryphal account that he composed his works in a cave on Salamis island was a late tradition and it probably symbolizes the isolation of an intellectual who was rather ahead of his time. Much of his life and his whole career coincided with the struggle between Athens and Sparta for hegemony in Greece but he didn’t live to see the final defeat of his city. It is said that he died in Macedonia after being attacked by the Molossian hounds of King Archelaus and that his cenotaph near Piraeus was struck by lightning—signs of his unique powers, whether for good or ill (according to one modern scholar, his death might have been caused instead by the harsh Macedonian winter). In an account by Plutarch, the catastrophic failure of the Sicilian expedition led Athenians to trade renditions of Euripides’ lyrics to their enemies in return for food and drink (Life of Nicias 29). Plutarch is the source also for the story that the victorious Spartan generals, having planned the demolition of Athens and the enslavement of its people, grew merciful after being entertained at a banquet by lyrics from Euripides’ play Electra: “they felt that it would be a barbarous act to annihilate a city which produced such men” (Life of Lysander).
A comic life
Tragic poets were often mocked by comic poets during the dramatic festivals Dionysia and Lenaia, and Euripides was travestied more than most. Aristophanes scripted him as a character in at least three plays: The Acharnians, Thesmophoriazusae and The Frogs. Yet Aristophanes borrowed rather than just satirized some of the tragedian’s methods; he was once ridiculed by a colleague, Cratinus, as “a hair-splitting master of niceties, a Euripidaristophanist“. According to another comic poet, Teleclides, the plays of Euripides were co-authored by the philosopher Socrates. According to Aristophanes, the alleged co-author was a celebrated actor, Cephisophon, who also shared the tragedian’s house and his wife, while Socrates taught an entire school of quibblers like Euripides:
They sit at the feet of Socrates
Till they can’t distinguish the wood from the trees,
And tragedy goes to POT;
They don’t care whether their plays are art
But only whether the words are smart;
They waste our time with quibbles and quarrels,
Destroying our patience as well as our morals,
And making us all talk ROT.
In The Frogs, composed after Euripides and Aeschylus were both dead, Aristophanes imagines the god Dionysus venturing down to Hades in search of a good poet to bring back to Athens. After a debate between the two deceased bards, the god brings Aeschylus back to life as more useful to Athens on account of his wisdom, rejecting Euripides as merely clever. Such comic ‘evidence’ suggests that Athenians admired Euripides even while they mistrusted his intellectualism, at least during the long war with Sparta. Aeschylus had written his own epitaph commemorating his life as a warrior fighting for Athens against Persia, without any mention of his success as a playwright, and Sophocles was celebrated by his contemporaries for his social gifts and contributions to public life as a state official, but there are no records of Euripides’ public life except as a dramatist—he could well have been “a brooding and bookish recluse”. He is presented as such in The Acharnians, where Aristophanes shows him to be living morosely in a precarious house, surrounded by the tattered costumes of his disreputable characters (and yet Agathon, another tragic poet, is discovered in a later play, Thesmophoriazusae, to be living in circumstances almost as bizarre). Euripides’ mother was a humble vendor of vegetables, according to the comic tradition, yet his plays indicate that he had a liberal education and hence a privileged background.
A tragedian’s life
Euripides first competed in the City Dionysia, the famous Athenian dramatic festival, in 455 BC, one year after the death of Aeschylus, and it was not until 441 BC that he won a first prize. His final competition in Athens was in 408 BC. The Bacchae and Iphigenia in Aulis were performed after his death in 405 BC and first prize was awarded posthumously. Altogether his plays won first prize only five times.
His plays and those of Aeschylus and Sophocles indicate a difference in outlook between the three men—a generation gap probably due to the Sophistical enlightenment in the middle decades of the 5th century: Aeschylus still looked back to the archaic period, Sophocles was in transition between periods, and Euripides was fully imbued with the new spirit of the classical age. When Euripides’ plays are sequenced in time, they also reveal that his outlook might have changed, providing a “spiritual biography” along these lines:
- an early period of high tragedy (Medea, Hippolytus)
- a patriotic period at the outset of the Peloponnesian War (Children of Hercules, Suppliants)
- a middle period of disillusionment at the senselessness of war (Hecuba, Women of Troy)
- an escapist period with a focus on romantic intrigue (Ion, Iphigenia in Tauris, Helen)
- a final period of tragic despair (Orestes, Phoenician Women, Bacchae)
However, about 80% of his plays have been lost and even the extant plays don’t present a fully consistent picture of his ‘spiritual’ development (for example, Iphigenia at Aulis is dated with the ‘despairing’ Bacchae, yet it contains elements that became typical of New Comedy). In the Bacchae, he restores the chorus and messenger speech to their traditional role in the tragic plot, and the play appears to be the culmination of a regressive or archaizing tendency in his later works (for which see Chronology below). Believed to have been composed in the wilds of Macedonia, Bacchae also happens to dramatize a primitive side to Greek religion and some modern scholars have therefore interpreted this particular play biographically as:
- a kind of death-bed conversion or renunciation of atheism;
- the poet’s attempt to ward off the charge of impiety that was later to overtake his friend Socrates;
- evidence of a new belief that religion cannot be analysed rationally.
One of his earliest extant plays, Medea, includes a speech that he seems to have written in defence of himself as an intellectual ahead of his time, though he has put it in the mouth of the play’s heroine:
If you introduce new, intelligent ideas to fools, you will be thought frivolous, not intelligent. On the other hand, if you do get a reputation for surpassing those who are supposed to be intellectually sophisticated, you will seem to be a thorn in the city’s flesh. This is what has happened to me. — Medea, lines 298-302
Athenian tragedy in performance during Euripides’ lifetime was a public contest between playwrights. The state funded it and awarded prizes to the winners. The language was spoken and sung verse, the performance area included a circular floor or orchestra where the chorus could dance, a space for actors (three speaking actors in Euripides’ time), a backdrop or skene and some special effects: an ekkyklema (used to bring the skene’s “indoors” outdoors) and a mechane (used to lift actors in the air, as in deus ex machina). With the introduction of the third actor (an innovation attributed to Sophocles), acting also began to be regarded as a skill to be rewarded with prizes, requiring a long apprenticeship in the chorus. Euripides and other playwrights accordingly composed more and more arias for accomplished actors to sing and this tendency becomes more marked in his later plays: tragedy was a “living and ever-changing genre” (other changes in his work are touched on in the previous section and in Chronology; a list of his plays is given in Extant plays below).
The comic poet, Aristophanes, is the earliest known critic to characterize Euripides as a spokesman for destructive, new ideas, associated with declining standards in both society and tragedy (see Reception for more). However, 5th century tragedy was a social gathering for “carrying out quite publicly the maintenance and development of mental infrastructure” and it offered spectators a “platform for an utterly unique form of institutionalized discussion”. A dramatist’s role was not just to entertain but also to educate his fellow citizens—he was expected to have a message. Traditional myth provided the subject matter but the dramatist was meant to be innovative so as to sustain interest, which led to novel characterization of heroic figures and to use of the mythical past to talk about present issues. The difference between Euripides and his older colleagues was one of degree: his characters talked about the present more controversially and more pointedly than did those of Aeschylus and Sophocles, sometimes even challenging the democratic order. Thus, for example, Odysseus is represented in Hecuba (lines 131–32) as “agile-minded, sweet-talking, demos-pleasing” i.e., a type of the war-time demagogues that were active in Athens during the Peloponnesian War. Speakers in the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles sometimes distinguished between slaves who are servile by nature and those who are slaves by mere circumstance but Euripides’ speakers go further, positing an individual’s mental rather than social or physical condition as the true index of worth. Thus in Hippolytus, a love-sick queen rationalizes her position and arrives at this comment on intrinsic merit while reflecting on adultery:
“It was from noble families that this evil first started, and when shameful things seem to be approved by the fashionable, then the common people will surely think them correct…This only, they say, stands the stress of life: a good and just spirit in a man.”
Euripides’ characters resembled contemporary Athenians rather than heroic figures of myth.
“For achieving his end Euripides’ regular strategy is a very simple one: retaining the old stories and the great names, as his theatre required, he imagines his people as contemporaries subjected to contemporary kinds of pressures, and examines their motivations, conduct and fate in the light of contemporary problems, usages and ideals.”—Moses Hadas
As mouthpieces for contemporary issues, they “all seem to have had at least an elementary course in public speaking”. The dialogue often contrasts so strongly with the mythical and heroic setting, it looks as if Euripides aimed at parody, as for example in The Trojan Women, where the heroine’s rationalized prayer provokes comment from Menelaus:
Hecuba:…O Zeus, whether you are the Law of Necessity in nature, or the Law of Reason in man, hear my prayers. You are everywhere, pursuing your noiseless path, ordering the affairs of mortals according to justice.
Athenian citizens were familiar with rhetoric in the assembly and law courts, and some scholars believe that Euripides was more interested in his characters as speakers with cases to argue than as characters with lifelike personalities. They are self-conscious about speaking formally and their rhetoric is shown to be flawed, as if Euripides was exploring the problematical nature of language and communication: “For speech points in three different directions at once, to the speaker, to the person addressed, to the features in the world it describes, and each of these directions can be felt as skewed”. Thus in the example above, Hecuba presents herself as a sophisticated intellectual describing a rationalized cosmos yet the speech is ill-matched to her audience, Menelaus (a type of the unsophisticated listener), and soon it is found not to suit the cosmos either (her infant grandson is brutally murdered by the victorious Greeks). In Hippolytus, speeches appear verbose and ungainly as if to underscore the limitations of language.
Like Euripides, both Aeschylus and Sophocles created comic effects contrasting the heroic with the mundane, but they employed minor supporting characters for that purpose, whereas the younger poet was more insistent, using major characters as well. His comic touches can be thought to intensify the overall tragic effect, and his realism, which often threatens to make his heroes look ridiculous, marks a world of debased heroism: “The loss of intellectual and moral substance becomes a central tragic statement”.Psychological reversals are common and sometimes happen so suddenly that inconsistency in characterization is an issue for many critics, such as Aristotle, who cited Iphigenia in Aulis as an example (Poetics 1454a32). For others, psychological inconsistency is not a stumbling block to good drama: “Euripides is in pursuit of a larger insight: he aims to set forth the two modes, emotional and rational, with which human beings confront their own mortality.” Some however consider unpredictable behaviour to be realistic in tragedy: “everywhere in Euripides a preoccupation with individual psychology and its irrational aspects is evident….In his hands tragedy for the first time probed the inner recesses of the human soul and let passions spin the plot.” The tension between reason and passion is symbolized by his character’s relationship with the gods, as in Hecuba’s prayer, answered not by Zeus, nor by the Law of Reason, but by brutal Menelaus as if speaking on behalf of the old gods, and most famously in Bacchae, where the god Dionysus savages his own converts. And yet when the gods appear deus ex machina, as they do in eight of the extant plays, they appear “lifeless and mechanical”. Sometimes condemned by critics as an unimaginative way to end a story, the spectacle of a “god” making a judgement or announcement from a theatrical crane might actually have been intended to provoke scepticism about the religious and heroic dimension of his plays. Similarly his plays often begin in a banal manner that undermines theatrical illusion. Unlike Sophocles, who established the setting and background of his plays in the introductory dialogue, Euripides used a monologue in which a divinity or human character directly and simply tells the audience all it needs to know in order to understand the subsequent action.
Aeschylus and Sophocles were innovative, but Euripides had arrived at a position in the “ever-changing genre” where he could move easily between tragic, comic, romantic and political effects, a versatility that appears in individual plays and also over the course of his career. Potential for comedy lay in his use of ‘contemporary’ characters, in his sophisticated tone, his relatively informal Greek (see In Greek below), and in his ingenious use of plots centred on motifs that later became standard in Menander’s New Comedy, such as the ‘recognition scene’. Other tragedians also used recognition scenes but they were heroic in emphasis, as in Aeschylus’s The Libation Bearers, which Euripides parodied with his mundane treatment of it in Electra (Euripides was unique among the tragedians in incorporating theatrical criticism in his plays). Traditional myth, with its exotic settings, heroic adventures and epic battles, offered potential for romantic melodrama as well as for political comments on a war theme, so that his plays are an extraordinary mix of elements. The Trojan Women for example is a powerfully disturbing play on the theme of war’s horrors, apparently critical of Athenian imperialism (it was composed in the aftermath of the Melian massacre and during the preparations for the Sicilian Expedition) yet it features the comic exchange between Menelaus and Hecuba quoted above and the chorus considers Athens, the “blessed land of Theus”, to be a desirable refuge—such complexity and ambiguity are typical both of his “patriotic” and “anti-war” plays.
Tragic poets in the 5th century competed against one another at the City Dionysia, each with a tetralogy consisting of three tragedies and a satyr-play. The few extant fragments of satyr-plays attributed to Aeschylus and Sophocles indicate that these were a loosely structured, simple and jovial form of entertainment. However, in Cyclops (the only complete satyr-play that survives) Euripides structured the entertainment more like a tragedy and introduced a note of critical irony typical of his other work. His genre-bending inventiveness is shown above all in Alcestis, a blend of tragic and satyric elements. This fourth play in his tetralogy for 438 BC (i.e., it occupied the position conventionally reserved for satyr-plays) is a “tragedy” that features Heracles as a satyric hero in conventional satyr-play scenes, involving an arrival, a banquet, a victory over an ogre (in this case, Death), a happy ending, a feast and a departure to new adventures. Most of the big innovations in tragedy were made by Aeschylus and Sophocles and yet “Euripides made innovations on a smaller scale that have impressed some critics as cumulatively leading to a radical change of direction”.
The spoken language of the plays is not fundamentally different in style from that of Aeschylus or Sophocles—it employs poetic meters, a rarefied vocabulary, fullness of expression, complex syntax, and ornamental figures, all aimed at representing an elevated style. However, its rhythms are somewhat freer and more natural than that of his predecessors, and the vocabulary has been expanded to allow for intellectual and psychological subtleties. Euripides was also a great lyric poet. In Medea, for example, he composed for his city, Athens, “the noblest of her songs of praise”. His lyric skills however are not just confined to individual poems: “A play of Euripides is a musical whole…one song echoes motifs from the preceding song, while introducing new ones.” For some critics, the lyrics often seem dislocated from the action but the extent and significance of this is “a matter of scholarly debate”. See Chronology for details about his style in the original Greek.
Aeschylus (/ˈiːskᵻləs/ or /ˈɛskᵻləs/; Greek: Αἰσχύλος Aiskhulos; Ancient Greek: [ai̯s.kʰý.los]; c. 525/524 – c. 456/455 BC) was an ancient Greek tragedian. He is also the first whose plays still survive; the others are Sophocles and Euripides. He is often described as the father of tragedy: critics and scholars’ knowledge of the genre begins with his work, and understanding of earlier tragedies is largely based on inferences from his surviving plays. According to Aristotle, he expanded the number of characters in theater to allow conflict among them, whereas characters previously had interacted only with the chorus.[nb 1]
Only seven of his estimated seventy to ninety plays have survived, and there is a longstanding debate regarding his authorship of one of these plays, Prometheus Bound, which some believe his son Euphorion actually wrote. Fragments of some other plays have survived in quotes and more continue to be discovered on Egyptian papyrus, often giving us surprising insights into his work. He was probably the first dramatist to present plays as a trilogy; his Oresteia is the only ancient example of the form to have survived.least one of his plays was influenced by the Persians’ second invasion of Greece (480-479 BC). This work, The Persians, is the only surviving classical Greek tragedy concerned with contemporary events (very few of that kind were ever written), and a useful source of information about its period. The significance of war in Ancient Greek culture was so great that Aeschylus’ epitaph commemorates his participation in the Greek victory at Marathon while making no mention of his success as a playwright. Despite this, Aeschylus’ work – particularly the Oresteia – is acclaimed by today’s literary academics.
There are no reliable sources for the life of Aeschylus.
Aeschylus was born in c. 525 BC in Eleusis, a small town about 27 kilometers northwest of Athens, which is nestled in the fertile valleys of western Attica, though the date is most likely based on counting back forty years from his first victory in the Great Dionysia. His family was wealthy and well established; his father, Euphorion, was a member of the Eupatridae, the ancient nobility of Attica, though this might be a fiction that the ancients invented to account for the grandeur of his plays.
As a youth, he worked at a vineyard until, according to the 2nd-century AD geographer Pausanias, the god Dionysus visited him in his sleep and commanded him to turn his attention to the nascent art of tragedy. As soon as he woke from the dream, the young Aeschylus began to write a tragedy, and his first performance took place in 499 BC, when he was only 26 years old. He would win his first victory at the City Dionysia in 484 BC.
In 510 BC, when Aeschylus was 15 years old, Cleomenes I expelled the sons of Peisistratus from Athens, and Cleisthenes came to power. Cleisthenes’ reforms included a system of registration that emphasized the importance of the deme over family tradition. In the last decade of the 6th century, Aeschylus and his family were living in the deme of Eleusis.
The Persian Wars would play a large role in the playwright’s life and career. In 490 BC, Aeschylus and his brother Cynegeirus fought to defend Athens against Darius I‘s invading Persian army at the Battle of Marathon. The Athenians emerged triumphant, a victory celebrated across the city-states of Greece. Cynegeirus, however, died in the battle, receiving a mortal wound while trying to prevent a Persian ship retreating from the shore, for which his countrymen extolled him as a hero.
In 480, Aeschylus was called into military service again, this time against Xerxes I‘s invading forces at the Battle of Salamis, and perhaps, too, at the Battle of Plataea in 479. Ion of Chios was a witness for Aeschylus’s war record and his contribution in Salamis. Salamis holds a prominent place in The Persians, his oldest surviving play, which was performed in 472 BC and won first prize at the Dionysia.
Aeschylus was one of many Greeks who had been initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries, a cult to Demeter based in his hometown of Eleusis. As the name implies, members of the cult were supposed to have gained some secret knowledge. Firm details of specific rites are sparse, as members were sworn under the penalty of death not to reveal anything about the Mysteries to non-initiates. Nevertheless, according to Aristotle some thought that Aeschylus had revealed some of the cult’s secrets on stage.
Other sources claim that an angry mob tried to kill Aeschylus on the spot, but he fled the scene. Heracleides of Pontus asserts that the audience tried to stone Aeschylus. He then took refuge at the altar in the orchestra of the Theater of Dionysus. At his trial, he pleaded ignorance. He was acquitted, with the jury sympathetic to the wounds that Aeschylus and Cynegeirus had suffered at Marathon. According to the 2nd-century AD author Aelian, Aeschylus’s younger brother Ameinias helped to acquit Aeschylus by showing the jury the stump of the hand that he lost at Salamis, where he was voted bravest warrior. The truth is that the award for bravery at Salamis went not to Aeschylus’ brother but to Ameinias of Pallene.
Aeschylus travelled to Sicily once or twice in the 470s BC, having been invited by Hiero I of Syracuse, a major Greek city on the eastern side of the island; and during one of these trips he produced The Women of Aetna (in honor of the city founded by Hieron) and restaged his Persians. By 473 BC, after the death of Phrynichus, one of his chief rivals, Aeschylus was the yearly favorite in the Dionysia, winning first prize in nearly every competition. In 472 BC, Aeschylus staged the production that included the Persians, with Pericles serving as choregos.
In 458 BC, he returned to Sicily for the last time, visiting the city of Gela where he died in 456 or 455 BC. Valerius Maximus wrote that he was killed outside the city by a tortoisedropped by an eagle which had mistaken his head for a rock suitable for shattering the shell of the reptile. Pliny, in his Naturalis Historiæ, adds that Aeschylus had been staying outdoors to avoid a prophecy that he would be killed by a falling object. Aeschylus’s work was so respected by the Athenians that after his death, his were the only tragedies allowed to be restaged in subsequent competitions. His sons Euphorion and Euæon and his nephew Philocles also became playwrights.
Aeschylus married and had two sons, Euphorion and Euaeon, both of whom became tragic poets. Euphorion won first prize in 431 in competition against both Sophocles and Euripides. His nephew, Philocles (his sister’s son), was also a tragic poet, and won first prize in the competition against Sophocles‘ Oedipus Rex.
The roots of Greek drama are in religious festivals for the gods, chiefly Dionysus, the god of wine. During Aeschylus’s lifetime, dramatic competitions became part of the City Dionysia in the spring. The festival opened with a procession, followed with a competition of boys singing dithyrambs and culminated in a pair of dramatic competitions. The first competition Aeschylus would have participated in, consisted of three playwrights each presenting three tragic plays followed by a shorter comedic satyr play. A second competition of five comedic playwrights followed, and the winners of both competitions were chosen by a panel of judges.
Aeschylus entered many of these competitions in his lifetime, and various ancient sources attribute between seventy and ninety plays to him. Only seven tragedies have survived intact: The Persians, Seven against Thebes, The Suppliants, the trilogy known as The Oresteia, consisting of the three tragedies Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides, together with Prometheus Bound (whose authorship is disputed). With the exception of this last play – the success of which is uncertain – all of Aeschylus’s extant tragedies are known to have won first prize at the City Dionysia.
The Alexandrian Life of Aeschylus claims that he won the first prize at the City Dionysia thirteen times. This compares favorably with Sophocles’ reported eighteen victories (with a substantially larger catalogue, at an estimated 120 plays), and dwarfs the five victories of Euripides, who is thought to have written roughly 90 plays.
One hallmark of Aeschylean dramaturgy appears to have been his tendency to write connected trilogies, in which each play serves as a chapter in a continuous dramatic narrative. The Oresteia is the only extant example of this type of connected trilogy, but there is evidence that Aeschylus often wrote such trilogies. The comic satyr plays that follow his trilogies also drew upon stories derived from myths.
For example, the Oresteia’s satyr play Proteus treated the story of Menelaus’ detour in Egypt on his way home from the Trojan War. Based on the evidence provided by a catalogue of Aeschylean play titles, scholia, and play fragments recorded by later authors, it is assumed that three other of his extant plays were components of connected trilogies: Seven against Thebes being the final play in an Oedipus trilogy, and The Suppliants and Prometheus Bound each being the first play in a Danaid trilogy and Prometheus trilogy, respectively (see below). Scholars have moreover suggested several completely lost trilogies derived from known play titles. A number of these trilogies treated myths surrounding the Trojan War. One, collectively called the Achilleis, comprised the titles Myrmidons, Nereids and Phrygians (alternately, The Ransoming of Hector).
Another trilogy apparently recounts the entry of the Trojan ally Memnon into the war, and his death at the hands of Achilles (Memnon and The Weighing of Souls being two components of the trilogy); The Award of the Arms, The Phrygian Women, and The Salaminian Women suggest a trilogy about the madness and subsequent suicide of the Greek hero Ajax; Aeschylus also seems to have written about Odysseus‘ return to Ithaca after the war (including his killing of his wife Penelope‘s suitors and its consequences) in a trilogy consisting of The Soul-raisers, Penelope and The Bone-gatherers. Other suggested trilogies touched on the myth of Jason and the Argonauts (Argô, Lemnian Women, Hypsipylê); the life of Perseus (The Net-draggers, Polydektês, Phorkides); the birth and exploits of Dionysus (Semele, Bacchae, Pentheus); and the aftermath of the war portrayed in Seven against Thebes (Eleusinians, Argives (or Argive Women), Sons of the Seven).
Main article: The Persians
The earliest of his plays to survive is The Persians (Persai), performed in 472 BC and based on experiences in Aeschylus’s own life, specifically the Battle of Salamis. It is unique among surviving Greek tragedies in that it describes a recent historical event. The Persians focuses on the popular Greek theme of hubris by blaming Persia’s loss on the pride of its king.
It opens with the arrival of a messenger in Susa, the Persian capital, bearing news of the catastrophic Persian defeat at Salamis to Atossa, the mother of the Persian King Xerxes. Atossa then travels to the tomb of Darius, her husband, where his ghost appears to explain the cause of the defeat. It is, he says, the result of Xerxes’ hubris in building a bridge across the Hellespont, an action which angered the gods. Xerxes appears at the end of the play, not realizing the cause of his defeat, and the play closes to lamentations by Xerxes and the chorus.
Seven against Thebes
Main article: Seven against Thebes
Seven against Thebes (Hepta epi Thebas), which was performed in 467 BC, has the contrasting theme of the interference of the gods in human affairs. It also marks the first known appearance in Aeschylus’s work of a theme which would continue through his plays, that of the polis (the city) being a key development of human civilization.
The play tells the story of Eteocles and Polynices, the sons of the shamed King of Thebes, Oedipus. The sons agree to alternate in the throne of the city, but after the first year Eteocles refuses to step down, and Polynices wages war to claim his crown. The brothers kill each other in single combat, and the original ending of the play consisted of lamentations for the dead brothers.
A new ending was added to the play some fifty years later: Antigone and Ismene mourn their dead brothers, a messenger enters announcing an edict prohibiting the burial of Polynices; and finally, Antigone declares her intention to defy this edict. The play was the third in a connected Oedipus trilogy; the first two plays were Laius and Oedipus. The concluding satyr play was The Sphinx.
Main article: The Suppliants (Aeschylus)
Aeschylus continued his emphasis on the polis with The Suppliants in 463 BC (Hiketides), which pays tribute to the democratic undercurrents running through Athens in advance of the establishment of a democratic government in 461. In the play, the Danaids, the fifty daughters of Danaus, founder of Argos, flee a forced marriage to their cousins in Egypt. They turn to King Pelasgus of Argos for protection, but Pelasgus refuses until the people of Argos weigh in on the decision, a distinctly democratic move on the part of the king. The people decide that the Danaids deserve protection, and they are allowed within the walls of Argos despite Egyptian protests.
The 1952 publication of Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 2256 fr. 3 confirmed a long-assumed (because of The Suppliants’ cliffhanger ending) Danaid trilogy, whose constituent plays are generally agreed to be The Suppliants, The Egyptians and The Danaids. A plausible reconstruction of the trilogy’s last two-thirds runs thus: In The Egyptians, the Argive-Egyptian war threatened in the first play has transpired. During the course of the war, King Pelasgus has been killed, and Danaus rules Argos. He negotiates a peace settlement with Aegyptus, as a condition of which, his fifty daughters will marry the fifty sons of Aegyptus. Danaus secretly informs his daughters of an oracle predicting that one of his sons-in-law would kill him; he therefore orders the Danaids to murder their husbands on their wedding night. His daughters agree. The Danaids would open the day after the wedding.
In short order, it is revealed that forty-nine of the Danaids killed their husbands as ordered; Hypermnestra, however, loved her husband Lynceus, and thus spared his life and helped him to escape. Angered by his daughter’s disobedience, Danaus orders her imprisonment and, possibly, her execution. In the trilogy’s climax and dénouement, Lynceus reveals himself to Danaus, and kills him (thus fulfilling the oracle). He and Hypermnestra will establish a ruling dynasty in Argos. The other forty-nine Danaids are absolved of their murderous crime, and married off to unspecified Argive men. The satyr play following this trilogy was titled Amymone, after one of the Danaids.
Main article: Oresteia
The only complete (save a few missing lines in several spots) trilogy of Greek plays by any playwright still extant is the Oresteia (458 BC); although the satyr play that originally followed it, Proteus, is lost except for some fragments. The trilogy consists of Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers (Choephoroi), and The Eumenides. Together, these plays tell the bloody story of the family of Agamemnon, King of Argos.
Aeschylus begins in Greece describing the return of King Agamemnon from his victory in the Trojan War, from the perspective of the towns people (the Chorus) and his wife, Clytemnestra. However, dark foreshadowings build to the death of the king at the hands of his wife, who was angry at his sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia, killed so the Gods would stop a storm hindering the Greek fleet in the war. She was also unhappy at his keeping of the Trojan prophetess Cassandra as a concubine. Cassandra foretells of the murder of Agamemnon, and of herself, to the assembled townsfolk, who are horrified. She then enters the palace knowing that she cannot avoid her fate. The ending of the play includes a prediction of the return of Orestes, son of Agamemnon, who will seek to avenge his father.
The Libation Bearers
The Libation Bearers continues the tale, opening with Orestes’s arrival at Agamemnon’s tomb. At the tomb, Electra meets Orestes, who has returned from exile in Phocis, and they plan revenge upon Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus. Clytemnestra’s account of a nightmare in which she gives birth to a snake is recounted by the chorus; and this leads her to order Electra, her daughter, to pour libations on Agamemnon’s tomb (with the assistance of libation bearers) in hope of making amends. Orestes enters the palace pretending to bear news of his own death, and when Clytemnestra calls in Aegisthus to share in the news, Orestes kills them both. Orestes is then beset by the Furies, who avenge the murders of kin in Greek mythology.
The final play of The Oresteia addresses the question of Orestes’ guilt. The Furies drive Orestes from Argos and into the wilderness. He makes his way to the temple of Apollo and begs him to drive the Furies away. Apollo had encouraged Orestes to kill Clytemnestra, and so bears some of the guilt for the murder. The Furies are a more ancient race of the gods, and Apollo sends Orestes to the temple of Athena, with Hermes as a guide.
The Furies track him down, and the goddess Athena, patron of Athens, steps in and declares that a trial is necessary. Apollo argues Orestes’ case and, after the judges, including Athena deliver a tie vote, Athena announces that Orestes is acquitted. She renames the Furies The Eumenides (The Good-spirited, or Kindly Ones), and extols the importance of reason in the development of laws, and, as in The Suppliants, the ideals of a democratic Athens are praised.
Main article: Prometheus Bound
In addition to these six works, a seventh tragedy, Prometheus Bound, is attributed to Aeschylus by ancient authorities. Since the late 19th century, however, scholars have increasingly doubted this ascription, largely on stylistic grounds. Its production date is also in dispute, with theories ranging from the 480s BC to as late as the 410s.
The play consists mostly of static dialogue, as throughout the play the Titan Prometheus is bound to a rock as punishment from the Olympian Zeus for providing fire to humans. The god Hephaestus, the Titan Oceanus, and the chorus of Oceanids all express sympathy for Prometheus’ plight. Prometheus meets Io, a fellow victim of Zeus’ cruelty; and prophesies her future travels, revealing that one of her descendants will free Prometheus. The play closes with Zeus sending Prometheus into the abyss because Prometheus refuses to divulge the secret of a potential marriage that could prove Zeus’ downfall.
The Prometheus Bound appears to have been the first play in a trilogy called the Prometheia. In the second play, Prometheus Unbound, Heracles frees Prometheus from his chains and kills the eagle that had been sent daily to eat Prometheus’ perpetually regenerating liver. Perhaps foreshadowing his eventual reconciliation with Prometheus, we learn that Zeus has released the other Titans whom he imprisoned at the conclusion of the Titanomachy.
In the trilogy’s conclusion, Prometheus the Fire-Bringer, it appears that the Titan finally warns Zeus not to sleep with the sea nymph Thetis, for she is fated to give birth to a son greater than the father. Not wishing to be overthrown, Zeus marries Thetis off to the mortal Peleus; the product of that union is Achilles, Greek hero of the Trojan War. After reconciling with Prometheus, Zeus probably inaugurates a festival in his honor at Athens.
Only the titles and assorted fragments of Aeschylus’s other plays have come down to us. We have enough fragments of some plays (along with comments made by later authors and scholiasts) to produce rough synopses of their plots.
This play was based on books 9 and 16 in Homer‘s Iliad. Achilles sits in silent indignation over his humiliation at Agamemnon’s hands for most of the play. Envoys from the Greek army attempt to reconcile him to Agamemnon, but he yields only to his friend Patroclus, who then battles the Trojans in Achilles’ armour. The bravery and death of Patroclus are reported in a messenger’s speech, which is followed by mourning.
This play was based on books 18, 19, and 22 of the Iliad; it follows the Daughters of Nereus, the sea god, who lament Patroclus’ death. In the play, a messenger tells how Achilles, perhaps reconciled to Agamemnon and the Greeks, slew Hector.
Phrygians, or Hector’s Ransom
In this play, Achilles sits in silent mourning over Patroclus, after a brief discussion with Hermes. Hermes then brings in King Priam of Troy, who wins over Achilles and ransoms his son’s body in a spectacular coup de théâtre. A scale is brought on stage and Hector’s body is placed in one scale and gold in the other. The dynamic dancing of the chorus of Trojans when they enter with Priam is reported by Aristophanes.
The children of Niobe, the heroine, have been slain by Apollo and Artemis because Niobe had gloated that she had more children than their mother, Leto. Niobe sits in silent mourning on stage during most of the play. In the Republic, Plato quotes the line “God plants a fault in mortals when he wills to destroy a house utterly.”
Oedipus the King
Oedipus the King (Ancient Greek: Οἰδίπους Τύραννος IPA: [oidípuːs týranːos], Oidipous Tyrannos), also known by its Latin title Oedipus Rex, is an Athenian tragedy by Sophocles that was first performed about 429 BC. Of his three Theban Plays that deal with Oedipus, Oedipus the King was the second to be written. However, in terms of the chronology of events that the plays describe, it comes first, followed by Oedipus at Colonus and then Antigone.
Many parts or elements of the myth of Oedipus take place before the opening scene of the play. They may be described or referred to in the text. In his youth, Laius was a guest of King Pelops of Elis, and became the tutor of Chrysippus, youngest of the king’s sons, in chariot racing. He then violated the sacred laws of hospitality by abducting and raping Chrysippus, who according to some versions, killed himself in shame. This murder cast a doom over Laius, his son Oedipus, and all of his other descendants. However, most scholars are in agreement that the seduction or rape of Chrysippus was a late addition to the Theban myth.
A son is born to King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Thebes. After Laius learns from an oracle that “he is doomed/To perish by the hand of his own son”, he tightly binds the feet of the infant together with a pin and orders Jocasta to kill the infant. Hesitant to do so, she orders a servant to commit the act for her. Instead, the servant takes the baby to a mountain top to die from exposure. A shepherd rescues the infant and names him Oedipus (or “swollen feet”). (The servant directly hands the infant to the shepherd in most versions.) The shepherd carries the baby with him to Corinth, where Oedipus is taken in and raised in the court of the childless King Polybus of Corinth as if he were his own.
As a young man in Corinth, Oedipus hears a rumour that he is not the biological son of Polybus and his wife Merope. When Oedipus questions the King and Queen, they deny it, but, still suspicious, he asks the Delphic Oracle who his parents really are. The Oracle seems to ignore this question, telling him instead that he is destined to “Mate with [his] own mother, and shed/With [his] own hands the blood of [his] own sire“. Desperate to avoid his foretold fate, Oedipus leaves Corinth in the belief that Polybus and Merope are indeed his true parents and that, once away from them, he will never harm them.
On the road to Thebes, he meets Laius, his true father, with several other men. Unaware of each other’s identities, Laius and Oedipus quarrel over whose chariot has right-of-way. King Laius moves to strike the insolent youth with his sceptre, but Oedipus throws him down from the chariot and kills him, thus fulfilling part of the oracle’s prophecy.
Shortly after Oedipus solves the riddle of the Sphinx, which has baffled many diviners: “What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three in the evening?” To this Oedipus replies, “Man” (who crawls on all fours as an infant, walks upright later, and needs a walking stick in old age), and the distraught Sphinx throws herself off the cliffside. Oedipus’s reward for freeing the kingdom of Thebes from her curse is the kingship and the hand of Queen Dowager Jocasta, his biological mother. The prophecy is thus fulfilled, although none of the main characters knows it.
A priest and the chorus of Thebans arrive at the palace to call upon their King, Oedipus, to aid them with the plague. Oedipus had sent his brother-in-law Creon to ask help of the oracle at Delphi, and he returns at that moment. Creon says the plague is the result of religious pollution, caused because the murderer of their former King, Laius, had never been caught. Oedipus vows to find the murderer and curses him for the plague that he has caused.
Oedipus summons the blind prophet Tiresias for help. When Tiresias arrives he claims to know the answers to Oedipus’s questions, but refuses to speak, instead telling him to abandon his search. Oedipus is enraged by Tiresias’ refusal, and verbally accuses him of complicity in Laius’ murder. Outraged, Tiresias tells the king that Oedipus himself is the murderer. Oedipus cannot see how this could be, and concludes that the prophet must have been paid off by Creon in an attempt to undermine him. The two argue vehemently, as Oedipus mocks Tiresias’ lack of sight, and Tiresias in turn tells Oedipus that he himself is blind. Eventually Tiresias leaves, muttering darkly that when the murderer is discovered he shall be a native citizen of Thebes, brother and father to his own children, and son and husband to his own mother.
Creon arrives to face Oedipus’s accusations. The King demands that Creon be executed; however, the chorus persuades him to let Creon live. Jocasta enters and attempts to comfort Oedipus, telling him he should take no notice of prophets. As proof, she recounts (in a flashback) an incident in which she and Laius received an oracle which never came true. The prophecy stated that Laius would be killed by his own son; however, Jocasta reassures Oedipus by her statement that Laius was killed by bandits at a crossroads on the way to Delphi.
The mention of this crossroads causes Oedipus to pause and ask for more details. He asks Jocasta what Laius looked like, and Oedipus suddenly becomes worried that Tiresias’s accusations were true. Oedipus then sends for the one surviving witness of the attack to be brought to the palace from the fields where he now works as a shepherd.
Jocasta, confused, asks Oedipus what the matter is, and he tells her. Many years ago, at a banquet in Corinth, a man drunkenly accused Oedipus of not being his father’s son. Bothered by the comment Oedipus went to Delphi and asked the oracle about his parentage. Instead of answers he was given a prophecy that he would one day murder his father and sleep with his mother. Upon hearing this he resolved to leave Corinth and never return. While traveling he came to the very crossroads where Laius was killed, and encountered a carriage which attempted to drive him off the road. An argument ensued and Oedipus killed the travelers, including a man who matches Jocasta’s description of Laius. Oedipus has hope, however, because the story is that Laius was murdered by several robbers. If the shepherd confirms that Laius was attacked by many men, then Oedipus is in the clear.
A man arrives from Corinth with the message that Oedipus’s father has died. Oedipus, to the surprise of the messenger, is made ecstatic by this news, for it proves one half of the prophecy false, for now he can never kill his father. However, he still fears that he may somehow commit incest with his mother. The messenger, eager to ease Oedipus’s mind, tells him not to worry, because Merope was not in fact his real mother.
It emerges that this messenger was formerly a shepherd on Mount Cithaeron, and that he was given a baby, which the childless Polybus then adopted. The baby, he says, was given to him by another shepherd from the Laius household, who had been told to get rid of the child. Oedipus asks the chorus if anyone knows who this man was, or where he might be now. They respond that he is the same shepherd who was witness to the murder of Laius, and whom Oedipus had already sent for. Jocasta, who has by now realized the truth, desperately begs Oedipus to stop asking questions, but he refuses and Jocasta runs into the palace.
When the shepherd arrives Oedipus questions him, but he begs to be allowed to leave without answering further. However, Oedipus presses him, finally threatening him with torture or execution. It emerges that the child he gave away was Laius’s own son, and that Jocasta had given the baby to the shepherd to secretly be exposed upon the mountainside. This was done in fear of the prophecy that Jocasta said had never come true: that the child would kill his father.
Everything is at last revealed, and Oedipus curses himself and fate before leaving the stage. The chorus laments how even a great man can be felled by fate, and following this, a servant exits the palace to speak of what has happened inside. When Jocasta enters the house, she runs to the palace bedroom and hangs herself there. Shortly afterward, Oedipus enters in a fury, calling on his servants to bring him a sword so that he might cut out his mother’s womb. He then rages through the house, until he comes upon Jocasta’s body. Giving a cry, Oedipus takes her down and removes the long gold pins that held her dress together, before plunging them into his own eyes in despair.
A blind Oedipus now exits the palace and begs to be exiled as soon as possible. Creon enters, saying that Oedipus shall be taken into the house until oracles can be consulted regarding what is best to be done. Oedipus’s two daughters (and half-sisters), Antigone and Ismene, are sent out, and Oedipus laments their having been born to such a cursed family. He asks Creon to watch over them and Creon agrees, before sending Oedipus back into the palace.
Medea (Ancient Greek: Μήδεια, Mēdeia) is an ancient Greek tragedy written by Euripides, based upon the myth of Jason and Medea and first produced in 431 BCE. The plot centers on the actions of Medea, a barbarian and the wife of Jason; she finds her position in the Greek world threatened as Jason leaves her for a Greek princess of Corinth. Medea takes vengeance on Jason by killing Jason’s new wife as well as her own children with him, after which she escapes to Athens to start a new life.
Considered shocking to his contemporaries, Medea and the suite of plays that it accompanied in the City Dionysia festival came last in the festival that year. Nonetheless the play remained part of the tragedic repertoire, and experienced renewed interest with the emergence of the feminist movement, because of its nuanced and sympathetic portrayal of Medea’s struggle to take charge of her own life in a male-dominated world. The play has remained the most frequently performed Greek tragedy through the 20th century.
Production and stylistic innovations
Medea was first performed in 431 BCE at the City Dionysia festival. Here every year three playwrights competed against each other, each writing a tetralogy of four tragedies and a satyr play (alongside Medea were Philoctetes, Dictys and the satyr play Theristai). In 431 the competition was between Euphorion (the son of famed playwright Aeschylus), Sophocles (Euripides’ main rival) and Euripides. Euphorion won, and Euripides placed last.
The form of the play differs from many other Greek tragedies by its simplicity: All scenes involve only two actors, Medea and someone else. These encounters serve to highlight Medea’s skill and determination in manipulating powerful male figures to achieve her own ends. The play is also the only Greek tragedy in which a kin-killer makes it unpunished to the end of the play, and the only one about child-killing in which the deed is performed in cold blood as opposed to in a state of temporary madness.
Medea is centered on a wife’s calculated desire for revenge against her unfaithful husband. The play is set in Corinth some time after Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece, where he met Medea. The play begins with Medea raging at Jason for arranging to marry Glauce, the daughter of Creon (king of Corinth). The nurse, overhearing Medea’s grief, fears what she might do to herself or her children.
Creon, in anticipation of Medea’s wrath, arrives and reveals his plans to send her into exile. Medea pleads for one day’s delay and eventually Creon acquiesces. In the next scene Jason arrives to explain his rationale for his apparent betrayal. He explains that he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to marry a royal princess, as Medea is only a barbarian woman, but hopes to someday join the two families and keep Medea as his mistress. Medea, and the chorus of Corinthian women, do not believe him. She reminds him that she left her own people for him (“I am the mother of your children. Whither can I fly, since all Greece hates the barbarian?”), and that she saved him and slew the dragon. Jason promises to support her after his new marriage, but Medea spurns him: “Marry the maid if thou wilt; perchance full soon thou mayst rue thy nuptials.”
In the following scene Medea encounters Aegeus, King of Athens. He reveals to her that despite his marriage to his wife he is still without children. He visited the oracle who merely told him that he was instructed “not to unstop the wineskin’s neck.” Medea relays her current situation to him and begs for Aegeus to let her stay in Athens if she gives him drugs to end his infertility. Aegeus, unaware of Medea’s plans for revenge, agrees.
Medea then returns to plotting the murders of Glauce and Creon. She decides to poison some golden robes (a family heirloom and gift from the sun god Helios) and a coronet, in hopes that the bride will not be able to resist wearing them, and consequently be poisoned. Medea resolves to kill her own children as well, not because the children have done anything wrong, but because she feels it is the best way to hurt Jason. She calls for Jason once more and, in an elaborate ruse, apologizes to him for overreacting to his decision to marry Glauce. When Jason appears fully convinced that she regrets her actions, Medea begins to cry in mourning of her exile. She convinces Jason to allow her to give the robes to Glauce in hopes that Glauce might get Creon to lift the exile. Eventually Jason agrees and allows their children to deliver the poisoned robes as the gift-bearers.
Forgive what I said in anger! I will yield to the decree, and only beg one favor, that my children may stay. They shall take to the princess a costly robe and a golden crown, and pray for her protection.
In the next scene a messenger accounts Glauce and Creon’s deaths. When the children arrived with the robes and coronet Glauce put them on gleefully and went to find her father. Soon the poisons overtook Glauce and she fell to the floor, quickly dying. Creon clutched her tightly as he tried to save her and, by coming in contact with the robes and coronet, got poisoned and died as well.
Alas! The bride had died in horrible agony; for no sooner had she put on Medea’s gifts than a devouring poison consumed her limbs as with fire, and in his endeavor to save his daughter the old father died too.
While Medea is content with her current success she decides to take it one step forward. Since Jason brought shame upon her for trying to start a new family, Medea resolves to destroy the family he was willing to give up by killing their sons. Medea does have a moment of hesitation when she considers the pain that her children’s deaths will put her through. However, she steels her resolve to cause Jason the most pain possible and rushes offstage with a knife to kill her children. As the chorus laments her decision, the children are heard screaming. Jason then rushes onto the scene to confront Medea about murdering Creon and Glauce and he quickly discovers that his children have been killed as well. Medea then appears above the stage with the bodies of her children in the chariot of the sun god Helios. When this play was put on, this scene was accomplished using the mechane device usually reserved for the appearance of a god or goddess. She confronts Jason, reveling in his pain at being unable to ever hold his children again:
“I do not leave my children’s bodies with thee; I take them with me that I may bury them in Hera‘s precinct. And for thee, who didst me all that evil, I prophesy an evil doom.”
She escapes to Athens with the bodies. The chorus is left contemplating the will of Zeus in Medea’s actions:
Manifold are thy shapings, Providence!
Many a hopeless matter gods arrange.
What we expected never came to pass,
What we did not expect the gods brought to bear;
So have things gone, this whole experience through!
Euripides’ characterization of Medea exhibits the inner emotions of passion, love, and vengeance. Medea is widely read as a proto-feminist text to the extent that it sympathetically explores the disadvantages of being a woman in a patriarchal society, although it has also been read as an expression of misogynist attitudes. In conflict with this sympathetic undertone (or reinforcing a more negative reading) is Medea’s barbarian identity, which would antagonize a 5th-century Greek audience.
Euripidean innovation and reaction
While Medea is considered one of the great plays of the Western canon, the Athenian audience did not react so favorably, and it placed third out of the three competing plays at the Dionysia festival of 431 BC. A possible explanation is found in a scholium to line 264 of the play, which asserts that Medea’s children were traditionally killed by the Corinthians after her escape; Euripides’ apparent invention of Medea’s filicide might have offended its audience just as his first treatment of the Hippolytus myth did.
In the 4th century BC, South-Italian vase painting offers a number of Medea-representations that are connected to Euripides’ play — the most famous is a krater in Munich. However, these representations always differ considerably from the plots of the play or are too general to support any direct link to the play of Euripides – this might reflect the judgement on the play. However, the violent and powerful character of princess Medea, and her double nature — both loving and destructive — became a standard for the later periods of antiquity and seems to have inspired numerous adaptations.
With the rediscovery of the text in 1st-century Rome (the play was adapted by the tragedians Ennius, Lucius Accius, Ovid, Seneca the Younger and Hosidius Geta, among others), again in 16th-century Europe, and in the light of 20th century modern literary criticism, Medea has provoked differing reactions from differing critics and writers who have sought to interpret the reactions of their societies in the light of past generic assumptions, bringing a fresh interpretation to its universal themes of revenge and justice in an unjust society.
Prometheus Bound (Ancient Greek: Προμηθεὺς Δεσμώτης, Promētheus Desmōtēs) is an Ancient Greek tragedy. In antiquity, it was attributed to Aeschylus, but is now considered by some scholars to be the work of another hand, and perhaps one as late as c. 415 BC. Despite these doubts of authorship, the play’s designation as Aeschylean has remained conventional. The tragedy is based on the myth of Prometheus, a Titan who defies the gods and gives fire to mankind, acts for which he is subjected to perpetual punishment.
The play is composed almost entirely of speeches and contains little action since its protagonist is chained and immobile throughout. At the beginning, Kratos (Authority), Bia (violence), and the smith-god Hephaestus chain the Titan Prometheus to a mountain in the Caucasus, with Hephaestus alone expressing reluctance and pity, and then departing. According to the author, Prometheus is being punished not only for stealing fire, but also for thwarting Zeus‘s plan to obliterate the human race. This punishment is especially galling since Prometheus was instrumental in Zeus’s victory in the Titanomachy.
The Oceanids appear and attempt to comfort Prometheus by conversing with him. Prometheus cryptically tells them that he knows of a potential marriage that would lead to Zeus’s downfall. A Titan named Oceanus commiserates with Prometheus and urges him to make peace with Zeus. Prometheus tells the chorus that the gift of fire to mankind was not his only benefaction; in the so-called Catalogue of the Arts (447-506), he reveals that he taught men all the civilizing arts, such as writing, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, metallurgy, architecture, and agriculture.
Prometheus is then visited by Io, a human maiden pursued by a lustful Zeus; the Olympian transformed Io into a cow, and a gadfly sent by Zeus’s wife Hera has chased Io all the way from Argos. Prometheus forecasts Io’s future travels, telling her that Zeus will eventually end her torment in Egypt, where she will bear a son named Epaphus. He says one of her descendants (an unnamed Heracles), thirteen generations hence, will release him from his own torment.
Finally, Hermes the messenger-god is sent down by the angered Zeus to demand that Prometheus tell him who threatens to overthrow him. Prometheus refuses, and Zeus strikes him with a thunderbolt that plunges Prometheus into the abyss.
Departures from Hesiod
The treatment of the myth of Prometheus in Prometheus Bound is a radical departure from the earlier accounts found in Hesiod‘s Theogony (511-616) and Works and Days (42-105). Hesiod essentially portrays the Titan as a lowly trickster and semi-comic foil to Zeus’s authority. Zeus’s anger toward Prometheus is in turn responsible for mortal man’s having to provide for himself; before, all of man’s needs had been provided by the gods. Prometheus’ theft of fire also prompts the arrival of the first woman, Pandora, and her jar of evils. Pandora is entirely absent from Prometheus Bound, and Prometheus becomes a human benefactor and divine king-maker, rather than an object of blame for human suffering.
There is evidence that Prometheus Bound was the first play in a trilogy conventionally called the Prometheia, but the other two plays, Prometheus Unbound and Prometheus the Fire-Bringer, survive only in fragments. In Prometheus Unbound, Heracles frees Prometheus from his chains and kills the eagle that had been sent daily to eat the Titan’s perpetually regenerating liver. Perhaps foreshadowing his eventual reconciliation with Prometheus, we learn that Zeus has released the other Titans whom he imprisoned at the conclusion of the Titanomachy. In Prometheus the Fire-Bringer, the Titan finally warns Zeus not to lie with the sea nymph Thetis, for she is fated to give birth to a son greater than the father. Not wishing to be overthrown, Zeus would later marry Thetis off to the mortal Peleus; the product of that union will be Achilles, Greek hero of the Trojan War. Grateful for the warning, Zeus finally reconciles with Prometheus.
Debate over authenticity
Scholars at the Great Library of Alexandria unanimously deemed Aeschylus to be the author of Prometheus Bound. Since the 19th century, however, several scholars have doubted Aeschylus’ authorship of the drama. These doubts initially took the form of the so-called “Zeus Problem,” or the argument that the playwright who demonstrated such piety toward Zeus in The Suppliants and Agamemnon could not have been the same playwright who, in Prometheus Bound, inveighs against Zeus for violent tyranny. Some who object to this argument put forward the theory of a Zeus who (like the Furies in the Oresteia) “evolves” throughout the trilogy; these people argue that it is possible Zeus is meant to be reminiscent of a tyrant only in Prometheus Bound, and that in the conclusion of the full trilogy, Aeschylus’ Zeus could have become more comparable with the just and honorable Zeus found in the works of Hesiod.
Increasingly, arguments for and against the attribution to Aeschylus have been based on metrical-stylistic grounds: the play’s diction, the use of so-called Eigenwoerter, the use of recitative anapests in the meter, etc. Using such criteria in 1977, Mark Griffith made a case against the attribution. C. J. Herington, however, repeatedly argued for it. Since Griffith’s landmark study, confidence in Aeschylean authorship has steadily eroded. Influential scholars such as M. L. West, and Alan Sommerstein, have made arguments against authenticity. West has argued that the Prometheus Bound and its trilogy are at least partially and probably wholly the work of Aeschylus’ son, Euphorion, who was also a playwright. Those who trust in the verdict of antiquity and still favor Aeschylean authorship have dated the play anywhere from the 480s to 456 BC. The matter may never be settled to the satisfaction of all. As Griffith himself, who argues against authenticity, puts it: “We cannot hope for certainty one way or the other.”
The argument of Herington and others for authenticity has largely centered upon the fact that Prometheus by Aeschylus was one play in a trilogy and therefore discussion of its isolated attribution are of limited import. Of all Aeschylus plays and tragedies, which have been numbered by some as approaching ninety plays during his own lifetime, only the Oresteia trilogy survives in the complete text of all three plays among the seven surviving plays by Aeschylus.
Reception and influence
Prometheus Bound enjoyed a measure of popularity in antiquity. Aeschylus was very popular in Athens decades after his death, as Aristophanes‘ The Frogs (405 BC) makes clear. Allusions to the play are evident in his The Birds of 414 BC, and in the tragedian Euripides‘ fragmentary Andromeda, dated to 412 BC. If Aeschylean authorship is assumed, then these allusions several decades after the play’s first performance speak to the enduring popularity of Prometheus Bound. Moreover, a performance of the play itself (rather than a depiction of the generic myth) appears on fragments of a Greek vase dated c. 370–360 BC.
In the early 19th century, the Romantic writers came to identify with the defiant Prometheus. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote a poem on the theme, as did Lord Byron. Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote a play, Prometheus Unbound, which used some of the materials of the play as a vehicle for Shelley’s own vision.
Performance of Prometheus Bound in the English language
- [In February 1979 Theatro Technis, London, performed `Prometheus Bound` in the Vellacot Penguin translation with George Eugeniou directing and Angelique Rockas and Koraltan Ahmed in the roles of Io and Prometheus respectively. Set in Greece of the 1970`s – it was `an indictment of the Greek junta and its repercussions to harrowing effect` Time Out – see External Links ]
- [In April 2015 MacMillan Films, United States, staged `Prometheus Bound` for camera using Peter Arnott’s translation with James Thomas directing, Tanya Rodina as Io, and Casey McIntyre as the Chorus Leader. The production used a real skene building whose roof was used as the landing and dance platform for the Chorus of Oceanids.]
- 39: τὸ συγγενές τοι δεινὸν ἥ θ’ ὁμιλία (to sungenes toi deinon he th’omilia), “Kinship and companionship are terrible things.”
- 78: ὅμοια μορφῇ γλῶσσά σου γηρύεται (homoia morphei glossa sou geruetai), “Your speech and your appearance – both alike.”
- 250: τυφλὰς ἐν αὐτοῖς ἐλπίδας κατῴκισα (tuphlas in autois elpidas katoikisa), “I established in them blind hopes.”
- 387: σαφῶς μ᾽ ἐς οἶκον σὸς λόγος στέλλει πάλιν (saphos m’es oikon sos logos stellei palin), “Your speech returns me clearly home.”
Conventions of the time period:
- Semi circle amphitheater made of concrete
- Used natural sunlight, torches, and oil lamps
- Sound projected through deliberate design of the auditorium, allowing sounds to be clearly heard up to 60 meters away of the stage
- Togas of all variants, Jesus sandals (Soleas)
- Masks and makeup
Basics of the time period
- were deeply religious
- had dogs as pets
- did not have cats as pets
- dancing was important to them
- blonde hair was rare, so naturally everyone wanted to be blonde and bleached their hair
slave labor was a thing
The ancient Greeks were a deeply religious people. They worshipped many gods whom they believed appeared in human form and yet were endowed with superhuman strength and ageless beauty.
The Iliad and the Odyssey, our earliest surviving examples of Greek literature, record men’s interactions with various gods and goddesses whose characters and appearances underwent little change in the centuries that followed.
While many sanctuaries honored more than a single god, usually one deity such as Zeus at Olympia or a closely linked pair of deities like Demeter and her daughter Persephone at Eleusis dominated the cult place.
Elsewhere in the arts, various painted scenes on vases, and stone, terracotta and bronze sculptures portray the major gods and goddesses.
The deities were depicted either by themselves or in traditional mythological situations in which they interact with humans and a broad range of minor deities, demi-gods and legendary characters.
The ancient Greeks did not generally leave elaborate grave goods, except for a coin in the hand to pay Charon, the ferryman to Hades, and pottery; however the epitaphios or funeral oration (from which epitaph comes) was regarded as of great importance, and animal sacrifices were made.
Those who could afford them erected stone monuments, which was one of the functions of kouros statues in the Archaic period before about 500 BCE. These were not intended as portraits, but during the Hellenistic period realistic portraiture of the deceased were introduced and family groups were often depicted in bas-relief on monuments, usually surrounded by an architectural frame.
The walls of tomb chambers were often painted in fresco, although few examples have survived in as good condition as the Tomb of the Diver from southern Italy. Almost the only surviving painted portraits in the classical Greek tradition are found in Egypt rather than Greece.
The Fayum mummy portraits, from the very end of the classical period, were portrait faces, in a Graeco-Roman style, attached to mummies.
Early Greek burials were frequently marked above ground by a large piece of pottery, and remains were also buried in urns. Pottery continued to be used extensively inside tombs and graves throughout the classical period. The larnax is a small coffin or ash-chest, usually of decorated terracotta.
The two-handled loutrophoros was primarily associated with weddings, as it was used to carry water for the nuptial bath. However, it was also placed in the tombs of the unmarried, “presumably to make up in some way for what they had missed in life.”
The one-handled lekythos had many household uses, but outside the household its principal use was for decoration of tombs. Scenes of a descent to the underworld of Hades were often painted on these, with the dead depicted beside Hermes, Charon or both – though usually only with Charon.
Small pottery figurines are often found, though it is hard to decide if these were made especially for placing in tombs; in the case of the Hellenistic Tanagra figurines this seems probably not the case. But silverware is more often found around the fringes of the Greek world, as in the royal Macedonian tombs of Vergina, or in the neighbouring cultures like those of Thrace or the Scythians.
Men ran the government, and spent a great deal of their time away from home. When not involved in politics, the men spent time in the fields, overseeing or working the crops, sailing, hunting, in manufacturing or in trade. For fun, in addition to drinking parties, the men enjoyed wrestling, horseback riding, and the famous Olympic Games. When the men entertained their male friends, at the popular drinking parties, their wives and daughters were not allowed to attend.
With the exception of ancient Sparta, Greek women had very limited freedom outside the home. They could attend weddings, funerals, some religious festivals, and could visit female neighbors for brief periods of time. In their home, Greek women were in charge. Their job was to run the house and to bear children.
Most Greek women did not do housework themselves. Most Greek households had slaves. Female slaves cooked, cleaned, and worked in the fields. Male slaves watched the door, to make sure no one came in when the man of the house was away, except for female neighbors, and acted as tutors to the young male children. Wives and daughters were not allowed to watch the Olympic Games as the participants in the games did not wear clothes. Chariot racing was the only game women could win, and only then if they owned the horse. If that horse won, they received the prize.
The ancient Greeks considered their children to be ‘youths’ until they reached the age of 30! When a child was born to ancient Greek family, a naked father carried his child, in a ritual dance, around the household. Friends and relatives sent gifts. The family decorated the doorway of their home with a wreath of olives (for a boy) or a wreath of wool (for a girl).
In Athens, as in most Greek city-states, with the exception of Sparta, girls stayed at home until they were married. Like their mother, they could attend certain festivals, funerals, and visit neighbors for brief periods of time. Their job was to help their mother, and to help in the fields, if necessary.
Ancient Greek children played with many toys, including rattles, little clay animals, horses on 4 wheels that could be pulled on a string, yo-yo’s, and terra-cotta dolls.
Education – Military Training – Sparta
The goal of education in the Greek city-states was to prepare the child for adult activities as a citizen. The nature of the city-states varied greatly, and this was also true of the education they considered appropriate. In most Greek city-states, when young, the boys stayed at home, helping in the fields, sailing, and fishing. At age 6 or 7, they went to school. Both daily life and education were very different in Sparta [militant], than in Athens [arts and culture] or in the other ancient Greek city-states.
The goal of education in Sparta, an authoritarian, military city-state, was to produce soldier-citizens who were well-drilled, well-disciplined marching army. Spartans believed in a life of discipline, self-denial, and simplicity. Boys were very loyal to the state of Sparta.
The boys of Sparta were obliged to leave home at the age of 7 to join sternly disciplined groups under the supervision of a hierarchy of officers. From age 7 to 18, they underwent an increasingly severe course of training.
Spartan boys were sent to military school at age 6 or 7. They lived, trained and slept in their the barracks of their brotherhood. At school, they were taught survival skills and other skills necessary to be a great soldier. School courses were very hard and often painful. Although students were taught to read and write, those skills were not very important to the ancient Spartans.
Only warfare mattered. The boys were not fed well, and were told that it was fine to steal food as long as they did not get caught stealing. If they were caught, they were beaten. They walked barefoot, slept on hard beds, and worked at gymnastics and other physical activities such as running, jumping, javelin and discus throwing, swimming, and hunting. They were subjected to strict discipline and harsh physical punishment; indeed, they were taught to take pride in the amount of pain they could endure.
At 18, Spartan boys became military cadets and learned the arts of war. At 20, they joined the state militia–a standing reserve force available for duty in time of emergency–in which they served until they were 60 years old.
The typical Spartan may or may not have been able to read. But reading, writing, literature, and the arts were considered unsuitable for the soldier-citizen and were therefore not part of his education. Music and dancing were a part of that education, but only because they served military ends.
Somewhere between the age of 18-20, Spartan males had to pass a difficult test of fitness, military ability, and leadership skills. Any Spartan male who did not pass these examinations became a perioikos. (The perioikos, or the middle class, were allowed to own property, have business dealings, but had no political rights and were not citizens.)
If they passed, they became a full citizen and a Spartan soldier. Spartan citizens were not allowed to touch money. That was the job of the middle class. Spartan soldiers spent most of their lives with their fellow soldiers.
They ate, slept, and continued to train in their brotherhood barracks. Even if they were married, they did not live with their wives and families. They lived in the barracks. Military service did not end until a Spartan male reached the age of 60. At age 60, a Spartan soldier could retire and live in their home with their family.
Unlike the other Greek city-states, Sparta provided training for girls that went beyond the domestic arts. The girls were not forced to leave home, but otherwise their training was similar to that of the boys. They too learned to run, jump, throw the javelin and discus, and wrestle mightiest strangle a bull. Girls also went to school at age 6 or 7. They lived, slept and trained in their sisterhood’s barracks. No one knows if their school was as cruel or as rugged as the boys school, but the girls were taught wrestling, gymnastics and combat skills.
Some historians believe the two schools were very similar, and that an attempt was made to train the girls as thoroughly as they trained the boys. In any case, the Spartans believed that strong young women would produce strong babies.
At age 18, if a Sparta girl passed her skills and fitness test, she would be assigned a husband and allowed to return home. If she failed, she would lose her rights as a citizen, and became a perioikos, a member of the middle class.
In most of the other Greek city-states, women were required to stay inside their homes most of their lives. In Sparta, citizen women were free to move around, and enjoyed a great deal of freedom, as their husbands did not live at home.
Educations in Athens
The goal of education in Athens, a democratic city-state, was to produce citizens trained in the arts of both peace and war.
In ancient Athens, the purpose of education was to produce citizens trained in the arts, to prepare citizens for both peace and war. Other than requiring two years of military training that began at age 18, the state left parents to educate their sons as they saw fit. The schools were private, but the tuition was low enough so that even the poorest citizens could afford to send their children for at least a few years. Until age 6 or 7, boys generally were taught at home by their mother.
Most Athenian girls had a primarily domestic education. The most highly educated women were the hetaerae, or courtesans, who attended special schools where they learned to be interesting companions for the men who could afford to maintain them.
Boys attended elementary school from the time they were about age 6 or 7 until they were 13 or 14. Part of their training was gymnastics. Younger boys learned to move gracefully, do calisthenics, and play ball and other games. The older boys learned running, jumping, boxing, wrestling, and discus and javelin throwing. The boys also learned to play the lyre and sing, to count, and to read and write. But it was literature that was at the heart of their schooling.
The national epic poems of the Greeks – Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad – were a vital part of the life of the Athenian people. As soon as their pupils could write, the teachers dictated passages from Homer for them to take down, memorize, and later act out. Teachers and pupils also discussed the feats of the Greek heroes described by Homer.
The education of mind, body, and aesthetic sense was, according to Plato, so that the boys. From age 6 to 14, they went to a neighborhood primary school or to a private school. Books were very expensive and rare, so subjects were read out-loud, and the boys had to memorize everything. To help them learn, they used writing tablets and rulers.
At 13 or 14, the formal education of the poorer boys probably ended and was followed by apprenticeship at a trade. The wealthier boys continued their education under the tutelage of philosopher-teachers.
Until about 390 BC there were no permanent schools and no formal courses for such higher education. Socrates, for example, wandered around Athens, stopping here or there to hold discussions with the people about all sorts of things pertaining to the conduct of man’s life. But gradually, as groups of students attached themselves to one teacher or another, permanent schools were established. It was in such schools that Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle taught.
The boys who attended these schools fell into more or less two groups.
Those who wanted learning for its own sake studied with philosophers like Plato who taught such subjects as geometry, astronomy, harmonics (the mathematical theory of music), and arithmetic.
Those who wanted training for public life studied with philosophers like Socrates who taught primarily oratory and rhetoric. In democratic Athens such training was appropriate and necessary because power rested with the men who had the ability to persuade their fellow senators to act.
Birds, dogs, goats, tortoises, and mice were all popular pets. Cats, however, were not.
Homes – Courtyards
Greek houses, in the 6th and 5th century B.C., were made up of two or three rooms, built around an open air courtyard, built of stone, wood, or clay bricks. Larger homes might also have a kitchen, a room for bathing, a men’s dining room, and perhaps a woman’s sitting area.
Although the Greek women were allowed to leave their homes for only short periods of time, they could enjoy the open air, in the privacy of their courtyard. Much of ancient Greek family life centered around the courtyard.
The ancient Greeks loved stories and fables. One favorite family activity was to gather in the courtyard to hear these stories, told by the mother or father. In their courtyard, Greek women might relax, chat, and sew.
Most meals were enjoyed in a courtyard near the home. Greek cooking equipment was small and light and could easily be set up there. On bright, sunny days, the women probably sheltered under a covered area of their courtyard, as the ancient Greeks believed a pale complexion was a sign of beauty.
Food in Ancient Greece consisted of grains, figs, wheat to make bread, barley, fruit, vegetables, breads, and cake. People in Ancient Greece also ate grapes, seafood of all kinds, and drank wine.
Along the coastline, the soil was not very fertile, but the ancient Greeks used systems of irrigation and crop rotation to help solve that problem.
They kept goats, for milk and cheese. They sometimes hunted for meat.
Clothing – Accesories
Greek clothing was very simple. Men and women wore linen in the summer and wool in the winter. The ancient Greeks could buy cloth and clothes in the agora, the marketplace, but that was expensive. Most families made their own clothes, which were simple tunics and warm cloaks, made of linen or wool, dyed a bright color, or bleached white. Clothes were made by the mother, her daughters, and female slaves. They were often decorated to represent the city-state in which they lived. The ancient Greeks were very proud of their home city-state.
Now and then, they might buy jewelry from a traveling peddler, hairpins, rings, and earrings, but only the rich could afford much jewelry. Both men and women in ancient Athens, and in most of the other city-states, used perfume, made by boiling flowers and herbs.
The first real hat, the broad-brimmed petasos, was invented by the ancient Greeks. It was worn only for traveling. A chin strap held it on, so when it was not needed, as protection from the weather, it could hang down ones back.
Both men and women enjoyed using mirrors and hairbrushes. Hair was curled, arranged in interesting and carefully designed styles, and held in place with scented waxes and lotions.
Women kept their hair long, in braids, arranged on top of their head, or wore their hair in ponytails. Headbands, made of ribbon or metal, were very popular.
Blond hair was rare. Greek admired the blonde look and many tried bleaching their hair. Men cut their hair short and, unless they were soldiers, wore beards.
Barber shops first became popular in ancient Greece, and were an important part of the social life of many ancient Greek males. In the barber shop, the men exchanged political and sports news, philosophy, and gossip.
Dancing – Music
Dance was very important to the ancient Greeks. They believed that dance improved both physical and emotional health. Rarely did men and women dance together. Some dances were danced by men and others by women.
There were more than 200 ancient Greek dances; comic dances, warlike dances, dances for athletes and for religious worship, plus dances for weddings, funerals, and celebrations.
Dance was accompanied by music played on lyres, flutes, and a wide variety of percussion instruments such as tambourines, cymbals and castanets.
The ancient Greeks loved stories. They created many marvelous stories, myths, and fables that we enjoy today, like Odysseus and the Terrible Sea and Circe, a beautiful but evil enchantress. Aesop’s Fables, written by Aesop, an ancient Greek, are still read and enjoyed all over the world.
Marriage – Weddings
In ancient Athens, wedding ceremonies started after dark. The veiled bride traveled from her home to the home of the groom while standing in a chariot. Her family followed the chariot on foot, carrying the gifts.
Friends of the bride and groom lit the way, carrying torches and playing music to scare away evil spirits. During the wedding ceremony, the bride would eat an apple, or another piece of fruit, to show that food and other basic needs would now come from her husband.
Gifts to the new couple might include baskets, furniture, jewelry, mirrors, perfume, vases filled with greenery.
In ancient Sparta, the ceremony was very simple. After a tussle, to prove his superior strength, the groom would toss his bride over his shoulder and carried her off.
In Vino Veritas: Wine Cups Tell History of Athenian Life Live Science – January 12, 2011
Over centuries, the ancient Athenian cocktail parties went full circle, from a practice reserved for the elite to one open to everyone and then, by the fourth century B.C., back to a luxurious display of consumption most could not afford.
Slavery played a major role in ancient Greek civilization. Slaves could be found everywhere. They worked not only as domestic servants, but as factory workers, shopkeepers, mineworkers, farm workers and as ship’s crew members.
There may have been as many, if not more, slaves than free people in ancient Greece. It is difficult for historians to determine exactly how many slaves there were during these times, because many did not appear any different from the poorer Greek citizens.
There were many different ways in which a person could have become a slave in ancient Greece. They might have been born into slavery as the child of a slave. They might have been taken prisoner if their city was attacked in one of the many battles which took place during these times. They might have been exposed as an infant, meaning the parents abandoned their newborn baby upon a hillside or at the gates of the city to die or be claimed by a passerby.
This method was not uncommon in ancient Greece. Another possible way in which one might have become a slave was if a family needed money, they might sell one of the children into slavery. Generally it was a daughter because the male children were much needed to help out with the chores or the farm. Kidnapping was another fairly common way in which one could have been sold into slavery.
Slaves were treated differently in ancient Greece depending upon what their purpose was. If one was a household servant, they had a fairly good situation, at least as good as slavery could be. They were often treated almost as part of the family. They were even allowed to take part in the family rituals, like the sacrifice.
Slaves were always supervised by the woman of the house who was responsible for making sure that all the slaves were kept busy and didn’t get out of line. This could be quite a task as most wealthy Greek households had as many as 10-20 slaves.
There were limits to what a slave could do. They could not enter the Gymnasium or the Public Assembly. They could not use their own names, but were assigned names by their master.
Not all forms of slavery in ancient Greece were as tolerable as that of the domestic servant. The life of a mineworker or ship’s crew member was a life of misery and danger.
These people usually did not live long because of the grueling work and dangerous conditions of their work.
Often those forced into these conditions were those condemned to death for committing crimes because it was understood that they wouldn’t live very long under these circumstances. It is surprising to note that the police force in ancient Athens was made up mainly of slaves. Many of the clerks at the treasury office were slaves.
Slavery was a very important part of ancient Greece. It played a major role in so many aspects of Greek civilization from domestic living to the infamous Athenian naval fleet.
The price one might have paid for a slave in ancient Greek times varied depending on their appearance, age and attitude. Those who were healthy, attractive, young and submissive, could sell for as much as 10 minae ($180.00). Those who were old, weak and stubborn might have sold for as little as 1/2 a mina ($9.00). If there happened to be a large supply of slaves on the market, the price automatically went down. This usually happened after winning a large battle, when there were many prisoners of war.
Traditionally, studies of Ancient Greece focus on the political, military and cultural achievements of Greek men. Unfortunately, the information we have about ancient Greek women is biased because it comes from various sources such as plays, philosophical tracts, vase paintings and sculptures which were completed by males. From these sources, we can conclude that Greek society was highly stratified in terms of class, race, and gender.
The segregation of male and female roles within ancient Greece was justified by philosophical claims of the natural superiority of males. As we shall learn, slave women were at a disadvantage in Greek society not only because of their gender but also because of their underprivileged status in the social hierarchy.
Slave labor was an essential element of the ancient world. While male slaves were assigned to agricultural and industrial work, female slaves were assigned a variety of domestic duties which included shopping, fetching water, cooking, serving food, cleaning, child-care, and wool-working. In wealthy households some of the female servants had more specialized roles to fulfill, such as housekeeper, cook or nurse.
Because female slaves were literally owned by their employers, how well slaves were treated depended upon their status in the household and the temperament of their owners. As a result of her vulnerable position within household, a female slave was often subjected to sexual exploitation and physical abuse. Any children born of master-servant liaisons were disposed of because female slaves were prohibited from rearing children.
Xenophon’s Oceonomicus reveals that slaves were even prohibited from marrying, as marriage was deemed the social privilege of the elite citizens of Athens.
In addition to their official chores in the household, slave girls also performed unofficial services. For example, there is evidence that close relationships developed between female slaves and their mistresses. Given the relative seclusion of upper-class women in the private realm of their homes, many sought out confidantes in their slave girls. For example, Euripedes’ tragic character of Medea confided her deepest feelings with her nurse, who both advised and comforted her in her troubled times. Furthermore, slaves always accompanied their mistresses on excursions outside of the home.
Tombstones of upstanding Athenian women often depict scenes of familiarity between the deceased and her slave companion. It is likely that a sense of their common exclusion from the masculine world of public affairs would have drawn women together, regardless of class. The only public area in which women were allowed to participate was religion.
Slave women were included in some religious affairs and could be initiated to the Eleusinian Mysteries which celebrated the myth of Persephone.
Thus, the fate of a Greek slave girl was determined by circumstance and more or less rested in the hands of her owners, who had the power to shape her existence.
Culture of Greece
The culture of Greece has evolved over thousands of years, beginning in Mycenaean Greece, continuing most notably into Classical Greece, through the influence of the Roman Empire and its successor the Byzantine Empire. Other cultures and states such as the Persian Empire, Latin and Frankish states, the Ottoman Empire, the Venetian Republic, Genoese Republic, and British Empire have also left their influence on modern Greek culture, but historians credit the Greek War of Independence with revitalising Greece and giving birth to a single entity of its multi-faceted culture.
In ancient times, Greece was the birthplace of Western culture and democracy. Modern democracies owe a debt to Greek beliefs in government by the people, trial by jury, and equality under the law. The ancient Greeks pioneered in many fields that rely on systematic thought, including biology, geometry, history, philosophy, and physics. They introduced such important literary forms as epic and lyric poetry, history, tragedy, and comedy. In their pursuit of order and proportion, the Greeks created an ideal of beauty that strongly influenced Western art.
Main article: Ancient Greek architecture
Ancient Greek architecture is best known through its temples and theatres.
Main article: Byzantine architecture
Byzantine architecture is the architecture of the Byzantine Empire. Byzantine architecture emphasized a Greek cross layout, the Byzantine capitol style of column (a mixture of Ionic and Corinthian capitols) and a central dome surrounded by several smaller domes.
Main article: Modern Greek architecture
During the Ottoman conquest, the Greek architecture was concentrated mainly on the Greek Orthodox churches of the Greek diaspora. These churches, such as other intellectual centres (foundations, schools, etc.) built by Greeks in Diaspora, was heavily influenced by the western European architecture. After the independence of Greece and during the nineteenth century, the Neoclassical architecture was heavily used for both public and private building. The 19th-century architecture of Athens and other cities of the Greek Kingdom is mostly influenced by the Neoclassical architecture, with architects like Theophil Hansen, Ernst Zillerand Stamatios Kleanthis. Regarding the churches, Greece also experienced the Neo-Byzantine revival.
In 1933 the Athens Charter, a manifesto of the modernist movement, was signed, and was published later by Le Corbusier. Architects of this movement were among others: the Bauhaus-architect Ioannis Despotopoulos, Dimitris Pikionis, Patroklos Karantinos and Takis Zenetos. After World War II and the Greek civil war, the massive construction of condominiums in the major Greek city centres, was a major contributory factor for the Greek economy and the post-war recovery. The first skyscrapers were also constructed during the 1960s and 1970s, such as the OTE Tower and the Athens Tower Complex.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Xenia was a nationwide hotel construction program initiated by the Hellenic Tourism Organisation (Ελληνικός Οργανισμός Τουρισμού, EOT) to improve the country’s tourism infrastructure. It constitutes one of the largest infrastructure projects in modern Greek history. The first manager of the project was the architect Charalambos Sfaellos (from 1950 to 1958) and from 1957 the buildings were designed by a team under Aris Konstantinidis.
Cinema first appeared in Greece in 1896 but the first actual cine-theatre was opened in 1907. In 1914 the Asty Films Company was founded and the production of long films begun. Golfo (Γκόλφω), a well known traditional love story, is the first Greek long movie, although there were several minor productions such as newscasts before this. In 1931, Orestis Laskos directed Daphnis and Chloe(Δάφνις και Χλόη), contained the first nude scene in the history of European cinema; it was also the first Greek movie which was played abroad. In 1944 Katina Paxinou was honoured with the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for For Whom the Bell Tolls.
The 1950s and early 1960s are considered by many as the Greek Golden age of Cinema. Directors and actors of this era were recognized as important historical figures in Greece and some gained international acclaim: Mihalis Kakogiannis, Alekos Sakellarios, Melina Mercouri, Nikos Tsiforos, Iakovos Kambanelis, Katina Paxinou, Nikos Koundouros, Ellie Lambeti, Irene Papas etc. More than sixty films per year were made, with the majority having film noir elements. Notable films were Η κάλπικη λίρα (1955 directed by Giorgos Tzavellas), Πικρό Ψωμί (1951, directed by Grigoris Grigoriou), O Drakos (1956 directed by Nikos Koundouros), Stella (1955 directed by Cacoyannis and written by Kampanellis). Cacoyannis also directed Zorba the Greek with Anthony Quinn which received Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film nominations. Finos Film also contributed to this period with movies such as Λατέρνα, Φτώχεια και Φιλότιμο, Η Θεία από το Σικάγο, Το ξύλο βγήκε από τον Παράδεισο and many more. During the 1970s and 1980s Theo Angelopoulos directed a series of notable and appreciated movies. His film Eternity and a Day won the Palme d’Or and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival.
There were also internationally renowned filmmakers in the Greek diaspora such as the Greek-American Elia Kazan.
Music and Dances
Greece has a diverse and highly influential musical tradition, with ancient music influencing the Roman Empire, and Byzantine liturgical chants and secular music influencing middle eastern music and the Renaissance. Modern Greek music combines these elements, to carry Greeks’ interpretation of a wide range of musical forms.
The history of music in Greece begins once more, as one might expect, with the music of ancient Greece, largely structured on the Lyre and other supporting string instruments of the era. Beyond the well-known structural legacies of the Pythagorean scale, and the related mathematical developments it upheld to define western classical music, relatively little is understood about the precise character of music during this period; we do know, however, that it left, as so often, a strong mark on the culture of Rome. What has been gleaned about the social role and character of ancient Greek music comes largely from pottery and other forms of Greek art.
Ancient Greeks believed that dancing was invented by the Gods and therefore associated it with religious ceremony. They believed that the gods offered this gift to select mortals only, who in turn taught dancing to their fellow-men.
Periodic evidence in ancient texts indicates that dance was held in high regard, in particular for its educational qualities. Dance, along with writing, music, and physical exercise, was fundamental to the commenced in a circle and ended with the dancers facing one another. When not dancing in a circle the dancers held their hands high or waved them to left and right. They held cymbals (very like the zilia of today) or a kerchief in their hands, and their movements were emphasized by their long sleeves. As they danced, they sang, either set songs or extemporized ones, sometimes in unison, sometimes in refrain, repeating the verse sung by the lead dancer. The onlookers joined in, clapping the rhythm or singing. Professional singers, often the musicians themselves, composed lyrics to suit the occasion.
The Byzantine music is also of major significance to the history and development of European music, as liturgical chantsbecame the foundation and stepping stone for music of the Renaissance (see: Renaissance Music). It is also certain that Byzantine music included an extensive tradition of instrumental court music and dance; any other picture would be both incongruous with the historically and archaeologically documented opulence of the Eastern Roman Empire. There survive a few but explicit accounts of secular music. A characteristic example is the accounts of pneumatic organs, whose construction was further advanced in the eastern empire prior to their development in the west following the Renaissance.
Byzantine instruments included the guitar, single, double or multiple flute, sistrum, timpani (drum), psaltirio, Sirigs, lyre, cymbals, keras and kanonaki.
Popular dances of this period included the Syrtos, Geranos, Mantilia, Saximos, Pyrichios, and Kordakas . Some of these dances have their origins in the ancient period and are still enacted in some form today.
Ancient Greek Everyday Life
Men if they were not training in military, or discussing politics went to the Theatre for entertainment. To watch dramas that they could relate to, including tragedies and comedies. These often involved current politics and gods in some form. It is thought that women were not allowed to watch theatre or perform at the theatre, although male actors did play women roles.
Lives of Women in Ancient Greece were closely tied to domestic work, spinning, weaving and other domestic duties. They were not involved in public life or in politics. The live were normally quite confined to the house although one public duty was acting as a priestess at a temple.
Children in ancient Greece usually occupied their time playing with toys and games.
Farming and Food
The majority of Ancient Greek people made their living from farming. Citizens often had land outside the city which provided their income. The Greek landscape and climate was difficult to farm.
Grapes were usually picked around September and either kept for eating or made into wine. Making wine was done by treading and kept in jars to ferment.
Olives were either picked by hand or knocked out of the tress with wooden sticks. Some were crushed in a press to produce olive oil and some eaten. This was an important product to the Greeks that had many uses including; cooking, lighting, beauty products and for athletic purposes. It is also believed that uprooting an olive tree was a criminal offence. The grain was usually harvest around October to ensure it would grow during the wettest season. A man drove the ox driven plough, as second man sowed the seeds behind. In Spring the Crops were harvested using curved knives (sickles). After harvesting the grain, it was then thrashed, using mules and the help of the wind to separate the chaff from the grain, the husks were then removed by pounding the grain with a pestle and mortar.
Ancient Greeks usually ate bread (barley or wheat) and porridge, accompanied with food such as cheese, vegetables, fish, eggs and fruit. Animal such as deer, hare and boars were hunted only as addition to the food supply. Seasoning usually involved coriander and sesame seeds. Honey was probably the only sweetening that existed at the time, importance this is shown as the beehives were kept in terracotta
Ancient Greek Games
Greek boys played games like hockey, which were not part of the Olympic Games. The Ancient Greek boys usually played games naked, so girls were forbidden to watch.
Ancient Greek women and girls were not expected to do much physical activity for recreation purposes. From this pot we can see a young girl, juggling three balls, but there is nothing to presume she was a performer, as she is dressed like an ordinary girl.
The Ancient Greeks also played games that did not involve much physical activity also, such as marbles, dice, checkers and knucklebones. Below is a famous vase from the Vatican museum depicting Achilles and Ajax playing ‘Petteia’ checkers. The Ancient Greek version of checkers was similar to what the current game of backgammon is where the Game backgammon is derived from. The Ancient Greek version of Checkers involved a board, stones and dice.