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Aeschylus ( -524 - -455 )  Category ( Playwrights ) [suggest a correction]
 

AeschylusAeschylus was an ancient Greek playwright who is regarded by many scholars as the father or the founder of tragedy. Along with Sophocles and Euripedes he is one of three Greek tragedians whose works survive. He took Greek tragedy to a new level by expanding the number of characters in plays, which allowed for more plots, conflicts, and potential resolutions. Prior to Aeschylus, characters interacted only with the chorus. He is known to have written approximately ninety-two plays, but only seven have survived. Many of his works focused on contemporary events, particularly the Persian invasion of Greece. His plays on the subject remain vital primary sources of information about that period in Greek history.

Aeschylus was born around 545 BCE in Eleusis, a small town near to Athens, to a wealthy, influential, and noble family. He worked in a vineyard as a young boy, and claimed that the god Dionysus visited him in a dream and told him to become a playwright. Aeschylus obeyed, and when he was twenty-six years old his first play debuted in Athens. Over the years his work won prizes and acclaim. When the Persian Empire invaded, Aeschylus fought to defend Athens. This war interrupted his writing career, but helped to inform his later work. According to some scholars, one of his plays, Prometheus Bound, has secrets of the goddess Demeter cult embedded in the text. His plays and innovative theatrical techniques served as inspiration to generations of future playwrights and theatrical producers.

Aeschylus died around 456 BCE. Legend has it that an eagle flying overhead dropped a tortoise (some say a stone) onto Aeschylus, believing that the playwright’s bald head was a rock. Large birds in the area are still observed dropping their prey onto stones and rocks in order to break open shells. Aeschylus’s gravesite is located in Greece, though his tombstone comments only on his military achievements and does not mention his contributions to the theater.

Image: Bust of Aeschylus from the Capitoline Museums, Rome.


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