Ancient Greece Timeline > Classical Age > Aeschylus
Dates: 525/4 - 456/55 B.C.
Birthplace: Eleusis near Athens
Place of death: Gela, Sicily
Aeschylus was the first of the three great ancient Greek writers of tragedy. Born at Eleusis, he lived from about 525-456 B.C., during which time the Greeks suffered invasion by the Persians in the Persian Wars. Aeschylus fought at the major Persian War Battle of Marathon.
The Fame of Aeschylus
Aeschylus was the first of the 3 renowned prize-winning Greek writers of tragedy (Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides). He may have won either 13 or 28 prizes. The smaller figure may refer to prizes Aeschylus won at the Great Dionysia, and the larger figure to prizes he won there and also at other smaller festivals. The smaller number represents awards for 52 plays: 13 * 4, since each award at the Dionysia is for a tetralogy (= 3 tragedies and 1 satyr play).
Exceptional Honor Paid
In the context of the festivals at Athens during the Classical period, each tetralogy (the tragedy trilogy and satyr play) was only performed once, except in the case of Aeschylus. When he died, allowance was made to re-stage his plays.
As an Actor
Besides writing tragedy, Aeschylus may have performed in his plays. This is considered possible because an attempt was made to murder Aeschylus while he was on stage, possibly because he revealed a secret of the Eleusinian Mysteries.
Surviving Tragedies by Aeschylus
Written 458 B.C.
- The Choephori
Written 450 B.C.
Written 458 B.C.
- The Persians
Written 472 B.C.
- Prometheus Bound
Written ca. 430 B.C.
- Seven Against Thebes
Written 467 B.C.
- The Suppliants
Written ca. 463 B.C.
Importance of Aeschylus for Greek Tragedy
Aeschylus, one of the three renowned prize-winning Greek writers of tragedy, engaged in a variety of activities. He was a soldier, playwright, religious participant, and probably an actor.
He fought the Persians at the battles of Marathon and Salamis.
Aeschylus first won the prize for drama in 484, the year Euripides was born.
Before Aeschylus, there was only one actor in tragedy, and he was limited to conversing with the chorus. Aeschylus is credited with having added a second actor. Now two actors could converse or have a dialogue with the chorus, or change their masks to become entirely different characters. The increase in cast size permitted substantial plot variation. According to Aristotle's Poetics, Aeschylus "reduced the chorus' role and made the plot the leading actor."
"Thus it was Aeschylus who first raised the number of the actors from one to two. He also curtailed the chorus and gave the dialogue the leading part. Three actors and scene-painting Sophocles introduced."