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Roman marble sculpture of Aeschylus dating to Template:Circa 30 BCE, based on the Greek bronze one dating around 340-320 BCE.

Aeschylus (525–456 BCE) was the first of the great Greek tragic dramatists, and is considered to be the father of Greek tragedy because he introduced the second actor into the drama and subordinated the role of the Greek chorus[1]. The plays written by Aeschylus are strongly anti-war. Aeschylus wrote a famous play trilogy, the Oresteia (about the House of Atreus), that included the plays Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides. Only seven of Aeschylus's estimated 70 to 90 plays have survived:

  • The Persians (472 BCE)
  • Seven Against Thebes (467 BCE)
  • The Suppliants (463 BCE)
  • Agamemnon (458 BCE)
  • The Libation Bearers (458 BCE)
  • The Eumenides (458 BCE)
  • Prometheus Bound (date disputed)

Knowledge of Greek tragedy begins with the works of Aeschylus,[2] and understanding of earlier Greek tragedy is largely based on inferences made from reading his surviving plays.[3] The remnant of a commemorative inscription, dated to the 3rd century BC, lists four, possibly eight, dramatic poets (probably including Choerilus, Phrynichus, and Pratinas) who had won prizes for tragic dramas at the Dionysia festival before Aeschylus had. Thespis[4] was traditionally regarded the inventor of tragedy, although according to another tradition, tragedy was established in Athens in the late 530s BC; answers about the origins of Greek tragedy are therefore uncertain.

There is a long-standing debate regarding the authorship of one of Aeschylus' plays, Prometheus Bound, with some scholars arguing that it may be the work of his son Euphorion[5]. Fragments from other plays have survived in quotations, and more continue to be discovered on Egyptian papyri. These fragments often give further insights into Aeschylus' work.[6] He was likely the first dramatist to present plays as a trilogy, although Oresteia is the only extant example.[7] At least one of his plays was influenced by the Persians' second invasion of Greece (480–479 BC); this play, The Persians, is one of very few classical Greek tragedies concerned with contemporary events, and the only one extant.[8] The significance of the war with Persia was so great to Aeschylus and the Greeks that his epitaph commemorates his participation in the Greek victory at battle of Marathon[9] while making no mention of his success as a playwright.[10]

According to later sources, Aeschylus was killed when an eagle dropped a tortoise on his head.


Some content on this page may previously have appeared on Wikipedia.


  1. Wikipedia has an article about the role of a chorus in ancient Greek drama.
  2. R. Lattimore, Aeschylus I: Oresteia, 4
  3. Martin Cropp, 'Lost Tragedies: A Survey'; A Companion to Greek Tragedy, p. 273
  4. Wikipedia has an article about the ancient Greek poet Thespis.
  5. Wikipedia has an article about Aeschylus' son, Euphorion.
  6. P. Levi, Greek Drama, 159
  7. S. Saïd, Aeschylean Tragedy, 215
  8. S. Saïd, Aeschylean Tragedy, 221
  9. You can read about the Battle of Marathon in Wikipedia.
  10. Pausanias, Description of Greece, *)attika/, chapter 14, section 5.