Who is Aeschylus?

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  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2019
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Aeschylus was a Greek playwright, the first of the three great tragedians of Ancient Greece. His work continues to be widely read, performed, and discussed today in nations all over the world, despite the fact that it is thousands of years old. Many people credit Aeschylus with setting a number of reforms to Greek theatre in motion, setting the stage for Euripides and Sophocles, the other tragedians of Ancient Greece who have towered over the genre of playwriting for centuries.

Aeschylus was born in 525 BCE, in a rural part of Attic Greece, the region of Greece which was ruled by the Athenian city-state. According to Greek legend, he originally worked in a vineyard, later taking care of his family's animals, and the Gods visited him with a vision at the age of 26, telling him that he should take up the pen instead of the shepherd's staff. His first play won accolades, and he turned to playwriting as a career.

It is estimated that Aeschylus may have written as many as 90 plays, but unfortunately less than 10 survive today, including Seven Against Thebes, The Persians, The Supplicants, Eumenides, Choephori, and The Orestia, which is actually a trilogy of related plays. Another play, Prometheus Bound, was attributed to Aeschylus by his contemporaries, but modern historians suspect that it may not actually be his work.


In addition to being a playwright, Aeschylus was also a soldier, fighting in the Greek war against the Persians, and this experience heavily influenced the content of his plays. One of his most remarkable achievements as a playwright was shifting the focus of Greek tragedies from the chorus to the actors, and focusing on human tragedy as much as the great myths and legends of the Greek Gods. His contribution to Ancient Greek culture was recognized during his lifetime with numerous awards and accolades.

Sadly, towards the end of his life, Aeschylus began to fall out of favor, and he ultimately moved to Sicily, where he died in exile in 456. Within 50 years, however, the Greeks were rediscovering his work and performing it, marking a dramatic departure from the previous trend of refusing to perform works after the playwright died. Aeschylus also introduced complex props and costumes to the stage to make his plays more life-like, a legacy which can be seen in modern theatrical performances all over the world today.


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