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Aeschylus (c. 525–456 BCE) is the dramatist who made Athenian tragedy one of the world's great art forms. Seven of his eighty or so plays survive complete, including the Oresteia trilogy and the Persians, the only extant Greek historical drama. Fragments of his lost plays also survive.
Aeschylus (ca. 525–456 BCE), author of the first tragedies existing in European literature, was an Athenian born at Eleusis. He served at Marathon against Darius in 490, and again during Xerxes' invasion, 480–479. Between 478 and 467 he visited Sicily, there composing by request Women of Aetna. At Athens he competed in production of plays more than twenty times, and was rewarded on at least thirteen occasions, becoming dominant between 500 and 458 through the splendour of his language and his dramatic conceptions and technique. Of his total of 80–90 plays seven survive complete. The Persians (472), the only surviving Greek historical drama, presents the failure of Xerxes to conquer Greece. Seven against Thebes (467) was the second play of its trilogy of related plays on the evil fate of the Theban House. Polyneices tries to regain Thebes from his brother Eteocles; both are killed. In Suppliant Maidens, the first in a trilogy, the daughters of Danaus arrive with him at Argos, whose King and people save them from the wooing of the sons of their uncle Aegyptus. In Prometheus Bound, first or second play of its trilogy about Prometheus, he is nailed to a crag, by order of Zeus, for stealing fire from heaven for men. Defiant after visitors' sympathy and despite advice, he descends in lightning and thunder to Hell. The Oresteia (458), on the House of Atreus, is the only Greek trilogy surviving complete. In Agamemnon, the King returns from Troy, and is murdered by his wife Clytaemnestra. In Libation-Bearers, Orestes with his sister avenges their father Agamemnon's death by counter-murder. In Eumenides, Orestes, harassed by avenging Furies, is arraigned by them at Athens for matricide. Tried by a court set up by Athena, he is absolved, but the Furies are pacified. We publish in Volume I four plays; and in Volume II the Oresteia and some fragments of lost plays.
The punishment of Prometheus as a consequence of the theft is a major theme of his mythology, and is a popular subject of both ancient and modern art. Zeus, king of the Olympian gods, sentenced the Titan to eternal torment for his transgression. The immortal Prometheus was bound to a rock, where each day an eagle, the emblem of Zeus, was sent to feed on his liver, only to have it grow back to be eaten again the next day. In some stories, Prometheus is freed at last by the hero Heracles (Hercules).
Intended to be both read as literature and performed as plays, these translations are lucid and readable, while remaining staunchly faithful to the texts.
Aeschylus' 'Suppliants' dramatises the myth of the fifty daughters of Danaos, who flee Egypt and come to Argos as suppliants, trying to escape forced marriage to their Egyptian cousins. It was long considered to be the earliest surviving tragedy. Even after the mid-20th century, when new evidence established a later date for the play, critics tended to condemn it for its alleged 'archaic' features. As a result it has long been underestimated, although a careful examination reveals it to be one of the most exciting tragedies. This companion employs a variety of critical approaches to set the play in its literary, dramatic, social and historical contexts, and also offers a thorough examination of the performance of the tragedy, investigating topics such as stage, action, music, song and dance.
One of our earliest surviving Greek tragedies, Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes is an extraordinarily rich poetic text. It dramatises the civil war between the sons of Oedipus Polynices - the exile, and Eteocles - reigning king of Thebes. Polynices marches on Thebes to regain his throne along with six other champion warriors and their armies, but the expedition is doomed, and the meaning of Oedipus' enigmatic curse on his sons ultimately becomes clear through their simultaneous fratricide and the extinction of the Theban house. This book places the drama within the context of the connected trilogy of which it was a part. It investigates the play's tensions between city and family and the omnipresence of curse and ritual within the religious and political environment of fifth century Greece. The drama's focus on the world of male warriors, and its stark opposition of the sexes through the female Chorus, is analysed in terms of warrior ideology in epic and Greek understanding of appropriate behaviour. Finally, it explores the complex legacy of the play through its influence on Sophocles and Euripides, and shows how the drama's condemnation of civil war has been exploited as an analogue for events in modern history. This is part of a series of accessible introductions to ancient tragedies. Each volume discusses the main themes of a play and the central developments in modern criticism, while also addressing the play's historical context and the history of its performance and adaptation.

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