October 6, 2007

Mistaken Identity | Aeschylus

524BCE? - 455BCE?: Age 69?

Aeschylus was the first Greek playwright to produce tragedies as we would know them today. Rather than having a few characters orating on stage, interacting through a Chorus, he had many characters, and elaborate sets, costumes, props, and sound effects. The Chorus was still there, of course, but much less prominent.

Several of his surviving plays refer to the Battle of Marathon, in which he and his brother participated as soldiers. His brother died in the battle. (It was in this battle against invading Persians that the feat of a professional courier named Pheidippides inspired the tradition of marathons.)

According to legend, Aeschylus died when an eagle, mistaking his bald head for a stone, dropped a tortoise on it.

His epitaph refers, not to his 70+ plays, but to his participation in the Battle of Marathon more than 30 years before he died.

This tomb the dust of Aeschylus doth hide,
Euphorion's son and fruitful Gela's pride
How tried his valor, Marathon may tell
And long-haired Medes, who knew it all too well.

Sources: Wikipedia, Perseus Encyclopedia

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