for other uses see Aeschylus (disambiguation)
Aeschylus (Greek: Aiskhylos) (525 BC - 456 BC) was a playwright of ancient Greece. Born in Eleusis, he wrote his first plays in 498 BC, but his earliest surviving play is possibly The Suppliants, written in approximately 490 BC. That same year, he participated in the Battle of Marathon, and in 480 BC he fought at the Battle of Salamis. Salamis was the subject of his play The Persians, written in 472 BC; it is possible that The Suppliants was written after this, making The Persians his earliest surviving play.
Aeschylus was the earliest of the three greatest Greek tragedians, the others being Sophocles and Euripides. Aeschylus' work has a strong moral and religious emphasis. Many of his plays end more "happily" than those of the other two; namely, his masterpiece The Oresteia trilogy. Besides the literary merit of his work, Aeschylus' greatest contribution to the theater was the addition of a second actor to his scenes. Previously, the action took place between a single actor and the Greek chorus.
Aeschylus is known to have written over 70 plays, only six of which remain extant:
- The Suppliants (490 BC?) (Hiketides)
- The Persians (472 BC) (Persai)
- Seven Against Thebes (467 BC) (Hepta epi Thebas)
- Oresteia (458 BC)
In addition, the canon of Aeschylus' plays includes a seventh, Prometheus Bound. Attributed to Aeschylus in antiquity, it is considered by some modern scholars to be the work of an unknown fourth-century playwright (though there is still controversy over this play).
In 2003 fragments of another Aeschylus play was discovered in the wrappings of a mummy in Egypt. The play, Achilles, was part of a trilogy about the Trojan War. It was known to exist due to mentions in ancient sources, but had been lost for over 2000 years.
Aeschylus frequently travelled to Sicily, where the tyrant of Gela was a patron. In 458 he travelled there for the last time; according to traditional legend, Aeschylus was killed in 456 when an eagle (or more likely a Lammergeier), mistaking the playwright's bald crown for a stone, dropped a tortoise on his head.
The inscription on his gravestone was written by himself before his death, and makes no mention of his theatrical renown. He chose to commemorate his military achievements only. It read:
"This gravestone covers Aeschylus, son of Euphorion, from Athens, who died in fertile Gela. The field of Marathon will speak of his bravery, and so will the longhaired Mede who learnt it well".
In Greek: "Αισχύλον Ευφορίωνος Αθηναίον τόδε κεύθει μνήμα, πεπνυμένον πυροφόροιο Γέλας. Αλκήν δ' ευδόκιμον μαραθώνειον άλσος αν είποι και βαθυχαιτήεις Μήδος επιστάμενος"