Friday, February 8, 2013

Biography of Aeschylus

Aeschylus was born around 525 BC in a small town northwest of Athens.  When he was young he worked in a vineyard.  He was said to have been visited by the god Dionysus, who urged him to write tragedies.  (I'd love to steal that bit of personal history.)  He immediately started writing and won his first prize at the age of 26.
He fought against the Persians at Marathon in 490 BC and again, ten years later at Salamis.  These two battles were enormously important to the contemporary Greeks, and therefore to western history.  After he died, his military service was commemorated, not his play writing.
But history remembers him for the plays.  He was the first playwright who had two actors on stage, as well as the chorus.  This opened up space for conflict and he used that to create tragedies.  Aeschylus competed regularly with his writing and, though the exact numbers aren't well known, he is thought to have won more than a dozen times.
One legend has it that he was killed by a falling tortoise(!),  dropped by an eagle.  (I don't think I'll borrow that part.)  In any case, he died in 456 or 455 BC.  The Greeks restaged his tragedies in later competitions.  Most of his work has been lost to time.  Only seven remain, out of possibly 120. 

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