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- This article is about the ancient Greek playwright. For other uses, see Aeschylus (disambiguation)
Born in Eleusis, a district of Athens, 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 frequently travelled to Sicily, where the tyrant of Gela was a patron. In 458 BC he travelled there for the last time; according to traditional legend, Aeschylus was killed in 456 BC when an eagle (or more likely a Lammergeier), mistaking the playwright's bald crown for a stone, dropped a tortoise on his head (though some accounts differ, claiming it was a stone dropped by an eagle or vulture that likely mistook his bald head for the egg of a flightless bird).
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"
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. The Suppliants, the Persians, the Seven Against Thebes and the first two parts of the Oresteia end unhappily. 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. This invention was only attributed to him by later tradition, however.
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 generally considered by modern scholars to be the work of an unknown fourth-century playwright. Its language in no way resembles that of Aeschylus, and its hostility to the figure of Zeus is completely at odds with the religious views of the other six plays.
In early 1990s fragments of another Aeschylus play, which had been mentioned in ancient sources, were discovered in the wrappings of a mummy in Egypt. The play, Achilles, was part of a trilogy about the Trojan War. It had been lost for over 2,000 years.
=Works in translation ===
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