41 pages 1 hour read



Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 458

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Authorial Context: Agamemnon and Aeschylean Tragedy

Aeschylus was the earliest of the three great Attic tragedians. He was probably born around 525 BCE and died, after a storied career, around 456 BCE. In many ways, he defined the tragic genre, producing over 70 plays, of which seven are extant—although doubts are often cast upon his authorship of one of these works, Prometheus Bound. Even during his lifetime, Aeschylus was revered, and he became known for his literary innovations, his use of symbolism and metaphoric language, and his exploration of such themes as justice, fate, and the gods.

As with the other tragedians, Aeschylus’s biography is clouded by legend. However, ancient sources preserved a few reliable tidbits of information about his life. Aeschylus was the son of a man named Euphorion and hailed from an aristocratic family. He took up arms against the Persians at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BCE and again at Salamis—and probably also at Plataea—in 480. He began producing tragedies around 499, but he did not earn his first “victory,” or first prize, in Athens’s City Dionysia dramatic competition until 484. After that, his plays won at least 12 more victories. He visited Sicily at least twice.