Often described as the Father of Tragedy, Aeschylus was one of the most important playwrights of ancient Greek theatre.
Born to noble parents, Aeschylus enjoyed a youth working in the vineyards on his family’s estate. He claimed that one day he fell asleep in the vineyard and was visited by the god Dionysus, and woke up inspired to write his first play. That play - which is now lost - was performed to acclaim at the City Dionysia when Aeschylus was only 26 years old. The Greco-Persian wars (beginning in 499 BCE) spanned much of Aeschylus’ adult life and influenced many of his works, most notably The Persians which concerns the grief of the Persian queen Atossa after learning of the Persian army’s defeat in Greece. The Persians was first performed in 472 BCE and won first place at the City Dionysia. The play is thought to be the second in a trilogy of plays about the Persian wars, but - like so many of Aeschylus’ plays - the other texts have been lost.
Toward the end of his life, Aeschylus legendarily received a prophecy that he would be killed by a falling object. To avoid this fate, he stayed outside religiously, and was killed when an eagle, mistaking his bald head for a rock, dropped a tortoise on it.
A century after his death, the dramatic theorist Aristotle would credit Aeschylus not only with the creation of the tragic genre, but also with historic advancements in types of dramatic action: conflict directly between characters (without the interference of the chorus), dream sequences, the appearance of ghosts and supernatural phenomena, and plays with multiple settings were all introduced by Aeschylean tragedies.
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