Who was Aeschylus? - Ancient Greek Playss
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

Who was Aeschylus?

theater of dionysos
The Theater of Dionysos in Athens

Aeschylus (ESS-kill-us) is the earliest playwright in any language whose plays survive today, though other Greek men did write plays a little earlier. Aeschylus lived in Athens in the late 500s and early 400s BC, so he saw the birth of Athenian democracy under Cleisthenes. He fought in the battle of Marathon. Aeschylus lived at the same time as Sophocles, though Sophocles was a few years younger.

Aeschylus wrote tragedies about the difficult choices men (not, in his view, women) have to make, and what happens as a result. His most famous plays are the three plays Agamemnon, the Libation Bearers, and the Eumenides. In Agamemnon, the king Agamemnon faces the consequences of his decision to keep his promise to the other kings, even though it meant killing his own daughter (Iphigeneia). In Libation Bearers, Agamemnon's son Orestes has to decide whether to kill his own mother, because she killed his father. And in Eumenides, a jury has to decide whether Orestes, having killed Clytemnestra, is guilty of murder.

When Aeschylus died, his tombstone did not even mention his plays. It just listed what he himself considered his greatest achievement: "I fought at Marathon."

Learn by doing: a Greek play-reading
More about Greek theatre: Sophocles

Bibliography and further reading about Aeschylus:

Greek Theatre, by Stewart Ross (1999). Easy reading.

Greek and Roman Theater, by Don Nardo. For teenagers.

The Oresteia, by Aeschylus, translated by Robert Fagles (Penguin Classics). The most famous of the plays Aeschylus wrote. Fagles is a great translator! Includes a version for performance.

Aeschylus, by John Herington (1986). A discussion by a specialist about the life of Aeschylus and why his plays are written the way they are.

Greek Tragedy: A Literary Study, by H. D. F. Kitto (reprinted 2002). A classic discussion of the meaning of Greek tragic plays, by a specialist.

Or check out the Aeschylus article in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

More about Sophocles
Ancient Greece
Quatr.us home


Celebrating Black History Month with the pharaoh Hatshepsut, the queen Shanakdakhete, the poet Phillis Wheatley, the medical consultant Onesimus, the freedom fighters Toussaint L'Ouverture, Denmark Vesey, Yaa Asantewaa, and Samora Moises Machel, and the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Proud of your class page, homework page, or resource page? Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article

Cool stuff we've been enjoying: Looking for birthday gifts? Check out these new Chromebooks - all the computer you need for only $229.00!. Then study in peace with these Beats wireless headphones - for the exact same price! When you're done, show off your presentation or watch a movie with this excellent smartphone projector for only $39.99!


Does your class page honor diversity, celebrate feminism, and support people of color, LBGTQ people, and people with disabilities? Let us know, and we'll send you a Diversity Banner you can proudly display!
Looking for more?
ADVERTISEMENT
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 26 February, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT