Posted by: Dr Churchill | May 20, 2020

Gaining a measure of Wisdom…

“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart
until, in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
― Aeschylus


Dr Churchill


Aeschylus (525 BC – 456 BC)

Screen Shot 2020-05-20 at 3.08.54 PM

Greek Αισχύλος , Ésquilo in Portuguese; Esquilo in Spanish; Eschyle en français; Eschil in romanian; Эсхил in russian.

Aeschylus, an ancient Greek poet and playwright, is often recognized as the father and the founder of tragedy. He is the earliest “Dramatourgos” and the supreme playwright amongst the three Great Greek “Dramatourgoi” tragedians whose plays survive extant to this day and age, and are still produced today throughout the world. The other two Great Dramatists-Tragedians being Sophocles and Euripides.

According to Aristotle — Aeschylus greatly expanded the number of characters in his dramatic plays, in order to allow for direct and educational moralistic conflict among themselves, since in the previous schools of the Dramatic arts the principal characters interacted only with the chorus.

Unfortunately, only seven of an estimated 70 plays by Aeschylus have survived into modern times; one of these plays, Prometheus Bound, is sometimes thought to be the best work of Aeschylus and the most revealing of the inner workings of this Great Poet…

At least one of Aeschylus’s works was influenced by the Persian invasion of Greece, which took place during his lifetime. His play The Persians remains a good primary source of information about this period in Greek history. The war was so important to Greeks and to Aeschylus himself that, upon his death around 456 BC, his epitaph included a reference to his participation in the Greek victory at Marathon but not to his success as a playwright.

There are no reliable sources for the life of Aeschylus, although he was said to have been born circa 525 BC in Eleusis, a small town about 27 kilometers northwest of Athens, which is nestled in the fertile valleys of western Attica, though the date is most likely based on counting back forty years from his first victory in the Great Dionysian dramatic play competitions amongst all the best Thespians of his day. His family was both wealthy and well-established, as indeed his father Euphorion was a member of the Eupatridae, the ancient nobility of Attica.

As a youth, he worked at a vineyard until, according to the 2nd-century AD geographer Pausanias, the god Dionysus visited him in his sleep and commanded him to turn his attention to the nascent art of tragedy. As soon as he woke from the dream, the young Aeschylus began writing a tragedy, and his first performance took place in 499 BC, when he was only 26 years old. After fifteen years, his skill was great enough to win a prize for his plays at Athens’ annual city “Dionysian” playwriting competition. But in the interim, his dramatic career was interrupted by war. The armies of the Persian Empire, which had already conquered the Greek city-states of Ionia, entered mainland Greece in the hopes of conquering it as well.

In 490 BC, Aeschylus and his brother Cynegeirus fought to defend Athens against Darius’s invading Persian army at the Battle of Marathon. Though Athens was victorious, Cynegeirus died in the battle. Aeschylus continued to write plays during the lull between the first and second Persian invasions of Greece, and won his first victory at the city’s “Dionysian” dramatic arts competition in 484 BC. In 480 he was called into military service again, this time against Xerxes’ invading forces at the Battle of Salamis. This naval battle holds a prominent place in “The Persians” his oldest surviving play, which was performed in 472 BC and won first prize at the Athens “Dionysian” dramatic arts competition that year.

Aeschylus was one of the many Athenian Greeks who had been initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries, a cult dedicated to Goddess “Demeter” based in his hometown of Eleusis.

As the name implies, members of the cult were supposed to have gained some sort of mystical, secret knowledge. Firm details of the Eleusinian Mysteries’ specific rites are sparse, because members were sworn under the penalty of death not to reveal anything about the Mysteries to non-initiates and thus we know very little about what transpired during these apocryphal yet life changing and wisdom affirming annual festivals.

Nevertheless, according to Aristotle — it was alleged that Aeschylus had placed clues about the secret rites in his seventh tragedy, Prometheus Bound. Accordingly, several ancient sources report that an angry mob tried to kill Aeschylus on the spot, but he fled the scene. Later he was accused of the crime in the Courts of Athens and when he stood trial for this offense — Aeschylus pled ignorance and although the court was packed against him, he was spared the death sentence because of his sequential brave military service as a veteran in the Persian Wars.

Aeschylus traveled to Sicily twice in the 470s BC and enjoyed greatly speaking and staging his plays at all the great amphitheaters of the world renown civilized cities of Magna Grecia… where he purportedly stayed till the end of his life in 456 BC.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: