The Ancient Library

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On this page: Tragedy (continued)



observe a decline in many respects from the severe standard of his predecessor. During and after the age of these masters of the art, from whom alone have complete dramas come down to us, many other tragic poets were actively employed, whose works are known to us by name alone, or are only pre­served in fragments.

It is remarkable that, in the case of the great tragic writers, the cultivation of the Muse of tragedy seems to have been heredi­tary among their descendants, and among those of jEschylus in particular, for many generations. His son Euphorion, his nephew Philocles, his grand-nephews Mor-simus and Melanthius, his grandson Asty-damas, and his great-grandsons Astydamas

tury, besides the descendants of yEschylus, we must mention The5dectes, Aphareus, and Chaeremon, who partly wrote for readers only.

The number of tragedies produced at Athens is marvellous. According to the not altogether trustworthy records of the number of plays written by each poet, they amounted to 1,400. The works of the fore­most poets were represented over and over again, especially in the theatres of Asia Minor, under the successors of Alexander. During the first half of the 3rd century Ptolemy Philadelphus built a great theatre in Alexandria, where he established com­petitions in exact imitation of those at Athens. This gave a new impetus to tragic


and Philocles, were poets of more or less note. In the family of Sophocles may be mentioned his son lophon and his grand­son Sophocles ; and in that of Euripides, his son or nephew of the same name.

Among the tragic poets of the 3rd century, Ion, Achseus, Aristarchus, and Neophron were accounted the most eminent. Agathon may also be included as the first who ven­tured to treat a subject of his own invention, whereas hitherto mythical history, espe­cially that of Homer and the cyclic poets, or; in rare instances, authentic history, had furnished the materials of the play. After the Peloponnesian War tragedy shared the general and ever-increasirrg decline of poli­tical and religious vitality. In the 4th cen-

poetry, and seven poets became conspicuous, who were known as the Alexandrine FlSias. Alexander jEtolus, Philiscus (see cut), Sosi-theus, Homerus, jEantides, Soslphanes, and LycSphron. The taste of the Alexandrine critics deemed them worthy to occupy a place beside the five great tragic poets of Athens, jEschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Ion, and Achseus.

Inasmuch as tragedy developed itself out of the chorus at the Dionysiac festivals, so, in spite of all the limitations which were introduced as a result of the evolution of the true drama, the chorus itself was always retained. Hence Greek tragedy consisted of two elements : the one trxily dramatic, the prevailing metre of which was the iambic

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