3 Playwrights of Athens’ Golden Age

“Aeschylus * Sophocles * Euripides

The apogee of Classical Athens’ two-century-long golden age of literature was the generation who thought and wrote between 461 and 431 BC. Theatre-going Greeks of this time witnessed the high-minded and complex tragedies of Aeschylus, the graceful, measured characterization of Sophocles and the more emotional and passionately charged creations of Euripides.

It is fitting that they are remembered as a trio, for each year three tragic playwrights produced a trilogy of tragedies (and a farcical comedy) that was performed over three consecutive days to honor Dionysus. These festivals were held around the time of the spring equinox. No more than three actors were permitted on the stage at any one time, their faces and that of the chorus covered in masks. At the end of the festival, one of the playwrights was voted the winner and given the prize of a goat, for the word ‘tragedy’ derives from ‘goat song.’”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

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