Ancient Greek Tragedy: History, Playwrights and Performances

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Kelly Macquire
published on 23 April 2021

Not just the origins of Ancient Greek tragedy, but the origins of theatre itself traces back to classical Athens in the 6th century BCE. Greek theatre was performed in an open-aired venue called a theatron, the most famous being the Theatre of Dionysus in Athens and was an important aspect of the political landscape in Ancient Athens. The plays were about popular tales in Greek mythology, which at that time was their religion, and in some cases, although mainly in comedies, the plays would be about contemporary events such as Aeschylus’ tragedy The Persians which is about the battle of Salamis, which Aeschylus may have even fought in.

Greek tragedies were performed not just in theatrons for people to enjoy, but were composed in order to be performed in competitions, with the City Dionysia or the Great Dionysia, being the most famous of these competitions. From the many ancient tragedians we are aware of, only the works of the greatest three authors have survived, Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles, with a total of 32 works surviving between them. Greek tragedies were written and performed specifically for religious festivals and competitions, yet many were re-performed and written down for mass publication. Kept by the state were copies of the works of the three great tragedians, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, and their plays even became important parts of school curriculums

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The music used in this recording is the intellectual copyright of Michael Levy, a prolific composer for the recreated lyres of antiquity, and used with the creator's permission. Michael Levy's music is available to stream at all the major digital music platforms. Find out more on:

— THUMBNAIL IMAGE —,_cratere_a_calice_con_scene_della_medea_e_del_telephos_di_euripide,_lucania_400_ac_ca._03.jpg
CC BY 3.0

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About the Author

Kelly Macquire
Kelly is a graduate from Monash University who has completed her BA (Honours) in Ancient History and Archaeology, focussing on iconography and status in Pylos burials. She has a passion for mythology and the Aegean Bronze Age.

Cite This Work

APA Style

Macquire, K. (2021, April 23). Ancient Greek Tragedy: History, Playwrights and Performances. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Chicago Style

Macquire, Kelly. "Ancient Greek Tragedy: History, Playwrights and Performances." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified April 23, 2021.

MLA Style

Macquire, Kelly. "Ancient Greek Tragedy: History, Playwrights and Performances." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 23 Apr 2021. Web. 17 Jul 2024.