Theatre of ancient Greece

The ancient Greek drama was a theatrical culture that flourished in ancient Greece from 700 BC. The city-state of Athens, which became a significant cultural, political, and military power during this period, was its center, where it was institutionalised as part of a festival called the Dionysia, which honored the god Dionysus. Tragedy (late 500 BC), comedy (490 BC), and the satyr play were the three dramatic genres to emerge there. Athens exported the festival to its numerous colonies.

Greek - Actor - Walters 541067
Bronze statue of a Greek actor. The half-mask over the eyes and nose identifies the figure as an actor. He wears a man's conical cap but female garments, following the Greek custom of men playing the roles of women.
Later slave women were brought in to play minor female characters and in comedy as well.150-100 BC.


The word τραγῳδία ('tragodia'), from which the word "tragedy" is derived, is a compound of two Greek words: τράγος (tragos) or "goat" and ᾠδή (ode) meaning "song", from ἀείδειν (aeidein), "to sing".[1] This etymology indicates a link with the practices of the ancient Dionysian cults. It is impossible, however, to know with certainty how these fertility rituals became the basis for tragedy and comedy.[2]


2007-05-10 Epidauros, Greece 5
Panoramic view of the ancient theatre at Epidaurus.

The classical Greek valued the power of spoken word, and it was their main method of communication and storytelling. Bahn and Bahn write, "To Greeks the spoken word was a living thing and infinitely preferable to the dead symbols of a written language." Socrates himself believed that once something has been written down, it lost its ability for change and growth. For these reasons, among many others, oral storytelling flourished in Greece.[3]

Greek tragedy as we know it was created in Athens around the time of 532 BC, when Thespis was the earliest recorded actor. Being a winner of the first theatrical contest held in Athens, he was the exarchon, or leader,[4] of the dithyrambs performed in and around Attica, especially at the rural Dionysia. By Thespis' time, the dithyramb had evolved far away from its cult roots. Under the influence of heroic epic, Doric choral lyric and the innovations of the poet Arion, it had become a narrative, ballad-like genre. Because of these, Thespis is often called the "Father of Tragedy"; however, his importance is disputed, and Thespis is sometimes listed as late as 16th in the chronological order of Greek tragedians; the statesman Solon, for example, is credited with creating poems in which characters speak with their own voice, and spoken performances of Homer's epics by rhapsodes were popular in festivals prior to 534 BC.[5] Thus, Thespis's true contribution to drama is unclear at best, but his name has been given a longer life, in English, as a common term for performer — i.e., a "thespian."

The dramatic performances were important to the Athenians – this is made clear by the creation of a tragedy competition and festival in the City Dionysia. This was organized possibly to foster loyalty among the tribes of Attica (recently created by Cleisthenes). The festival was created roughly around 508 BC. While no drama texts exist from the sixth century BC, we do know the names of three competitors besides Thespis: Choerilus, Pratinas, and Phrynichus. Each is credited with different innovations in the field.

Some is known about Phrynichus. He won his first competition between 511 BC and 508 BC. He produced tragedies on themes and subjects later exploited in the golden age such as the Danaids, Phoenician Women and Alcestis. He was the first poet we know of to use a historical subject – his Fall of Miletus, produced in 493-2, chronicled the fate of the town of Miletus after it was conquered by the Persians. Herodotus reports that "the Athenians made clear their deep grief for the taking of Miletus in many ways, but especially in this: when Phrynichus wrote a play entitled "The Fall of Miletus" and produced it, the whole theatre fell to weeping; they fined Phrynichus a thousand drachmas for bringing to mind a calamity that affected them so personally and forbade the performance of that play forever."[6] He is also thought to be the first to use female characters (though not female performers).[7]

Until the Hellenistic period, all tragedies were unique pieces written in honour of Dionysus and played only once, so that today we primarily have the pieces that were still remembered well enough to have been repeated when the repetition of old tragedies became fashionable (the accidents of survival, as well as the subjective tastes of the Hellenistic librarians later in Greek history, also played a role in what survived from this period).

New inventions during the classical period

Theater of Dionysius, Athens, Greece. (2826099154)
Theater of Dionysus, Athens, Greece. Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection

After the Great Destruction of Athens by the Persian Empire in 480 BCE, the town and acropolis were rebuilt, and theatre became formalized and an even greater part of Athenian culture and civic pride. This century is normally regarded as the Golden Age of Greek drama. The centre-piece of the annual Dionysia, which took place once in winter and once in spring, was a competition between three tragic playwrights at the Theatre of Dionysus. Each submitted three tragedies, plus a satyr play (a comic, burlesque version of a mythological subject). Beginning in a first competition in 486 BC each playwright submitted a comedy.[8] Aristotle claimed that Aeschylus added the second actor (deuteragonist), and that Sophocles introduced the third (tritagonist). Apparently the Greek playwrights never used more than three actors based on what is known about Greek theatre.[9]

Tragedy and comedy were viewed as completely separate genres, and no plays ever merged aspects of the two. Satyr plays dealt with the mythological subject matter of the tragedies, but in a purely comedic manner.

Hellenistic period

Relief with Menander and New Comedy Masks - Princeton Art Museum
Roman, Republican or Early Imperial, Relief of a seated poet (Menander) with masks of New Comedy, 1st century B.C. – early 1st century A.D., Princeton University Art Museum

The power of Athens declined following its defeat in the Peloponnesian War against the Spartans. From that time on, the theatre started performing old tragedies again. Although its theatrical traditions seem to have lost their vitality, Greek theatre continued into the Hellenistic period (the period following Alexander the Great's conquests in the fourth century BCE). However, the primary Hellenistic theatrical form was not tragedy but 'New Comedy', comic episodes about the lives of ordinary citizens. The only extant playwright from the period is Menander. One of New Comedy's most important contributions was its influence on Roman comedy, an influence that can be seen in the surviving works of Plautus and Terence.

Characteristics of the buildings

Ancient Greek theatre in Delos 01
Ancient Greek theatre in Delos
Delphi Composite
The Ancient Theatre of Delphi.

The plays had a chorus from 12 to 15[10] people, who performed the plays in verse accompanied by music, beginning in the morning and lasting until the evening. The performance space was a simple circular space, the orchestra, where the chorus danced and sang. The orchestra, which had an average diameter of 78 feet, was situated on a flattened terrace at the foot of a hill, the slope of which produced a natural theatron, literally "seeing place". Later, the term "theatre" came to be applied to the whole area of theatron, orchestra, and skené. The coryphaeus was the head chorus member who could enter the story as a character able to interact with the characters of a play.

A drawing of an ancient theatre. Terms are in Greek language and Latin letters.

The theatres were originally built on a very large scale to accommodate the large number of people on stage, as well as the large number of people in the audience, up to fourteen thousand. Mathematics played a large role in the construction of these theatres, as their designers had to be able to create acoustics in them such that the actors' voices could be heard throughout the theatre, including the very top row of seats. The Greek's understanding of acoustics compares very favourably with the current state of the art. The first seats in Greek theatres (other than just sitting on the ground) were wooden, but around 499 BCE the practice of inlaying stone blocks into the side of the hill to create permanent, stable seating became more common. They were called the "prohedria" and reserved for priests and a few most respected citizens.

In 465 BCE, the playwrights began using a backdrop or scenic wall, which hung or stood behind the orchestra, which also served as an area where actors could change their costumes. It was known as the skênê (from which the word "scene" derives). The death of a character was always heard behind the skênê, for it was considered inappropriate to show a killing in view of the audience. Conversely, there are scholarly arguments that death in Greek tragedy was portrayed off stage primarily because of dramatic considerations, and not prudishness or sensitivity of the audience.[11] In 425 BC a stone scene wall, called a paraskenia, became a common supplement to skênê in the theatres. A paraskenia was a long wall with projecting sides, which may have had doorways for entrances and exits. Just behind the paraskenia was the proskenion. The proskenion ("in front of the scene") was beautiful, and was similar to the modern day proscenium.

Greek theatres also had tall arched entrances called parodoi or eisodoi, through which actors and chorus members entered and exited the orchestra. By the end of the 5th century BC, around the time of the Peloponnesian War, the skênê, the back wall, was two stories high. The upper story was called the episkenion. Some theatres also had a raised speaking place on the orchestra called the logeion.

Scenic elements

There were several scenic elements commonly used in Greek theatre:

  • mechane, a crane that gave the impression of a flying actor (thus, deus ex machina)
  • ekkyklêma, a wheeled platform often used to bring dead characters into view for the audience
  • pinakes, pictures hung to create scenery
  • thyromata, more complex pictures built into the second-level scene (3rd level from ground)
  • phallic props were used for satyr plays, symbolizing fertility in honour of Dionysus.



Tragic comic masks - roman mosaic
Tragic Comic Masks Hadrian's Villa mosaic

The Ancient Greek term for a mask is prosopon (lit., "face"),[12] and was a significant element in the worship of Dionysus at Athens, likely used in ceremonial rites and celebrations. Most of the evidence comes from only a few vase paintings of the 5th century BC, such as one showing a mask of the god suspended from a tree with decorated robe hanging below it and dancing and the Pronomos vase,[13] which depicts actors preparing for a Satyr play.[14] No physical evidence remains available to us, as the masks were made of organic materials and not considered permanent objects, ultimately being dedicated at the altar of Dionysus after performances. Nevertheless, the mask is known to have been used since the time of Aeschylus and considered to be one of the iconic conventions of classical Greek theatre.[15]

Masks were also made for members of the chorus, who play some part in the action and provide a commentary on the events in which they are caught up. Although there are twelve or fifteen members of the tragic chorus they all wear the same mask because they are considered to be representing one character.

Mask details

3304 - Athens - Stoà of Attalus Museum - Theatre mask - Photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto, Nov 9 2009
Mask dating from the 4th/3rd century BC, Stoa of Attalos

Illustrations of theatrical masks from 5th century display helmet-like masks, covering the entire face and head, with holes for the eyes and a small aperture for the mouth, as well as an integrated wig. These paintings never show actual masks on the actors in performance; they are most often shown being handled by the actors before or after a performance, that liminal space between the audience and the stage, between myth and reality.[16] Effectively, the mask transformed the actor as much as memorization of the text. Therefore, performance in ancient Greece did not distinguish the masked actor from the theatrical character.

The mask-makers were called skeuopoios or "maker of the properties," thus suggesting that their role encompassed multiple duties and tasks. The masks were most likely made out of light weight, organic materials like stiffened linen, leather, wood, or cork, with the wig consisting of human or animal hair.[17] Due to the visual restrictions imposed by these masks, it was imperative that the actors hear in order to orient and balance themselves. Thus, it is believed that the ears were covered by substantial amounts of hair and not the helmet-mask itself. The mouth opening was relatively small, preventing the mouth to be seen during performances. Vervain and Wiles posit that this small size discourages the idea that the mask functioned as a megaphone, as originally presented in the 1960s.[14] Greek mask-maker, Thanos Vovolis, suggests that the mask serves as a resonator for the head, thus enhancing vocal acoustics and altering its quality. This leads to increased energy and presence, allowing for the more complete metamorphosis of the actor into his character.[18]

Mask functions

Theatre mask mosaic MAN Napoli Inv9994
Mosaic detail from the House of the Faun

In a large open-air theatre, like the Theatre of Dionysus in Athens, the classical masks were able to create a sense of dread in the audience creating large scale panic, especially since they had intensely exaggerated facial features and expressions.[18] They enabled an actor to appear and reappear in several different roles, thus preventing the audience from identifying the actor to one specific character. Their variations help the audience to distinguish sex, age, and social status, in addition to revealing a change in a particular character's appearance, e.g. Oedipus after blinding himself.[19] Unique masks were also created for specific characters and events in a play, such as The Furies in Aeschylus' Eumenides and Pentheus and Cadmus in Euripides' The Bacchae. Worn by the chorus, the masks created a sense of unity and uniformity, while representing a multi-voiced persona or single organism and simultaneously encouraged interdependency and a heightened sensitivity between each individual of the group. Only 2-3 actors were allowed on the stage at one time, and masks permitted quick transitions from one character to another. There were only male actors, but masks allowed them to play female characters.

Other costume details

Comedy and tragedy masks
Comedy and tragedy masks

The actors in these plays that had tragic roles wore boots called cothurni that elevated them above the other actors. The actors with comedic roles only wore a thin soled shoe called a sock. For this reason, dramatic art is sometimes alluded to as "Sock and Buskin."

Melpomene is the muse of tragedy and is often depicted holding the tragic mask and wearing cothurni. Thalia is the muse of comedy and is similarly associated with the mask of comedy and the comedic "socks".

Male actors playing female roles would wear a wooden structure on their chests (posterneda) to imitate the look of breasts and another structure on their stomachs (progastreda) to make them appear softer and more lady like. They would also wear white body stockings under their costumes to make their skin appear fairer.

Most costuming detail comes from pottery paintings from that time as costumes and masks were fabricated out of disposable material, so there are little to no remains of any costume from that time. The biggest source of information is the Pronomos Vase where actors are painted at a show's after party.

Costuming would give off a sense of character, as in gender, age, social status, and class. For example, characters of higher class would be dressed in nicer clothing, although everyone was dressed fairly nicely. Contrary to popular belief, they did not dress in only rags and sandals, as they wanted to impress. Some examples of Greek theatre costuming include long robes called the chiton that reached the floor for actors playing gods, heroes, and old men. Actors playing Goddesses and women characters that held a lot of power wore purples and golds. Actors playing Queens and Princesses wore long cloaks that dragged on the ground and were decorated with gold stars and other jewels, and warriors were dressed in a variety of armor and wore helmets adorned with plumes. Costumes were supposed to be colourful and obvious to be easily seen by every seat in the audience.

See also


  1. ^ Merriam-Webster definition of tragedy
  2. ^ Ridgeway (1910), p. 83
  3. ^ Bahn, Eugene & Margaret L. Bahn (1970). A History of Oral Interpretation. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess Publishing Company. p. 3.
  4. ^ Aristotle, 'Poetics'
  5. ^ Brockett (1999), pp. 16–17
  6. ^ Herodotus, Histories, 6/21
  7. ^ Brockett (1999), p. 17
  8. ^ Kuritz (1988), p. 21
  9. ^ Kuritz (1988), p. 24
  10. ^ Jansen (2000)
  11. ^ Pathmanathan (1965)
  12. ^ Liddell & Scott via Perseus @ UChicago
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b Vervain & Wiles (2004), p. 255
  15. ^ Varakis (2004)
  16. ^ Vervain & Wiles (2004), p. 256
  17. ^ Brooke (1962), p. 76
  18. ^ a b Vovolis & Zamboulakis (2007)
  19. ^ Brockett & Ball (2000), p. 70


  • Brockett, Oscar G. (1999). History of the Theatre (8th ed.). Allyn and Bacon. ISBN 9780205290260.
  • Brockett, Oscar G.; Ball, Robert (2000). The Essential Theatre (7th ed.). Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace.
  • Brooke, Iris (1962). Costume in Greek Classical Drama. London: Methuen.
  • Jansen, Jan (2000). Lebensqualität im Theater des demokratischen Athen: Kult, Politik und Alte Komödie [Quality of life in the theatre of Democratic Athens: cults, politics and ancient comedy] (PDF) (in German). Munich, Germany: GRIN. ISBN 9783638291873.
  • Kuritz, Paul (1988). The Making of Theatre History. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. ISBN 9780135478615.
  • Pathmanathan, R. Sri (1965). "Death in Greek tragedy". Greece and Rome. 12 (1): 2–14. JSTOR 642398.
  • Ridgeway, William (1910). Origin of Tragedy with Special Reference to the Greek Tragedians.
  • Varakis, Angie (2004). "Research on the Ancient Mask". Didaskalia. 6 (1).
  • Vervain, Chris; Wiles, David (2004). The Masks of Greek Tragedy as Point of Departure for Modern Performance. New Theatre Quarterly. 67. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Vovolis, Thanos; Zamboulakis, Giorgos (2007). "The acoustical mask of Greek tragedy". Didaskalia. 7 (1).

Further reading

  • Buckham, Philip Wentworth, Theatre of the Greeks, London 1827.
  • Davidson, J.A., Literature and Literacy in Ancient Greece, Part 1, Phoenix, 16, 1962, pp. 141–56.
  • Davidson, J.A., Peisistratus and Homer, TAPA, 86, 1955, pp. 1–21.
  • Easterling, P.E. (editor) (1997). The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-41245-5.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Easterling, Patricia Elizabeth; Hall, Edith (eds.), Greek and Roman Actors: Aspects of an Ancient Profession, Cambridge University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-521-65140-9
  • Else, Gerald F.
    • Aristotle's Poetics: The Argument, Cambridge, Massachusetts 1967.
    • The Origins and Early Forms of Greek Tragedy, Cambridge, Massachusetts 1965.
    • The Origins of ΤΡΑΓΩΙΔΙΑ, Hermes 85, 1957, pp. 17–46.
  • Flickinger, Roy Caston, The Greek theater and its drama, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1918
  • Foley, Helene, Female Acts in Greek Tragedy, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2001.
  • Freund, Philip, The Birth of Theatre, London: Peter Owen, 2003. ISBN 0-7206-1170-9
  • Haigh, A. E., The Attic Theatre, 1907.
  • Harsh, Philip Whaley, A handbook of Classical Drama, Stanford University, California, Stanford University Press; London, H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1944.
  • Lesky, A. Greek Tragedy, trans. H.A., Frankfurt, London and New York 1965.
  • Ley, Graham. A Short Introduction to the Ancient Greek Theatre. University of Chicago, Chicago: 2006
  • Ley, Graham. Acting Greek Tragedy. University of Exeter Press, Exeter: 2015
  • Loscalzo, Donato, Il pubblico a teatro nella Grecia antica, Roma 2008
  • McDonald, Marianne, Walton, J. Michael (editors), The Cambridge companion to Greek and Roman theatre, Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. ISBN 0-521-83456-2
  • McClure, Laura. Spoken Like a Woman: Speech and Gender in Athenian Drama, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999.
  • Moulton, Richard Green, The ancient classical drama; a study in literary evolution intended for readers in English and in the original, Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1890.
  • Padilla, Mark William (editor), "Rites of Passage in Ancient Greece: Literature, Religion, Society", Bucknell University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-8387-5418-X
  • Pickard-Cambridge, Sir Arthur Wallace
    • Dithyramb, Tragedy, and Comedy , Oxford 1927.
    • The Theatre of Dionysus in Athens, Oxford 1946.
    • The Dramatic Festivals of Athens, Oxford 1953.
  • Rabinowitz, Nancy Sorkin (2008). Greek Tragedy. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers. ISBN 978-1-4051-2160-6.
  • Riu, Xavier, Dionysism and Comedy, 1999. review
  • Ross, Stewart. Greek Theatre. Wayland Press, Hove: 1996
  • Rozik, Eli, The roots of theatre: rethinking ritual and other theories of origin, Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2002. ISBN 0-87745-817-0
  • Schlegel, August Wilhelm, Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, Geneva 1809.
  • Sommerstein, Alan H., Greek Drama and Dramatists, Routledge, 2002.
  • Sourvinou-Inwood, Christiane, Tragedy and Athenian Religion, Oxford:University Press 2003.
  • Tsitsiridis, Stavros, "Greek Mime in the Roman Empire (P.Oxy. 413: Charition and Moicheutria", Logeion 1 (2011) 184-232.
  • Wiles, David. Greek Theatre Performance: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 2000
  • Wiles, David. The Masks of Menander: Sign and Meaning in Greek and Roman Performance, Cambridge, 1991.
  • Wiles, David. Mask and Performance in Greek Tragedy: from ancient festival to modern experimentation, Cambridge, 1997.
  • Wise, Jennifer, Dionysus Writes: The Invention of Theatre in Ancient Greece, Ithaca 1998. review
  • Zimmerman, B., Greek Tragedy: An Introduction, trans. T. Marier, Baltimore 1991.

External links


Alazṓn (Ancient Greek: ἀλαζών) is one of three stock characters in comedy of the theatre of ancient Greece. He is the opponent of the eirôn. The alazṓn is an impostor that sees himself as greater than he actually is. The senex iratus (the angry father) and the miles gloriosus (the glorious soldier) are two types of alazṓn.

Arthur Wallace Pickard-Cambridge

Sir Arthur Wallace Pickard-Cambridge (20 January 1873 – 7 February 1952) was a British classicist and one of the greatest authorities on the theatre of ancient Greece in the first half of the 20th century.

Pickard-Cambridge was born in Bloxworth Rectory, the son of the Reverend Octavius Pickard-Cambridge (1828–1917), a naturalist and entomologist.

He served as a fellow and tutor at Balliol College, Oxford (1897-1929).Following the accidental death (in a fire) of Prof Alexander William Mair he became Professor of Greek at the University of Edinburgh (1928-1930). and Vice-chancellor of Sheffield University from 1930 to 1938. He was elected a fellow of the British Academy in 1934, and knighted in 1950 "For services to education", just two years before his death.


In the theatre of ancient Greece, the bômolochus (Ancient Greek: βωμολόχος) was one of three stock characters in comedy, corresponding to the English buffoon. The bômolochus is marked by his wit, his crudity of language, and his frequent non-illusory audience address.

In modern Greek, the word refers to a foul-mouthed person.


In the theatre of ancient Greece, the chorêgos (pl. chorêgoi; Greek: χορηγός, Greek etymology: χορός "chorus" + ἡγεῖσθαι "to lead") was a wealthy Athenian citizen who assumed the public duty, or choregiai, of financing the preparation for the chorus and other aspects of dramatic production that were not paid for by the government of the polis or city-state. Modern Anglicized forms of the word include choragus and choregus, with the accepted plurals being the Latin forms choregi and choragi. In modern Greek the word χορηγός is synonymous with the word "grantor".Choregoi were appointed by the archon and the tribes of Athenian citizens from among the Athenian citizens of great wealth. Service as a choregos, though an honor, was a duty for wealthy citizens and was part of the liturgical system designed to improve the city-state's economic stability through the use of private wealth to fund public good. Choregoi paid for costumes, rehearsals, expenses of the chorus (including training, salaries, board and lodging), scenery, props (including elaborate masks), special effects and most of the musicians. The choregos also hosted a feast if his chorus proved victorious in competition. The prizes for drama at the Athenian festival competitions were awarded jointly to the playwright and the choregos. Such victories carried prestige for the choregos. Several notable political figures served as choregoi, including Themistocles, Pericles and Plato, among others. Monuments were built in honor of victorious choregoi.

At the turn of the 17th century AD, in an attempt to recreate the ancient Greek dramatic tradition, the position was revived briefly in Italian opera, and combined the roles of impresario and director.


In the theatre of ancient Greece, the eirôn (Ancient Greek: εἴρων) was one of three stock characters in comedy. The eirôn usually succeeded in bringing down his braggart opponent (the alazôn) by understating his own abilities.

Everyday life

Everyday life, daily life or routine life comprises the ways in which people typically act, think, and feel on a daily basis. Everyday life may be described as mundane, routine, natural, habitual, or normal.

Human diurnality means most people sleep at least part of the night and are active in daytime. Most eat two or three meals in a day. Working time (apart from shift work) mostly involves a daily schedule, beginning in the morning. This produces the daily rush hours experienced by many millions, and the drive time focused on by radio broadcasters. Evening is often leisure time. Bathing every day is a custom for many.

Beyond these broad similarities, lifestyles vary and different people spend their days differently. Nomadic life differs from sedentism, and among the sedentary, urban people live differently from rural folk. Differences in the lives of the rich and the poor, or between factory workers and intellectuals, may go beyond their working hours. Many women spend their day in activities greatly different from those of men, and everywhere children do different things than adults.

Greek chorus

A Greek chorus, or simply chorus (Greek: χορός, khoros) in the context of Ancient Greek tragedy, comedy, satyr plays, and modern works inspired by them, is a homogeneous, non-individualised group of performers, who comment with a collective voice on the dramatic action. The chorus consisted of between 12 and 50 players, who variously danced, sang or spoke their lines in unison and sometimes wore masks.

Greek theatre (disambiguation)

Greek theatre or Greek theater may refer to:

Theatre of Ancient Greece

Any of a number of surviving Ancient Greek theatre structures

List of ancient Greek playwrights

Of the playwrights who wrote for the theatre of ancient Greece, not all of them are known today. The following list is therefore incomplete.

Margarete Bieber

Margarete Bieber (31 July 1879 – 25 February 1978) was a Jewish German-American art historian, classical archaeologist and professor. She became the second woman university professor in Germany in 1919 when she took a position at the University of Giessen. She studied the theatre of ancient Greece and Rome as well as the sculpture and clothing in ancient Rome and Greece.

Bieber left Germany after the Nazis seized power and she made her way to the United States where she taught at Barnard College, Columbia University and Princeton University. She published hundreds of works during her career and authored definitive works in four areas of study: the Greek and Roman theater, Hellenistic sculpture, ancient dress, and Roman copies of Greek art. She emphasised that Roman reproductions of Greek originals were essentially Roman works and carried the stamp of Roman civilization.

Orchestra (disambiguation)

An orchestra is an instrumental ensemble usually composed of string, brass, and woodwind sections, sometimes with a percussion section.

Orchestra may also refer to:

MSC Orchestra, a cruise ship built for MSC Cruises

"Orchestra", a song by the British band The Servant

"Orchestra", the 79th episode of the television show The Suite Life of Zack & Cody

"Orchestra", the place where the chorus sings and dances in the theatre of ancient Greece

Orchestra Control Engine, a suite of software components for the planning, development and deployment of real-time control applications for industrial machines and robots

OW2 Orchestra, a WS-BPEL compliant web services orchestration solution

Orchestra (album), a 1988 album by Eberhard Weber

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, a British new wave music band, often abbreviated to Orchestral.

Outline of classical studies

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to classical studies:

Classical studies (Classics for short) – earliest branch of the humanities, which covers the languages, literature, history, art, and other cultural aspects of the ancient Mediterranean world. The field focuses primarily on, but is not limited to, Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during classical antiquity, the era spanning from the late Bronze Age of Ancient Greece during the Minoan and Mycenaean periods (c. 1600-1100 BCE) through the period known as Late Antiquity to the fall of the Western Roman Empire, c. 500 CE. The word classics is also used to refer to the literature of the period.


In the modern study of the culture of ancient Greece and Magna Graecia, a pinax (πίναξ) (plural pinakes - πίνακες), meaning "board", is a votive tablet of painted wood, or terracotta, marble or bronze relief that served as a votive object deposited in a sanctuary or as a memorial affixed within a burial chamber.

Such pinakes feature in the classical collections of most comprehensive museums.

Roman theatre (structure)

Roman theatres derive from and are part of the overall evolution of earlier Greek theatres. Indeed, much of the architectural influence on the Romans came from the Greeks, and theatre structural design was no different from other buildings. However, Roman theatres have specific differences, such as generally being built upon their own foundations instead of earthen works or a hillside and being completely enclosed on all sides.

Skene (theatre)

In the theatre of Ancient Greece and classical drama, the skene was the structure at the back of a stage. The word skene means "tent" or "hut", and it is thought that the original structure for these purposes was a tent or light building of wood and was a temporary structure. It was initially a very light structure or just cloth hanging from a rope, but over the course of time the skene underwent fundamental changes. First it became a permanent building, whose roof could sometimes be used to make speeches, and as time passed it was raised up from the level of the orchestra, creating a proskenion, or "space in front of the skene". The facade of the proskenion was behind the orchestra and provided a space for supporting stage scenery. During the Roman Period the skene had become a large and complex, elaborately decorated, stone building on several levels. Actors emerged from the skene and could use its steps and balconies to speak from. It was also where costumes were stored and to which the periaktoi (painted panels serving as the background) were connected.


Stichomythia (Greek: Στιχομυθία) is a technique in verse drama in which sequences of single alternating lines, or half-lines (hemistichomythia) or two-line speeches (distichomythia) are given to alternating characters. It typically features repetition and antithesis. The term originated in the theatre of Ancient Greece, though many dramatists since have used the technique. Etymologically it derives from the Greek stikhos ("row, line of verse") + muthos ("speech, talk").Stichomythia is particularly well suited to sections of dramatic dialogue where two characters are in violent dispute. The rhythmic intensity of the alternating lines combined with quick, biting ripostes in the dialogue can create a powerful effect.


Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers, typically actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place, often a stage. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music, and dance. Elements of art, such as painted scenery and stagecraft such as lighting are used to enhance the physicality, presence and immediacy of the experience. The specific place of the performance is also named by the word "theatre" as derived from the Ancient Greek θέατρον (théatron, "a place for viewing"), itself from θεάομαι (theáomai, "to see", "to watch", "to observe").

Modern Western theatre comes, in large measure, from the theatre of ancient Greece, from which it borrows technical terminology, classification into genres, and many of its themes, stock characters, and plot elements. Theatre artist Patrice Pavis defines theatricality, theatrical language, stage writing and the specificity of theatre as synonymous expressions that differentiate theatre from the other performing arts, literature and the arts in general.Modern theatre includes performances of plays and musical theatre. The art forms of ballet and opera are also theatre and use many conventions such as acting, costumes and staging. They were influential to the development of musical theatre; see those articles for more information.

Theatre of Greece

Theatre of Greece may refer to:

Theatre of ancient Greece

Modern Greek theatre

National Theatre of Greece, Athens, founded in 1880


Tragedy (from the Greek: τραγῳδία, tragōidia) is a form of drama based on human suffering that invokes an accompanying catharsis or pleasure in audiences. While many cultures have developed forms that provoke this paradoxical response, the term tragedy often refers to a specific tradition of drama that has played a unique and important role historically in the self-definition of Western civilisation. That tradition has been multiple and discontinuous, yet the term has often been used to invoke a powerful effect of cultural identity and historical continuity—"the Greeks and the Elizabethans, in one cultural form; Hellenes and Christians, in a common activity," as Raymond Williams puts it.From its origins in the theatre of ancient Greece 2500 years ago, from which there survives only a fraction of the work of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, as well as a large number of fragments from other poets; through its singular articulations in the works of Shakespeare, Lope de Vega, Jean Racine, and Friedrich Schiller to the more recent naturalistic tragedy of Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg; Samuel Beckett's modernist meditations on death, loss and suffering; Müller's postmodernist reworkings of the tragic canon, tragedy has remained an important site of cultural experimentation, negotiation, struggle, and change. A long line of philosophers—which includes Plato, Aristotle, Saint Augustine, Voltaire, Hume, Diderot, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Freud, Benjamin, Camus, Lacan, and Deleuze—have analysed, speculated upon, and criticised the genre.In the wake of Aristotle's Poetics (335 BCE), tragedy has been used to make genre distinctions, whether at the scale of poetry in general (where the tragic divides against epic and lyric) or at the scale of the drama (where tragedy is opposed to comedy). In the modern era, tragedy has also been defined against drama, melodrama, the tragicomic, and epic theatre. Drama, in the narrow sense, cuts across the traditional division between comedy and tragedy in an anti- or a-generic deterritorialisation from the mid-19th century onwards. Both Bertolt Brecht and Augusto Boal define their epic theatre projects (non-Aristotelian drama and Theatre of the Oppressed, respectively) against models of tragedy. Taxidou, however, reads epic theatre as an incorporation of tragic functions and its treatments of mourning and speculation.

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