Read e-book online Aeschylus: The Oresteia PDF

By Simon Goldhill

Simon Goldhill makes a speciality of the play's themes--justice, sexual politics, violence, and the function of guy in historical Greek culture--in this normal advent to Aeschylus' Oresteia, some of the most very important and influential of all Greek dramas. After exploring how Aeschylus constructs a fantasy for the town during which he lived, a last bankruptcy considers the impact of the Oresteia on extra modern theater. The volume's equipped constitution and consultant to extra studying will make it a useful reference for college kids and teachers.

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The great epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, were written down in a canonical form in the time of Peisistratus. In the fifth century, they 42 THE ORESTEIA played an integral role in the education, institutions and ideology of Athens, and indeed in the culture of all Greece as panhellenic epics (Nagy). Homer was the text first learnt and most studied at all levels of Greek education, and any educated Athenian could be expected to have a knowledge of it. Sections of the epic were regularly to be heard in performance, recited at symposia, say, or other festive occasions (a character in Xenophon’s dialogue, the Symposium, talks of hearing such a recital every day), and on the occasion of the Great Panathenaia, a major festival in Athens in honour of the day of Athene’s birth, the whole epics were delivered by professional performers called rhapsodes in the theatre.

The Eumenides, then, not only judges in a formal way the action central to the previous plays, but also offers resolution on a grand plane. Divinities are prosecutors and defence and judge; the city itself is the stake of the final conflicts and final triumph. The 24 THE ORESTEIA trilogy that starts with a lowly watchman of one house asking the gods for release from toil and waiting for a beacon light ends with a massive torch-lit procession in the centre of the polis itself, led by divinities.

In this way, the Homeric texts were essential not only to the actual process of teaching and to the festival institutions of Athens, but also to the make-up of Athenian social attitudes and understanding: ‘He was “the poet” . . who had produced images of human experience that were true and right and timeless, in a variety of modes, and with a mastery and sophistication that were for Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides their education’ (Gould 1983). Even though Athenian religion did not have ‘sacred texts’, it is with some justification that Homer has been called the Greek Bible – especially if one thinks, for example, of the use of the Bible in Victorian Britain: read after dinner, used in schools, a subject of heated academic debate, a cultural background widely diffused through different e´ chelons of society, a much quoted source of moral and social guidance etc.

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