Biography of Esquilo de Eleusis (524-456 a. C.)

Greek tragic poet, born in the city of Eleusis, near Athens, in 525 or 524 BC and died in Gela (Sicily) in 456 BC; According to tradition, Aeschylus died hit received by the impact of a turtle, that an eagle (perhaps a bearded vulture) had thrown from the top and that was to fall on his head. Aeschylus is the oldest known at present tragedies authors and forms the triad in which the other two names are those of Sophocles and Euripides. Was member of a family of noble lineage, in which there were prominent men at arms; in fact, we know that he/she followed a military career and who participated in the medical wars, in the famous battles of marathon (in which he/she died his brother Cinejires), Salamis and Plataea (in the latter, his participation is not as safe, although in Persian it alludes to both battles in detail).

In your life, there is a dark but powerfully striking chapter to which it refers: his prosecution for divulging the mysteries of Eleusis, accusation of which was finally acquitted. We also know that it was related to the shot Hiero I of Syracuse, who welcomed him in his court on several occasions; about those stays in Sicily, much of the criticism maintains that his powerful rhetorical art, could refine there although in reality these visits them held in middle age, when he/she had already succeeded as dramatic author. He/She had a son, whom he/she called Euphorion (the same name as his father), which also was devoted to the composition of tragedies.

The seven tragedies

In total, Aeschylus left a figure that fluctuates, according to scholars, between eighty and ninety works, composed by tragedies and satiric dramas; However, this important corpus only we have received seven parts. It is said he/she truly invented tragedy, which were not before but the sum of the interventions of the choir; Therefore it is not surprising he/she unthought in the dramatic competitions of the time (says that he/she came to join thirteen victories in the agones), while had as rivals to playwrights of the stature of Phrynichus, Pratinas, Choerilus of Athens and Sophocles (who sometimes was imposed on Aeschylus, as in the agon of 468). Precisely, works that have come to our days are among the winners: Persians (472); Seven against Thebes (467); the trilogy of the Oresteia (458), consisting of Agamemnon, Coeforos and Eumenides; with respect to the Suppliants, critics thought for a long time was the most primitive of all his works, even though today is committed to a date close to 463; Finally, the same thing has happened with Prometheus bound, which criticism has to date late.

Persians, the oldest work we know, was part of a trilogy in which the other parts were Phineas and Potnias Glaucus, in addition to the satirical drama Prometheus fire carrier; in Persians possible biographical data, have been discovered as the participation of Aeschylus in the battles cited above. Meanwhile, seven against Thebes was part of a trilogy that is the only piece that has been preserved; next to it, were Layo and Oedipus, in addition to the satirical drama Sphinx. In the only tragedy that has come to us of that trilogy, the Theban story of Glenn, the son of Oedipus, in his fight against his brother Eteocles. in the end, cobra special importance the figure of Antigone, sister of both buried Polinices despite contravene the edict that forbids it.

In the Oresteia trilogy, the author discusses the legend of Agamemnon, Clytemnestra and Orestes. In the first work, Agamemnon, are important figures Iphigenia, the daughter that Agamemnon sacrifices to appease the gods to make the sea the Greek fleet; Cassandra, a Trojan Princess who this monarch has become his concubine. Clytemnestra kills her unfaithful husband and Cassandra with the help of her own lover, Aegisthus. In Coeforos, the protagonist is Orestes, son of Agamemnon, whose death comes with the help of his sister Electra: first kills Aegisthus and then his own mother. Finally, in Eumenides, Orestes we found under the protection of Apollo, who defends it against the Furies; soon, Athena becomes a new and solid Defender, who vote against will deliver him from the punishment of the Court of the Areopagus.

In supplicants, first and only preserved in a trilogy consisting of the sons of Egypt, Danaides and satirical drama Amimone, Aeschylus refers to the fifty daughters of Danao (the role of these is played by the choir) that came out of Egypt to avoid marriage with their fifty cousins, sons of the King who had usurped the Egyptian throne. The King of Argos, where they have taken refuge, consult his people, who decides to protect the supplicants and reject the application for delivery by their enemies. In the 422 BC, Euripides composed a work on identical subject and with the same title.

Prometheus bound peculiarities are the origin of that current criticism (never in the classical world, which is considered authentic) doubt about the paternity of Aeschylus and to think in a second unknown author who could have it completed. In addition to his very particular style, it shows clear differences with the rest of the production of this tragic poet, as the absence of a defined trilogy; However, some people think that there was such triad in which a freed Prometheus opened the set and a Prometheus carrier of fire (which only a verse is known) closed it. As you want it to be, in the preserved work tends to the Titan which has incurred the wrath of Zeus by having delivered the men fire and arts and is chained to the mountains of the Caucasus by order of him, who also sent there to suffer the human Io, converted partially into a cow. The work concludes with a tenacious Prometheus under the pressure of the envoys of Zeus, so is condemned for all eternity with the Océanides.

Contribution of the Aeschylus tragedy

The contributions of Aeschylus were decisive for the development of the tragedy, as already noted. Firstly, it radically transformed the style of genre in their quest for the pathetic; In addition, characterized his characters with sharp and well defined traits; in that regard, the interventions of the choir helped this purpose, to give certain keys that define each of the characters in the eyes of the public; Finally, gave his works a moral dimension in which the intervention of the gods, carrying through the pain is crucial and the expiation of guilt, a process of purification of the characters and their audience (the dramatic catharsis by theorists). Aeschylus reveals, as Pindar, his blind faith in the perfectly moral gods (particularly Zeus, 'causes total', ' the making everything it '), which leads to absolute cleansing of your image in their representations.

Similarly, Aeschylus introduced far-reaching changes in the design and representation of his works such as the dialogues by standard among actors, after robbing the choir the absolute role which had up to that time; In addition, he/she was the first to include a third actor in his work. The Mise en scène, benefited greatly from his contributions, because it revolutionized the scenic apparatus: invented the mask with which the actors went out to the scene. You searched for more decent new costumes for the actors who embody certain characters; who invented the shoes called coturno, higher than the widely used up to that time; It was he, finally, who brought the solution of representation on boards, since up to that time were made on Mobile stands.


For a great review of the life, works, and bibliography of Aeschylus, go to the overview that provides one of the great experts on this author Albin Leski, in his history of Greek literature (Madrid: Gredos, 1969), pp. 268-298.