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Early Reperformances of Drama in the Fifth Century

Citation with persistent identifier:

Lamari, Anna. “Early Reperformances of Drama in the Fifth Century.” CHS Research Bulletin 2, no. 2 (2014). http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hlnc.essay:LamariA.Early_reperformances_of_drama_in_the_fifth_century.2014


1§1 When we think of the three classical tragedians we usually picture them as writing, directing, or even performing their own plays, not as supervising the re-performances of their own work. The beginning of reperformances of drama is traditionally placed in 387/6 BC for tragedies and in 340/39 BC for comedies.[1] But reperformances were common from as early as the fifth century and are one of the most understudied fields of classical scholarship. Investigating them can improve our understanding of middle- and late-fifth-century dramatic production, since issues such as the theatrical knowledge and awareness of the audience, as well as the dramatic interaction of the playwrights can be considered from fresh perspectives.

1§2 The aim of this paper is to reconsider the epigraphical and literary evidence for reperformances, to challenge the orthodoxy that they began in the fourth century, and to demonstrate the existence of a reperformative culture, vibrant in Italy, Attica, and possibly Athens, from the early fifth century. First, I will investigate the existing testimonies about the reperformances of Aeschylus; then I will examine evidence, scarcely discussed, about formal or informal reperformances supervised by the poets themselves; in the last part of my paper, I will evaluate the evidence and propose a theory about the beginning and the development of reperformances in the fifth century.

Reperformances of Aeschylus According to Traditional Evidence

The Vita

2§1 The most straightforward testimony concerning reperformances comes from the Vita of Aeschylus:[2]

Ἀθηναῖοι δὲ τοσοῦτον ἠγάπησαν Αἰσχύλον ὡς ψηφίσασθαι μετὰ <τὸν> θάνατον αὐτοῦ τὸν βουλόμενον διδάσκειν τὰ Αἰσχύλου χορὸν λαμβάνειν. Ἐβίω δὲ ἔτη ξγ´, ἐν οἷς ἐποίησεν δράματα ο´ καὶ ἐπὶ τούτοις σατυρικὰ ἀμφὶ τὰ ε´. νίκας δὲ τὰς πάσας εἴληφε τρεισκαίδεκα· οὐκ ὀλίγας δὲ μετὰ τελευτὴν νίκας ἀπηνέγκατο.

The Athenians so loved Aeschylus that after his death they passed a decree whereby anyone wishing to produce works of Aeschylus could receive a chorus. He lived for sixty three years, during which he wrote seventy tragedies and in addition, about five satyr plays. In all he won thirteen victories; he also gained not a few victories after his death.[3]

2§2 But many issues here remain unclear: how many years after Aeschylus’ death was this “decree”[4] voted? In what context, and in what festival, were these restagings supposed to happen?[5] No certain answer can be given, and no one can be sure about the authenticity of the “decree” either.[6] Nonetheless, the information provided by the Vita could reflect a historical reality about the reperformance tradition, even without the existence of an actual ψήφισμα.

2§3 βουλόμενον reveals that restagings of Aeschylus would take place upon request.[7] The “decree” thus points not to an unconditional launching of reperformances, but rather to the possibility of Aeschylean reperformances according to public demand. If someone wanted to restage a play, the state would provide for the chorus. If the Athenian state had voted for those reperformances to happen regardless of the Athenians’ demand, then the phrasing would have been something like ψηφίσασθαι τὰ Αἰσχύλου διδάσκειν / διδάσκεσθαι καὶ χορὸν διδόναι τῶι βουλομένωι. Apparently, some Athenians were interested in restaging the Aeschylean plays, since, according to the “decree,” reperformances did happen and furnished Aeschylus with new, posthumous victories.

The Acharnians scholion

2§4 A scholion on Acharnians 10 repeats the idea that reperformances took place only for Aeschylus, as a token of immense honor:

τιμῆς δὲ μεγίστης ἔτυχε παρὰ Ἀθηναίοις ὁ Αἰσχύλος, καὶ μόνου αὐτοῦ τὰ δράματα ψηφίσματι κοινῶι καὶ μετὰ θάνατον ἐδιδάσκετο.

Aeschylus received the ultimate honor from the Athenians, and only his dramas continued to be produced even after his death, according to a joint decree.

2§5 μόνου αὐτοῦ emphatically asserts that only Aeschylus’ dramas were reperformed after his death; is the scholiast saying that only Aeschylus’ plays were staged posthumously, or that only Aeschylus’ plays were reperformed as the consequence of a “decree,” which might mean that Aeschylus’ plays initiated the tradition of reperformances? The latter option seems more likely. The “decree,” as well as the scholion, is concerned with the beginning of reperformances. Only Aeschylus’ plays were decided to be reperformed upon demand, and after a joint “decree.” Perhaps the scholion points to the fact that Aeschylus’ death was one of the reasons for putting the reperformances of Aeschylean tragedy in a different status. Posthumous revivals, happening obviously without the supervision of the poet, had to be somehow formulized.

Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria

2§6 Quintilian brings up a new element of the reperformances tradition. According to him (Institutio Oratoria 10.1.66), posthumous victories of Aeschylus took place only after the plays were revised:

tragoedias primus in lucem Aeschylus protulit, sublimis et gravis et grandiloquus saepe usque ad vitium, sed rudis in plerisque et incompositus: propter quod correctas eius fabulas in certamen deferre posterioribus poetis Athenienses permiserunt, suntque eo modo multi coronati.

As to Tragedy, it was Aeschylus who first brought it into the world; lofty, dignified, and grandiloquent often almost to a fault, he is however often crude and lacking polish; hence the Athenians allowed later poets to enter revised versions of his plays in the competitions, and many won the crown in this fashion.[8]

2§7 In Quintilian’s account, the plays’ revisions by later poets are presented as something that led to their own victories. Quintilian mentions no decree and attributes the plays’ restagings to Aeschylus’ important role in the evolution of the genre. The Athenians’ part in the procedure is also presented differently. According to Quintilian, Aeschylean reperformances were happening more because of the Athenians’ tolerance (permisere) towards later poets competing by restaging Aeschylean plays, than because of their decision to launch a series of honorary restagings of the works of Aeschylus.

Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius

2§8 In Philostratus, the Athenians’ motive to honor Aeschylus is clearer. In the Life of Apollonius (6.11), Apollonius presents Aeschylus’ important contributions to the tragic genre. Having discussed Aeschylus’ accomplishments, he then writes as following:

ὅθεν Ἀθηναῖοι πατέρα μὲν αὐτὸν τῆς τραγωιδίας ἡγοῦντο, ἐκάλουν δὲ καὶ τεθνεῶτα ἐς Διονύσια, τὰ γὰρ τοῦ Αἰσχύλου ψηφισαμένων ἀνεδιδάσκετο καὶ ἐνίκα ἐκ καινῆς.

Hence the Athenians considered him the father of tragedy and even after his death they invited him to the Great Dionysia, for, according to their vote, the dramas of Aeschylus were reperformed and won victories anew.

2§9 According to Philostratus, the Athenians decided to restage Aeschylus’ dramas when they began regarding him as the father of tragedy. What first strikes us is the use of the verb καλέω. The semantic field of καλέω in the active revolves around its basic significance as to call, with LSJ giving the meanings of I. ‘summon’,  2. ‘call to one’s house or to a repast, invite’, 3. ‘invoke’, II. ‘call by name, name’.[9] All the above meanings would involve the Athenians literally calling or inviting Aeschylus to the Great Dionysia as if he was still alive. What is especially interesting is a later meaning (third century AD) according to which, when καλέω takes an abstract subject, it acquires the meaning of ‘demand, require’.[10] The example given by LSJ comes from papyrus fragments,[11] which are close to Philostratus chronologically. It gives a nuance of demand to enhance the meaning of καλέω in Philostratus. The Athenians “invited” dead Aeschylus at the Dionysia, demanding him to repeat his old practice of wowing the crowds. And he actually “did:” he returned, back from the dead, and won new victories.

2§10 This brings us to ἐνίκα ἐκ καινῆς. In general ἐκ καινῆς (sc. ἀρχῆς) means ‘anew, afresh’.[12] καινός is also used with reference to the representation of new tragedies and comedies, as for example in Aeschines 3.34, τραγωιδῶν γιγνομένων καινῶν. While ἐκ καινῆς might show that old, successful performances were winning anew, καινός and its common use for new plays could point to plays that were not successful when they were first performed, but were better received when reperformed. Those alleged, posthumous victories, have been used by some ancient commentators in order to explain the numerical inconsistency between the number of victories attributed to Aeschylus in the Vita and the Suda.[13] Probably the new victories attributed to Aeschylus post mortem could fit both categories of successful restagings of previously unsuccessful plays and new victories of already well-received performances.

Aristophanes’ Acharnians

2§11 Information that we have consulted so far consists of the transmission of the indirect knowledge that the composer of the Vita, or of the Scholia, or Quintilian, or Philostratus, had regarding Aeschylean reperformances. What we are about to consult, the Aristophanic text, will provide the first information from someone who could have witnessed reperformances directly. Indeed, Aristophanes could have supervised reperformances of his own plays.

2§12 In Acharnians 8-11, Dicaeopolis describes the disappointment he felt when, in a past theatrical festival, he saw a play by Theognis, although he was expecting one by Aeschylus:

ἀλλ᾽ ὠδυνήθην ἕτερον αὖ τραγωιδικόν,

ὅτε δὴ ᾽κεχήνη προσδοκῶν τὸν Αἰσχύλον,

ὁ δ᾽ ἀνεῖπεν‧ “εἴσαγ᾽, ὦ Θέογνι, τὸν χορόν”.

πῶς τοῦτ᾽ ἔσεισέ μου δοκεῖς τὴν καρδίαν;

But then I had another pain, quite tragic: when I was waiting open-mouthed for Aeschylus, the announcer cried, “Theognis, bring your chorus on!” How do you think that made my heart quake?[14]

2§13 The situation described involves an impatient spectator, Dicaeopolis, who was looking forward to an Aeschylean (re)performance, but instead witnessed the sudden appearance of a chorus by Theognis. Given that Theognis was a contemporary of Euripides[15] and that Dicaeopolis could not have been referring to a time when Aeschylus competed with Theognis, this is prima facie evidence that the Athenians of this period could attend performances of Aeschylean plays, some three decades after his death: prima facie evidence, that is, of a reperformance culture.[16]

Aristophanes’ Frogs

2§14 A reperformance-oriented reading of Acharnians 8-11 is in accordance with lines 865-869 of Frogs.

ΔΙ. σὺ δὲ δὴ τί βουλεύει ποιεῖν; λέγ᾽, Αἰσχύλε.

ΑΙ. ἐβουλόμην μὲν οὐκ ἐρίζειν ἐνθάδε·

οὐκ ἐξ ἴσου γάρ ἐστιν ἁγὼν νῶιν.

ΔΙ.                                                               τί δαί;

ΑΙ. ὅτι ἡ ποίησις οὐχὶ συντέθνηκέ μοι,

τούτωι δὲ συντέθνηκεν, ὥσθ᾽ ἕξει λέγειν·

ὅμως δ᾽ ἐπειδή σοι δοκεῖ, δρᾶν ταῦτα χρή.


DIONYSUS. And what do you want to do, Aeschylus? Do say.

AESCHYLUS. I’d have preferred not to wrangle here, since the contest isn’t equal.


AESCHYLUS. Because my poetry hasn’t died with me, while his is as dead as he is, so he’ll have it here to recite. Still, if that’s your decision, so be it. [17]

2§15 As Dover argues, both passages “confirm the statement of Aesch. 12 that a decree passed after the death of Aeschylus authorized the continued production of his plays.”[18] Analogous is the scholion on line 868 of the Frogs:

ἐπεὶ τὰ Αἰσχύλου ἐψηφίσαντο διδάσκειν.

Because the Athenians voted to produce the plays of Aeschylus.

2§16 Apart from its significance as a testimony, the aforementioned scholion reveals that the practice of Aeschylean reperformances is important for understanding Frogs, since it implies that the audience could interpret the contest between Aeschylus and Euripides not only metaphorically, as between old and new poetry, but also (to an extent) literally, between two poets who were contesting in fifth-century festivals.[19]

Information on Reperformances Gathered from Less Discussed Evidence 

Evidence for reperformances

Banning of potential reperformances of Phrynichus’ Sack of Miletus 

3§1 Although it is less discussed than other evidence for reperformances, Herodotus’ account of the performance of Phrynichus’ Sack of Miletus is particularly important. While narrating the events of the Ionian revolt, Herodotus describes the Athenians’ signs of sorrow after the sack of Miletus in 494 BC. Along with other expressions of grief, they fined Phrynichus for reminding them of their misfortunes, and banned future reperformances of his play (6.21.2):

Ἀθηναῖοι μὲν γὰρ δῆλον ἐποίησαν ὑπεραχθεσθέντες τῆι Μιλήτου ἁλώσι τῆι τε ἄλληι πολλαχῆι, καὶ δὴ καὶ ποιήσαντι Φρυνίχωι δρᾶμα Μιλήτου ἅλωσιν καὶ διδάξαντι ἐς δάκρυά τε ἔπεσε τὸ θέητρον καὶ ἐζημίωσάν μιν ὡς ἀναμνήσαντα οἰκήια κακὰ χιλίηισι δραχμῆισι, καὶ ἐπέταξαν μηκέτι μηδένα χρᾶσθαι τούτωι τῶι δράματι.

For the Athenians, besides that they signified in many other ways their deep grief for the taking of Miletus, did this in especial: -Phrynichus having written a play entitled ‘The Fall of Miletus’ and set it on the stage, the whole theater broke into weeping; and they fined Phrynichus a thousand drachmae for bringing to mind their own misfortunes,[20] and commanded that no one should make use of this play.[21]

3§2 Nothing of Phrynichus’ drama has survived; for whatever reason,[22] Phrynichus’ reminder of the οἰκήια κακά was so upsetting that it should not be repeated. When describing the prohibition, Herodotus uses χρᾶσθαι, a verb whose range of meanings is enormous.[23] In our case, I believe that the meaning evolves around the concept of make use of, and it is very telling regarding the routine of dramatic reperformances in the early fifth century.  The phrasing makes sense only if there were a culture of reperformances and a number of people interested in putting the play back on stage; χρᾶσθαι in combination with μηδένα implies that there were actually a number of people that might potentially restage the play, none of whom was allowed to.

Aeschylus directing a reperformance of Persians at Syracuse

3§3 At around the same period, Aeschylus is reported to have set up a reperformance of the Persians in Sicily. The text of the Vita[24] reads as follows:

φασὶν ὑπὸ Ἱέρωνος ἀξιωθέντα ἀναδιδάξαι τοὺς Πέρσας ἐν Σικελίαι καὶ λίαν εὐδοκιμεῖν.

They say that Aeschylus was given the honour by Hieron of re-performing his Persai in Sicily, and he was greatly admired.[25]

3§4 If this happened, we should place it before the death of Hieron in 467 BC. The scholia on Frogs 1028 report that this information goes back to Eratosthenes:

δοκοῦσι δὲ οὗτοι οἱ Πέρσαι ὑπὸ τοῦ Αἰσχύλου δεδιδάχθαι ἐν Συρακούσαις σπουδάσαντος Ἱέρωνος, ὥς φησιν Ἐρατοσθένης ἐν γ´ περὶ κωμωιδιῶν.

This version of the Persians is believed to have been directed by Aeschylus, in Syracuse, Hieron being eager <that the play be directed by Aeschylus>, according to Eratosthenes in book 3 of On Comedy.[26]

3§5 The scholiast here provides this information as part of a claim about the existence of two versions of the Persians, one containing, the other not containing, the death of Dareius.[27] Such a possibility is highly unlikely and elsewhere unattested, and hence is not part of this discussion. What is important to our investigation is the fact that the evidence on the reperformance of the Persians in Syracuse now goes back to Eratosthenes. As Taplin says, “the re-performance at Syracuse is not, then, a historical certainty, but it is attributed to a serious historian of literature … and it is not inherently implausible.”[28] The majority of scholars agree that a performance of the Persians in Syracuse is highly probable.[29] It has even been suggested that this performance might have been the première.[30] As will be shown in the following discussion, a performance of Persians in Sicily, whether a première or a reperformance, can only add to the evidence of fifth-century reperformance tradition.

Evidence for (re)performances

3§6 Contrary to the two testimonies just described, the evidence that follows testifies to performances of Sophocles, Aristophanes, and Euripides in the Attic demes or in Magna Graecia, but does not clarify whether those performances were premières or repetitions.

Sophocles and Aristophanes (re)performing at Eleusis

3§7 In an Eleusinian inscription of the late fifth century,[31] two choregoi are accredited with victories in comedy, where the director was Aristophanes, and in tragedy, where the director was Sophocles:

[Γ]νάθις Τιμοκ[ήδ]ο[ς, Ἀ]ναξανδρίδης Τιμα[γ]όρο

χορηγο̑ντες κωμωιδοῖς ἐνίκων.

Ἀριστοφάνης ἐ[δ]ίδασκεν.

ἑτέρα νίκη τραγωιδοῖς.

Σοφοκλῆς ἐδίδασκεν.


[G]nathis, son of Timok[ed]o[s, A]naxandrides, son of Tima[g]oros

while seving as choregoi won in the comedy competition.

Aristophanes was d[i]rector.

<They had> another victory in the tragic competition

Sophocles was director.[32]

3§8 This inscription commemorates victories either in the City Dionysia or in the Dionysiac festival at Eleusis.[33] Once more, the phrasing proves important. ἐδίδασκεν presupposes the physical participation of Aristophanes and Sophocles in the commemorated production and does not simply imply that they wrote the dramas in question.[34] This was why this inscription was commonly considered as commemorating a victory in Athens, although it was set up on a basis of a statue in the deme of Eleusis. In 1943, however, Capps published another inscription, which made this assumption impossible. As was indicated by the new fragment of the List of Victors at the City Dionysia, the only synchoregia reported was that of 405 BC.[35] It is however impossible for our inscription to refer to 405 BC, since by that year Sophocles was dead, while Sophocles the younger was not yet active. [36] As now held by the majority, our inscription refers to the Dionysia at Eleusis.[37] The inscription thus offers evidence about Aristophanes’ and Sophocles’[38] participation in the deme festival of Eleusis, even if it does not tell us whether the plays in question were new performances or reperformances.

Sophocles (re)performing Telepheia at Halai Axionides

3§9 Another inscription, datable to the early fourth century and found near Halai Aixonides, enumerates four choregoi and their sponsored plays and directors. One of them is Sophocles with the Telepheia:[39]

Ἐ[πιχάρης χορηγῶν ἐνίκα] κωμωιδοῖς·

Ἐχφαντίδης ἐδίδασκε 〚․〛 Πείρας.

Θρασύβολος χορηγῶν ἐνίκα κωμωιδοῖς·

Κρατῖνος ἐδίδασκε Βουκόλος.

Θρασύβολος χορη[γ]ῶν ἐνίκα τραγωιδοῖς·

Τιμόθεος ἐδίδασκε Ἀλκμέωνα, Ἀ̣λφεσίβο[ιαν].

Ἐπιχάρης χορηγῶν ἐνίκα τραγωιδο[ῖς]·

Σοφοκλῆς ἐδίδασκε Τηλέφειαν.


E[pichares while serving as sponsor won] in comedy.

Ecphantides was directing 〚․〛 Peirai.

Thrasybolus while serving as sponsor won in comedy.

Cratinus was directing Boukoloi.

Thrasybolus while serving as spon[s]or won in tragedy.

Timotheus was directing Alcmeon, Alphesibo[ia].

Epichares while serving as sponsor won in traged[y].

Sophocles was directing Telepheia.

3§10 The four victories listed in the inscription must have been won in the fifth century, but were commemorated later, either by the choregoi themselves, or by their descendants.[40] As in the previous cases, here as well, the reference to eminent poets has been used as a clue to interpret those victories as having been held in the City Dionysia. Yet again, “there is no good reason to deny this to Rural Dionysia.”[41] Besides, the claim that prominent poets would not perform in “lesser” festivals such as those of the Rural Dionysia has long been rejected as ungrounded.[42] Again, our inscription may allude to performances in the demes, but does not clarify whether these were premières or reperformances. This is though of little importance to our argument, given the very low chances of the lack of repetition of a play that would have been first performed in the deme of Halai Axionides.

Euripides (re)performing at Peiraeus

3§11 In the second book of his Varia Historia, having already discussed the reasons why Aristophanes scorned Socrates in the Clouds, Aelian reports that Socrates did not go to the theater often; he would only go when Euripides was competing with new plays (Varia Historia 2.13):

ὁ δὲ Σωκράτης σπάνιον μὲν ἐπεφοίτα τοῖς θεάτροις, εἴ ποτε δὲ Εὐριπίδης ὁ τῆς τραγωιδίας ποιητὴς ἠγωνίζετο καινοῖς τραγωιδοῖς, τότε γε ἀφικνεῖτο. καὶ Πειραιοῖ δὲ ἀγωνιζομένου τοῦ Εὐριπίδου καὶ ἐκεῖ κατήιει˙ ἔχαιρε γὰρ τῶι ἀνδρὶ δηλονότι διά τε τὴν σοφίαν αὐτοῦ καὶ τὴν ἐν τοῖς μέτροις ἀρετήν.

But Socrates did not often go to the theater. However, if the tragic poet Euripides was competing with new plays, then he would go. Even if Euripides was competing at Piraeus, he would even go down there, since he enjoyed his work, obviously because of its wisdom and poetic quality.[43]

3§12 This passage testifies to original performances in the demes, but also comments on an unquestionable reperformance tradition from when Euripides was active. καινοῖς τραγωιδοῖς indicates that the difference between performances of new and old plays existed even during Euripides’ lifetime. Euripides is portrayed as a director physically present at the performance, and here, as possibly in our previous testimony, the deme festivals are reported as hosting theatrical premières. By clarifying that Socrates was going to performances of new plays, Aelian implies that there also existed other instances of reperformances of old plays, in which Socrates had no interest.

Euripides (re)performing at Anagyrous

3§13 Euripides’ name is also found on an inscription from Anagyrous, datable to ca. 440-431:[44]

Σωκράτης ἀνέθηκεν·

Εὐριπίδης ἐδίδασκε·

τραγωιδοί· vv Ἀμφίδημος

Πύθων vvvvv    Εὐθύδικος

Ἐχεκλῆς vvv   Λυσίας

Μενάλκης vv    Σῶν

Φιλοκράτης     Κριτόδημος

Ἔχυλλος vvv   Χαρίας

Μέλητος vvv    Φαίδων

Ἐμπορίων vacat


Socrates dedicated.

Euripides was director.

Tragic chorusmembers[45] vv <were> Amphidemus

Python vvvvv Euthydicus

Echecles vvv Lysias

Menacles vv Sōn

Philocrates Critodemus

Echyllus vvv Charias

Meletus vvv Phaedon

Emporion vacat

3§14 This inscription commemorates a fifth-century theatrical contest in Anagyrous, where Socrates was the choregos, Euripides the director, and the list of the fourteen demesmen of Anagyrous[46] were the members of the chorus. As in the previous case, it is not clear whether Euripides was directing a premiere or a reperformance.

Premières or reperformances outside Athens?

3§15 If, finally, the demes and the theaters of Sicily also hosted tragedy premières, is our theory about the existence of dramatic reperformances from the earlier years of the fifth century affected? Given the admittedly extremely heavy writing load of the playwrights who wanted to participate in the Great Dionysia if not annually, every other year, I do not think it does. Just imagine that the three classical tragedians were competing with at least one tetralogy every two years, while also being the didaskaloi, the “trainers” of the chorus. And what would that entail? “The didaskalos, as a rule, did far more than rehearse the chorus (and the actors) in their words, melodies and dances (and the piper in his accompaniment); he was also the poet and dramatist and composer and choreographer who had created them, the director who chose costumes, masks, properties and scenic effects, and blended everything together into a complete dramatic experience, and in early days, the principal actor as well.”[47] That is a lot of work. We might doubt that a playwright would be eager to dedicate all this effort to a single event and would then oppose revivals of his work.

3§16 The testimonies presented in this section do not show if the participation of Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes in the deme festivals of Attica or in Magna Graecia involved premières or restagings. It is also a fact that the writing burden for a playwright who had to compete each time with four plays was heavy. It is thus highly unlikely that each play would only be performed once and then never again. By accepting this assumption, the debate of whether those testimonies refer to performances or to reperformances loses its significance. Even if they point at premières, numbers say that a reperformance in Athens might follow. What is important is that either way, our fundamental point, the reperformative tradition, is not affected.[48]


4§1 My paper evolves around the discussion of two groups of evidence. The first group of evidence contains references to the reperformances of Aeschylus that we frequently come across, drawing from his Vita, the Scholia, Quintilian, Philostratus, and Aristophanes. The second group encompasses information for performances or reperformances, of all the dramatists, as attested in Herodotus, the Scholia, inscriptions, and Aelian. I hope it is by now clear that the Vita of Aeschylus and what we have traditionally been treating as some of the most characteristic evidence for reperformances, seem just a limited segment of a long tradition that spreads chronologically throughout the fifth century, and geographically, throughout Attica and Italy. These reperformances must have been organized upon informal occasions (a tyrant, say, in Sicily was celebrating the foundation of a new city), but also, in the context of the Rural Dionysia. In the Rural Dionysia, we should certainly expect reperformances, but perhaps also premières, or revisions of plays already presented in the City Dionysia.

4§2 All those theatrical and performative variants seem to share a single principle: they entail performances that were supervised by the poets themselves (Aeschylus directed -ἐδίδαξεν- in Sicily, Sophocles and Aristophanes in Eleusis, Euripides in Peiraeus). Information on the alleged “decree” on reperformances, whether accurate or not, might reflect a tendency to formalize a practice, to transfer the responsibility of the organization of the reperformances from the poet to the citizen-body. Even if the “decree” on reperformances was constructed later than the fifth century, a sort of canonization of reperformances after Aeschylus’ death might still have happened. The inscriptions on the deme festivals leave no doubt regarding a performance culture beyond the Athenian borders. Testimonies of reperformances are for the fifth century indirect, yet enough to construct a likely scenario about one of the most critical, though most undeservingly underrated aspects of fifth-century theater.

* I would like to express my gratitude to the audience at the Center for Hellenic Studies Research Symposium (Spring 2014) for all their comments and feedback, and especially to Professors Gregory Nagy, Angelos Chaniotis, and Luca Giuliani, for their constructive criticism. My thankfulness also goes to Patrick Finglass for his illuminating comments.

[1] According to the Didaskaliae (IG II2 2318 lines 202–203 and 317–318 respectively). For discussion, see Wilson 2000:33n58; Pickard-Cambridge 2003:99–100.

[2] TrGF 3 T 1, lines 48–52.

[3] Translation partially taken from Sommerstein 2002:160.

[4] I use quotation marks because the reference of the Vita does not prove the existence of a “decree” concerning reperformances of Aeschylus. Even if this “decree” is however a later construction, the information on reperformances offered by the Vita is not downgraded.

[5] In general, scholars tend to accept the idea of reperformances in the deme festivals more easily. See for example Whitehead 1986:215–222; Wilson 2000:22–23; Paga 2010:370; Biles 2006–2007; Kawalko Roselli 2011:22, 141–142; Hanink and Uhlig forthcoming.

[6] In fact, its authenticity is seriously doubted by the Hellenistic tendency of “constructing” a decree in order to justify, or enhance a historical tradition. See Chaniotis 2015 forthcoming.

[7] βουλόμενος suggests for Easterling 1990:566, “that these works were so much appreciated that they rapidly entered the public domain.”

[8] The translation is by Russell 2001.

[9] LSJs.v. καλέω.

[10] LSJ s.v. καλέω 5.

[11] Corpus Papyrorum Hermopolitanorum i 25.2.7: καλεῖ ἡ τάξις.

[12] LSJ s.v. καινός, ή, όν.

[13] The Vita numbers thirteen, while the Suda twenty-eight; see Storey and Allan 2005:93. Against this argument, see Biles 2006–2007:208n7. The number of plays attributed to Aeschylus also varies; see Sommerstein 2002:33–34. On Quintilian’s passage, see Wagner 1995:174.

[14] Text and translation are from Henderson 1998.

[15] Theognis must have lived and composed during the second half of the fifth century, since according to the Suda (ν 397) he once gained the third prize when competing against Euripides (who came second) and Nicomachus (who won the first prize, see also TrGF I 36.1), while according to other information he was one of the Thirty Tyrants [Xenophon Hellenica 2.3.2; Lysias 12.6; Harpocratio 95.1 (Photius 83.20) s.v. Theognis].

[16] See also Brockmann 2003:27–41, according to whom the lines possibly allude to a reperformance of Aeschylus, poorly put on stage by Theognis.

[17] Text and translation are by Henderson 2002.

[18] Dover 1993:23.

[19] Dover 1993:23. Newiger 1961:427–430, is also supportive of a reperformances tradition.

[20] The meaning of οἰκήια κακά is much debated. It is traditionally read as hinting at how sorry the Athenians felt for themselves either because of their own sufferings from the Persians (Roisman 1988), or because of their guilt for not having supported the Ionian revolt sufficiently (Badian 1996, also followed by Tamiolaki 2010:62n153). For Zacharia 2003:49 and n20, the passage hints at the “close sentimental connection between the Athenians and the Ionians” and highlights the strength of the Athenian reaction towards the capture of Miletus. The phrase’s connotations also depend on the play’s dating, which is still a matter of debate. An early dating (soon after the event of 494) would make the meaning of common misfortunes caused by the Persians less probable, since the Athenians would have not yet suffered from the Persians as directly as implied. A later, post-490 dating could coexist with this meaning, but it would still lack the undertone of emotional connection to the Milesians. Pace Zacharia 2003:49, I believe that a vague translation like “own misfortunes” combines all possible nuances: Athenians’ sufferings from the Persians, Athenians’ discomfort because of their guilt, as well as Athenians’ sentimental closeness to the Milesians, in the sense that the Milesians’ misfortunes were experienced like their own.

[21] Translation adapted from Godley 1998.

[22] For How and Wells 1957:72, the play “may have contained reproaches of Athens for the desertion of Miletus (οἰκήια κακὰ), and have been intended to awaken the national spirit and inspire resistance to Persia, perhaps by sea, since Themistocles, choragus for Phrynichus in 476 BC (Plutarch Themistocles 5), is said to have begun the building of Piraeus as archon in 493 BC. … For his manifesto the author was punished, probably by those responsible for the withdrawal from Ionia.”

[23] See LSJ s.v. χράομαι.

[24] TrGF 3 Τ 1, line 68.

[25] The translation is by Taplin 2007:6.

[26] I translate σπουδάσαντος Ἱέρωνος according to LSJ s.v. σπουδάζω I 1, ‘to be busy, eager to do a thing’. See also Xenophon Oeconomicus 9.1.

[27] Schol. Frogs 1028.

[28] Taplin 2007:6.

[29] Rehm 1989; Hall 1996:2; Scodel 2001; Taplin 2007; Kowalzig 2008.

[30] Bosher 2012.  Such a possibility was first put down by Kiehl 1852.

[31] IG I3 970 = TrGF I DID B 3 = Aristophanes T 21 PCG. Clinton 2005:53 puts it in the late fifth century; Csapo and Slater 1994:129 place it in the last decade of the fifth century.

[32] Translation adapted from Csapo 2010:90.

[33] Clinton 2008:53.

[34] Csapo 2010:91.

[35] Capps 1943:8. See also the discussion in Csapo 2010:91.

[36] Sophocles the younger is reported as the producer of Oedipus at Colonus in 401 and is not otherwise active until 396 BC (TrGF I 62 T 3, 4).

[37] Ghiron-Bistagne 1976:92–93; Whitehead 1986:217; Wilson 2000:375n164; Pickard-Cambridge 2003:47–48; Clinton 2008:53; Finglass 2015 forthcoming.

[38] Pace Clinton 2008:53, the Sophocles in question is more likely to have been Sophocles the elder and not his grandson. We know for certain that Sophocles was competing in this period, and, since Aristophanes was also competing, this should have been a significant festival (Whitehead 1986:222n274; Finglass 2015 forthcoming).

[39] IG II2 3091.

[40] Wilson 2000:248; Csapo 2004:61.

[41] Wilson 2000:248.

[42] Csapo 2004:62.

[43] Translation is adapted from Wilson 1997.

[44] IG I3 969.

[45] For the translation of τραγωιδοί as “chorusmembers,” see Csapo 2004:60 and n32.

[46] Since the names are listed without patronymics and demotics, they correspond to demesmen of Anagyrous (Csapo 2004:61). See also Wilson 2000:131–133. For Wilson, although the inscription is local, it refers to a victory in the City, not the Rural Dionysia.

[47] Sommerstein 2002:7–8.

[48] I am still skeptical about reperformances in the City Dionysia, but I cannot rule it out. See also Finglass 2015 forthcoming. Easterling 1990:565 and Dearden 1999:224 also accept the fact that the demes could host premières, but do not comment on whether those plays could then be reperformed in the City Dionysia.


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One Response to Early Reperformances of Drama in the Fifth Century

  1. Very interesting paper about an aspect of the representation of the tragedies usually not very thorough, with selected sources giving to the whole great value. Thank you

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