Aeschylus (ca. 525-456 B.C.)Aeschylus (ca. 525-456 B.C.) - With the close of the Persian Wars came the rise of Athens as an economic and cultural juggernaut. Of the 16 Greeks who appear on this chart between the wars with the Persians and the conquest of Greece by Philip of Macedon, 12 are from Athens or surrounding Attica (this includes Aristotle who was Stagiran, but moved to Athens as a young man to study under Plato and stayed 20 years). The other four - Leonidas, of course, was Spartan, Herodotus was Carian (from Asia Minor), Hippocrates from the island of Kos and Epaminondas from Thebes.


Aeschylus was from Eleusis, just northwest of Athens. He is an ideal transition figure for this era. A Persian War veteran, he fought in the Battles of Marathon and Salamis. At Marathon, he fought alongside his brother, Cynegeirus, who was killed and declared a hero of the battle. After the war, Aeschylus became the first of the three great Athenian tragedians, and as such, has been referred to as the father of tragedy. Of his more than 70 known plays, only seven survive extant (including Prometheus Bound, whose authorship is attributed to him, but is questioned). His oldest surviving play, The Persians, dates to 472 B.C., and (as you might guess) deals with the Greco-Persian conflict. As a result, historians have turned to it as a source of historical material. However, his greatest masterpiece is considered to be the Oresteia.


In addition to being the father of tragedy, Aeschylus may also be considered the father of the trilogy because he is the first known artist to present his stories as trilogies. The Oresteia is the only trilogy of his which survives intact. The Persians, for example, is part of a trilogy, but is the only play of the three which we have. In one of the more bizarre deaths you will ever come across, Aeschylus reportedly died when a tortoise hit him on the head after being dropped by an eagle.