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date: 14 December 2018


Didaskalia, lit. ‘teaching’, came to be used in ancient Greece as the standard term for the production of a performance at a dramatic festival. dithyrambs, tragedies, satyr-plays (see satyric drama), and comedies were all performances that entailed the ‘teaching’ (didaskein) of choruses; didaskalia denoted both the training of the chorus and actors and the production itself, whether of a single play or of a group, and eventually was applied to a poet's entire output. The plural didaskaliai was used of the official list of productions staged at a particular festival; this is the sense in which modern scholars use the word. The keeping of such records by the archontes in charge of the festivals is probably as old as the institution of chorēgia.

The earliest sample of dramatic records inscribed on stone is IG 22. 2318, dating from the 340s bce, which for each year's City Dionysia gives the names of the archon, the winning tribe and chorēgos in the boys' and mens' dithyrambic chorus, and the victorious chorēgos and poet in comedy and tragedy, with the name of the victorious leading actor added after the introduction of the contest for the best actor in 449. The beginning of this inscription is missing: the earliest year listed is 473/2 bce, but the record probably went back to the late 6th cent.

Aristotle, whose scholarly interest in chronology is well known, probably composed his lost books Victories at the Dionysia (or Victories at the City Dionysia and the Lenaea according to Hesychius), Didaskaliai, and On Tragedies at Athens in the period 334–322 bce. He too must have drawn on the archontes' records, and his work must have been a source for the Alexandrian scholars who worked on drama and the festivals, particularly Alexander (8) Aetolus, Lycophron (2), Callimachus (3), Eratosthenes and Aristophanes (2) of Byzantium. Some traces of this research are evident in the hypotheseis (see hypothesis, literary) to some of the surviving plays. It is possible that Aristotle's work was also used as a source for some of the later inscriptions from Athens. The most important of these is Inscriptiones Graecae 22. 2319–23, from a building which may have been erected by an agōnothetēs (festival president) in 279/8 bce. It is a list, going back to the 5th cent., of tragedies and comedies at the City Dionysia and the Lenaea, which gives the name of the archon, the poets in order of success, and the title of each play with the name of the leading actor who took part in it. Fragments of didaskaliai from other cities and festivals have survived, and there are other types of list, e.g. giving names of poets or of actors; the evidence of all these, combined with information about chorēgoi and performers (including the aulos-players in the case of the dithyramb), offers valuable perspectives on the sociology and organization of the festivals.


A. W. Pickard-Cambridge, rev. J. Gould and D. M. Lewis, Dramatic Festivals of Athens, 3rd edn. (1988).Find this resource:

R. Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship (1968).Find this resource:

P. Ghiron-Bistagne, Recherches sur les acteurs dans la Grèce Antique (1976).Find this resource:

H. J. Mette, Urkunden Dramatischer Aufführungen in Griechenland (1977).Find this resource:

B. Snell and R. Kannicht, in A. Nauck (ed.), Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta 1, 2nd edn (1889).Find this resource:

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