Ancient drama has had a vast influence upon the literary, performance, and intellectual culture of modernity. From ancient Greece thirty-two tragedies, eleven comedies, and one satyr play survive, and from ancient Rome ten tragedies and twenty-seven comedies remain, alongside countless fragments from all genres. Many of the surviving plays are staged in contemporary theatre in both literal translation and more liberal adaptation, and today more ancient drama is seen in professional theatres than at any point since antiquity. Although all ancient dramatic genres have a rich reception history, Greek tragedy dominates the field, particularly in the 20th and 21st centuries. Productions of Greek tragedy today range from masked performances in the original language through to radical, avant-garde, immersive, and postdramatic reinventions. Greek tragedy is also frequently used as a touchstone within literary theory and broader intellectual discourse, from the theorisation of the ideal form of performance (Wagner’s Gesamtkuntswerk) to the development of psychoanalytic theory (Freud’s Oedipus complex) and structuralism (Lévi-Strauss). Ancient drama has also provided inspiration for entirely new dramatic forms; the influence of Roman tragedy, for example, can be felt within the revenge tragedies of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras, while traces of Roman comedy can be felt in slapstick comedy and Italian commedia dell’arte. Current growth areas within both artistic practice, and academic research into the reception of ancient drama, include the performance reception of dramatic fragments, an increased interest in forms such as burlesque and pantomime, and the use of ancient drama as a tool of resistance against oppressive political regimes.
The Phoenician and Punic religion was a polytheistic system, characterized by local specificities and some common features. It is attested in the whole Mediterranean basin throughout the first millennium
Radcliffe G. Edmonds III
Depictions of the underworld, in ancient Greek and Roman textual and visual sources, differ significantly from source to source, but they all draw on a common pool of traditional mythic motifs. These motifs, such as the realm of Hades and its denizens, the rivers of the underworld, the paradise of the blessed dead, and the places of punishment for the wicked, are developed and transformed through all their uses throughout the ages, depending upon the aims of the author or artist depicting the underworld. Some sources explore the relation of the world of the living to that of the dead through descriptions of the location of the underworld and the difficulties of entering it. By contrast, discussions of the regions within the underworld and existence therein often relate to ideas of afterlife as a continuation of or compensation for life in the world above. All of these depictions made use of the same basic set of elements, adapting them in their own ways to describe the location of, the entering into, and the regions within the underworld.
March 1 was the date of the Matronalia festival, which ancient sources generally refer to as either the Kalends of March or the Women’s Kalends. Juno Lucina, goddess of light and childbirth, and Mars, in his more pacific aspects, were the primary recipients of the rites. At Juno Lucina’s temple on the Esquiline Hill in Rome, and presumably at cult sites in other locales, matronae (married freeborn women) offered flowers and prayers to the goddess. The domestic components of the festival involved husbands’ prayers, either for the preservation of their wives or their marriages; a gift exchange; and the feasting of household slaves by their mistresses (dominae). Primarily because of these latter two elements, the Matronalia was regarded by some ancient sources as the female equivalent of the Saturnalia festival, which was observed in December. The Matronalia had a long-recorded history in Italy, and there is evidence that it was celebrated in some provincial locations, including at Carthage and Burdigala (modern Bordeaux).
Mystery cults of Dionysos are attested to in Greece from the late Archaic epoch and expanded to Rome in Hellenistic times. They appear in two forms, the group (thíasos) of ecstatic women (mainádes) who celebrate their rituals in the wilderness outside the city and in opposition to the restrictive female city life; and the thíasos of both men and women that constitutes itself as a cultic association and celebrates inside the cities but preserves the ideology of a performance outside the city. The main goal in both types of cult groups was the extraordinary experience of loss of self through drinking wine and dancing; the mixed-gender groups often added eschatological hopes. The purely female thiasoi were led by a priestess of Dionysos, whereas the mixed-gender groups were often led by a male professional initiator. The most conspicuous trace of these initiations are the so-called Orphic gold tablets that attest to the expectations for a better afterlife.