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J. Richard Green

The visual element in Greek theatre is demonstrably strong from the time of the earliest formal drama; the importance accorded to stage production may be judged from *Aristophanes(1)'s *parodies of tragic performances in his comedies, or indeed from the whole development of theatre as a genre in the 5th and 4th centsuries bce; if confirmation were needed, it would come from the reservations *Aristotle expresses about production as opposed to composition in his lectures on composition in the Poetics (1450b17–20; 1453b1 ff.).Theatres in antiquity were constantly modified and rebuilt, and the surviving remains give few clear clues to the nature of the theatrical space available to the Classical dramatists of the 5th cent. In the Theatre of Dionysus at Athens, the wall of conglomerate stone (H, with its projection T), which was traditionally taken as belonging to the stage building of the later 5th century, is now thought by some to date to the mid-4th. (See theatres (greek and roman).


George Chatterton Richards and M. T. Griffin

Tragic actor, “dignified” (Hor. Epist. 2.1.82), contemporary of Q. *Roscius (Quint. Inst. 11.3.111 “Roscius is livelier, Aesopus more dignified”). He gave *Cicero lessons in elocution (Auct. ad Her. (3.21.34) suggests that he was greatly his senior) and supported Cicero's recall from exile (Sest. 120–123); he returned to the stage for *Pompey's *ludi, 55 bce, without much success (Fam. 7.1.2). See Div. 1.80; Tusc. 4.55; QFr. 1.2.14. His son, M. Clodius Aesopus, was rich enough to be a wastrel (Hor. Sat. 2.3.239; Plin. HN 9.122).


Emma Cole

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.


Isabelle Torrance

Euripides was a key figure in the development of ancient drama, and the continuing impact of his work on modern forms of theatre cannot be underestimated. His tragedies were dramaturgically innovative and intellectually challenging. Divine epiphanies, emotionally charged debate scenes, and novel musical performances are all typical in Euripides. Several of his plays exploit the sort of disaster-averted scenario that was one of Aristotle’s favourite plot types and that flourished in operatic adaptations of classical myths. Pointed theological and philosophical questions are raised by characters in Euripides’ plays, and this radical aspect of Euripidean drama explains both why he was a target for contemporary comedians, notably Aristophanes, and why he was dismissed by Nietzsche and others in the nineteenth century. The past century, however, has seen a renewed and reinvigorated appreciation for Euripides, whose dramas have provided a valuable medium not only for artistic expression and experimentation but also for engaging with pressing contemporary social and political issues such as racial discrimination, warfare, postcolonialism, gender fluidity, and PTSD.


Lycurgus was one of the ten canonical Attic orators and an influential politician who worked energetically for the regeneration of Athens after the battle of Chaeronea (338) until his death, a period commonly referred to as “Lycurgan Athens.” The principal evidence about him is the “Life” in the Lives of the Ten Orators attributed to Plutarch (841a–844a) and the appended decree of 307/306 bce honouring him posthumously (851f–852e), the inscribed version of which is partially preserved (IG II2 457 + 3207). His one extant speech, “Against Leocrates,” of 331, was directed against a man accused of abandoning Attica in the aftermath of the battle of Chaeronea, and is notable for its moralising tone and extensive use of examples from myth and history, including quotations from poetry. Lycurgus is also prominent in the epigraphical record. He proposed more extant inscribed laws and decrees than any other politician of the classical Athenian democracy, except for his chief rival, Demades.


D. L. Bomgardner

The earliest surviving permanent amphitheatres are found in Campania, the well-preserved example at Pompeii (see figure 1), called spectacula (amphitheatre) by its builders (CIL 10. 852), being the only precisely datable example (c. 70bce). It is likely, however, that this construction replaced an earlier building. Golvin has now suggested that a pre-Roman lozenge-shaped monument preceded the Roman construction, postulating the later Roman addition of stone elliptical seating in the lowest zone of the cavea.1

Capua, a renowned centre for gladiatorial excellence in the late republic, had an early amphitheatre, datable to the republican period (Gracchan or at least the second half of 2nd century bce); this has recently been excavated (see figure 2).

Welch examines the earliest permanent amphitheatres, linking the majority closely with the foundation of Sullan veteran colonies.2 However, see also Hufschmid for important critiques of this survey and its methodology.


Luca Graverini

Any attempt at defining popular literature with some precision is fraught with difficulties. A flexible and pragmatic approach is the most rewarding, since it allows one to look at the subject from a few different viewpoints: “popular” can be understood as referring to the Roman people as a whole, or only to its lower social strata; a text can be defined as popular because it has been composed in a popular milieu, and/or because it addresses a popular audience. A mode of reception of literature can also be labelled “popular.” The traditional Roman elite only conceived literature as something useful, which could and should contribute to the instruction of its readers and to the well-being of the State. However, gradually a different attitude emerged: one that appreciated literature, and especially narrative, mostly or even only for its pleasurable and escapist qualities, sometimes even without any concern for its cultural sophistication. This rather loose definition allows us to discern a popular streak in many literary forms. For example, it is often surmised that ancient drama addressed the Roman people as a whole, without distinction of social class or cultural level. Other forms of theatre, such as Atellanae, mime, and pantomime, had a more farcical nature and were especially favoured by a less sophisticated public, but at least on some occasions they made some demands on the education of their audiences and contributed to the diffusion of traditional Roman culture. Non-elite social classes had literary activities of their own, especially during the Empire, when literacy increased. These texts are extant especially thanks to epigraphical sources, and are often written in an unsophisticated and colloquial language. Narrative in its various forms could address very different audiences, but the possibility of reading a good tale for entertainment more than for instruction was always open, for sophisticated novels such as Apuleius’s Metamorphoses as well as for simpler tales and collections of mirabilia. Edifying Christian narratives were programmatically written in order to be understandable to and appreciated by a large and not necessarily cultured public, whose faith they intended to strengthen and promote. Playful poetry and didactic literature also had a space among midlevel literary activities.