by Aeschylus
edited and translated by Alan H. Sommerstein
Harvard University Press, 2008
Cloth: 978-0-674-99627-4
Library of Congress Classification PA3827.A6585 2008


Four unconnected but unforgettable plays from ancient Athens’ first great tragedian.

Aeschylus (ca. 525–456 BC), the dramatist who made Athenian tragedy one of the world’s great art forms, witnessed the establishment of democracy at Athens, fought against the Persians at Marathon and probably also at Salamis, and had one of his productions sponsored by the young Pericles. He was twice invited to visit Sicily, and it was there that he died. At Athens he competed for the tragic prize at the City Dionysia about nineteen times between circa 499 and 458, and won it on thirteen occasions; in his later years he was probably victorious almost every time he put on a production, though Sophocles beat him at least once.

Of his total of about eighty plays, seven survive complete. The first volume of this new Loeb Classical Library edition contains fresh texts and translations by Alan H. Sommerstein of Persians (472), on the recent war, the only surviving Greek historical drama; Seven against Thebes (467), the third play of a trilogy, on the conflict between Oedipus’ sons which ends when they kill each other; Suppliants, the first or second play of a trilogy, on the successful appeal by the daughters of Danaus to the king and people of Argos for protection against a forced marriage to their cousins (whom they will later murder, all but one); and Prometheus Bound (of disputed authenticity), on the terrible punishment of Prometheus for giving fire to humans in defiance of Zeus (with whom he will later be reconciled after preventing his overthrow). The second volume contains the complete Oresteia trilogy (458), comprising Agamemnon, Libation-Bearers, and Eumenides, presenting the murder of Agamemnon by his wife, the revenge taken by their son Orestes, the pursuit of Orestes by his mother’s avenging Furies, his trial and acquittal at Athens, Athena’s pacification of the Furies, and the blessings they both invoke upon the Athenian people.

This edition’s third volume offers all the major fragments of lost Aeschylean plays, with brief headnotes explaining what is known, or can be plausibly inferred, about their content, and bibliographies of recent studies.