In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Aeschylus

  • Introduction
  • Biography
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies
  • Lexica
  • Texts and Editions
  • Oresteia
  • Satyr Drama
  • Style
  • Theater and Staging
  • Time
  • Chorus
  • Gender Relations
  • Music and Emotions

Classics Aeschylus
Isabelle Torrance
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 March 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 March 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0001


Aeschylus (also spelled Aischylos or Aiskhylos) was born c. 525/4 BCE to an aristocratic family in Eleusis, a town in western Attica, part of the territory controlled by Athens. He was one of the earliest tragic poets. He first entered a tragic competition c. 499 (dramatic competitions were introduced in the 530s BCE ) and won first prize for the first time in 484. In the 470s he visited Sicily, where he was the guest of Hieron of Syracuse. He also died in Sicily (at Gela) in 456/5, during a visit after the production of his Oresteia in Athens in 458. During his lifetime and after his death he was celebrated as one of the finest, if not the finest Athenian tragic poet. He won thirteen victories at tragic competitions (see Theater and Staging) and was credited with having written between seventy and ninety plays. Only seven complete plays survive, all tragedies. Of these, three form a connected trilogy in which the three plays tell a single overarching plot: the Oresteia (Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, Eumenides). Two more were parts of connected trilogies of which the other two plays are lost (Seven against Thebes and Suppliants). One formed part of a trilogy without any close connection to the other plays (Persians), and the authenticity of one is disputed (Prometheus Bound). In addition to his poetic achievement, ancient sources tell us that his epitaph recorded his resistance against the Persians at the battle of Marathon, when, in 490 BCE, the Athenians and their allies drove back an attacking Persian horde of vastly superior numbers. It is also possible that Aeschylus fought in the naval battle at Salamis in 480 BCE, another Greek victory over the Persians and the subject of his Persians.


For a complete compilation of sources on Aeschylus’s life and works, see testimonia 31–108 in Radt 2009. For an introduction to Aeschylus’s life and profile see pp. 33–40 in Sommerstein 2002, pp. 1–16 in Sommerstein 2010, and pp. 70–77 in Lefkowitz 2012.

  • Lefkowitz, Mary R. 2012. The lives of the Greek poets. 2d ed. London: Bloomsbury.

    A clear synthesis of the information we have on the lives of Greek poets from Hesiod to the Hellenistic period.

  • Radt, Stefan L. 2009. Tragicorum graecorum fragmenta. Vol. 3, Aeschylus. 2d ed. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht.

    Information provided in Greek and Latin only.

  • Sommerstein, Alan H. 2002. Greek drama and dramatists. London: Routledge.

    Excellent introduction to Greek drama, with sections on all major dramatists and some discussion of minor ones also. See pp. 33–40 on Aeschylus’s life and profile.

  • Sommerstein, Alan H. 2010. Aeschylean tragedy. 2d ed. London: Duckworth.

    Comprehensive guide to Aeschylean tragedy with a more detailed discussion of Aeschylus’s life and times than Sommerstein 2002. See pp. 1–16.

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