Classical Quarterly 50 (2):353-366 (2000)
AbstractThe enduring fame of Aeschylus as the earliest of the ‘three great tragedians’ has made him in effect the first dramatist of the Western tradition, in chronological terms at least. At the same time it is worth noting that among the ancients he also enjoyed a reputation as a master of the satyr play, as Pausanias and Diogenes Laertius tell us. It is to this kind of drama, which comprised one-quarter of his output as tragedian, that I would like to turn, with particular focus on his Theoroi or Isthmiastai, and its treatment of another visual medium, the plastic arts. Our fragments of this play begin with a figure presenting a chorus of satyrs with artfully wrought images made in their likenesses which bring them a startled delight. In the second discernible scene of the fragment the chorus receivesνεοχμᾰ… θρματα, usually understood as athletic equipment, which the satyrs find rather more unsettling. The following piece is primarily concerned with the first scene in which the coryphaeus urges his companions to dedicate the depictions as votives on Poseidon's temple, relishing the prospect of the comical, terrifying effect these images would have on his own mother and travellers, the latter probably on their way to the Isthmian games. At least this much is clear from the papyrus. This part of the fragment has attracted a good deal of attention for the evident ‘realism’ of the images that excites the satyrs so much in the first place.
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