Theatre History: Antiquity

The history of theatre starting from 6th Century BCE towards the end of the Italian Renaissance; includes names, dates, events, and other significant items.



1500 BC

the god of the grape harvest, wine-making, and wine of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology
worshiped as early as 1500-1100 BC by Mycenaean Greeks
his festivals were the driving force behind the development of Greek theatre

Classical Athens

1412 BC - 088 BC

where City Dionysia (532BC) and Greek tragedy (508BC) beings

Anthesteria (Approximate Start)

1010 BC - 990 BC

happened 11th-13th day of Anthesterion (January/February full moon)
happened before Lenaia
preceded the Ionian migration of the late 11th or early 10th century BC
social order in the cities were interrupted

had three days of feasts
Pithoigia: storage jars
Choës: libations
Chytroi: pots


0700 BC - 0601 BC

wealthy Athenian citizens who assumed the public duty of financing the preparation for the chorus and other aspects of dramatic production
earliest mention around 7th century BC


600 BC - 527 BC

the tyrant (person who became ruler by force) who brought tragedy to the celebration of the City Dionysia
ruled Athens from 561-527BC
confronted the aristocracy and was a champion of the poor


600 BC

an ancient Greek hymn sung and danced in honor of Dionysus
wild and ecstatic type of poetry in which the poet is the only speaker


0575 BC

ritualistic drunken procession performed by revelers in ancient Greece

Panathenaic Games

566 BC - 300 AD

incorporated religious festival, ceremony, athletic competitions, and cultural events


534 BC - 2014 AD

Greek for "thing done"
began around 534 BC, official record is 501 BC

City Dionysia

534 BC

established during vernal equinox (Mar-Apr) in 6th century BC by Pisistratus
began with carrying a phalloi (phallus) around to make sure Dionysus doesn't curse the Athenian males again


0532 BC

where the chorus sings and dance, Greek for "dancing place"
has usually a diameter of 78 feet
started around 532 BC when Thespis was the earliest known actor


0525 BC - 0456 BC

first of three ancient Greek tragedians whose plays can still be read or performed
he expanded the number of characters in plays to allow for conflict amongst them

Ekkyklema (Introduction)

500 BC - 300 BC

"the vehicle" in this Greek playhouse which "wheeled out" dead bodies and other bulky props and set pieces from the stage house
wheeled out through a skene
used mainly in tragedies

Satyr Play

0500 BC

ancient Greek form of tragicomedy
similar to bawdy satire of burlesque
variety of Athenian drama
traced back to 500 BC

Old Comedy

500 BC - 401 BC

Greek Seating

499 BC

Greek theaters can fit around 15k-30k on inlaid stone blocks
using stone instead of wood around 499 BC


497 BC - 406 BC

one of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose plays have survived
first plays written later than Aeschylus and earlier or contemporary with those of Euripides
he wrote 123 plays during his life but only 7 have survived completely

Comedy in City Dionysia

486 BC

the date comedy was introduced to the City Dionysia in Athens


0480 BC - 0406 BC

one of three great tragedians of classical Athens
92-95 plays are attributed to him (18 currently exist)
theatrical innovations; traditional mythical heroes as ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances

Tetrology (Period of Introduction)

477 BC - 404 BC

The name comes from the Attic theater, in which a tetralogy was a group of three tragedies followed by a satyr play, all by one author, to be played in one sitting at the Dionysia as part of a competition


472 BC

one who plays the first part, chief actor
main character (central or primary personal figures) of a theatrical narrative who enters conflict because of the antagonist
begain with Aeschylus expanding the amount of people in his plays


0472 BC

second most important character after the protagonist in a work of literature
credited to Aeschylus in Aristotle's Poetics (335 BC)


467 BC

someone who uses mime as a theatrical medium or as a performance art
acting a story through body motions without use of speech
first recorded in Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes (467 BC)


465 BC

the background building to which the platform stage was connected
costume storage, periaktoi were connected
developed in 465 BC by playwrights


446 BC - 386 BC

an Old comic playwright of ancient Athens
eleven/thirty plays survive virtually complete, as well as fragments of his other plays
he defines the genre of Old Comedy
recreates the life of ancient Athens more convincingly than any other author

Lenaia (Comedic Introdcution)

442 BC

annual Athenian festival with dramatic competition
the lesser festivals of Athens
took place in the month of Ganelion (Janurary)
in honor of Dionysus Lenaios (another name for the Maenads)

Lenaia (Tragic Introduction)

432 BC

annual Athenian festival with dramatic competition
the lesser festivals of Athens
took place in the month of Ganelion (Janurary)
in honor of Dionysus Lenaios (another name for the Maenads)

Mechane/Deux Ex Machina

0431 BC

"God from the machine"
plot device whereby a seemingly unsoluable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object
used mainly by Euripides, in Medea

MIddle Comedy

400 BC - 301 BC


0335 BC

Greek word that gave term for "tragedy", means "he goat song"
335 BC: Aristotle provides the earliest explanation for the origin of the art form

New Comedy

323 BC - 260 BC

was situation comedy and comedy of manners

Kothurnos/Platform Shoes

323 BC - 030 BC

the high, thick-soled boot worn in Athenian tragedy
used by tragic Hellenistic Greek actors to make them larger than life
used during Hellenistic period (323-30BC)