Aeschylus The Ancient Writer Killed By A Falling Tortoise

Grace Higgins | August 28th, 2020

Aeschylus is often regarded as the creator of the tragic genre. He is one of the early Greek writers whose plays have survived into the modern era, the other two being Sophocles and Euripides. Arguably, he is also the founder of serious Greek drama. Mostly we find that he added many more characters into his plays, thus, allowing for many more conflicts. We know that he wrote over seventy plays, however, only seven of them have survived into modern times.

There are not many sources for his early life or even his life as a whole. What we do know is that he was born around 525 BC in Eleusis, which is a small town north of Athens. He worked in a vineyard, until a god visited him during his dreams, and told him to focus on the arts. His first play was performed when he was 26 years old, and just fifteen years later he was winning prestigious prizes in Athen’s annual awards for playwrights. Mostly it was because his writing style and choices were innovating for the time. Aeschylus is credited with bringing a second actor onto the scene when the greek drama at the time featured nearly exclusively one actor with a chorus of singing. Some historians also believe he may have started the process of decorating scenes.

If you were to visit his gravestone, you would find no mention of his writing skills, only his military accomplishments. You see Aeschylus was called into service when the Persians invaded and helped defend Greece against the forces of Xerxes during the Battle of Salamis.

One of the reasons Aeschylus is famous in history is because he was told as a boy he would die to a falling object. As a result, he slept nearly exclusively outside, terrified that a roof would cave in and kill him during his sleep. Ironically he died because he was sleeping outside. An flying high in the sky dropped a tortoise on his head. Many dispute the validity of the cause of his death, as it is based on the chronicles of a Roman historian many years later. But if it is true, Aeschylus was not a very lucky guy in the end.

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