What was Greek tragedy ?

Roman arts, sciences, architecture and literature, and the modern creative efforts inspired by them. This is the home of our famous Roleplaying Thread. >({|:-)

Moderator: Aldus Marius

What was Greek tragedy ?

Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Thu Jun 03, 2004 2:22 pm

Salvete,

Reading in G.L. Dickinson's "The Greek View of Life" I mentioned earlier, I began to ask myself again what was the true nature of Greek tragedy. Did the Greeks primarily see it as a religious event (after all, tragedies in Athens were performed during the great Dionysos-festival in spring), did they regard it as a moral-psychological process, as Aristotle's theory* seems to suggest, or was it, in their eyes, rather a social happening and a form of public entertainment (a large part of the Athenian population could and did visit the tragedies, being almost free thanks to state-intervention). Or did Nietzsche understand its appeal better when he suggested that the Greeks, being a very rhetoric-minded kind, just loved to hear beatiful words and phrases; after all, they already knew the standard mythological stories that were adapted to plays - and how they would end - when they went into the theater.

Any opinions on this intriguing question ?

Valete,

Q. Pomponius Atticus

*A brief outline of it can be read at http://www.cnr.edu/home/bmcmanus/poetics.html
Quintus Pomponius Atticus
Praetor

"Ars longa, vita brevis" - Hippocrates
Quintus Pomponius Atticus
Senator
Senator
 
Posts: 500
Joined: Wed Aug 28, 2002 6:03 pm
Location: Belgica

Postby Quintus Aurelius Orcus on Thu Jun 03, 2004 8:16 pm

I think that the Greeks did see it as kind of religious experience, but for them religion was so intertwined in their daily lives, that they even did not had a word for it, as i have read soemwhere. Propbably in Burkert's Greek Religion.
They probably did it to honor the gods, the Muzes. They might have seen as a moral-psychological process. But what it surely was, was entertainment and it could have been also a social happening where they talked about the playes, etc.... I think it was a social happening where they went to see entertainment as a way to honor the gods, especially Dionysos. For modern followers, it is suggested in Drews book that followers of Dionysos visit plays, write, that kind of stuff. So i could imagine, this to be true.

Romulus
Quintus Aurelius Orcus
Rector ColRel
Rogator
Princeps gentis Aureliae
User avatar
Quintus Aurelius Orcus
Senator
Senator
 
Posts: 937
Joined: Sat Sep 14, 2002 5:05 pm
Location: Ghent, Belgica

Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Thu Jun 03, 2004 8:46 pm

Salve Orce,

I think it was a social happening where they went to see entertainment as a way to honor the gods, especially Dionysos.


Exactly. With our christian heritage, we too often draw lines between the "sacred" and the "profane", the moral and the beautiful (which for the Greeks were largely entwined), the social and the religious etc. As for that last pair, I think Durkheim's theories (he saw religion primarily as a social phenomenon) about religion are singularely applicable to the Greeks. I believe for example that the Panathenaea were as much a religious festival as they were a social event in which the unity of the Athenian community was expressed. The fact that the Greeks really saw their city as an organic unity is e.g. well expressed in the fact they they called it "the city of the Athenians" (hè polis toon Athènaioon), rather than "the city of Athens" (hè polis Athènè).

Vale,

Q. Pomponius Atticus :wink:
Quintus Pomponius Atticus
Praetor

"Ars longa, vita brevis" - Hippocrates
Quintus Pomponius Atticus
Senator
Senator
 
Posts: 500
Joined: Wed Aug 28, 2002 6:03 pm
Location: Belgica

Postby Quintus Aurelius Orcus on Thu Jun 03, 2004 8:59 pm

Salve Attice

I think pretty much every Greek festival was a social and a religious event. I read somewhere that every Greek housefather, the head of every household was a priest of the gods. Some might called it a cult, but it wasnt like that. It could have been that every Greek family had patron deities or deity and that besides those patron deities, the other gods were honored. The Thiasoi were also more or less a gathering of a social and religious manner than a stricly religious one.

Romulus
Quintus Aurelius Orcus
Rector ColRel
Rogator
Princeps gentis Aureliae
User avatar
Quintus Aurelius Orcus
Senator
Senator
 
Posts: 937
Joined: Sat Sep 14, 2002 5:05 pm
Location: Ghent, Belgica

Postby Marcus Pomponius Lupus on Thu Jun 03, 2004 9:28 pm

Salve Attice,

"What was Greek tragedy ?", well, I guess there's only one topic about Ancient Greece that you can write more about and that would be the quastio Homerica :wink:

I think the tragedy definitely has a religious origin, remember, the very first "plays" were nothing more than a single actor illustrating a myth that was told by somebody else. As time went by a second actor was introduced and they could then play little dialogues, then came a third actor and for quite some time that was it, three actors and a choir in the background.

So to answer your question, it depends on what period in the evolution of the tragedy you're talking about. I don't think anyone can say that the Greek tragedy was "in general pure entertainment, or purely religious". In origin, I would say religious, as a depiction of myths, but later on probably more and more entertainment.

Aristotle's theory, the personal katharsis by watching the sins and punishments of mythological figures, may be a useful side-effect, but I don't think a normal spectator would be concerned with that, nor that the magistrates sponsored these plays with that goal in mind.

Vale bene
Lupus
Marcus Pomponius Lupus
Iurisconsultus
User avatar
Marcus Pomponius Lupus
Eques
Eques
 
Posts: 307
Joined: Fri Aug 30, 2002 8:40 pm
Location: Belgica

Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Thu Jun 03, 2004 10:03 pm

Salve Lupe,

Aristotle's theory, the personal katharsis by watching the sins and punishments of mythological figures, may be a useful side-effect, but I don't think a normal spectator would be concerned with that, nor that the magistrates sponsored these plays with that goal in mind.


You have a good point there. Historians must always be carefull not to accredit people of the past with things they could never have imagined themselves. Indeed, I can hardly imagine - say - Nikias the Athenian cobbler calling his wife "Come on, sweetheart, pick yourself a dress, no matter which, or we're going to be late for our ethico-psychological purification." :wink:

Vale,

Atticus
Quintus Pomponius Atticus
Praetor

"Ars longa, vita brevis" - Hippocrates
Quintus Pomponius Atticus
Senator
Senator
 
Posts: 500
Joined: Wed Aug 28, 2002 6:03 pm
Location: Belgica


Return to Collegium Artium et Litterarum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron