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Edited and translated by Alan H. Sommerstein

ISBN 9780674996298

Publication date: 01/31/2009

Tantalizing quotations from lost tragedies.

Aeschylus (ca. 525–456 BC), the dramatist who made Athenian tragedy one of the world’s great art forms, witnessed the establishment of democracy at Athens, fought against the Persians at Marathon and probably also at Salamis, and had one of his productions sponsored by the young Pericles. He was twice invited to visit Sicily, and it was there that he died. At Athens he competed for the tragic prize at the City Dionysia about nineteen times between circa 499 and 458, and won it on thirteen occasions; in his later years he was probably victorious almost every time he put on a production, though Sophocles beat him at least once.

Of his total of about eighty plays, seven survive complete. The first volume of this new Loeb Classical Library edition contains fresh texts and translations by Alan H. Sommerstein of Persians (472), on the recent war, the only surviving Greek historical drama; Seven against Thebes (467), the third play of a trilogy, on the conflict between Oedipus’ sons which ends when they kill each other; Suppliants, the first or second play of a trilogy, on the successful appeal by the daughters of Danaus to the king and people of Argos for protection against a forced marriage to their cousins (whom they will later murder, all but one); and Prometheus Bound (of disputed authenticity), on the terrible punishment of Prometheus for giving fire to humans in defiance of Zeus (with whom he will later be reconciled after preventing his overthrow). The second volume contains the complete Oresteia trilogy (458), comprising Agamemnon, Libation-Bearers, and Eumenides, presenting the murder of Agamemnon by his wife, the revenge taken by their son Orestes, the pursuit of Orestes by his mother’s avenging Furies, his trial and acquittal at Athens, Athena’s pacification of the Furies, and the blessings they both invoke upon the Athenian people.

This edition’s third volume offers all the major fragments of lost Aeschylean plays, with brief headnotes explaining what is known, or can be plausibly inferred, about their content, and bibliographies of recent studies.


  • Alan Sommerstein’s three-volume Aeschylus…is in many respects the best critical edition of this playwright available in any format. Sommerstein’s authority as a linguist and expert in Aeschylean drama is second to none… Particularly welcome is the well-documented and clearly presented volume of Fragments—for of course the seven plays we happen to possess are by no means all that Aeschylus wrote, and not necessarily even the seven best: the trilogies dealing with Achilles at Troy, or with Pentheus and the Bacchants, for example, seem to have been especially daring and influential. The facing English translation is a trustworthy guide for all who want help in figuring out what Aeschylus (probably) wrote and meant.

    —Mark Griffith, Times Literary Supplement


  • Alan H. Sommerstein is Professor of Greek, University of Nottingham.

Book Details

  • 384 pages
  • 4-1/4 x 6-3/8 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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