Born in Eleusis (a famous sanctuary in Attica), he belongs to the heroic period of Athenian history, and is its most complete and straightforward interpreter. Fighter of Marathon, Salamis and Plataea, an essentially patriotic, moral, religious spirit, he found in tragedy the right expression to embody the ideals by which he was inflamed. The ancient heroic legends, in the midst of which his poetry unfolds, were not for him separated from the present reality: since even the present reality, in the fervor of aspirations and in the enthusiasm of the facts, appeared to him marked by greatness, by faith, of heroism. And this he demonstrated, in particular, by taking the battle of Salamis as drama and dressing it with the very light of the myth in the tragedy The Persians. The arguments he drew for the most part from the epic: and “crumbs of Homer’s banquet” he used to call his productions. But he knew, by his own virtue, to reach and bring to the highest degree that faculty which in the epic is rarer and more embryonic, and of which only the genius of Homer, unlike the cyclics, had been capable, especially in the Iliad.: the ability to grasp in the countless events of life the aspects that are most revealing of human destiny and which therefore touch the deepest strings of the heart and intellect. If Homer had conceived his poem in an almost dramatic way, weaving it around a pitiful story of pain and death, from which the mystery of our miserable humanity and fate is expressed, Aeschylus made this mystery the genetic center and the constant reason for his own poetic conceptions. Thus he was truly a dramatic poet; thus he discovered the true spirit of what we call tragedy. It is due to his example, in particular, that the other poets, instead of bringing to the scene (as was often done) any fragment of epic legends, they learned to choose and adapt and contrive those cases which had a deeper human meaning and that is (to use Aristotle’s classic definition) were such as to arouse feelings of pity and terror. Naturally, he himself did not reach the full expression of his tragic spirit except by various and gradual attempts. Of the eighty or ninety compositions he gave to the theater, only seven are preserved: but these are enough to give us an idea of the grandeur of the work, and of the progress made in it. In fact, the distance between the Supplici (which belong to quite ancient times) and the Orestea trilogy(which is from the last few years, i.e. from 458). The formal development, for which the dialogic part is much more extensive in the latest tragedies than in the first ones, corresponds to the real and inner development of the tragicity: which manages to determine itself in an ever more clear way, clearly focusing attention on the essential problems of ‘”human tragedy”, especially on that of guilt and responsibility in the face of God’s justice and destiny. Aeschylus’ mind digs and deepens around such problems. Although immersed in a heroic and theological vision of life, accustomed to conversing with characters of legend, he is no stranger to the progress that Greek thought, especially under the influence of Ionia, had made or was making on the paths of intellectualism and philosophical rationalism.: rather, he takes nourishment from there too, but not to undermine the foundations of faith, but to ennoble it, to spiritualize it, to recreate it with the forces of a meditated and evolved conscience. Aeschylus is in many respects similar to his contemporary Pindar, above all for religious and moral dispositions; but on the other hand, in the ferment of thought, in the vastness of conceptions, it is so much richer and deeper than Pindar than the Attic culture was richer and deeper than the Doric one; and how much the dramatic element surpassed the simple lyric-choral element in psychological and representative power.
According to Rrrjewelry, the greatness of Aeschylus’s poetry therefore depends on the greatness of his spirit and the historical environment to which he belongs. The ideas that are agitated there touch the highest apexes of the human soul; and they could not express themselves except in those forms that Aeschylus has shaped: in dramatic conflicts of gigantic passions, clashing against a mythical and heroic background.
Aeschylus is followed by, a little younger, the other two outstanding Athenian tragedians, Sophocles and Euripides. If Aeschylus appeared to us as the characteristic interpreter of the years that receive their name from the Persian wars, Sophocles instead, while occupying with his long life almost the whole century. V (496-406 BC), is the true representative of the age of Pericles, that is, of the transition period between the victories of Salamis and Plataea and the Peloponnesian war: during which the Athenian democracy, strong in its results obtained and not yet reached to excess, it reaped, in every field of political and intellectual life, the best fruits of prosperity.