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Invitation to World Literature

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Map & Timeline

Greece is very small compared to her eastern neighbor, the Persian Empire. Today's Turkey was the westernmost outpost of the Persians, who wanted to expand farther west—by conquering Greece. The threat of foreigners from the east is played out in The Bacchae, when Dionysus circles through Persian lands and then takes a direct line to Greece, bringing with him the strange new religion that will destroy the city of Thebes.

c. 550 BCE
The beginning of the era of classical Greek theater.
c. 540-530 BCE
The Great Dionysia (the religious festival of Dionysus, also known as the City Dionysia) is established in Athens. Processions, plays, awards, tributes to the God, and by some accounts animal sacrifice and other ritual acts, took place.
c. 525 BCE
Aeschylus is born.
c. 496 BCE
Sophocles is born.
c. 483 BCE
Euripides is born.
c. 480 BCE
The Battle of Thermopylae in Spartan War against the Persians; the Persians were victorious, but conflict with the East continued for much of Euripides’ life. This was not a peaceful era.
c. 455 BCE
The likely date that Euripides’ first play, Rhesus, was written.
447 BCE
Construction of the Parthenon begins.
c. 446 BCE Aristophanes is born. This comic playwright critiques Euripides in his play "The Frogs," in which both Euripides and Aeschylus defend their plays to Dionysus who is judging a contest in the underworld.
431 BCE
The first performance of Euripides' Medea.
431-404 BCE
The Peloponnesian War is fought between Athens and its allies and Sparta, the head of the Peloponnesian League; Athens is defeated after years of drawn-out conflict.
c. 406 BCE
The death of Euripides.
406-405 BCE
The first posthumous presentation of The Bacchae.
335 BCE Aristotles' Poetics defines the terms of tragedy and discusses Euripides as a classic dramatist.
220 BCE
The end of the era of classical Greek theater.
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As the play opens, Dionysus has returned from the east, where his cult has been established.
Image ©Konovalikov Andrey, 2010. Used under license from Shutterstock.com
An ancient Greek theater, Athens
© 2010 JupiterImages Corporation
Ancient Greek procession of the Dionysia
© 2010 JupiterImages Corporation
Bust of Aeschylus
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Bust of Sophocles
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Statue of Euripides
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Greeks and Persians at battle
Eos with the body of Memnon: a scene from Rhesus
Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division
View of the Parthenon, Athens, Greece
© 2010 JupiterImages Corporation
Medea, painted by Eugène Delacroix
© 2010 JupiterImages Corporation
A modern illustration of the Peloponnesian War
Bust of Euripides
Pentheus about to be slain; a scene from The Bacchae
© 2010 JupiterImages Corporation
Romans perform in what was once a once a Greek amphitheatre