Aeschylus, (born 525/524 BC—died 456/455 BC, Gela, Sicily), the first of classical Athens’ great dramatists, who raised the emerging art of tragedy to great heights of poetry and theatrical power.
Aeschylus (525-456) is one of the best-known Athenian tragic poets. In his plays, he addresses complex theological problems. For example, in the trilogy Agamemnon – Choephoroi – Eumenides, he describes how the gods punish a family for a series of murders. The Persians is a superb play, in which the Athenian victory at Salamis (480) is celebrated, written seven years after the event; the remarkable aspect is that Persians are “round” characters, whereas their opponents are almost faceless. Of his remaining tragedies, the Seven against Thebes is a very static play, the Suppliants celebrates the legendary past of Athens, whereas the Prometheus asks why an all-powerful god should be good (the authorship is disputed).
Aeschylus was highly esteemed; fifty years after his death, the comic poet Aristophanes wrote a play, The Frogs, in which Aeschylus and Euripides are presented as the greatest playwrights. Aeschylus himself did not care about his fame: he wanted to be remembered not for his tragedies, but for the fact that he had fought at Marathon, where his brother had been killed in action.
He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.
There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.
Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times.
From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow.
Obedience is the mother of success and is wedded to safety.
God lends a helping hand to the man who tries hard.
There is no sickness worse for me than words that to be kind must lie.
Memory is the mother of all wisdom.
For the poison of hatred seated near the heart doubles the burden for the one who suffers the disease; he is burdened with his own sorrow, and groans on seeing another’s happiness.
It is best for the wise man not to seem wise.
It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.
I have learned to hate all traitors, and there is no disease that I spit on more than treachery.
God always strives together with those who strive.
Everyone’s quick to blame the alien.
I know how men in exile feed on dreams.
But time growing old teaches all things.
Unions in wedlock are perverted by the victory of shameless passion that masters the female among men and beasts.
It is in the character of very few men to honor without envy a friend who has prospered.
You have been trapped in the inescapable net of ruin by your own want of sense.
It is an easy thing for one whose foot is on the outside of calamity to give advice and to rebuke the sufferer.
Be bold and boast, just like the cock beside the hen.
God’s most lordly gift to man is decency of mind.
For there is no defense for a man who, in the excess of his wealth, has kicked the great altar of Justice out of sight.
What is there more kindly than the feeling between host and guest?
God loves to help him who strives to help himself.
His resolve is not to seem the bravest, but to be.
The man whose authority is recent is always stern.
And though all streams flow from a single course to cleanse the blood from polluted hand, they hasten on their course in vain.
For know that no one is free, except Zeus.
And one who is just of his own free will shall not lack for happiness; and he will never come to utter ruin.
Ah, lives of men! When prosperous they glitter – Like a fair picture; when misfortune comes – A wet sponge at one blow has blurred the painting.
To be free from evil thoughts is God’s best gift.
Bronze in the mirror of the form, wine of the mind.
Who, except the gods, can live time through forever without any pain?
Time brings all things to pass.
It is easy when we are in prosperity to give advice to the afflicted.
For the impious act begets more after it, like to the parent stock.
If you pour oil and vinegar into the same vessel, you would call them not friends but opponents.
My friends, whoever has had experience of evils knows how whenever a flood of ills comes upon mortals, a man fears everything; but whenever a divine force cheers on our voyage, then we believe that the same fate will always blow fair.
What good is it to live a life that brings pains?
It is a profitable thing, if one is wise, to seem foolish.
If a man suffers ill, let it be without shame; for this is the only profit when we are dead. You will never say a good word about deeds that are evil and disgraceful.
It is always in season for old men to learn.
Destiny waits alike for the free man as well as for him enslaved by another’s might.
When a man’s willing and eager the god’s join in.
By polluting clear water with slime you will never find good drinking water.
Whenever a man makes haste, God too hastens with him.
Self-will in the man who does not reckon wisely is by itself the weakest of all things.
I would rather be ignorant than knowledgeable of evils.
I, schooled in misery, know many purifying rites, and I know where speech is proper and where silence.
To mourn and bewail your ill-fortune, when you will gain a tear from those who listen, this is worth the trouble.
Of all the gods only death does not desire gifts.
In the lack of judgment great harm arises, but one vote cast can set right a house.
Mourn for me rather as living than as dead.
He who goes unenvied shall not be admired.
Words are the physicians of a mind diseased.
A god implants in mortal guilt whenever he wants utterly to confound a house.
When a match has equal partners then I fear not.
Search well and be wise, nor believe that self-willed pride will ever be better than good counsel.
Excessive fear is always powerless.
There are times when fear is good. It must keep its watchful place at the heart’s controls.
Too few rejoice at a friend’s good fortune.
The words of truth are simple.
The man who does ill must suffer ill.
In every tyrant’s heart there springs in the end this poison, that he cannot trust a friend.
Time as he grows old teaches all things.
Whoever is new to power is always harsh.
Wisdom comes alone through suffering.
Only when a man’s life comes to its end in prosperity dare we pronounce him happy.
Since long I’ve held silence a remedy for harm.
We shall perish by guile just as we slew.
Death is easier than a wretched life; and better never to have born than to live and fare badly.
It is good even for old men to learn wisdom.
Know not to revere human things too much.
When strength is yoked with justice, where is a mightier pair than they?
The evils of mortals are manifold; nowhere is trouble of the same wing seen.
The wisest of the wise may err.
Death is softer by far than tyranny.
Married love between man and woman is bigger than oaths guarded by right of nature.
For a murderous blow let murderous blow atone.
The one knowing what is profitable, and not the man knowing many things, is wise.
We must pronounce him fortunate who has ended his life in fair prosperity.
It is a light thing for whoever keeps his foot outside trouble to advise and counsel him that suffers.
For somehow this disease inheres in tyranny, never to trust one’s friends.
What exists outside is a man’s concern; let no woman give advice; and do no mischief within doors.
I willingly speak to those who know, but for those who do not know I forget.
For this is the mark of a wise and upright man, not to rail against the gods in misfortune.
There is no disgrace in an enemy suffering ill at an enemy’s hand, when you hate mutually.
By Time and Age full many things are taught.
Justice turns the scale, bringing to some learning through suffering.
It is an ill thing to be the first to bring news of ill.
I say you must not win an unjust case by oaths.
What atonement is there for blood spilt upon the earth?
Don’t you know this, that words are doctors to a diseased temperment?
Of prosperity mortals can never have enough.
For hostile word let hostile word be paid.
Neither a life of anarchy nor one beneath a despot should you praise; to all that lies in the middle a god has given excellence.
For children preserve the fame of a man after his death.
Alas for the affairs of men! When they are fortunate you might compare them to a shadow; and if they are unfortunate, a wet sponge with one dash wipes the picture away.
The anvil of justice is planted firm, and fate who makes the sword does the forging in advance.
Who apart from the gods is without pain for his whole lifetime’s length?