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Do any complete manuscripts of Ancient Greek plays survive?

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dj-raven | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 5, 2008 at 9:19 AM via web

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Do any complete manuscripts of Ancient Greek plays survive?

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lizbv | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted September 5, 2008 at 12:29 PM (Answer #1)

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Yes.  There are many Ancient Greek plays that remain and were found intact, which is why we have some of the plays written by Sophocles such as "Oedipus Rex" and "Antigone", and some written by Aeschylus, such as "Prometheus Bound" and "Seven Against Thebes".  However, in the case of Sophocles, it is believed he wrote over a hundred dramatic pieces, yet only seven have survived to modern day.  One of the questions historians have, though, is whether or not what are known as his "Theban Plays", including "Oedipus Rex", "Antigone", and "Oedipus at Colonus" are even related to each other.  This exemplifies some of the information that we do not have access to.  Perhaps having more surviving plays and other documents would be able to answer many of the questions historians still have.

Sources:

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robertwilliam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted September 7, 2008 at 9:59 AM (Answer #3)

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Yes - as the above answers make clear. Yet what it's also worth making clear is that there's little logic behind why these particular plays survive, and that the plays that do survive are only a tiny percentage of each playwright's actual output. We also know of several other playwrights writing at the time - but for some reason their work has not survived.

We know that Sophocles wrote over 120 plays of which only the seven listed above survive in full. We also, however, have fragmentary versions of several others: including from his "Hermione", "Troilus" and "Niobe".

We have eighteen of the ninety-five plays Euripides penned, included the only complete surviving satyr play, "Cyclops" (the satyr play was the comedic play which followed the performance of three tragic plays in Greek dramatic festivals).

And we have only seven of the ninety-two that Aeschylus penned: including the "Oresteia" ("Agamemnon", "The Libation Bearers", and "The Eumenides") which is the only surviving complete trilogy (three plays meant to be performed together).

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 6, 2008 at 1:45 AM (Answer #2)

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Here is a more complete list of ancient Greek plays which have survived in their entirity.  Lysistrata is especially amusing!

Tragedy

Aeschylus (525 - 456 B.C.)

The Persians (472)
The Supplicants (c. 468)
Seven Against Thebes (467)
The Oresteia (458):

    Agamemnon, The Libartion Bearers, The Eumenides 

    Prometheus? (468-440?)

Sophocles (496 - 406 B.C.)

    Ajax (450-440?)
    Antigone (441?)
    Oedipus Rex (430-425?)
    Electra (418-410?)
    Trachiniae (413?)
    Philoctetes (409)
    Oedipus at Colonus (406)

Euripedes (c. 480 - 407)

    Alcestis (438)
    Medea (431)
    Hippolytus (428)
    The Children of Heracles (427?)
    Andromache (426?)
    Hecuba (425?)
    Cyclops (423?)
    Heracles (422?)
    The Suppliants (421?)
    Ion (417?)
    The Trojan Women (415?)
    Electra (413?)
    Iphigenia in Tauris (414-412?)
    Helen (412)
    The Phoenician Women (409?)
    Orestes (408)
    The Bacchae (405?)
    Iphigenia at Aulis (405?)

Comedy

Aristophanes (c. 448 - c. 380 B.C.)

    The Acharnians (425)
    The Knights (424)
    The Clouds (423)
    The Wasps (422)
    Peace (421)
    The Birds (414)
    Lysistrata (411)
    The Thesmophoriazusae (411)
    The Frogs (405)
    The Ecclesiazusae (392?)
    Plutus (388)

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redheadonfire | Student , Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 16, 2011 at 1:18 PM (Answer #4)

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But how do they survive?

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revolution | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted August 19, 2011 at 9:30 PM (Answer #5)

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Yes, some do but not all of them stand the test of times. Some of  Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides works did not last till eternity and has been gone before anyone has A CHANCE to see it, so uncompleted mysteries and unresolved riddles still lies in these Greek play tragedies. Why these specific Greek playwright plays gets missing, we will never know....

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