Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Aulis (AW-lis). Greek seaport, on the west coast of Euboea; a centrally located spot where Greek forces assemble to prepare for their invasion of Ilium. The play opens in front of the tent of Agamemnon, commander of the Greek armies. While the scene never changes, it is important that the audience know that just out of sight thousands of warriors and sailors are waiting impatiently for the wind to pick up so the fleet can set sail for Troy.

While stage directions indicate the setting, there is no certain knowledge as to how that setting was created on the ancient Greek stage. The more commonly accepted theory is that vertical prisms (periaktoi) were mounted on pivots between columns and rotated to show painted scenes. However, it is the pressure applied to the central character by the unseen thousands of men that creates the action of the play. Greek playwrights shaped much of their settings by their words and dialogue rather than actual physical objects, and the same is true of this play, even though there is the spectacle of characters entering in a chariot.