AESCHYLUS (525/4 B.C.--456 B.C.): son of Euphorion (an Eupatrid) born at Eleusis, an Athenian citizen. Whether he was once initiated into the Mysteries is in dispute. He fought at the Battle of Marathon (490), where his brother Cynegiros died, and at Salamis (480). He visited Sicily twice, the first time shortly after the foundation of the city of Aetna in 476, the second after the production of the Oresteia (458). He died at Gela in Sicily. He left two sons, Euaeon and Euphorion, both of whom wrote tragedies; a nephew, Philocles, was also a tragedian.

He was active as early as the 70th Olympiad (496-490), when he competed against Pratinas and Choerilus. His first tragic victory came in 484. He was victorious thirteen times in all, though it is possible that at least one victory was posthumous. In 468 he was beaten for first place by Sophocles. In 467 he was victorious with his Theban trilogy, and in 458 with his Oresteia. He was said to have been the author of ca. 90 plays, of which there survive:

Characters and topics:
DIALOGUE: Kratos (`Might') & Bia (`Violence')
          (1) background of the situation
          (2) the Power of Zeus
MONOLOGUE: Prometheus

Chorus (Daughters of Okeanos and Tethys):

Strophe a: Chorus is sympathetic to Prometheus. 128-135
Anapests Prometheus calls them to witness the cruelty of Zeus 136-143
Antistrophe a: Prometheus asks pity; rule of Zeus is harsh 144-151
Anapests Prometheus desires a private punishment 152-159
Strophe b: Zeus should show pity, but does not 160-166
Anapests Someday Zeus will need Prometheus 167-177
Antistrophe b: Prometheus is too bold, while Zeus is relentless. 178-185
Anapests: Zeus will not always be this way. 186-196
DIALOGUE: Chorus Leader & Prometheus (197-241)
  • Battle between Zeus and the Titans
  • Prometheus' decisive role in the victory
  • Prometheus' rescue of humanity from annihilation
  • Rapid Conversation: what Prometheus did for humanity (246-267)
  • expectations for the future (257-283)

THE OKEANOS SCENE: Prometheus's inflexibility is in contrast to the flexibile, diplomatic attitude of Okeanos (284-396)
CHORUS indicates wholehearted sympathy for Prometheus (a purely lyrical passage, no new ideas, no real analysis of the preceding scene)
Prometheus describes the effects of his work on humanity, moving them from savagery to civilization                                (436-506)

Chorus tries to find out more about the ultimate nature of the Universe, especially about the permanence of Zeus' rule      (507-525)
CHORUS hopes never to make Zeus angry. Prometheus angered Zeus by helping mortals. But mortals are powerless to help Prometheus. Prometheus is much worse off than when he married the Oceanid Hesione.
  • IO's entrance, in a state of madness       (561-608 )
  • IO and PROMETHEUS their fates          (609-630)
  • Io's story of her past difficulties                (631-686)
  • CHORUS: Sympathetic remarks             (687-695)
  • Prometheus's account of Io's future in Europe (696-741)
  • Io and Prometheus concerning future prospects (742-781)
  • Prometheus's account of Io's future in Asia & Africa (782-822)
  • Prometheus's account of Io's past travels, and of her (823-843)
  • future and arrival in Egypt                          (844-876)
  • Io becomes maddened again                   (877-886)
The Wisdom of marrying social equals (887-893)

A prayer, not to attract Olympian attention, as Io did (fear, vulnerability, alarm) (894-906)
  • STROPHE: (887-893)
  • ANTISTROPHE: (894-900)
  • EPODE: (901-906), in iambics
DIALOGUE: Prometheus and Chorus (907-940)
  • Prometheus: Zeus is not as secure as he may seem to be.
  • Pursuit of lower class females will undo him. (907-912)
  • Only P can save Zeus (913-914)
  • Otherwise a stronger opponent will be produced
  • Prometheus is unconcerned about what Zeus can do to him NOW (932-94)
(B) DIALOGUE: Hermes, Prometheus, Chorus (941-1093)
  • H & Prometheus exchange taunts (941-1013)
  • H says that Zeus can send more grief (1014-1033)
  • Chorus: Prometheus should give in. (1036-1039)
  • Prometheus defies Zeus again. (1040-1053)
  • H warns Prometheus (1054-1062)
  • Chorus will stand by Prometheus! (1063-1070)
  • Prometheus' final defiance. (1071-1093)


  • Who, really, are Kratos and Bia? (Prologue)
  • Why is Hephaestus in charge? What is his attitude to Prometheus?
  • What is the attitude of each character in the drama to Zeus? (Kratos? Hephaestus? Prometheus? Oceanids? Hermes? Io? Okeanos?
  • What is the past history of the relationship between Zeus and Prometheus?
  • Why are they on the outs, and why can't they patch things up?
  • What is the personality of Zeus, as described in the play?
  • Why isn't Zeus present? Does this help or hurt the play?
  • What importance does "family" play in the drama? (See esp. lines 12-17, 39, 20)
  • What importance does the idea of "limits" have? (See esp. line 1, 99, 117, 186, 518, 622, 822, 1026)
  • What is the importance of the antithesis between "freedom" and "fetters"? (See lines 3, 49-54, 61, 70, 74, 514 ff.)
  • What is the importance of Prometheus knowing his own and Zeus' future? Is the future "determined" or "fated"?
  • What do you think AESCHYLUS expected the Athenian audience to be talking about as they walked away from his Prometheus Bound? What change did he expect to make in their attitudes?


January 26, 2010 9:19 AM

John Paul Adams, CSUN

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