This document was originally published in The Drama: Its History, Literature and Influence on Civilization, vol. 1. ed. Alfred Bates. London: Historical Publishing Company, 1906. pp. 331-333.

In this passage Aristophanes has specially in view Carcinus of Agrigentum, his son, Zenocles, with his three brothers and a grandson and namesake of the former, "a whole potful of tragic crabs," as they have been termed. Zenocles, whom the comedian calls an execrable poet and was never tired of ridiculing, gained the first prize with one of his trilogies, when in competition with Euripides. But Ælian accounts for this by saying that "the jury were either intellectually incapable of a proper decision or else they were bribed." Carcinus the younger received a prize for only one out of his one hundred and sixty plays, many of them composed at the court of Dionysus II. Miletus, the accuser of Socrates, composed a Oedipean trilogy which has been preserved from oblivion only in the jests of the comic writers.

In the period which followed the Peloponnesian war, along with the continual decay of political and religious life, tragedy sank more and more into mere rhetorical display. The school of Ioscrates produced the orators and tragedians, Theodectes and Aphareus. Theodectes won the prize eight times, on one occasion with his tragedy, Mausolus, in the contest which the queen Artemisia had instituted in honor of her dead husband. On the same occasion he was defeated in rhetoric by Theopompus. Mausolus was especially adapted for recitations, and, from what Suidas says, it appears that the whole contest was one of declamation. A good idea of these dramas for reading and recitation, with their accompaniment of cold, rhetorical pathos and their strong leaning toward the horrible, may be gained by the plays of Seneca. Of the fifty tragedies of Theodectes we have the names of about ten and a few unimportant fragments; among them were an Ajax, Oedipus, Orestes and Philoctetes. Stobaeus makes the following pessimistic quotation from an unknown tragedy of his:

"All human beings grow old, and to an end
Comes every birth of time, save only one,
Save only wickedness; but that, methinks,
Fast as the race of mortals doth increase,
Increaseth equally from day to day."

Aphareus, the son of Hippias the sophist, and the adopted son of Isocrates, left behind him thirty-seven tragedies, and had been successful in winning four victories.


  • Aeschylus and His Tragedies - Biography of the Greek dramatist and analysis of his poetic qualities.
  • Agathon - A biographical note on the Greek dramatist Agathon.
  • The Age of Euripides - A look at the political and religious atmosphere in which Euripides composed his plays.
  • Aristarchus - A biographical note on the Greek dramatist Aristarchus of Tegea.
  • Chaeremon - A biographical note on the Greek dramatist Chaeremon.
  • Critias - A biographical note on the Greek dramatist Critias.
  • Ion - A biographical note on the Greek dramatist Ion of Chios.
  • Iophon - A biographical note on Iophon, the son of Sophocles.
  • Neophron - A biographical note on the Greek dramatist Neophron of Sicyon.
  • Sophocles and His Tragedies - Biography of the Greek dramatist and analysis of his poetic qualities.
  • Tragic Costumes - A description of the costumes worn by tragic actors in ancient Greece.


Home · Theatre Links · Script Archive · Bookstore · Email · © 2002 TheatreHistory.com