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This chapter sets out to look for what was distinctive about Greek practice in the staging of tragic stories. There is no doubt that this new art form of the late sixth and early fifth centuries was a highly original experiment, with no obvious model in other cultures, but of course the early dramatists did not have to start from scratch. The epic and lyric traditions offered them a great range of serious narratives which had already been shaped for performance, whether by rhapsodes or by choruses, and without this precedent it would be hard to imagine Attic tragedy having developed as quickly as it did into a genre of such richness, sophistication and popular appeal.
Once the early dramatists had taken the crucial step of representing imagined characters (particularly famous figures from the mythical past) as present here and now, enacting their stories before an audience as if for the first time, the dynamics of narrative must have needed reshaping to suit the new medium, and this is where we should be looking for creative experimentation. For example, when we consider the forms taken by narrative in tragedy there is no need to see them as determined by, or as hangovers from, epic practice, or to single out ‘messenger speeches’ as having a specially privileged status.
Thomas J. Wilbanks, Corporate Research Fellow and Leader of Global Change and Developing country Programs Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).,
Robert W. Kates, University Professor Brown University,
David P. Angel, Associate Professor of Geography and Dean of Graduate Studies and Research Clark University,
Susan L. Cutter, Carolina Distinhuished Professor University of South Carolina,
William E. Easterling, Professor of Geography and Earth System Science Pennsylvania State University,
Michael W. Mayfield, Professor Department of Geography and Planning, Appalachian State University
The Global Change and Local Places project of the Association of American Geographers originated in a 1992 meeting at which participants formulated three propositions:
The grand query regarding the ways scale matters in understanding global climate change would benefit from detailed case studies of localities that were linked to scholars active in climate change-related research at global and national scales;
Such case studies could constitute a basis for designing a research protocol for use in other local case studies, thereby helping build a body of empirical research that could serve as a basis for developing a bottom-up paradigm for global climate change research to complement the dominant top-down paradigm; and
These locality studies should be based at universities whose faculty possessed detailed, long-term knowledge of their local areas, in some cases engaging scholars in global change research who might otherwise not normally participate in a large-scale research project.
Funding for the project outlined at the 1992 meeting was sought and eventually obtained from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Mission to Planet Earth Program (subsequently renamed Destination Earth). Intensive work on the project began in 1996 and continued through 2001. The several rounds of proposal writing that preceded funding refined the theoretical rationale for the project and its central components: four study areas located in Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania; and three cross-cutting modules devoted respectively to estimating local greenhouse gas emissions, understanding the forces driving those emissions, and assessing local emission reduction potentials.
As a creative medium, ancient Greek tragedy has had an extraordinarily wide influence: many of the surviving plays are still part of the theatrical repertoire, and texts like Agamemnon, Antigone, and Medea have had a profound effect on Western culture. This Companion is not a conventional introductory textbook but an attempt, by seven distinguished scholars, to present the familiar corpus in the context of modern reading, criticism, and performance of Greek tragedy. There are three main emphases: on tragedy as an institution in the civic life of ancient Athens, on a range of different critical interpretations arising from fresh readings of the texts, and on changing patterns of reception, adaptation, and performance from antiquity to the present. Each chapter can be read independently, but each is linked with the others, and most examples are drawn from the same selection of plays.
Since Nietzsche published The Birth of Tragedy in 1872 Dionysus has been the dominant Greek deity in the imaginations of scholars. His glamorous and ambiguous personality has stimulated a great deal of research and interpretation, recently intensified by the discovery of new evidence for Dionysiac mystery cult. Not all the factors at work have been academic and intellectual; in the 1930s, for example, the power of Dionysus could be strongly felt in the rallies orchestrated by Hitler and Mussolini (R. P. Winnington-Ingram wrote his pioneering Euripides and Dionysus under the influence of his response to fascism). Since the Second World War Dionysus has found a new place in theatrical life, largely because Bacchae has seemed to actors, directors and audiences to need so little mediation as a play for the times, in which drug culture, rock music, sex and violence, the many varieties of modern ecstatic cult, and even football hysteria all find recognisable analogues.
Yet despite the intensive and brilliant work devoted to Dionysus in his ancient context we still have to face some obstinate puzzles. If tragedy at Athens was originally and essentially under the sign of Dionysus, though other deities would appropriate drama for their own festivals in due course (see Ch. 9, pp. 223-4), what was it about this art form that was particularly Dionysiac? Was there a logic in the Athenian construction of Dionysus that made him uniquely appropriate as god of the drama, and especially of tragic drama? (Comedy has seemed to pose less acute problems because of its more obvious appropriateness for performance at festivals in honour of the wine-god.) Was it a matter of stories about Dionysus shaping the mythological groundwork and plot patterns of tragedy, as used to be the standard view, or of the god's symbolic characteristics - as the Other, the outsider, sexually ambivalent, transformative, elusive - making him good to think with, or of the distinctively dramatic features of his rituals (the mask, ecstatic possession, mystic initiation)?
This is a chapter about change: the complex and largely irrecoverable process whereby Athenian tragedy transformed itself into an international art-form which became familiar and influential throughout the Greek-speaking world, was translated and imitated by Roman playwrights, mutated into various types of balletic and operatic performance, and as a select corpus of classical texts helped to shape the educational system, and inform the culture, of later antiquity. The small group of plays that survived into the Byzantine period and beyond have of course had a continuing history of reception, which in recent times has once more become a history of performance (see Chs. 10-12 below). But even for the history of tragedy in the ancient world, the range of space and time covered is too vast, the evidence too diverse and uneven, and the phenomenon itself too elusive for a comprehensive account of this momentous process to be written. As one element in what became an elaborate entertainment industry, tragedy cannot easily be studied in isolation from other dramatic media: in terms of performance and organisation it needs to be considered alongside comedy and (increasingly) alongside musical performance and pantomime. And since the language and iconography of theatre in general invaded the life of later antiquity in innumerable ways, its deeper cultural influence is to be found almost anywhere one cares to look.
Anachronism-hunting has been out of fashion with scholars in recent times, for the good reason that it can easily seem like a rather trivial sort of parlour game. But given that Greek tragedy draws so heavily on the past, a close look at some examples may perhaps throw light on a far from trivial subject, the dramatists' perception of the heroic world.
So long as anachronism was treated as an artistic failing the debate was bound to be unproductive; one can symphathise with Jebb's view (on Soph. El. 48 ff.) that Attic tragedy was ‘wholly indifferent’ to it. And one can see why later scholars have objected to the very idea of anachronism as irrelevant and misleading. Ehrenberg, for example, wrote in 1954: ‘It is entirely mistaken to distinguish between mythical and thus quasi-historical features on the one hand and contemporary and thus anachronistic on the other. There is always the unity of the one poem or play, displaying the ancient myth, although shaped in the spirit of the poet's mind and time.’
Archilochus is in many ways the focal point for any discussion of the development of literature in the seventh century, since he is the first Greek writer to take his material almost entirely from what he claims to be his own experience and emotions, rather than from the stock of tradition.
By a happy coincidence this central figure is also precisely datable. He was a contemporary of Gyges, king of Lydia c. 687-652 (fr. 19). He alludes to the destruction of Magnesia by the Cimmerian Treres in or about the latter year (fr. 20), and seems himself to have been of military age at the time. In fr. 122 he speaks of the recent wonder of a total eclipse of the sun, which (despite recent attempts to revive the claims of 711 or 557) must be the eclipse of 6 April 648.
Archilochus the Parian presents himself as a man of few illusions, a rebel against the values and assumptions of the aristocratic society in which he found himself. A plausible explanation of this tension, to which we owe much of the interest of Archilochus' work, is to be found in the circumstances of his life. He came of a notable family. His grandfather (or great-grandfather?) Tellis had joined in taking the cult of Demeter to Thasos towards the end of the eighth century, and was to be immortalized in a great painting at Delphi by the Thasian Polygnotus (Paus. 10.28.3). The poet's father, Telesicles, also won distinction, as the founder of the Parian colony on Thasos.