The contribution deals with the relations of Attic tragedy and its public according to Aristophanes's "Frogs". First there is evidence that the Greek tragic playwrights address their audience. The fictitious competition then, arranged in "Frogs" between Aeschylus and Euripides in the underworld, displays the requirements of tragic poetry. Notwithstanding their poetic and political differences the rivals of that agon agree with each other on the communicative function of tragedy. Aristophanes proves the great and free attitude which Attic tragedy, engaging for the benefit of the polis, took to its world and its public.
In his individual way of reporting speeches (cf. 1. 22. 1) Thucydides presents a speech delivered by Pericles in the Athenian Assembly before the beginnings of the Peloponnesian War (1. 140–144). Holding the persistent view that the Peloponnesians have to be opposed Pericles makes every effort to persuade the Athenians of the necessity of war. His suggestions which were accepted by the demos are among the causes of the Peloponnesian War.
mythical Athens has to face a serious challenge when Heracles' persecuted
children seek help. Producing conditionswhich
remarkably resemblecontemporary Athens Euripides succeeds in presenting
characteristic elements of the 5th century polis democracy. There is light and
shade in a tragicplot where we see
humanity confronted with hard consequences. The play, presumably performed in
the beginnings of the Peloponnesian War, realizes considerable achievements of
a free polis without overlooking questionable actions.
The fragmentary Euripidean Antiope, presumably performed in 411–408, shows an outstanding heroine. After tragic experiences she reflects, accorded by other characters of the play, on the misery of the circumstances which possibly might integrate the situation of Athens, too, going to be defeated in the Peloponnesian War. Antiope’s twins, Amphion and Zethos, form, notwithstanding their communities, a very different pair. Amphion, a sensible poet, wants to win new horizons with his work and achieves critical insights, while Zethos, concerned with practical tasks, excels as a brave citizen. They both are bound to the polis, Zethos absolutely affirming, Amphion rather being free and easy, but nevertheless loyal.
Archelaus, King of Macedonia, proved to admire Greek culture by inviting some distinguished authors and artists to live at his Court. They were the Athenian tragedians Euripides and Agathon, the poet and musician Timotheus of Miletus, the epic poet Choerilus of Samos and the painter Zeuxis of Heraclea, and it is possible that Thucydides, the historian, belonged to them, too. The Greek guests who did not seem to comply with the established standards of the contemporaneous art and life excelled at creating new forms and ideas. Without being a coherent group they were highly inspiring individuals. Each of them succeeded in promoting the literary or artistic field. Due to the generosity of their Macedonian host the Greek emigrants, far away from the struggles of the Peloponnesian War, were able to enjoy a safe and apparently prolific stay — evident above all from the Euripidean Iphigeneia in Aulis and the Bacchae.
By presenting the hero Theseus and his mythic Athens Euripides created a model of heroism in “Supplices”. Theseus' polis has some prominent features which are strongly suggestive of the real 5th century polis democracy. There is no doubt that the poet tends to show Athens in a favourable light, but there are considerably critical issues, too. “Supplices” covers a broad spectrum of success and failure, exceeding politics and visions of a peaceful solution which, however, have no chance. The tragic consequences have to be borne by the suppliant Argive mothers who have lost their sons at war.
Euripidesʼ Helen was performed in 412, some months after the complete débâcle of the Athenian army on Sicily. Aristophanes speaks of the “new Helen”, and there is indeed no reason to criticize the pretty heroine. This new character corresponds to the new poetic conception Euripides presents in the Helen as in the contemporary Andromeda, too, after having tried to apply it already in the Iphigenia Taurica (414 or 413). In the mentioned tragedies large-scale operations as the Trojan War are missed. However, this war is condemned in the diccussions of the post-war time in Helen. In the action prevail rather single fates and a lot of adventures. To return home proves to be a remarkable motive, when according to Thucydides only few succeeded in escaping from Sicily. The hard struggle to save the life against tyrannical violence in far-off barbarous countries seem to be important for the new conception. Cheerful components are the love and the happy ending. But there is no doubt: The new poetic manner does not prevent tragedies from remaining tragedies.