Dire Fury

Shadi Bartsch

  • ‘Octavia’, Attributed to Seneca edited by A.J. Boyle
    Oxford, 340 pp, £70.00, April 2008, ISBN 978 0 19 928784 0

About a year after the Persians captured, sacked and burned the city of Miletus in 494 BCE, the Athenian playwright Phrynicus produced The Capture of Miletus, a tragedy about the colony’s harrowing fate. It was still early in the history of Athenian drama, and it may have been the audience’s reaction to Phrynicus’ play that led later tragedians to prefer mythological topics to contemporary ones. Herodotus tells us that the entire theatre fell to weeping and that Phrynicus was fined a thousand drachmae for reminding the Athenians of misfortunes all too familiar to them. Any future production of the play was forbidden.

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