Aeschylus (ca. 525–456 BCE), author of the first tragedies existing in European literature, was an Athenian born at Eleusis. He served at Marathon against Darius in 490, and again during Xerxes' invasion, 480–479. Between 478 and 467 he visited Sicily, there composing by request Women of Aetna. At Athens he competed in production of plays more than twenty times, and was rewarded on at least thirteen occasions, becoming dominant between 500 and 458 through the splendour of his language and his dramatic conceptions and technique.
Of his total of 80–90 plays seven survive complete. The Persians (472), the only surviving Greek historical drama, presents the failure of Xerxes to conquer Greece. Seven against Thebes (467) was the second play of its trilogy of related plays on the evil fate of the Theban House. Polyneices tries to regain Thebes from his brother Eteocles; both are killed. In Suppliant Maidens, the first in a trilogy, the daughters of Danaus arrive with him at Argos, whose King and people save them from the wooing of the sons of their uncle Aegyptus. In Prometheus Bound, first or second play of its trilogy about Prometheus, he is nailed to a crag, by order of Zeus, for stealing fire from heaven for men. Defiant after visitors' sympathy and despite advice, he descends in lightning and thunder to Hell. The Oresteia (458), on the House of Atreus, is the only Greek trilogy surviving complete. In Agamemnon, the King returns from Troy, and is murdered by his wife Clytaemnestra. In Libation-Bearers, Orestes with his sister avenges their father Agamemnon's death by counter-murder. In Eumenides, Orestes, harassed by avenging Furies, is arraigned by them at Athens for matricide. Tried by a court set up by Athena, he is absolved, but the Furies are pacified.
We publish in Volume I four plays; and in Volume II the Oresteia and some fragments of lost plays.