Socrates on Why Poets Never Kill the Chorus (Aelian, Varia Historia 2.11)

“Socrates, after he saw famous men murdered during the reign of the thirty as the tyrants conspired against even the wealthiest men, is said to have run into Antisthenes and said “Are you sad that we are not at all great and righteous in our lives and like those men we see, the kings in our tragedies, those Atreids, Thyestes, Agamemnon and Aigisthus? They are shown slaughtered, lamented, dining on wretched meals again and again. No tragic poet is so daring or shameless to put on stage the slaughtering of the chorus.”

Σωκράτης ἰδὼν κατὰ τὴν ἀρχὴν τῶν τριάκοντα τοὺς ἐνδόξους ἀναιρουμένους καὶ τοὺς βαθύτατα πλουτοῦντας ὑπὸ τῶν τυράννων ἐπιβουλευομένους, ᾿Αντισθένει φασὶ περιτυχόντα εἰπεῖν ‘μή τί σοι μεταμέλει ὅτι μέγα καὶ σεμνὸν οὐδὲν ἐγενόμεθα ἐν τῷ βίῳ καὶ τοιοῦτοι οἵους ἐν τῇ τραγῳδίᾳ τοὺς μονάρχας ὁρῶμεν, ᾿Ατρέας τε ἐκείνους καὶ Θυέστας καὶ ᾿Αγαμέμνονας καὶ Αἰγίσθους; οὗτοι μὲν γὰρ ἀποσφαττόμενοι καὶ ἐκτραγῳδούμενοι καὶ πονηρὰ δεῖπνα δειπνοῦντες ἑκάστοτε ἐκκαλύπτονται· οὐδεὶς δὲ οὕτως ἐγένετο τολμηρὸς οὐδὲ ἀναίσχυντος τραγῳδίας ποιητής, ὥστε ἐσαγαγεῖν ἐς δρᾶμα ἀποσφαττόμενον χορόν.

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