Three Tragedians and One Poll

I rad a poll yesterday which ended giving Euripides the win.

In honor of the correct outcome, here’s how they all died, according to tradition.

Valerius Maximus, Memorable Words and Deeds 9.12

“Aeschylus did not meet a willing death, but it is worth mentioning because of its novelty. As he was leaving the walls where he was staying in Italy, he stopped in a sunny spot. An eagle who was flying above him carrying a tortoise was tricked by his shining skull—for he had no hair—and it dropped it on him as if he were a stone so that it might eat the flesh from the broken shell. By that strike, the origin and font of a better type of tragedy was extinct.”

[….]

“But Euripides’ death was a bit more savage. As he was returning from dinner with Archelaus to the place where he was staying in Macedonia, he died, lacerated by the bites of dogs. Such a genius did not merit this cruel fate.”

[…]

“When Sophocles was extremely old, and he had entered a tragedy competition, he was agitated for too long over the uncertain outcome of the vote, but when he was the winner by a single vote, his joy was the cause of his death.”

Aeschyli vero poetae excessus quem ad modum non voluntarius sic propter novitatem casus referendus. in Sicilia moenibus urbis, in qua morabatur, egressus aprico in loco resedit. super quem aquila testudinem ferens elusa splendore capitis—erat enim capillis vacuum—perinde atque lapidi eam illisit, ut fractae carne vesceretur, eoque ictu origo et principium <per>fectioris tragoediae exstinctum est.

Sed atrocius aliquanto Euripides finitus est: ab Archelai enim regis cena in Macedonia domum hospitalem repetens, canum morsibus laniatus obiit: crudelitas fati tanto ingenio non debita.

Sophocles ultimae iam senectutis, cum in certamen tragoediam demisisset, ancipiti sententiarum eventu diu sollicitus, aliquando tamen una sententia victor causam mortis gaudium habuit.

Some lines from the Gnomologium Vaticanum

404

“When Menander was asked what the difference was between Sophokles and Euripides he said that Sophokles makes people feel pleasure while Euripides makes his audience feel anger.”

Μένανδρος ἐρωτηθεὶς τί διαφέρουσιν ἀλλήλων Σοφοκλῆς καὶ Εὐριπίδης εἶπεν ὅτι Σοφοκλῆς μὲν τέρπεσθαι ποιεῖ τοὺς ἀνθρώπους, Εὐριπίδης δὲ σκυθρωπάζειν τοὺς ἀκροατάς.

 

518

“Sophokles the tragic poet, after he heard that Euripides died in Macedonia, said “The whetstone of my poems is gone.”

Σοφοκλῆς, ὁ τῶν τραγῳδιῶν ποιητής, ἀκούσας Εὐριπίδην ἐν Μακεδονίᾳ τεθνηκέναι εἶπεν· „ἀπώλετο ἡ τῶν ἐμῶν ποιημάτων ἀκόνη.”

 

519

“When he was asked why he made people with noble characters and Euripides made those of base ones, Sophokles answered “Because I make people how they should be and he makes people as they are.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς διὰ τί αὐτὸς μὲν ποιεῖ τὰ ἤθη τῶν ἀνθρώπων χρηστά, Εὐριπίδης δὲ φαῦλα „ὅτι” ἔφη „ἐγὼ μέν, οἵους ἔδει εἶναι, τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ποιῶ, ἐκεῖνος δέ, ὁποῖοί εἰσιν.”

 

Busts of the Big Three. Photo Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.