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The ancient drama was born in Athens at the end of the 6th century BC and flourished in the 5th century BC.

Vase painting

A main part of our knowledge of ancient drama comes from the vase images. The vase provide information on costumes, masks, dance and dance even for the scenes of performances. There are only few Athenian vases of this era inspired by theatrical performances. According to some researchers, there are few vases because the Attica painters continued to decorate the pots with scenes from mythology, as they have always done. Angiographers were not used to depicts aspects of the public life of ancient Athens, one of which was the theatrical performances.

However, more images related to the theater exist in vases from the Greek colonies of Italy and Sicily. There, then, Attic dramas as well as new works were influenced by her theatrical tradition of Greece. These pots have pictures of the theatrical performances in Athens of the 5th century  BC and especially from comedy.

Vase for shuffling wine with water (crater). Six members of the “chorus” in three couples. They are wearing the same masks and costumes and are heading for a grave, through which a man appears

Vase for shuffling wine with water (crater). On a wooden scene, an elderly man is pulling from the arm his servant who on his right hand keeps a pot of wine and on the left a bottle.

Silent Figures

Apart from the “hypocrites” and the “Chorus”, in the performances of ancient drama also appeared the silent figures called “buffalo”, “paradise” and “satellite”. The roles of the silent faces had little or no words. They usually played roles with minor importance for the development of the action. Such roles were slaves,  escorts kings, guards, and soldiers.

As silent faces the poets used members of the “Chorus” that might also had hypocritical skills. A small role, moreover, it is likely to be the first step for a trainee hypocrite, before starting to take bigger roles. A separate category of silent faces were child roles.

The tragic poets often devised a reason for which the hero needed to remain silent. For example, in Alkistis of Euripides, Admitos asks Hercules: “Why is my wife standing silent and Heracles replies:” You are not allowed to hear her before your sacrifices to god “.

Women’s Rolls

In antiquity all the hypocrites and members of the dance were men who had both male and female roles. The disguise of men to women was done with the help of the appropriate costumes and masks.

Vase depicting two members of the dance to perform as women. They wear the same exact suit and the same pointed boots. The left figure has already been prepared and performs a dance movement. The right figure that has just put the boot, has not worn the mask which is on the ground. It looks like a helmet with a wide hair band and earring.

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