Theater in Ancient Greece

Theater performances in Sophocles' time were often staged as literary competitions. The Dionysia took place every year in March. 

The performances were integrated into the cultic-religious festivities in honor of Dionysus. They culminated in ceremonial processions through the city of Athens, during which wooden images of the god were transported from his temple in the district of Lenaeon through the city to another sanctuary. At this time of year, the Athenians celebrated Dionysus as a liberator from the hard days of winter and from all the troubles and worries of everyday life. 

Other components of the festivities were boys' choirs and dances and songs. Their special part was the Dithyrambos, a choral song performed by 50 men and boys, combined with a dance around the altar of Dionysus. From the described cultic context the theater play developed throughout the years. The choirmaster turned away from the choir to lead its singing, to accompany or interrupt it by a spoken recital, or by miming Dionysus, thus communicated with the choir.

In the sixth century BC, Thespis finally placed another actor opposite the chorus leader. In this way the possibility of a dialogue was given as well as the foundation stone for an independent development of the ancient theater. At the same time, Thespis gave the dialogue a fixed metrical form. 

In addition to the inhabitants of Athens and guests fro...

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