Greco-Roman drama



  • The theater of the Greco-Roman world between the close of thegolden age of Athenian drama in about 300 BC andthe later Roman drama of the 1st century AD.

    Many aspects of ancient Greek culture were adopted by theRomans, who had enormous respect for Greek intellectual and literaryachievements. Greek colonists had lived in southern Italy and Sicily(where Greek theaters still stand today) since at least the 6th centuryBC and it was through these channels that the expanding Romanempire first came into contact with the Greek dramatic traditions.By the time of the Roman conquest of Greece in the 2nd century BCNew Comedy and romances had become popular, writers such as Aeschylus,Euripides, Sophocles, Plato, and Aristotle wererevered historical figures, and Athens was established as an educationaland cultural centre visited by Roman tourists.

    The Romans adopted Greek mythology and were happy to retellGreek stories in both literature and drama. As the earliest Romantheater consisted of little more than festival pageants and bawdyvillage rituals, the Romans copied Greek dramatic form, theater design,costumes, and masks, and even used Greek actors. The first scriptedRoman plays were translations from Greek by Livius Andronicus (c.284 - 04 BC). Even Seneca, who lived in the1st century AD reworked Greek tragedies. Roman comedy derivedlargely from the plays of Menander, with playwrights suchas Plautus and Terence managing to get laughs outof their admissions that they borrowed so much. Despite its greatdebt to the Greek theater, however, Roman drama reflects the tastes,attitudes, and preoccupations of its own society.