Abstract: Greek Tragedy Amongst the “Barbarians” in 4th Century BCE Italy

While there is general agreement that Attic tragedies were performed in the Greek cities of Magna Graecia, few have considered the possibility of Greek theater productions in Italic (non-Greek) settlements as well. There continues to be resistance to the idea that native people could have known Greek well enough to appreciate Greek literature. However, recent evidence shows that the Italic people, not the Greeks, provided the principal markets for large, elaborately decorated Apulian red-figure vases, which often have scenes on them alluding to Greek tragedies. Furthermore, evidence from Attic and Apulian vases found in tombs at Ruvo di Puglia and other Italic sites in central Apulia suggests that by the beginning of the 4th Century BCE there were native people at those sites who were familiar with the conventions of Attic comedy, tragedy and satyr plays. In fact, the images show that they knew specific versions of myth first introduced in Euripidean tragedies, demonstrating that the native people were not the “barbarians” some have thought them to be. We must seriously consider the possibility that troupes of Attic actors actually performed at Ruvo and other Italic sites by the beginning of the 4th Century.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

K. Bosher ed. Theater Outside Athens: Drama in Greek Sicily and South Italy (Cambridge, 2012).

M. Hart, The Art of Ancient Greek Theater (Los Angeles, 2010).

O. Taplin, Pots and Plays: Interactions between Tragedy and Greek Vase Painting in the Fourth Century BC (Los Angeles, 2007)

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