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PHRYNICUS

The following essay was originally published in Manual of Greek Literature from the Earliest Authentic Periods to the Close of the Byzantine Era. Charles Anthon. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1853. pp. 175-6.

PHRYNICUS, an Athenian, was one of the poets to whom the invention of tragedy is ascribed. He was a scholar of Thespis. The dates of his birth and death are alike unknown. He gained his first tragic victory B.C. 511, twenty-four years after Thespis (B.C. 535), twelve years after Chœrilus (B.C. 523), and twelve years before Aeschylus (B.C. 499), and his last in B.C. 476, on which occasion Themistocles was his choragus, and recorded the event by an inscription. Phrynichus must, therefore, have flourished at least 35 years. He probably went, like other poets of the age, to the court of Hiero at Syracuse, and there died. Various improvements in the ancient drama are ascribed to Phrynicus. He introduced female masks, paid particular attention to the dances of the chorus, and for the light, ludicrous Bacchanalian stories of Thespis, he substituted regular and serious subjects, taken either from the Heroic Age, or the heroic deeds which illustrated the history of his own time. In these he aimed not so much to amuse the audience as to move their feelings; and so powerful was the effect of his tragedy on the capture of Miletus, which city had recently been taken by the Persians, B.C. 494, that the audience burst into tears, and Phrynicus was fined 1000 drachmæ for having recalled so forcibly a painful recollection of the misfortunes of a kindred people. Phrynicus seems to have been chiefly remarkable for the sweetness of his melodies, and the great variety and cleverness of his figure-dances. The Aristophanic Agathon speaks generally of the beauty of his dramas, though, of course, they fell far short of the grandeur of Aeschylus, and the perfect skill of Sophocles. In the dramas of Phrynicus the chorus still retained the principal place, and it was reserved for Aeschylus and Sophocles to bring the dialogue and action into their true position.

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