What role did mythology play in the origins of Greek drama?
The Dramas of Ancient Athens
Read more from
According to the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 B.C.E.), writing in his great literary work, the Poetics, and many later theorists, drama in Greece developed gradually from the worship of Dionysos. It is significant that the dithy -rambs—the choral hymns to Dionysos—were an important prelude to the performance of plays in the City Dionysia. It is likely that dithyrambic practices preceded the development of Greek drama itself. According to tradition, it was a man called Thespis in the sixth century B.C.E. who originated drama by instituting dialogue between the dithyrambic chorus and actors. The role of Dionysos is important here because, as the god of intoxication and ecstasy, Dionysos speaks to the cathartic process in Greek tragedy outlined by Aristotle. Of all Greek gods, he was the only one to have experienced death and the catharsis of rebirth.