Aeschylus: Tragic Justice
The next important period for mythology was the fifth century
Historians know several facts about Aeschylus. He was born into an aristocratic family near Athens around 525
Aeschylus died around 455
Aeschylus is thought to have written ninety plays during his lifetime, approximately eighty of which are known from the bits and pieces that have survived. However, only seven of his plays, all tragedies, remain intact today: The Persians, Seven Against Thebes, The Suppliants, Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides (the latter three make up the famous trilogy the Oresteia), and Prometheus Bound.
A major theme of these tragedies is justice. Aeschylus believed that the gods and goddesses sometimes resented mortals' attempts to attain greatness, which they saw as hubris (excessive pride). The deities often pursued justice by tricking a person into causing his own downfall through pride. The unjust were not always punished directly; sometimes, punishment fell upon a culprit's descendants. Zeus, the god of justice, is a central figure in Aeschylus's work.
As was common in his culture, Aeschylus saw revenge as a legitimate form of justice. For example, the three plays of the Oresteia show a cause-and-effect chain of violence and revenge, broken only when the goddess Athena intervenes and replaces the old-fashioned blood feud with a new system of trial by jury.
Throughout these plays, gods and goddesses intervene in human affairs. The works of Aeschylus are one of the richest sources of classical mythology that has survived.