Theater and Performance
Wine, Poets, and Performers in Ancient Greece
Tragedy and comedy as we know these theatrical forms today were developed by the Greeks as early as the 6th century BCE. This gallery features rare objects depicting scenes and actors from plays, many of which are now lost to us. Ephemeral performances of dancers, musicians, singers, and actors live on here. In ancient Greece, plays began as a way to honor Dionysos—the Greeks wrote and performed for the festivals held in his honor. The gallery features vases painted with scenes from the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides as well as the comic playwright, Menander, whose marble portrait (late 1st century BCE or early 1st century CE), one of the finest in the world, anchors the gallery. Many of the plays gained a wider audience when the Greek settlers of Southern Italy and Sicily embraced this art form, building stone theaters to feature the spectacles, and local painters in the region captured scenes on vases.