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ORIGINS OF ANCIENT GREEK DRAMA The roots of ancient Greek theater lie in the religion of Dionysus the god of wine who was one of the Olympian deities honored at Athens and somewhere else in the Greek world In myth Dionysus followers were satyrs drunken half-animal half-human creatures and mainades or mad women In ancient Greek times Dionysus followers sometimes understood these roles in their religious rituals consequential in a great deal of dancing drinking singing and celebrating in tribute of their god Members of the Dionyiac cult always told of the myths centered on their god by singing and dancing out their stories together as a chorus Always to be exact until one day about 2500 years ago in the sixth century BC when a man named Thespis stepped out of the chorus and took on the role of a character acting out a Dionyic myth through spoken dialogue rather than song He is considered to be the first actor and the first playwright Soon after that these dramatic performances gained new value and sense and in 534 BC the first celebration of Dionysus was instituted This festival held in honor of Dionysus in the city of Athens came to be known as the City Dionysia which took place in late MarchApril The Dionysian Festival represented not only a chance for the ancient Greeks to celebrate Dionysus but they also provided yet one more opportunity for them to take part in war THE FESTIVALS Most of the ancient Greek Text that have survived with maybe one or two exceptions were clearly written for performance in the castle of Athens the theater committed to Dionysus as part of the City Dionysia Each year three heartrending writers competed against each other as did three to five comic writers Usually a tragic writer wrote three tragedies and one satyr play for presentation at the festival while comic writers presented only one play at a time
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