Who was the first actor? The poet Thespis or Thespians. He came from the Municipality of Ikaria (today’s municipality of Dionysus in the Attica region). According to ancient sources, Thespis who was the first actor and the father of dramatic art and theater was the first to introduce tragedy to the Great Dionysians around 534 BC.

Thespis

At that time, Athens was ruled by the tyrant Peisistratos, who, by pursuing a pro-popular policy, strengthened the worship of the god Dionysus, established the Great Dionysia, and the tragedy became part of the official context of the Dionysian celebration. Sources say that in the dramatic struggles of 536 BC, Thespis won the first prize.

Before his achievement, tragedy was entirely choral until Thespis introduced the prologue and the internal speeches. If so, Thespis was the first to interweave choral songs with an actor’s speeches, and tragic dialogue began when the actor (Thespis) exchanged words with the leader of the chorus (choragus). He became a hypocrite, which meant an actor.

Theater shows on a cart

Thespis uploaded his works with his face anointed with baubles (make-up) and later invented the use of masks, which he made from fabric. The innovation introduced by Thespis in the theater was the combination of the epic element of speech with lyric music. The consequence of this innovation is the birth of tragedy in Attica.

The transition from the dithyramb that took the form of a song to the lower case, the dialogue was unknown until then in the theater. All the performances were dominated by the dithyramb, ie an improvised choral, worship, and religious song in honor of the god Dionysus.

The theater of Dionysus in Acropolis of Athens

Horatios, who writes 500 years after the appearance of Thespis – it is estimated that Thespis gives performances as early as 560 BC. While without valid evidence, he is considered to be touring outside Attica. So, it is said that Thespis, who first associated his name with the art of theater, traveled with his dance starting from Ikaria (region of Attica), carrying his luggage in a cart. A similar reference is found in Ovid: “Thespis was the first, blurry with vintage / he returned with this merry madness to the villages” its floor could be turned into an improvised tent.”

Ancient Greek masks

According to information we gather from Dioscorides, Plutarch, Clement, Evanthios, and even from Athens, Diogenes Laertius and Souda, we must consider that Thespis was the father of tragedy and, more specifically:
1) Discover the tragic genre and create the tragic chant.
2) He was the first to invent satires.
3) He choreographed his works himself.
4) Introduce the First Hypocrite.
5) He painted his face with natural dyes and then made a Mask of cloth, ie fabric masks.
6) Add to the dithyrambic songs the prologue and the sayings, that is, the first spoken parts.
He started his theatrical career before 600 BC.


Although Aristotle does not mention him at all, not even the older writers, but Aristophanes in the last episode in Wasps, mentions him as a representative of the old tragic art. Titles and excerpts from Thespis’s works have reached us, but undoubtedly not genuine. According to Souda, they are Athla of Pelion or Forvas, Priests, Imitheos, Pentheus. One can understand from the fact how important Thespis was that during the 4th BC. Century circulated works under his name.

How important tragedy is defined by definition given to it by Aristotle in his Poetry: “Tragedy is an imitation of an act of greatness and perfection, a magnitude of power, exacerbated by each of the species in molecules, acting and reciting. ‘mercy and fears passing away, the cleansing of such passions.”

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