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73 of the 80 plays known to have been authored by Aeschylus are no more than names to us, their choruses, strophes and antistrophes long since mouldered away.  And why?  Because of absurdly restrictive ancient copyrights, that's why. 

Jane Smiley, in her Los Angeles Times review of Stuart Kelly's The Book of Lost Books: An Incomplete History of All the Great Books You Will Never Read, reveals all:

For writers who are thinking of stashing their work against the apocalypse, maybe the story of Aeschylus is the best cautionary tale.  According to Kelly, the man died the strangest of deaths.  Out for a walk, he was attacked by an eagle and killed.  Kelly doesn't record how Aeschylus' contemporaries interpreted this event, but he suggests that from the eagle's point of view, the playwright's bald head might have looked like a stone, which the bird meant to pick up and drop on the shell of its prey, a tortoise.

As far as Aeschylus knew, his legacy was taken care of: He had written his own epitaph (concerning his valor at the Battle of Marathon) and his plays were famous and carefully preserved.  Then, about 200 years after his death, the Egyptian Pharaoh Ptolemy III decided that he simply had to have the only manuscript of Aeschylus' complete works for his library at Alexandria.  The Athenians turned it over for a large consideration, but part of the deal was that no copies could be made.  History went awry.  In AD 640, Amrou ibn el Ass burned the library of Alexandria with the manuscript and hundreds of thousands of other scrolls.  Still, Aeschylus was lucky.  Almost all that is left of Sappho is her name.

A tragedy, that's what it was.  Or, rather, 73 tragedies.


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