Romanisation of Greek Drama: Tragedy


The palimpsest of Romanisation of Greek Drama was a constant and imperfect negotiation between the playwrights and largely Attic Greek texts often transmitted through the intermediary of non-Attic Greek communities in Italy and quite possibly through new performance of the plays. The playwright faced the task of making the material immediate and understandable to an audience in Rome with its own expectations and within the special circumstances in which the Latin version was commissioned and performed. There are, as well, degrees of Romanisation. The fabula palliata would have had a visual, declared connection to Greek culture, while the fabula togata would have put on a Greek play in Roman dress, centering the reception more on contemporary Rome. The fabula praetexta, drawing on Roman history, had its own set of special circumstances. Imperial drama, for which Seneca is the fullest witness, melded a both Latin and Greek versions of plays to which the poet added his own interpretation of the material. This is no more apparent than in the Octavia and Hercules on Oeta where the debts are as much to Seneca as to Greek models and traditions. For the greatest utility, this paper organizes material by the broad categories of subject matter, as this should make clear which inheritances of the Greek past most interested Roman audience and the patrons who paid for productions.