Thespis in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)

(Θέσπις). The father of Greek Tragedy. He was a contemporary of Pisistratus, and a native of Icarus, one of the demes in Attica, where the worship of Dionysus had long prevailed. The alteration made by Thespis , which gave to the old Tragedy a new and dramatic character, was very simple but very important. Before his time the leader of the Chorus had recited the adventures of Dionysus and had been answered by the Chorus. Thespis introduced an actor (ὑποκριτής, or "answerer") to reply to the leader of the Chorus. It is clear that, though the performance still remained, as far as can be gathered, chiefly lyrical, and the dialogue was of comparatively small account, yet a decided step towards the drama had been made. Some modern scholars have credited Horace's statement that Thespis went about in a wagon as a strolling player (A. P. 276). It is suggested that the expressions for the freedom of jesting at the festival of the Lenaea (τὰ ἐξ ἁμαξῶν, ἐξ ἁμάξης ὑβρίζειν) may have given rise to the story. See Tragoedia.

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