Recent years have witnessed a shift away from the extreme Athenocentrism that has characterised the study of Greek theatre for centuries. The received account has always struggled with the contradiction of a classical theatre exclusively in, by and for Athens that was instantly replaced by an equally static vision of a hellenistic theatre that is ubiquitously Greek. The result has been that scholarship has remained largely oblivious to the regional, interurban and international festivals that competed with the Athenian festivals and ended up shaping them as much as Athens shaped theatre in Greece. In 2020, my colleague, Eric Csapo, and I published a volume that seeks to present and analyse the evidence for the spread of theatre from Athens, and for its independent appearance, in and beyond the Mediterranean over the course of the first two centuries of its existence: Theatre Beyond Athens: A Social and Economic History of the Theatre to 300 BC: Volume 2 (Cambridge University Press). In this seminar, I build on the results of this research and ask what role, if any, politics played in this extraordinary expansion. Just how exclusively Athenian or democratic were the theatre and its genres? Drawing on the very full corpus of evidence we now have, it is possible to match the reception of theatre with constitutional regimes in Greece. This turns the question into one of reception: some insight can be gained from the choices communities made in the fifth and fourth century as the new medium spread throughout the Greek world. Some states eagerly adopted theatre, while others avoided it. Communities that did receive theatre similarly chose to accept or to avoid specific theatre genres and practices.

About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

The zoom link for the online seminars will remain the same for the entire semester. To receive the Zoom link and to remain updated on future events, please email Enquiries about the seminars may be made to Associate Professor David Pritchard.

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The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for can be found at