1. The son of Polyphradmon (or, according to others, of Minyras), an Athenian, was one of the poets to whom the invention of tragedy is ascribed : he is said to have been the disciple of Thespis (Suid. s. v.
) He is also spoken of as before Aeschylus (Schol. in Aristoph. Ran.
He is mentioned by the chronographers as flourishing at Ol. 74, B. C. 483 (Cyrill. Julian.
i. p. 13b.; Euseb. Chron. s. a.
1534 ; Clinton, F. H. s. a.).
He gained his first tragic victory in Ol. 67, B. C. 511 (Suid. s. v.
), twenty-four years after Thespis (B. C. 535), twelve years after Choerilus (B. C. 523), and twelve years before Aeschylus (B. C. 499); and his last in Ol. 76, B. C. 476, on which occasion Themistocles was his choragus,
and recorded the event by an inscription (Plut. Themist.
5). Phrynichus must, therefore, have flourished at least 35 years.
He probably went, like other poets of the age, to the court of Hiero, and there died; for the statement of the anonymous writer on Comedy, in his account of Phrynichus, the comic poet (p. 29), that Phrynichus, the son of Phradmon,
died in Sicily, evidently refers properly to the tragic poet, on account of his father's name.
In all the accounts of the rise and development of tragedy, the chief place after Thespis is assigned to Phrynichus.
The external and mechanical improvements in the drama are indeed ascribed to each of the great tragedians who lived at the end of the sixth and beginning of the fifth centuries B. C., namely, Choerilus, Phrynichus, Pratinas, and Aeschylus; and there might well be doubts on such matters, as every formal improvement made by either of these poets must, of necessity, have been adopted by the others; so that the tragedy which Phrynichus exhibited in B. C. 476. after the introduction of those improvements which are usually ascribed to Aeschylus, must have been altogether a different kind of drama from that with which he gained his first prize in B. C. 511. Of such inventions, the one ascribed to Phrynichus is the introduction of masks representing female persons in the drama.
But those improvements which are ascribed specially to Phrynichus affect the internal poetical character of the drama, and entitle him to be considered as the real inventor of tragedy, an honour which the ancients were in doubt whether to assign to him or to Thespis (Plato, Mlinos,
p. 321). For the light, ludicrous, Bacchanalian stories of the latter, he substituted regular and serious subjects, taken either from the heroic age, or the heroic deeds which illustrated the history of his own time.
In these he aimed, not so much to amuse the audience as to move their passions; and so powerful was the effect of his tragedy on the capture of Miletus, that the audience hurst into tears, and fined the poet a thousand drachmae, because he had exhibited the sufferings of a kindred people, and even passed a law that no one should ever again make use of that drama (Hdt. 6.21
It has been supposed by some that the subjects chosen by Phrynichus, and his mode of treating them, may have been influenced by the recent publication, under the care of Peisistratus, of the collected poems of Homer; which poems, in fact, Aristotle regards as the source of the first idea of tragedy. Aeschylus, the great successor of Phrynichus, used to acknowledge his obligations to Homer, by saying that his tragedies were only τεμάχη τῶν Ὁμήρου μεγάλων δείπνων.
(Ath. viii. p. 348.)
In the poetry of the drama, also, Phrynichus made very great improvements. To the light mimetic chorus of Thespis he added the sublime music of the dithyrambic chorusses; and the effect of this alteration must have been to expel from the chorus much of the former element, and to cause a better arrangement of the parts which were assigned respectively to the chorus and the actor. We have several allusions to the sublime grandeur, and the sweet harmony of his choral songs. Aristophanes more than once contrasts the e ancient and beautiful melodies with the involved refinements of later poets (Av.
219, 269, Ran. 911, 1294, Thesin.
164; comp. Schol. ad loc.
and ad Ran.
941) ; some writers ascribe to Phrynichus the ancient hymn to Pallas which Aristophanes refers to as a model of the old poetry (Nub.
964; comp. LAMPROCLES) ; and his were among the paeans which it was customary to sing at the close of banquets and of sacrifices (Bode, Gesch. d. Hellen. Dichtkunst,
vol. ii. pt. 1, p. 70).
Phrynichus appears moreover to have paid particular attention to the dances of the chorus ; and there is an epigram ascribed to him, celebrating his skill in the invention of figures (Plut. Sympos.
3.9). Suidas also says that he composed pyrrhic dances (s. v.
In the drama of Phrynichus, however, the chorus still retained the principal place, and it was reserved for Aeschylus and Sophocles to bring the dialogue and action into their due position. Thus Aristophanes, while attacking Aeschylus for this very fault, intimates that it was a remnant of the drama of Phrynichus (Ran.
906, &e.); and one of the problems of Aristotle is, "Why were the poets of the age of Phrynichus more lyric than the later tragedians ?" to which his answer is that the lyric parts were much more extensive than the narrative in their tragedies. (Prob.
Of the several plays of Phrynichus we have very little information. Suidas, who (as in other instances) has two articles upon him, derived, no doubt, from different sources, gives the following titles :--Πλευρωνίαι
, Paus. 10.31.2
), Αἰγύπτιοι, Ἀκταίων, Ἄλκηστις, Ἀνταῖος ἢ Λίβυες, Δίκαιοι ἢ Πέρσαι ἢ Σύνθωκοι, Δαναίδες, Ἀνδρομέδα, Ἠριγόνη
, and Ἅλωσις Μιλησίων
(or Μιλήτου ἅλωσις
The last of these plays, which has already been referred to, must have been acted after B. C. 494, the year in which Miletus was taken by the Persians. Suidas omits one of his most celebrated, and apparently one of his best plays, namely, the Phoenissae,
which had for its subject the defeat of the Persian invaders, and to which Aeschylus is said by an ancient writer to have been greatly indebted in his Persae
(Argum. in Aesch. Pers.
The conjecture of Bentley seems very probable, that this was the play with which Phrynichus gained his last recorded victory, with Themistocles for his choragus. Phrynichus had a son, Polyphradmon, who was also a tragic poet. (Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. ii. p. 316; Bentley, Answer to Boyle ;
Welcker, Die Griech. Trag.
pp. 18, 127; Müller; Bode; Bernhardy.)