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Pra'tinas

*Prati/nas). one of the early tragic poets who flourished at Athens at the beginning of the fifth century, B. C., and whose combined efforts brought the art to its perfection, was a native of Phlius, and was therefore by birth a Dorian. His father's name was Pyrrhonides or Encomius. It is not stated at what time he went to Athens, but we find him exhibiting there, in competition with Choerilus and Aeschylus, about Ol. 70, B. C. 500-499. (Suid. s.v. Αἰσχύλος, Πρατίνας.) Of the two poets with whom he then contended, Choerilus had already been twenty years before the public, and Aeschylus now appeared, for the first time, at the age of twentyfive ; Pratinas, who was younger than the former, but older than the latter, was probably in his full vigour at this very period.

The step in the progress of the art, which was ascribed to Pratinas, is very distinctly stated by the ancient writers; it was the separation of the satyric from the tragic drama (Suid. s.v. πρῶτος ἔγραψε Σατύρους ; Acro, ad Hor. Art. Poet. 230, reading Pratinae for Cratini ; respecting the alleged share of Choerilus in this improvement, see CHOERILUS, Vol. I. p. 697b.) The change was a very happy one; for it preserved a highly characteristic feature of the older form of tragedy, the entire rejection of which would have met with serious obstacles, not only from the popular taste, but from religious associations, and yet preserved it in such a manner as, while developing its own capabilities, to set free the tragic drama from the fetters it imposed. A band of Satyrs, as the companions of Dionysus, formed the original chorus of tragedy; and their jests and frolics were interspersed with the more serious action of the drama, without causing any more sense of incongruity than is felt in the reading of those jocose passages of Homer, from which Aristotle traces the origin of the satyric drama and of comedy. As however tragedy came to be separated more and more from any reference to Dionysus, and the whole of the heroic mythology was included in its range of subjects, the chorus of Satyrs of course became more and more impracticable and absurd, and at the same time the jocose element, which formed an essential part of the character of the chorus of Satyrs, became more and more incongruous with the earnest spirit and thrilling interest of the higher tragic dramas. It is easy to enter into the fun of the Prometheus the Fire-kindler, where an old Satyr singes his beard in attempting to embrace the beautiful fire; but it is hard to fancy what the poet could have done with a chorus of Satyrs, in place of the ocean nymphs, in the Prornetheus Bound. The innovation of Pratinas at once relieved tragedy of this incubus, and gave the Satyrs a free stage for themselves; where, by treating the same class of subjects on which the tragedies were founded, in a totally different spirit, the poet not only preserved so venerable and popular a feature of his art as the old chorus, but also, in the exhibition of tetralogies, afforded a wholesome relaxation, as well as a pleasant diversion, to the overstrained minds of the spectators.

It has been suggested by some writers, that Pratinas was induced to cultivate the satyric drama by his fear of being eclipsed by Æschylus in tragedy; a point which is one of pure conjecture. It is more to the purpose to observe that the early associations of Pratinas would very probably imbue him with a taste for that species of the drama; for his native city, Phlius, was the neighbour of Sicyon, the home of those "tragic choruses," on the strength of which the Dorians claimed to be the inventors of tragedy : it was adjacent also to Corinth, where the cyclic choruses of Satyrs, which were ascribed to Arion, had been long established. (Hdt. 5.67; Themist. Orat. xix.; Aristot. Poet. 3; Bentley, Phal.

The innovation of Pratinas, like all the great improvements of that age of the development of the drama, was adopted by his contemporaries; but Pratinas is distinguished, as might be expected, by the large proportion of his satyric dramas ; having composed, according to Suidas, fifty plays, of which thirty-two were satyric. He gained but one prize. (Suid. s. v.) Böckh, however, by an alteration in the text of Suidas, ιβ᾽ for ιβ᾽, assigns to Pratinas only twelve satyric dramas, thus leaving a sufficient number of tragedies to make three for every satyric drama, that is, twelve tetralogies and two single plays. (Trag. Gr. Princ. p. 125.) In merit, the satyric dramas of Pratinas were esteemed the first, except only those of Aeschylus. (Paus. 2.13.16.) His son Aristias was also highly distinguished for his satyric plays. [ARISTIAS.]

Pratinas ranked high among the lyric, as well as the dramatic poets of his age. He cultivated two species of lyric poetry, the hyporcheme and the dithyramb, of which the former was closely related to the satyric drama by the jocular character which it often assumed, the latter by its ancient choruses of Satyrs. Pratinas may perhaps be considered to have shared with his contemporary Lasus the honour of founding the Athenian school of dithyrambic poetry. Some interesting fragments of his hyporchemes are preserved, especially a considerable passage in Athenaeus (i. p. 22a.) which gives an important indication of the contest for supremacy, which was then going on both between poetry and music, and between the different kinds of music. The poet complains that the voices of the singers were overpowered by the noise of the flutes, and expresses his desire to supplant the prevailing Phrygian melody by the Dorian. It is impossible to say how much of his lyric poetry was separate from his dramas; in which, both from the age at which he lived, and from express testimony, we know that great importance was assigned not only to the songs, but also to the dances of the chorus. In the passage just cited Athenaeus mentions him as one of the poets who were called ὀρχηστικοί, from the large part which the choral dances bore in their dramas.

(Casaub. de Satyr. Poes. Graec. lib. 1. c.5 ; Näke, Choeril. p. 12; Müller, Dorier, vol. ii. pp. 334, 361, 362, 2nd ed., Gesch. d. Griech. Lit. vol. ii. p. 39, Eng. trans. vol. i. p. 295; Ulrici, Gesch. d. Hell. Dichtk. vol. ii. pp. 497, f.; Bode, Gesch. d. Hell. Dichtk. vol. iii. pt. i. pp. 79, f.; Welcker, die Griech. Trag. pp. 17, 18, Nachtr. z. Aesch. Trilog. p. 276; Kayser, Hist. Crit. Trag. Graec. p. 70.)

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  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Aristotle, Poetics, 1448a
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.67
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