You are on page 1of 21

Egyptian Mask

Here are some free Egyptian themed costume history colouring-in pictures for
your personal use. Children can
add their own coloured decorative
shapes to the gem bands on the
King Tut funeral mask.

King Tutankhamun was a married

boy King of 19 years when he died.
His tomb was found in 1922 by the
English gentleman archaeologist
Howard Carter. It is now thought
by Egyptologists that
Tutankhamen's father was the
Pharaoh Akhenaton (occupant of
tomb 55 in the Valley of the Kings)
and who ruled for 17 years. Shared
blood grouping has suggested that
Tutankhamun and Akhenaton were closely related.

Akhenaton's consort was his wife Queen Nefertiti, a most beautiful woman
and the coloured statue of her head is shown right. It is this statue which
confirms the use of acosmetic product to make Egyptian lips red. You will also
find a colouring-in picture of an Egyptian headdress on that page.

Later Queen Nefertiti became co-regent and power passed to her on King
Akhenaton's death, before she too met her demise. It seems Queen Nefertiti
only bore daughters, and that the mother of King Tut was in fact another
secondary wife of Akhenaton. Kiya as she was called, was at one point in
favour with the king, until she was in turn usurped by Nefertiti.

Tutankhamun was in his teens when he married his half sister, one of Queen
Nefertiti's daughters called Ankhsenamun. Keeping property, wealth and
power closely within the
family was thought to
safeguard the continuance
of the dynasty.

Many of the ancient

Egyptian names end in
'amun', but sometimes
Tutankhamun is spelled as

The version Tutankhamun

came into general use in UK
when King Tut's exhibition
first came to Britain in the
early 1970s. Suddenly, we were all told the correct way to pronounce it was
with an ending sound of ahhhhh-moon! These days he is most likely to be
referred to as the abbreviated King TUT.

The abbreviation is due in part to songs about the young king. I like this
shorter version of the name as this is one king that seems like an old friend,
because we know so much about him. Besides texting 'Off to see King
Tutankhamun at O2' may just be a tad long for today's teenager!

Howard Carter Discovers King Tut in 1922

The young royal couple had no living offspring, but two mummified stillborn
babies were buried in the chamber to accompany King
Tutankhamun on his journey to the spirit world.

King Tut had a magnificent tomb filled with golden treasure

to keep him well contented in the afterlife. It is because of
the breathtaking gloriousness of that tomb of treasure, that
his name will live on forever.

The Pharaoh's body was inside 3 coffins, with a stone

sarcophagus surround and 4 gilded shrines. The weight of
the coffin was so heavy it took 8 men to lift it. It was only
when the layers were removed that the second coffin
revealed itself to be solid gold. The mummified corpse also
had a separate gold mask. But the king's embalmed organs
were stored apart in a nearby shrine. In all some 150 items
of gold or decorative ornament were removed from the
mummy and over 200 items in total made up the treasure.

The treasure included vast quantities of gold or gold inlaid

items - a gold dagger, gold sandals, a wooden gold
decorated inlaid throne, gold statues, carved cosmetic jars,
ivory game board set, chests, boxes and various pectorals of
mixed types. All unseen before and all magnificent.

Howard Carter the British archaeologist, with the backing of

the fifth Earl of Caernarvon, had spent years searching for
the treasure, only to discover it eventually in 1922.

Costume history lovers will all be well aware that various personalities, including
Napoleon and Lord Byron have been attracted to elements of Egyptian fashion,
style, design, colour and culture. But ever since 1922 the treasure and culture of
Egypt and King Tut have been even more inspirational as a fresh source of design
Some consider the 1922 discovery to have been the strongest influence of later
Art Deco design. Films concentrating on Egyptian themes, like the 1963 film of
Cleopatra, also highlight Egyptian elements and set a new craze going whether it
be eyeliner, or gold thong sandals.
The Old Kingdom

By the time King Tut came to power, Egypt was well established as a great
civilisation. Much of this greatness was due to the geographical position of Egypt
and nearness to the south-eastern Mediterranean ports.

The famous Egyptian river, the Nile, also enabled lands to be kept watered and
therefore fertile. In addition, people could be transported up and the down the
length of the river making communication and trade with nations like Assyria and
the neighbouring Mediterranean coast a reality.

History informs us that the ancient Egyptian society developed from 7000 B.C.,
over a period of 5000 years, until we reached the Egyptian dynasty called the Old

By the Old Kingdom dynasty 2613-2160 B.C., the Egyptians had become used to
following many gods and goddesses. They also practised elaborate rituals to look
after the dead in their afterlife and they prepared for their impending death in

It's worth noting that few Egyptians of this period lived beyond the age of 40, so
it's easy to understand why they were so preoccupied with mortality.

Typical Imagery

It is because of the elaborate funerary preparations they made, and the building
of elaborate tombs to house the royal dynasties, that we know so much about the
ancient Egyptians today. Wall paintings within tombs show Egyptians going about
their daily life - living, eating,
grooming, dressing, writing,
worshipping, building,
romancing and dying.

Symbols that featured

frequently in ancient Egyptian
art were the vulture shown
left and the scarab beetle
right. Other symbols include
the lotus flower, below left,
and you can see more
Egyptian elements on the
page of decorative Egyptian
ornament plates and Egyptian

Other typical imagery include lions or lion heads. The half man half lion
monument of the Great Sphinx at Giza is an impressive and powerful symbol of
ruling royalty. You are reading an original costume history article by
Pauline Weston Thomas
Ancient Egypt - Daily Life & Society

The River Nile

Living beside the river Nile meant the Egyptians fared better than many other
civilisations. The warm
climate plus irrigation
methods that utilised the Nile,
enabled food to be grown
relatively easily.

In early Egyptian times the

Egyptians used the simple
hand operated water
mechanism called the shaduf,
pronounced shadoof as prime
irrigation system.

The shaduf consisted of a

pole, a container bucket for
the water and a
counterweight on the opposite end. This made it easy for one person to dip the
shaduf into the Nile and by balancing the counterweight swing up the water and
deposit the shaduf safely on the land. More complex arrangements meant water
could also be passed from shaduf to shaduf.

Food and Wine

With water on hand, food was successfully grown. The ancient Egyptians grew a
range of crops (emmer wheat and barley) from which they could extract a flour
suitable for making bread. They also kept sheep, cows, goats and pigs for meat,
fats, milk, wool and leather.


They cultivated grapes to make wine, and they were able to make a product
called papyrus from papyrus reeds to make a material that Scribes could write
on, using their specialist writing language called hieroglyphics.

Linen & Fabrics

In costume history terms, it valuable to note how they were also able to treat flax
fibres, retting (rotting) them beside the river Nile, through all the necessary
stages of fibre separation, right up to the natural sun bleaching process. After
which, the combed flax was spun and woven into into linen cloth or made into
Linen cloth bandages were used extensively in the
treatment of the dead during mummification, as well as
the basic material in everyday clothing for the living.
Early linens were coarser than later fine linen fabrics.
Later linen materials could be spun gossamer fine and
made sheer, or semi sheer like fine lawn fabrics. Wool,
cotton and leather was also used.

Fashion was important in ancient Egypt, but most

attention on dress for both men and women was kept
for decorative collars and the headdress. There were 4
basic styles of clothing and the shapes were very
simple. They wore thetunic a very simple shift, the
robe, the skirt and cape or the draped shawl
styles. These 4 styles developed over the centuries until
all 4 styles were worn side by side.

These Egyptian clothing fashions were discussed in other pages that also gave
pattern guidelines and wrapping instructions. The guides are perfect if you are
looking for fancy dress instructions.

Egyptian Gods

The ancient Egyptians worshipped a range of Gods and Goddesses. Some of the
most famous gods include
Osiris, chief judge and god of
resurrection and vegetation,
Isis wife of Osiris and divine
mother of Horus.

Horus the soaring hawk, was

the divine god and protector
of the King with his all seeing
eye. Hathor the cow headed
woman, the goddess of love
and fertility was the wife of

Re or sometimes Ra the sun

god was reborn every day and
was the overall head of some nine gods. After life came death, then rebirth.
Anubis was regarded as the great embalmer having first embalmed Osiris.
Anubis was the guide for the dead seeking their way to the underworld whilst
being the patron of embalmers and always depicted a black jackal headed man.

Funerary Pyramids

To prepare themselves for the period of time after death called the afterlife the
Egyptian kings decided they needed tombs where they could have all the
necessary comforts to make that afterlife journey as easy and beautiful as
possible. To this end they had men build large tombs called pyramids.
Egyptologists now know that skilled craftsmen were employed as opposed to
slaves, and that a great deal of labouring work was carried out on the pyramids
when farming work was not possible, for example during the Nile floods.

The first pyramid tomb was the Step Pyramid for King Djoser in 2680.B.C. The
ancient Egyptians had a good understanding of complex geometry. The Step
Pyramid was built by the great Egyptian architect Imhotep, at Saqqara. The
concept behind the stepped pyramid was that the king would be able to walk his
way up the steps to the gods in they sky.

Giza Pyramids

Of the 100 or so pyramids dispersed over Egypt, the pyramids at Giza are justly
famous. In 2580 B.C., the Great Pyramid of Giza was built for King Khufu. It
stands in sight of two smaller pyramids at 480 feet and is made from over
2,300,000 precision cut blocks of limestone.

The pyramids became more and more elaborate with hidden chambers intended
to fox thieves as each burial became more and more complex as the dynasties

We know from excavated evidence that burial

chambers within the pyramid tombs were filled with all
manner of domestic and personal items.

Jewels and luxurious artefacts, small boats,

ornamental guard dogs and ornamental furniture both
personal and household provided rich pickings for
thieves and vagabonds. Tutankhamen's tomb alone
was filled with some 35 boats to ensure he made a
safe passage to the underworld. His tomb is one of the
few found intact, giving us a rare insight into the
psyche of the ancient Egyptian royals.

The majority of items were made from precious

metals, precious gems, and luxury materials like onyx.
Gold was abundant in the area along the Nile in Nubia,
as well as on the coast of the Red Sea. Precious and semi precious gems and
other materials were crafted into the gold with sheer artistry peculiar to the
Egyptian style. Favourite gems included lapis lazuli, turquoise and malachite. In
addition glass was highly prized and used mainly as a decorative bauble alongside
mined gems.

The Tutankhamun tomb revealed grooming and make up items and you can read
more about these on theEgyptian eye make up and cosmetics page.
Aztec Mask

The Inca Come to Power

Like the Aztecs, the Inca built their empire on cultural foundations thousands
of years old. Ancient civilizations such as Chavn, Moche, and Nazca
had already established a tradition of high culture in Peru. They were followed by
Huari and Tiahuanaco cultures of southern Peru and Bolivia. The Chimu, an
civilization of the 1300s based in the northern coastal region once controlled by
the Moche, came next. The Inca would create an even more powerful state,
extending their rule over the entire Andean region.
Incan Beginnings The word Inca was originally the name of the ruling family of a
group of people living in a high plateau of the Andes. After wandering the
for years, the Inca finally settled on fertile lands in the Valley of Cuzco. By the
the Inca had established their own small kingdom in the valley.
During this early period, the Inca developed traditions and beliefs
that helped launch and unify their empire. One of these traditions
was the belief that the Incan ruler was descended from the sun god,
Inti, who would bring prosperity and greatness to the Incan state.
Only men from one of 11 noble lineages believed to be descendants
of the sun god could be selected as the Incan leader. These 11 families
were called orejones, Big Ears, because of the large plugs they
wore in their earlobes.
Another tradition was the custom of worshiping dead rulers, who
were preserved as sacred mummies. The mummies were brought to
all important events and housed in special chambers. These royal
mummies and their descendants retained rights to all the wealth and
property accumulated during the kings lifetime. Succeeding rulers had
to acquire their own wealth, which led them to conquer new territories.
Pachacuti Builds an Empire At first the Incan kingdom grew
slowly. In 1438, however, a powerful and ambitious ruler, Pachacuti
(pahchahKOOtee), took the throne. Under his leadership, the Inca
expanded quickly, conquering all of Peru and then moving into
neighboring lands. By 1500 the Inca ruled an empire that stretched
2,500 miles along the western coast of South America, from Ecuador
in the north to Chile and Argentina in the south. The Inca called this

empire Tihuantinsuya, or Land of the Four Quarters.

It included about 80 provinces and perhaps as many as
16 million people.
Pachacuti and his successors accomplished this feat of
conquest through a combination of diplomacy and military
force. The Inca had a powerful military but used force only
when necessary. The Inca were clever diplomats. Before
attacking, they typically offered enemy states an honorable
surrender. They would allow them to keep their own customs
and rulers in exchange for loyalty to the Incan state. Because
of this kind treatment, many states gave up without resisting.
Once an area was defeated, the Inca would make every
effort to gain the loyalty of the newly conquered people.

HISTORYMAKERSlar tosome socialist governments

in the 20th century.
As the second son of the Inca ruler
Viracocha, Pachacuti was not in
line to succeed his father. In the
early 1400s, however, Cuzco was
attacked by the enemy state of
Chanca. Viracocha and his first son,
Urcon, fled the city. However,
Pachacuti stood his ground and
defeated the enemy. He then seized
the throne from his brother to
become the new king.
Pachacuti, whose name meant
World Transformer (or in some
translations Earthshaker), ruled
for 33 years, until 1471, creating the
largest empire in the Americas.
Pachacuti has been compared
to Philip II of Macedonia. His son,
Topa Yupanqui, who further
enlarged the empire, has been
compared to Alexander the Great.

Extra Infos:
This gold mask is
covered with cinnabar,
a red ore. The
eyes are formed of
tree resin. The ear
spools are marks of
nobility. The mask is
from the Siccan
culture, which was
conquered by the

1. Eagle Man
This life-size ceramic eagle sculpture stood at the entrance
to the House of Eagles, next to the Templo Mayor.
Michel Zab / AZA. Reproduction authorized by the
Instituto Nacional de Antropologa e Historia

2. Mictlantecuhtli
Michtlantecuhtli reigned over the underworld. This statue
would have received blood offerings from the Aztecs.
Michel Zab / AZA. Reproduction authorized by the
Instituto Nacional de Antropologa e Historia

3. Mictlantecuhtli Detail
This statue depicts Mictlantecuhtlis liver falling from his
chest; the Aztecs believed that a persons liver housed his
passion, much like todays society associates the heart with
passion. The holes in Mictlantecuhtlis head would have
been filled with curly hair, which represented chaos to the
Michel Zab / AZA. Reproduction authorized by the
Instituto Nacional de Antropologa e Historia

4. Tlaloc Pot
A depiction of Tlaloc, the god of rain. Tlaloc is always
recognizable because of his fanged teeth and goggle eyes.
Michel Zab / AZA. Reproduction authorized by the
Instituto Nacional de Antropologa e Historia

5. Rabbit Vessel
This rabbit vessel would have been used to store pulque, an
alcoholic beverage. Rabbits were associated with
drunkenness because of their association with the moon. It
was said that there were just as many phases of the moon as
types of drunkenness.
Michel Zab / AZA. Reproduction authorized by the
Instituto Nacional de Antropologa e Historia

6. Anthropomorphic brazier
Here, the goddess of maize holds corn cobs and is
surrounded by marigolds. This brazier would have been
placed inside a temple and used for incense offerings.
Michel Zab / AZA. Reproduction authorized by the
Instituto Nacional de Antropologa e Historia

7. Ahuizotl
The name glyph for the ruler Ahuizotl who reigned over the
Aztecs for nearly 20 years. Ahuizotl took his name from
the mythical creature, who was a half dog, half monkey
beast with a hand at the end of his tail.
Michel Zab / AZA. Reproduction authorized by the
Instituto Nacional de Antropologa e Historia

8. Eagle Cuauhxicalli
This cuauhxicalli, or stone offering box, is carved in the
form of an eagle, an important Aztec symbol. During
sacrificial rituals, human hearts were place within the
receptacle on the eagles back.
Michel Zab / AZA. Reproduction authorized by the
Instituto Nacional de Antropologa e Historia

9. Stone Sculpture of a Dog

This stone carving of a dog might have been a depiction of
the spiritual dog who was said to lead human souls through
the underworld after their passing.
John Weinstein The Field Museum

10. Woman with Metate

Grinding corn was a daily activity for Aztec women, and
this carving shows a woman hard at work. While women
were in charge of processing the corn, men were in charge
of the crops growth.
Michel Zab / AZA. Reproduction authorized by the
Instituto Nacional de Antropologa e Historia

11. Coyote Warrior Goblet

This Coyote Warriors goblet was decorated using both
paint and a stamping technique. It can be assumed that this
finely crafted piece was used by some of the most elite
coyote warriors.
Michel Zab / AZA. Reproduction authorized by the
Instituto Nacional de Antropologa e Historia

12. Greenstone Sculpture of Quetzalcoatl

This sculpture is of Quetzalcoatl, the creator god who was
associated with both rain and water and was also a patron
of the arts.
John Weinstein The Field Museum

13. Corn Offering Box

Corn was one of the most important plants to the Aztecs; it
was believed that the god Quetzalcoatl gave corn to
humans in order to survive.
Michel Zab / AZA. Reproduction authorized by the
Instituto Nacional de Antropologa e Historia

14. Ceramic Baby Figurine

Aztec carvings represented all aspects of life, including this
baby on a cradle board.
John Weinstein The Field Museum

15. Painted Ceramic Bowl

This red clay bowl with black and white decorative
painting would probably have been used for special feasts
by elite Aztecs.

John Weinstein The Field Museum

16. Parrot Tobacco Pipe
This pipe, carved into the shape of a parrot, would have
been used during ceremonies, as the Aztecs smoked
tobacco for ritual purposes.
Michel Zab / AZA. Reproduction authorized by the
Instituto Nacional de Antropologa e Historia
17. Obsidian Mask
This mask made of obsidian (volcanic glass), would have
been extremely difficult to craft because of the incredibly
fragile nature of obsidian.
Michel Zab / AZA. Reproduction authorized by the
Instituto Nacional de Antropologa e Historia
18. Ceramic Cross

This ceramic disk from the early colonial period combines

Aztec and Spanish design motifs. It may represent a
Christian cross placed on top of an Aztec pyramid.
John Weinstein The Field Museum
19. Ancient Tenochtitln

This painting by Luis Covarrubias shows Tenochitatlan at

the height of Aztec rule. The four causeways seen leading
into the city still exist today as streets in Mexico City.
Michel Zab / AZA. Reproduction authorized by the
Instituto Nacional de Antropologa e Historia
20. Popocatpetl

Mount Popocatepetl, a volcano near Tenochtilan, was

considered sacred to the Aztecs.
21. Family Codex

This image from the Florentine Codex depicts an Aztec

family in their house. The hearth fire at the forefront of the
image was both functional and sacred. In this image, a
young girl is burning incense in a handheld brazier.
Florentine Codex, Vol. 7, Folio 21r
22. Warrior Codex

This codex image shows an Eagle Warrior (left) and Jaguar

Warrior (right) brandishing Aztec swords. The weapons
had obsidian blades attached to them making them very
dangerous. Obsidian is strong enough, and can be made
sharp enough to cut surgical steel.
Florentine Codex, Vol. 2, Folia 21L
23. Farmer Codex

In the Aztec world, the majority of people were farmers

such as this man, harvesting his crop.
Florentine Codex, Vol. 4, Folia 73L
Sumerian Gods/Mesopotamia mask symbols

Is Anu holding the symbolic Holy Grail of a Bloodline he created?

True or false, information about Sumerian Gods and Goddesses is taken from
the Sumerian King List, Sumerian clay tablets, and Sumerian cylinder seals. The
Sumerian King List allegedly recorded all the rulers of Earth over 400,000 years who
were said to be gods, demigods, or immortals ... or one soul playing all the roles.
These Gods were called the Nephilim Nefilim, Elohim, the Anunnaki
"Those who from Heaven to Earth came."

In Sumerian Mythology the Anunnaki were a pantheon of good and evil gods and
goddesses who came to Earth to create the human race. According to the some
resources, these gods came from Nibiru - 'Planet of the Crossing.' The Assyrians and
Babylonians called it 'Marduk', after their chief god. Sumerians said one year on
planet Nibiru, a sar, was equivalent in time to 3,600 Earth years. Anunnaki lifespans
were 120 sars which is 120 x 3,600 or 432,000 years. According to the King List -
120 sars had passed from the time the Anunnaki arrived on Earth to the time of the
Great Flood.

Creating Bloodlines

According to ancient astronaut (alien) theory, the Anunnaki came to Earth and seeded
the human race. This research was lead by Zecharai Sitchin andErich on
Diken among others, myself included. Physical evidence of ancient astronauts is
found through the planet, leading one to believe different races visited here at
different periods in Earth's history, or the same aliens return and set up various
programs in which they could remain and experience. These would include the
Egyptians, Hindu, Chinese, Greek, perhaps Atlanteans and Lemurians, Mesoamerican
cultures, among endless others. Will they return in space ships one day? Many
believe this is so., when the program of this program ends.

The Alien in the Stargate

His father was Enlil and his mother, Ninlil - both aliens and the same soul.

This relief in the British Museum show Ninurta in a Gateway (Stargate, Portal). He is
very clearly using his index finger to push something on the wall. His bracelet looks
very similar to a modern wrist watch (flower petals, no numbers) - ("Time" and Flower
of Life metaphors). The emblem around his neck matches the design of the Knight's

Ancient Greek Theater

The two masks at the top of the page are the symbols for theater. They represent the comedy
and tragedy masks that were worn in ancient Greece - during the golden age, around 500 -
300 BC. They also represent duality.

Greek theater or Greek Drama is a theatrical tradition that flourished in ancient Greece
between c. 600 and c. 200 BC. The city state of Athens, the political and military power in
Greece during this period, was the epicenter of ancient Greek theatre. Athenian tragedy,
comedy, and satyr plays were some of the earliest theatrical forms to emerge in the world.
Greek theater and plays have had a lasting impact on Western drama and culture.

Early tradition holds that formal theatre in Athens evolved from festivals related to the cult of
Dionysus, the Greek god of fertility and wine. This tradition is probably accurate, since
Athenian drama occurred at the Dionysia, an annual festival honoring Dionysus. However, it is
impossible to know for sure how fertility rituals developed into tragedy and comedy.

Looking to see a Greek Theater show live? Jackson Browne Tickets at the Greek Theater are
available at as well as great deals on allGreek Theater concert tickets.
Aristotle's Poetics contain the earliest known theory about the origins of Greek theatre. He
says that tragedy evolved from dithyrambs, songs sung in praise of Dionysus at the Dionysia
each year. The dithyrambs may have begun as frenzied improvisations but in the 600s BC,
the poet Arion is credited with developing the dithyramb into a formalized narrative sung by a

Then, in the 500s BC, a poet named Thespis is credited with innovating a new style in which
a solo actor performed the speeches of the characters in the narrative (using masks to
distinguish between the different characters). The actor spoke and acted as if he were the
character, and he interacted with the chorus, who acted as narrators and commentators.
Thespis is therefore considered the first Greek "actor," and his style of drama became known
as tragedy (which means 'goat song', perhaps referring to goats sacrificed to Dionysus before
performances, or to goat-skins worn by the performers.

Thespis' new style subsequently became part of the official celebrations of the Dionysian
festivals. In 534 BC, annual competitions for the best tragedy were instituted at the City
Dionysia in Athens.

In 471 BC, the dramatist Aeschylus innovated a second actor, thus making dialogue between
characters possible onstage.

Then, around 468 BC, Sophocles introduced a third actor making more complex dramatic
situations possible. Three actors subsequently became the formal convention (the actors
could still play more than one character, distinguising between them with masks).

The chorus could also function as a separate character rather than a narrator. In addition,
the subject matter of the plays expanded so that rather than just Dionysus, they treated the
whole body of Greek mythology.

In tragic plays of Ancient Greece, the chorus (choros) was originally made up of 12 singing
and dancing members (choreutai). The whole chorus tried to stay in rhythm with each other
so they could be viewed as one entity rather than separate entities. After awhile, the
members of the Chorus increased up to 15, divided into two sub-choruses of 6 (hemichoria)
and a leader (koryphaios); the number of actors increased from two to three. The leader of
the chorus interacted with the characters in the play, and spoke for the general population
(the play's public opinion). This change, attributed to Sophocles, favoured the interaction
between actors and thus brought ancient greek tragedy closer to the modern notion of
dramatic plot.

The chorus usually communicated in song form, but sometimes the message was spoken. It
was the author's job to choreograph the chorus. The chorus offered background and
summary information to help the audience follow the performance, commented on main
themes, and showed how an ideal audience might react to the drama as it was presented.
They also represent the general populace of any particular story. In the second generation of
Athenian tragedy the chorus often had a more substantial role in the narrative; in Euripedes's
Bacchae, for example, the chorus, representing the frenzied female worshippers of Dionysus
becomes a central character in itself.

By the 5th century BC, theatre had become formalized and was a major part of Athenian
culture and civic pride, and this century is normally regarded as the Golden Age of Greek
drama. The centerpiece of the annual Dionysia was a competition between three playwrights
at the Theatre of Dionysus. Each submitted a three tragedies, plus a satyr play (a comic,
burlesque version of a mythological subject). In the 430s BC, competitions for comedy were
also held.

Although there were many playwrights in this era, only the work of four playwrights has
survived in the form of complete plays. All are from Athens. These playwrights are the
tragedians Aeschylus -- Sophocles -- and Euripides -- and the comic writer Aristophanes. Their
plays, along with some secondary sources such as Aristotle, are the basis of what is known
about Greek theatre. Because of this, there is much that remains unknown.

The power of Athens declined following its defeat in the Peloponnesian War. Although its
theatrical traditions seem to have lost their vitality, Greek theatre continued into the
Hellenistic period (the period following Alexander the Great's conquests in the fourth century

However, the primary Hellenistic theatrical form was not tragedy but 'New Comedy', comic
farces about the lives of ordinary citizens.

The only extant playwright from the period is Menander. One of New Comedy's most
important contributions was its influence on Roman comedy, an influence that can be seen in
the surviving works of Plautus and Terence.

Tragedy and comedy were viewed as completely separate genres, and no plays ever merged
aspects of the two. Satyr plays dealt with the mythological subject matter of the tragedies,
but in a purely comedic manner.Aristotle's Poetics sets out a thesis about the perfect
structure for tragedy (see Greek tragedy) but as he was writing over a century after the
Athenian Golden Age, it is not known whether dramatists such as Sophocles and Euripides
would have thought about their plays in the same terms.

Panoramic view of the Greek theater at Epidaurus

Greek theater buildings were called a theatron. The theaters were large, open-air structures
constructed on the slopes of hills. They consisted of three principal elements: the orchestra,
the skene, and the audience.The centrepiece of the theatre was the orchestra, or "dancing
place", a large circular or rectangular area. The orchestra was the site the choral
performances, the religious rites, and, possibly, the acting. An altar was located in the middle
of the orchestra; in Athens, the altar was dedicated to Dionysus.

Behind the orchestra was a large rectangular building called the skene (meaning "tent" or
"hut". It was used as a "backstage" area where actors could change their costumes and
masks, but also served to represent the location of the plays, which were usually set in front
of a palace or house. Typically, there were two or three doors in the skene that led out onto
orchestra, and from which actors could enter and exit. At first, the skene was literally a tent
or hut, put up for the religious festival and taken down when it was finished. Later, the skene
became a permanent stone structure. These structures were sometimes painted to serve as
backdrops, hence the English word scenery.

In front of the skene there may have been a raised acting area called the proskene, the
ancestor of the modern proscenium stage. It is possible that the actors (as opposed to the
chorus) acted entirely on the proskene, but this is not certain.

Rising from the circle of the orchestra was the audience. The audience sat on tiers of
benches built up on the side of a hill. Greek theatres, then, could only be built on hills that
were correctly shaped. A typical theatre was enormous, able to seat around 15,000 viewers.

Greek theatres were not enclosed; the audience could see each other and the surrounding
countryside as well as the actors and chorus.


The cast of a Greek play in the Dionysia was comprised of amateurs, not professionals. The
casts were all-male.

With such a large space to fill, ancient Greek actors could not be subtle in their acting. They
had to gesture grandly so that the entire audience could see and hear the story. However
most Greek theatres were cleverly constructed to transmit even the smallest sound to any
seat. At Epidaurus a dropped penny's minute ring can be heard from even the highest row.

The size of the theatron also precluded the use of most props; actors used pantomime to
indicate objects. The convention of plays having only two or three actors meant that an actor
had to play more than one character. Thus, the actors portraying more than one character in
a single play, was common to theaters in greek drama.

Greek plays incorporated song, chant, and dance. Both the chorus and the characters spoke
or chanted in verse set to musical accompaniment.

Costumes and Masks

The actors were so far away from the audience that without the aid of exaggerated costumes
and masks, they would be difficult to see.

Actors wore thick boots to add to their height and gloves to exaggerate their hands so that
their movements would be discernable to the audience.The mask is the best-known symbol
of Greek camerons head.

A distinctive mask was made for each character in a play. The masks were made of linen or
cork, so none have survived. We know what they looked like from statues and paintings of
ancient Greek actors.

Tragic masks carried mournful or pained expressions, while comic masks were smiling or

An actor's entire head was covered by his mask, which included hair. It has been theorized
that the shape of the mask amplified the actor's voice, making his words easier for the
audience to hear.


A Beijing Opera Mask

In China masks are thought to have originated in ancient religious ceremonies. Images of people
wearing masks have been found in rock paintings along theYangtze River. Later mask forms brings
together myths and symbols fromShamanism and Buddhism.[14]

Shigong dance masks were used in shamanic rituals to thank the gods, while nuo dance masks
protected from bad spirits. Wedding masks were used to pray for good luck and a lasting marriage,
and "Swallowing Animal" masks were associated with protecting the home and symbolised the
"swallowing" of disaster. Opera masks were used in a basic 'Common' form of opera performed
without a stage or backdrops. These led to colourful facial patterns that we see in
today's Jingju (Beijing Opera).

Ancient Roman Theaters

The Roman theatre was shaped with a half circle or orchestra space in front of the stage.
Most often the audience sat here in comfortable chairs. Occasionally, however, the actors
would perform in this space.

To solve the problem of lighting and sound - the theaters were outdoors.

The Romans built theaters anywhere, even on flat plains, by raising the whole structure off
the ground. As a result, the whole structure was more integrated and entrances/exits could
be built into the cave, as is done in large theaters and sports arenas today. The arena was
as high as the rest of the structure, so the audience could not look out beyond the stage. It
also created more of an enclosed atmosphere and may have helped keep out the noises of
the city. A tarp could be rigged and moved over the top of the theater to create shade.

Note the three entrances built into the arena.

The huge amount of people present still held problems for the sound as the audience would
not always stay quiet. To solve this problem, costumes and mask were worn to show the type
of person on stage.

Different symbols were worked out. The actors wore masks - brown for men, white for women,
smiling or sad depending on the type of play.

The costumes showed the audience who the person was - a purple gown for a rich man, a
striped toga for a boy, a short cloak for a soldier, a red toga for a poor man, a short tunic for
a slave etc.

Women were not allowed to act, so their parts were normally played by a man or young boys
wearing a white mask.

The actors spoke the lines, but a second actor mimed the gestures to fit the lines, along with
background music. Some things are represented by a series of gestures, which are
recognized by the audience to mean something, such as feeling a pulse to show a sick
person, making the shape of a lyre with fingers to show music.

The audience was usually more interested in their favorite actors than the play itself. The
actors would try to win over the audience's praise with decorative masks, costumes, dancing
and mime.

If the play scripted an actor's dying, a condemned man would take the place of the actor at
the last moment and actually be killed on stage. The Romans loved the bloodthirsty

Emperors such as Nero used the theatre as a way of showing their own talents - good or
otherwise. Nero actually used to sing and would not let anyone leave until he was finished.
Most theaters still standing date from the Hellenistic period, which dates from the 4th
century BC and later. It's possible to assume much of the features were preserved, but not

This is due to the fact that most plays completely lacked staging directions. Those directions
found in modern translations were merely added by the translator. Some plays, however, do
sometimes contain scenic requirements.

Pompeii's large theatre underwent a structural change from the Hellenistic style to a more
Greco-Roman style.

The traditional Hellenistic theatres had the scene section moved forward into the orchestra
area, reducing it to a semicircle. The front portion of the scene converted into a
'proskeniontogeion' (high raised stage).

The stage was 8-12 feet, 45-140 feet in width, and 6.5-14 feet in depth. The back wall of the
stage had 1-3 doors that opened onto the stage but later the number of doors increased to
1-7, depending on the theatre. The stage was supported in front by open columns.

Triangular wooden prisms with a different scene painted on each side ( periaktoi) were
created and located near the side entrance of the stage. This allowed for a more realistic
show. The higher stage gave way to better acting which later attracted actors and popularity.

After the Romans moved into the area and built the odium, Pompeii's theatre underwent
complete changes and in 65 A.D, the theatre transformed away from the Hellenistic style into
the Greco-Roman style of theatre. A porticos was added in the back of the theatre. The ends
of the scene building were removed.

Rows of seats were added for honored guests. The stage was lowered and 2 short flights of
steps leading down to the stairs were added.

These changes were important because the intent of the theatre was to replace the
temporary wooden stages that the Romans were using to house their tragedies and
comedies. The new look of the theatre is what was left to the world after Vesuvius's fatal

The earliest known Italian drama, is known to come from the region of Campania, which is
located in the Southern half of Italy. It was in the town of Atella where the Atellan Farces
became popular.

These were originally written in the language of Oscan, and later translated into Latin as
these farces caught on in Rome. What allowed theses plays to catch on, however, was
actually due to the Etruscans from the North, as well as Greek colonies located on the
Eastern side of the Peninsula to whom the Romans have given the credit of introducing the
many forms of music and dance.

In 364 B.C., the Romans specifically introduced the Etruscan form of the ballet as a dance
so as to appease the gods, so that they might remove a plague from the empire. Livius
Andronicus, who is thought to be a freed slave during the 3rd century B.C., is credited for
translating the first Greek plays into Latin as well as producing them (Butler 79).
The reason plays originally used is not really understood, yet most of the performances were
associated with important holidays as well as with religious festivals. Eventually the
performances became more common than on just special occasions