Satyr game

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Actor in the costume of the Papposil (Antikensammlung Berlin)

A satyr play is a genre of ancient drama that was probably introduced by Pratinas in 502/501 BC. Was introduced in Athens .

At the tragic Agon of the Great Dionysia , three tragedies and one satyr play were performed by a total of three tragedians. The satyr play is a cheerful, liberating epilogue that followed the three tragedies. Tragedies and satyr play form a tetralogy . Formally, like the tragedy, the satyr play is divided into Prolog , Parodos , Stasimon and Epeisodia as well as Exodos .

Content and function

In the Athenian satyr plays, a group of satyrs, led by a Silenus who also appeared as an actor in the episodes , commented on the events. “We create ... from the rich reservoir of myth, cheerful or at least unproblematic, often fairytale-like material.” The satyrs that give them their name are mythological figures, half human, half animal. They are forest demons who like to crowd around Dionysus , whose weakness for sensory enjoyment they share. The satyrs are confronted with situations and environments that do not correspond to their "natural" environment. They have to solve tasks that are not inherent in their nature and serve gods who have very different qualities than the Dionysus they worship.

The resulting arc of tension leads to cheerful situations and enables the various functions of the satyr game to unfold their effect. It serves as a tension-relieving contrast to the previously listed trilogy. In addition to the psychological moment, an important aspect of the game was to bring Dionysus, to whom the festivities were dedicated, or the Dionysian element into focus again. In the previous tragedies, Dionysus played an increasingly minor role.


Author and title of about 75 satyr plays are known. The only completely transmitted satyr play of about 300, which took place during the Great Dionysia in the 5th century BC. The Cyclops (approx. 408 BC) by Euripides should have been performed . In addition, more or less short fragments of some pieces have survived. Larger parts were found in the Egyptian Oxyrhynchos of Sophocles ' Ichneutai with about 450 verses and the Diktyulkoi of Aeschylus with about 830 verses. Larger fragments of the Isthmiastai or Theoroi are also known of this. Since the titles of satyr plays were often titles of well-known comedies at the same time , the titles were described in more detail with the addition of satyrikos , satyrikon drama or satyroi .

Like tragedy, the satyr game was very popular in the Hellenistic period. The performance of satyr plays up to the 1st century BC is guaranteed by inscriptions. A unique testimony even documents a satyr play for Thespiai in the 2nd century AD. The Romans hardly took up the genre. At the same time, the Roman architect Vitruvius notes that the satyr game requires its own scenery with trees, caves and mountains in an open landscape. In his Ars poetica, Horace devotes himself in detail to the satyr play, its structure and its style, from which a certain significance of the genre in its time can be inferred. The imperial Horace commentator Pomponius Porphyrio mentions the older contemporary Cicero Lucius Pomponius - otherwise known as the author of atellanae fabulae - as a poet of satyr plays when discussing the passage . It is known that Cicero's brother Quintus wrote a play called Syndeipnoi . It is uncertain whether it was a satyr play like the drama of the same name by Sophocles.


A satyr play in the ancient sense, which was to follow his Tannhauser tragedy, Richard Wagner created with his musical comedy Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg . Friedrich Dürrenmatt called his comedy Die Physiker (1961) a satyr play. In 2014 the satyr play The Visite by Karl F. Masuhr was released . Both pieces are burlesque crime comedies that take place in “clinical” reality.


Web links

Wiktionary: Satyr game  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Manfred Brauneck , Gérard Schneilin: Theaterlexikon. Terms and epochs, stages and ensembles . 3. Completely revised and expanded new edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1992, p. 817.
  2. ^ Vitruvius 5, 6, 9.
  3. Horace, Ars poetica 220-250.
  4. Pomponius Porphyrio to Horace, Ars poetica 221 f.
  5. ^ Cicero, Epistulae ad Quintum fratrem 2, 16, 3.
  6. On the satyr play in Rome see Timothy Peter Wiseman: Satyrs in Rome. In: ders .: Historiography and Imagination: Eight Essays on Roman Culture. University of Exeter Press, Exeter 1994, pp. 68-85.
  7. Karl F. Masuhr: The Visite, a satyr play. Hoof-Verlag, Berlin 2014.