patriotic satire could no longer find scope in public affairs, for there were no longer any vital forces which it could either stimulate or combat. Nor could the jaded minds of men at such a time easily rise into a region of pure fancy, as when nine years before, on the eve of the last crisis in the war, Aristophanes had helped them to forget scandals of impiety and misgovernment on a voyage to his city in the clouds. What remained was to seek comfort or amusement in the past; and since the political past could give neither, then in the literary past—in the glories, fading now like other glories, of art and poetry.
It was now just fifty years since the death of Æschylus. It was only a few months since news had come from Macedonia of the death of Euripides. More lately still, at the end of the year before, Sophocles had closed a life blessed from its beginning by the gods and now happy in its limit; for, as in his boyhood he had led the pæan after Salamis, so he died too soon to hear the dirge of Imperial Athens—the cry, raised in the Peiræus and caught up from point to point through the line of the Long Walls, which carried up from the harbour to the town the news of the overthrow on the Hellespont.
With the death of Euripides and the death of Sophocles so recent, and no man living who seemed able to replace them, it might well seem to an Athenian that the series of the tragic masters was closed. In the "Frogs" Aristophanes supposes Dionysus, the god of dramatic inspiration, going