The plot of Sophocles’ Trackers comes from the Hymn to Hermes attributed to Homer. To this mythical material Sophocles added the elements that were the fundamental ingredient of the dramatic genre called ‘satyr play’, namely the chorus of satyrs led by their old father, Silenus. It is not possible to tell if this peculiar version had a reception of its own, distinct from that of the hexametric composition falsely attributed to Homer. Some aspects of Sophocles’ play might have inspired other authors, though, as the presence of the nymph Cyllene among the characters of the satyr play. What can be said for sure is the fact that, after late antiquity, the Trackers, like the great majority of the satyr plays composed in the 5th century (with the only exception of Euripides’ Cyclops), fell into oblivion. The destiny of the play changed suddenly in 1912, when Arthur S. Hunt published the papyrus written in the 2nd century AD he had found, together with Bernard P. Grenfell, in the Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus (P. Oxy. 1174), containing the first 458 lines of the play. The most famous theatrical pieces inspired by this satyr play are the following: the small opera The naissance de la lyre (“The birth of the lyre”), composed by Albert Roussel and performed on the 1st of July 1925 in Paris, at the Palais Garnier (libretto by Théodore Reinach, one of the most brilliant French classicists, who closely adhered to the plot of the Sophoclean version), and the play The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus, written by Tony Harrison and first performed on the evening of the 12th of July, 1988, in the ancient stadium of Delphi, in Greece.
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