In ancient Greece, every actor was evaluated according to ability and then ranked as a protagonist, deuteragonist, and tritagonist. The prefix told the actor’s position: protos means “first,” deuteros means “second,” and tri translates to “three.” The “agonist” in each of the rankings traces its origin to the Greek agein, meaning “to lead.” From agein came agon, which referred to a place into which men are led.
In time, agon represented the great assemblies where the Olympic games and athletic and dramatic contests were held. The Greek noun agonia referred to the contest or struggle between the competitors or actors. The Greeks combined agonia with the appropriate prefix to classify the actors who performed on stage before an audience. The Greeks also used the prefix anti (“against”) with agonia to form antagonist, which means “an adversary or opponent” in English.