People - Ancient Greece: Euripides
(ca. 480 BC – 406 BC) He was the last of the three great Ancient Greek tragedians of classical Athens.
Euripĭdes in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities
（Εὐριπίδης). (1) A celebrated Athenian tragic poet, son of Mnesarchus and Clito. He was born B.C. 480, in Salamis, on the very day of the Grecian victory near that island. His mother, Clito, had been sent over to Salamis, with the other Athenian women, when Attica was given up to the invading army of Xerxes; and the name of the poet, which is formed like a patronymic from the Euripus, the scene of the first successful resistance to the Persian navy, shows that the minds of his parents were full of the stirring events of that momentous crisis. Aristophanes repeatedly imputes meanness of extraction, by the mother's side, to Euripides (Thesmoph. 386, 455; Acharn. 478; Equit. 17; Ranae, 840). He asserts that she was an herb-seller; and, according to Aulus Gellius (xv. 20), Theophrastus confirms the comedian's insinuations. Whatever one or both of his parents might originally have been, the costly education which the young Euripides received implies a certain degree of wealth and consequence as then at least possessed by his family. The pupil of Anaxagoras, Protagoras, and Prodicus (an instructor famous for the extravagant terms which he demanded for his lessons), could not have been the son of persons at that time very mean or poor. It is most probable, therefore, that his father was a man of
property, and made a mésalliance. In early life we are told that his father made Euripides direct his attention chiefly to gymnastic exercises, and that, in his seventeenth year, he was crowned in the Eleusinian and Thesean contests (Aul. Gell. xv. 20). Even at this early age he is said to have attempted dramatic composition. He seems also to have cultivated a natural taste for painting, and some of his pictures were long afterwards preserved at Megara. At length, quitting the gymnasium, he applied himself to philosophy and literature. Under the celebrated rhetorician Prodicus, one of the instructors of Pericles, he acquired that oratorical skill for which his dramas are so remarkably distinguished. Quintilian, in comparing Sophocles with Euripides, strongly recommends the latter to the young pleader as an excellent model. Cicero, too, was a great admirer of Euripides. From Anaxagoras, Euripides imbibed those philosophical notions which are occasionally brought forward in his works, and for which reference may be made to the monograph of Parmentier, Euripide et Anaxagore (Paris, 1893). Here, too, Pericles was his fellow-disciple. With Socrates, who had studied under the same master, Euripides was on terms of the closest intimacy, and from him he derived those maxims so frequently interwoven into his dramas that Socrates was suspected of largely assisting the tragedian in their composition.
Euripides began his public career as a dramatic writer in B.C. 455, the twenty-fifth year of his age. On this occasion he was the third with a play called the Pleiades. In B.C. 441, he won the prize. In B.C. 431, he was third with the Medea, the Philoctetes, the Dictys, and the Theristae, a satyric drama. His competitors were Euphorion and Sophocles. He was first with the Hippolytus, B.C. 428, the year of his master's (Anaxagoras's) death; second, B.C. 415, with the Alexander (or Paris), the Palamedes, the Troades, and the Sisyphus, a satyric drama. It was in this contest that Xenocles was first (Aelian. V. H. ii. 8). Two years after this the Athenians sustained the total loss of their armament before Syracuse. In his narration of this disaster, Plutarch gives an anecdote (Nicias) which, if true, bears a splendid testimony to the high reputation which Euripides then enjoyed. Those among the captives, he tells us, who could repeat any portion of that poet's works were treated with kindness, and even set at liberty. The same author also informs us that Euripides honoured the soldiers who had fallen in that siege with a funeral poem, two lines of which he has preserved. The Andromeda was exhibited B.C. 412; the Orestes, B.C. 408.
Soon after this time the poet retired into Magnesia, and from thence into Macedonia, to the court of Archelaüs. As in the case of Aeschylus, the motives for this self-exile are obscure and uncertain. We know, indeed, that Athens was by no means the most favourable residence for distinguished literary merit. Report, too, pronounced Euripides unhappy in his own family. His first wife, Melito, he divorced for adultery; and in his second, Choerilé, he was not more fortunate. To the poet's unhappiness in his matrimonial connections Aristophanes refers in his Ranae (1045 foll.). Envy and enmity among his fellow-citizens, infidelity and domestic vexations at home, would prove powerful inducements to the poet to accept the invitations of Archelaüs. Perhaps, too, a prosecution in which he became involved, on a charge of impiety, grounded upon a line in the Hippolytus (Aristot. Rhet. iii. 15), might have had some share in producing this determination to quit Athens; nor ought we to omit that, in all likelihood, his political sentiments may have exposed him to continual danger. In Macedonia he is said to have written a play in honour of Archelaüs, and to have inscribed it with his patron's name, who was so much pleased with the manners and ability of his guest as to appoint him one of his ministers. He composed in this same country also some other dramatic pieces, in one of which (the Bacchae) he seems to have been inspired by the wild scenery of the land to which he had come. No further particulars are recorded of Euripides, except a few apocryphal anecdotes and apophthegms. His death is said to have been, like that of Aeschylus, of an extraordinary kind. Either from chance or malice the aged dramatist was exposed, according to the common account, to the attack of some ferocious hounds, and was by them so dreadfully mangled as to expire soon afterwards, in his seventy-fifth year. This story, however, is clearly a fabrication, for Aristophanes, in the Ranae, would certainly have alluded to the manner of his death had there been anything remarkable in it. He died B.C. 406 (Clinton, Fast. Hellen. i. 81). The Athenians entreated Archelaüs to send the body to the poet's native city for interment. The request was refused, and, with every demonstration of grief and respect, Euripides was buried at Pella. A cenotaph, however, was erected to his memory at Athens.
We have some cutting sayings of Sophocles concerning Euripides, although the former was so void of all the jealousy of an artist that he mourned over the death of his rival; and, in a piece which he shortly after brought upon the stage, did not allow his actors the ornament of a garland. The jeering attacks of Aristophanes are well known, but have not always been properly estimated and understood. Aristotle, too, brings forward many important causes for blame; and when he calls Euripides “the most tragic of poets” ( Poet. xiii. 10), he by no means ascribes to him the greatest perfection in the tragic art generally; but he alludes, by this phrase, to the effect which is produced by his dramatic catastrophes. In Euripides we no longer find the essence of ancient tragedy pure and unmixed; its characteristic features are already partly effaced. These consisted principally in the idea of destiny which reigns in them, in ideal representation, and the importance of the chorus. The idea of destiny had, indeed, come down to him from his predecessors as his inheritance, and a belief in it is inculcated by him, according to the custom of the tragedians; but still, in Euripides, destiny is seldom considered as the invisible spirit of all poetry, the fundamental thought of the tragic world. On the other hand, he derived it from the regions of infinity, and, in his writings, inevitable necessity often degenerates into the caprice of chance. Hence he can no longer direct it to its proper aim—namely, that of elevating, by its contrast, the moral free-will of man. Very few of his dramas depend on a constant combat against the dictates of destiny, or an equally heroic subjection to them. His men, in general, suffer, because they must, and not because they are willing. The contrasted subordination of idea, loftiness of character and passion, which in Sophocles, as well as in the graphic art of the Greeks, we find observed in this order, are in him exactly reversed. In his plays passion is the most powerful; his secondary care is for character; and if these endeavours leave him sufficient room, he seeks now and then to bring in greatness and dignity, but more frequently amiability. Euripides has, according to the doctrine of Aristotle ( Poet. xv. 7 Poet., xxvi. 31), frequently represented his personages as bad without any necessity—for example, Menelaüs in the Orestes. More especially, it is by no means his object to represent the race of heroes as pre-eminent above the present race by their mighty stature, but he rather takes pains to fill up the chasm between his contemporaries and the olden time, and reveal the gods and heroes of the other side in their undress. This is what Sophocles meant when he said that he himself represented men as they should be, Euripides as they were. It seems to be a design of Euripides always to remind his spectators, “See, these beings were men; they had just such weaknesses, and acted from exactly the same motives as yourselves, and as the meanest among you does.” In other words, Euripides is the first of the realists among the Greeks.
In his dramas the chorus is generally an unessential ornament, its songs are often altogether episodical, without reference to the action. The ancient comic writers enjoyed the privilege of sometimes making the chorus address the audience in their own name, this being called a Parabasis. Although it by no means belongs to tragedy, yet Euripides, according to the testimony of Iulius Pollux, often employed it, and so far forgot himself in it that in the Danaïdes he made the chorus, consisting of women, use grammatical forms which belonged to the masculine gender alone. In the music of the accompaniments he adopted all the innovations of which Timotheus (q.v.) was the author, and selected those measures which are most suitable to the sensuous nature of his poetry. He acted in a similar way as regarded prosody; the construction of his verses is rather florid, and approaches irregularity. He strives after effect in a degree which can not be conceded even to a dramatic poet. Thus, for example, he seldom lets any opportunity escape of having his personages seized with sudden and groundless terror; his old men always complain of the infirmities of old age, and are particularly given to mount, with tottering knees, the ascent from the orchestra to the stage, which frequently represented the declivity of a mountain, while they lament their wretchedness. His object throughout is emotion, for the sake of which he not only offends against ancient decorum, but sacrifices the symmetry of his plays. He likes to reduce his heroes to a state of beggary; makes them suffer hunger and want; and brings them on the stage with all the external signs of indigence, covered with rags, as Aristophanes so humourously throws in his teeth in the Acharnians (410-448).
Euripides, as already stated, had studied philosophy, and prided himself upon his familiarity with philosophical doctrine. Hence, as contrasted with his two dramatic predecessors, Aeschylus and Sophocles, his rationalistic method of treatment seemed to his audiences startling and almost impious. His allegorical interpretations must often have had a flavour of sacrilege about them, and the whole spirit and temper of his plays were an embodiment of the “higher criticism” of the day. The Athenians were prone to identify the sentiments of his characters with those of the author himself. It is related of him that he made Bellerophon come on the stage with a panegyric on riches, in which he preferred them before every domestic joy; and said, at last, “If Aphrodité (who had the epithet of ‘golden’) shone like gold, she would indeed deserve the love of men” (Epist. 115). The audience, enraged at this, raised a great tumult, and were proceeding to stone the orator as well as the poet. Euripides, on this, rushed forward and exclaimed, “Wait patiently till the end; he will fare accordingly.” Thus, also, he is said to have excused himself against the accusation that his Ixion spoke too abominably and blasphemously, by replying that, in return, he had not concluded the piece without making him revolve on the wheel. He has also great command of that sophistry of the passions which gives things only one appearance. The following verse (Hippol. 608) is notorious for its expression of what casuists call mental reservation:
“My tongue took an oath, but my mind is unsworn.”
In the connection in which this verse is spoken, it may indeed be justified, as far as regards the reason for which Aristophanes ridicules it in so many ways; but still the formula is pernicious on account of the turn which may be given it. Another sentiment of Euripides (Phoeniss. 534), “It is worth while committing injustice for the sake of empire; in other things it is proper to be just,” was continually in the mouth of Caesar, in order to make a wrong application of it (Iul. 30). Seductive enticements to the enjoyment of sensual love were another article of accusation against Euripides among the ancients. Thus, for example, Hecuba, in order to incite Agamemnon to punish Polymnestor, reminds him of the joys Cassandra had afforded him; who, having been taken in war, was his slave, according to the law of the heroic ages: she is willing to purchase revenge for a murdered son by consenting to and ratifying the degradation of a daughter who is still alive. This poet was the first to take for the principal subject of a drama the wild passion of a Medea or the unnatural love of a Phaedra, as, otherwise, it may be easily understood, from the manners of the ancients, why love, which among them was far less ennobled by delicate feelings, played merely a subordinate part in their earlier tragedies. Notwithstanding the importance imparted to female characters, he brings out a multitude of sayings concerning the weaknesses of the female sex and the superiority of men, as well as a great deal drawn from his own experience in domestic relations. A cutting saying, as well as an epigram, of Sophocles have been handed down to us by Athenaeus, in which he explains the pretended hatred of Euripides for women by supposing that he had the opportunity of learning their frailty through his own unhallowed desires.
That independent freedom in the method of treating the story, which was one of the privileges of the tragic art, frequently, in Euripides, became caprice. It is well known that the fables of Hyginus, which differ so much from the relations of other writers, are partly extracted from his plays. As he often overturned what had hitherto been well known and generally received, he was obliged to use prologues, in which he announces the situation of affairs according to his acceptation, and makes known the course of events. (Compare the amusing scene in Aristophanes, Ranae, 1177 foll., and Porson's explanation of the employment of such prologues by Euripides, Praelect. in Eurip. p. 8 foll.). These prologues make the beginnings of the plays of Euripides monotonous, and produce the appearance of deficiency of art.
The style of Euripides is, on the whole, not sufficiently compressed, and it has neither the dignity and energy of Aeschylus nor the chaste grace of Sophocles. In his expressions he frequently aims at the extraordinary and strange, and, on the other hand, loses himself in commonplace. For these reasons, as well as on account of his almost ludicrous delineation of many characteristic peculiarities (such as the clumsy deportment of Pentheus in a female garb, when befooled by Bacchus [Bacchae, 782 foll.], or the greediness of Heracles [Alcestis, 764 foll.], and his boisterous demands on the hospitality of Admetus), Euripides was a forerunner of the New Comedy. Menander, in fact, expressed admiration for him, and declared himself to be his scholar; and there is a fragment of Philemon, full of extravagant admiration of him. “If the dead,” he says, or makes one of his personages say, “really possessed sensation, as some suppose, I would hang myself in order to see Euripides.”
Of the 120 dramas which Euripides is said to have composed, we have remaining in their complete form only eighteen tragedies and one satyric piece. The following are the titles and subjects:
1. Ἑκάβη, Hecuba.
The sacrifice of Polyxena, whom the Greeks immolate to the shade of Achilles, and the vengeance which Hecuba, doubly unfortunate in having been reduced to captivity and deprived of her children, takes upon Polymnestor, the murderer of her son Polydorus, form the subject of this tragedy. The scene is laid in the Grecian camp in the Thracian Chersonesus. The shade of Polydorus, whose body remains without the rites of sepulture, has the prologue assigned it. Ennius and L. Attius, and in modern times Erasmus, have translated this play into Latin verse.
2. Ὀρέστης, Orestes.
The scene of this play is laid at Argos, the seventh day after the murder of Clytaemnestra. It is on this day that the people, in full assembly, are to sit in judgment upon Orestes and Electra. The only hope of the accused is in Menelaüs, who has just arrived; but this chief, who secretly aims at the succession, stirs up the people in private to pronounce sentence of condemnation against the parricides. The sentence is accordingly pronounced, but the execution of it is left to the culprits themselves. They meditate taking vengeance by slaying Helen; but this princess is saved by the intervention of Apollo, who brings about a double marriage by uniting Orestes with Hermioné, the daughter of Helen, and Electra with Pylades. Some commentators think that they recognize the portrait of Socrates in that of the simple and virtuous citizen who, in the assembly of the people, undertakes the defence of Orestes. This play is ascribed by some to Euripides the Younger, nephew of the former.
3. Φοινίσσαι, Phoenissae.
The subject of this piece is the death of Eteocles and Polynices. The chorus is composed of young Phœnician women, sent, according to the custom established by Agenor, to the city of Thebes, in order to be consecrated to the service of the temple at Delphi. The prologue is assigned to Iocasta. The subject of the Phoenissae
is that also of the Thebaïs
of Seneca. Statius has likewise imitated it in his epic poem.
4. Μήδεια, Medea.
The vengeance taken by Medea on the ungrateful Iason, to whom she has sacrificed all, and who, on his arrival at Corinth, abandons her for a royal bride, forms the subject of this tragedy. What constitutes the principal charm of the play is the simplicity and clearness of the action, and the force and natural cast of the characters. The exposition of the plot is made in a monologue by the nurse: the chorus is composed of Corinthian women. It is asserted that Euripides gave to the world two editions of this tragedy, and that, in the first, the children of Medea were put to death by the Corinthians, while in the second, which has come down to us, it is their mother herself who slays them. According to this hypothesis, the 1378th verse and those immediately following, in which Medea says that she will impose on Corinth, contemptuously styled by her the land of Sisyphus, an expiatory festival for this crime, have been retained by mistake in the revision in which they should have disappeared. Medea has no expiation to demand of the Corinthians, if they are not guilty of the murder of her sons. Aelian informs us (V. H. v. 21) that the Corinthians prevailed upon Euripides to alter the tradition in question. According to others, they purchased this compliance for the sum of five talents.
5. Ἱππόλυτος στεφανοφόρος, Hippolytus Coronifer
, “Hippolytus Crowned.”
The subject of this tragedy is the same with that which Racine has taken for the basis of his Phèdre, a subject eminently tragical. It presents to our view a weak woman, the victim of the resentment of Aphrodité, who has inspired her with a criminal passion. An object of horror to him whom she loves, and not daring to reveal her own shame, she dies, after having compelled Theseus, by her misrepresentations, to become the destroyer of his own son. The title of this tragedy is probably derived from the crown which Hippolytus offers to Artemis. Euripides at first gave it the name of Ἱππόλυτος καλυπτόμενος. He afterwards retouched it, and, changing the catastrophe and the title, reproduced it in the year that Pericles died. It gained the prize over the pieces of Iophon and Ion, which had competed with it in the contest. It is sometimes cited under the title of the Phaedra, and the celebrated chef-d'œuvre of Racine is an imitation of it, as is also the tragedy of Seneca.
6. Ἄλκηστις, Alcestis.
The subject of this tragedy is moral and affecting. It is a wife who dies for the sake of prolonging her husband's existence. Its object is to show that conjugal affection and an observance of the rites of hospitality are not suffered to go without their reward. Heracles, whom Admetus had kindly received while unfortunate, having learned that Alcestis, the wife of the monarch, had consummated her mournful sacrifice, seeks her in the shades, and restores her to her husband. The play, by reason of its happy ending, is hardly to be considered a tragedy, but more of a tragi-comedy. The story of Alcestis has inspired a number of fine poems in English literature, notably Balaustion's Adventure, by Robert Browning. Others who have treated the same theme are William Morris, W. S. Landor, Palgrave, Mrs. Hemans, and W. M. W. Call.
7. Ἀνδρομάχη, Andromaché.
The death of the son of Achilles, whom Orestes slays, after having carried off from him Hermioné, forms the subject of the piece. The scene is laid in Thetidium, a city of Thessaly, near Pharsalus. Some have asserted that the aim of Euripides in writing this tragedy was to render odious the law of the Athenians which permitted bigamy.
8. Ἱκέτιδες, Supplices
, The Suppliants.
The scene of this tragedy is laid in front of the temple of Demeter at Eleusis, whither the Argive women, whose husbands have perished before Thebes, have followed their king Adrastus, in the hope of persuading Theseus to take up arms in their behalf, and obtain the rites of sepulture for their dead, whose bodies were withheld by the Thebans. Theseus yields to their request and promises his assistance. In exhibiting this play in the fourteenth year of the Peloponnesian War, Euripides wished, it is said, to detach the Argives from the Spartan cause. His attempt, however, failed, and the treaty was signed by which Mantinea was sacrificed to the ambition of Lacedaemon.
9. Ἰφιγένεια ἡ ἐν Αὐλίδι, Iphigenia in Aulide
, Iphigenia at Aulis.
The subject of this tragedy is the intended sacrifice of Iphigenia, and her rescue by Artemis, who substitutes another victim. It is the only one of the plays of Euripides that has no prologue, for it is well known that the Rhesus, which also lacks it, had one formerly.
10. Ἰφιγένεια ἡ ἐν Ταύροις, Iphigenia in Tauris
, Iphigenia among the Tauri.
The daughter of Agamemnon, rescued by Artemis from the knife of the sacrificer, and transported to Tauris, there serves the goddess as a priestess in her temple. Orestes has been cast on the inhospitable shores of this country, along with his friend Pylades, and by the laws of the Tauri they must be sacrificed to Artemis. Recognized by his sister at the fatal moment, Orestes conducts her back to their common country. A monologue by Iphigenia occupies the place of a prologue and exposition. The scene where Iphigenia and her brother became known to each other is of a deep and touching interest, and has been imitated by Guimond de la Touche and Goethe.
11. Τρώαδες, Troades
, The Trojan women.
The action of this piece is prior to that of the Hecuba. The scene is laid in the Grecian camp, under the walls of Troy, which has fallen into the hands of the foe. A body of female captives have been distributed by lot among the victors. Agamemnon has reserved Cassandra for himself; Polyxena has been immolated to the manes of Achilles; Andromaché has fallen to Neoptolemus, Hecuba to Odysseus. The object of the poet is to show us in Hecuba a mother bowed down by misfortune. The Greeks destroy Astyanax, and his mangled body is brought in to the mother of Hector, his own parent being by this time carried away in the train of Neoptolemus. Ilium is then given as a prey to the flames. This succession of horrors passes in mournful review before the eyes of the spectator; yet there is no unity of action to constitute a subject for the piece, and consequently the play has no dénouement. Poseidon appears in the prologue. Seneca and M. de Chateaubrun have imitated this tragedy.
12. Βάκχαι, Bacchae
, The female Bacchanalians,
Sometimes quoted as the Pentheus, for Euripides seldom names his plays after the chorus. The arrival of Bacchus at Thebes and the death of Pentheus, who is torn in pieces by his mother and sister form the subject of this drama, in which Bacchus opens the scene and makes himself known to the spectators. The Bacchae is regarded by Jebb as “in its own kind, by far the most splendid work of Euripides that we possess.” It is a succession of rich paintings, of tragic situaations, of brilliant verses, unique among existing Greek plays in picturesque splendour. The spectacle which this tragedy presented must have been at once imposing and well calculated to keep alive curiosity. Some have held that the play is a recantation by the poet of his former irreligious sentiments; but on this see Tyrrell in the introduction to his edition of the Bacchae (1892). It is related that the Bacchae was performed before Orodes and his court, when the actor sustaining the part of Agavé gave a hideous reality to the action by holding up the bloody head of the Roman general Crassus, just slain in battle by the Parthian warriors of the king (Mommsen, Hist. of Rome, iv. p. 436).
13. Ἡρακλεῖδαι, Heraclidae.
The descendants of Heracles, persecuted by Eurystheus, flee for refuge to Athens, and implore the protection of that city. The Athenians lend aid, and Eurystheus becomes the victim of the vengeance he was about bringing upon them. Iolaüs, an old companion of Heracles, explains the subject to the spectators. The poet manages to impart an air of great interest to the piece.
14. Ἑλένη, Helena.
The scene is laid in Egypt, where Menelaüs, after the destruction of Troy, finds Helen, who had been detained there by Proteus, king of that country, when Paris wished to convey her to Ilium. The action passes at the isle of Pharos, where Theoclymenus, the son and successor of Proteus, keeps Helen in custody with the view of espousing her. She employs a stratagem in order to escape from his power. The dénouement of this piece resembles that of the Iphigenia in Tauris.
15. Ἴων, Ion.
Ion, son of Apollo and Creüsa, daughter of Erechtheus, king of Athens, has been brought up among the priests at Delphi. The design of Apollo is to make him pass for the son of Xuthus, who has married Creüsa. The interest of the play consists in the double danger which Creüsa and Ion run, the former of being slain by Ion and the latter of perishing by the poison prepared for him by a mother who is ignorant of his being her son. The play, however, is somewhat complicated, and has need of a long exposition, which is assigned to Hermes. The scene is laid at the entrance of Apollo's temple in Delphi, a place expressly chosen in order to give to the spectacle an air of pomp and solemnity. A religious tone, full of gravity and softness, pervades the whole piece. There is much resemblance between this tragedy and the Athalie of Racine.
16. Ἡρακλῆς μαινόμενος, Hercules furens.
After having killed, in his frenzy, his wife and children, Heracles proceeds to submit himself to certain expiatory ceremonies, and to seek repose at Athens. Amphitryon appears in the prologue: the scene is laid at Thebes.
17. Ἠλέκτρα, Electra.
The subject of this play has been treated also by Aeschylus and Sophocles, but by each in his peculiar way. Euripides transfers the scene from the palace of Aegisthus to the country near Argos: the exposition of the play is made by a cultivator, to whom Electra has been compelled to give her hand, but who has taken no advantage of this, but has respected in her the daughter of a royal line.
18. Ῥῆσος, Rhesus.
A subject derived from the tenth book of the Iliad. Some able critics have tried to prove that this piece was never written by Euripides.—Φαέθων, Phaëthon. Of this play we have about eighty verses remaining. Clymené, the mother of Phaëthon, is the wife of Merops, king of the Ethiopians, and Phaëthon passes for the son of this prince. The young man, having conceived some doubts respecting his origin, addresses himself to the Sun. The catastrophe, which cost him his life, is well known. In the tragedy of Euripides, the body of her son is brought to Clymené, at the very moment when Merops is occupied with the task of procuring for him a bride.—Δανάη, Danaë. Of this play we have the commencement alone, unless the sixtyfive verses, which commonly pass for a part of the prologue, are to be considered as the production of some imitator.
19. Κύκλωψ, Cyclops.
A production deserving especial mention is the satyric drama entitled Cyclops (Κύκλωψ). The story is drawn from the Odyssey. The subject is Odysseus depriving Polyphemus of his eye, after having intoxicated him with wine. In order to connect with the story a chorus of satyrs, the poet supposes that Silenus, and his sons, the satyrs, in seeking over every sea for Bacchus, whom pirates have carried away, have been shipwrecked on the coast of Sicily, where they have fallen into the hands of Polyphemus. The Cyclops has made slaves of them, and has compelled them to tend his sheep. Odysseus, having been cast on the same coast, and having been, in like manner, made captive by Polyphemus, finds in these satyrs a willing band of accomplices. They league with him against their master, but their excessive cowardice renders them very useless auxiliaries. They profit, however, by his victory, and embark with him. See Cyclops; Satyric Drama.
Of the numerous incomplete remains of Euripides that have reached us, some notice must be taken. In 1890, papyri discovered by Mr. Petrie at Tel Gurob in Egypt were found to contain fragments of a lost play of Euripides—the Antiopé. These fragments are reproduced and edited by Mahaffy in The Flinders Petrie Papyri (Dublin, 1891).
The ancient writers cite also a poem of Euripides, Ἐπικήδειον, “Funeral Hymn,” on the death of Nicias and Demosthenes, as well as of the other Athenians who perished in the disastrous expedition against Syracuse. We possess also two epigrams of Euripides, each consisting of four verses, one of which has been preserved in the Anthology and the other in Athenaeus. There have, besides, come down to us five letters, ascribed to Euripides, and written with admirable purity and simplicity of style. There are also many fragments from the lost plays of Euripides scattered among the writings of antiquity. Of these fragments Nauck collected 1117, some, however, being of doubtful authenticity. The best known of the lost plays are the Andromeda, Bellerophon, Cresphontes, Erechtheus, Oedipus, and Telephus.
The popularity of Euripides was very great in antiquity, as in modern times, as is shown by the number of ancient scholars who wrote commentaries on his works—among them being Dicaearchus, Callimachus, Aristophanes of Byzantium, Callistratus, and especially Didymus. An inscription at Tegea shows that his plays were represented as late as the second century B.C., winning victories at Athens, Delphi, and Dodona (Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique, January-April, 1893). At Rome, Euripides was translated and adapted by Ennius and by Pacuvius. In the fourth century A.D. a curious cento, the Χριστὸς Πάσχων (Christus Patiens), of 2610 verses, was made from the plays of Euripides. (See Cento.) Later, Dante, who mentions neither Aeschylus nor Sophocles, praises Euripides; and from the sixteenth century to the present time he has been a popular favourite, giving inspiration to many imitators in French, English, and German.
Few classical authors are so fully represented by MSS. as is Euripides. Nearly every European library of importance and of any age contains at least one, though no single MS. contains all the plays. The three plays oftenest found are the Hecuba, Orestes, and Phoenissae, owing to the fact that these three were much read in the schools under the Eastern Empire. The nine plays, Hecuba, Orestes, Phoenissae, Hippolytus, Medea, Alcestis, Andromaché, Troades, and Rhesus, are known in two “families” — one represented by the Codices Vaticanus, Hauniensis, Parisinus, and two Marciani Veneti, and the second (an inferior family) by later MSS. of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The MSS. of the first family mentioned are the oldest that we have, but are not earlier than the twelfth century. The great majority of the copies are very poor. The only MSS. containing all the nine plays mentioned above are the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Hauniensis; but of the former some pages are missing, while of the latter the text is in places so corrupt as to be of little use. The remaining ten plays are found in only two MSS.—the Palatinus (in the Vatican) and Florentinus II.—both of the fourteenth century. Three plays (the Helena, Hercules Furens, and Electra) are found only in the Codex Florentinus II. A palimpsest of the fifth or sixth century contains a part of the Phaëthon, and of this play an interesting “reconstruction” made by Goethe will be found in vol. xxxiii. pp. 22-43 of the 1840 edition of his works. The extaut scholia on Euripides are from the nine select plays only. The best complete edition of the scholia is that of W. Dindorf, in four vols. (1863).
Euripides in Wikipedia
Euripides (Ancient Greek: Εὐριπίδης) (ca. 480 BC – 406 BC) was the last of the three great tragedians of classical Athens (the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles). Ancient scholars thought that Euripides had written ninety-five plays, although four of those were probably written by Critias. Eighteen or nineteen of Euripides' plays have survived complete. There has been debate about his authorship of Rhesus, largely on stylistic grounds and ignoring classical evidence that the play was his. Fragments, some substantial, of most of the other plays also survive. More of his plays have survived than those of Aeschylus and Sophocles together, because of the unique nature of the Euripidean manuscript tradition.
Euripides is known primarily for having reshaped the formal structure of Athenian tragedy by portraying strong female characters and intelligent slaves and by satirizing many heroes of Greek mythology. His plays seem modern by comparison with those of his contemporaries, focusing on the inner lives and motives of his characters in a way previously unknown to Greek audiences.
Little is known about Euripides, and most recorded sources are based on legend and hearsay. According to one legend, Euripides was born in Salamís on 23 September 480 BC, the day of the Persian War's greatest naval battle. Other sources estimate that he was born as early as 485 BC.
His father's name was either Mnesarchus or Mnesarchides and his mother's name was Cleito. Evidence suggests that the family was wealthy and influential. It is recorded that he served as a cup-bearer for Apollo's dancers, but he grew to question the religion he grew up with, exposed as he was to thinkers such as Protagoras, Socrates, and Anaxagoras.
He was married twice, to Choerile and Melito, though sources disagree as to which woman he married first. He had three sons and it is rumored that he also had a daughter who was killed after a rabid dog attacked her (some say this was merely a joke made by Aristophanes, who often poked fun at Euripides). The record of Euripides' public life, other than his involvement in dramatic competitions, is almost non-existent. The only reliable story of note is one by Aristotle about Euripides' involvement in a dispute over a liturgy (an account that offers strong evidence that Euripides was a wealthy man). It has been said that he traveled to Syracuse, Sicily; that he engaged in various public or political activities during his lifetime; that he wrote his tragedies in a sanctuary, The Cave of Euripides on Salamis Island; and that he left Athens at the invitation of King Archelaus I of Macedon and stayed with him in Macedonia and allegedly died there in 406 B.C. after being accidentally attacked by the king's hunting dogs while walking in the woods.
Euripides first competed in the City Dionysia, the famous Athenian dramatic festival, in 455 BC, one year after the death of Aeschylus. He came third, reportedly because he refused to cater to the fancies of the judges. It was not until 441 BC that he won first prize and over the course of his lifetime Euripides claimed only four victories. He also won a posthumous victory.
He was a frequent target of Aristophanes' humour. He appears as a character in The Acharnians, Thesmophoriazusae, and most memorably in The Frogs (where Dionysus travels to Hades to bring Euripides back from the dead; after a competition of poetry, the god opts to bring Aeschylus instead).
Euripides' final competition in Athens was in 408 BC; there is a story that he left Athens embittered over his defeats. He accepted an invitation by the king of Macedon in 408 or 407 BC, and once there he wrote Archelaus in honour of his host. He is believed to have died there in winter 407/6 BC; ancient biographers have told many stories about his death, but the simple truth is that it was probably his first exposure to the harsh Macedonia winter which killed him. The Bacchae was performed after his death in 405 BC and won first prize.
In comparison with Aeschylus (who won thirteen times) and Sophocles (who had eighteen victories) Euripides was the least honoured of the three, at least in his lifetime. Later in the 4th century BC, Euripides' plays became the most popular, largely because of the simplicity of their language. His works influenced New Comedy and Roman drama, and were later idolized by the French classicists; his influence on drama extends to modern times.
Euripides' greatest works include Alcestis, Medea, Trojan Women, and The Bacchae. Also considered notable is Cyclops, the only complete satyr play to have survived.
While the seven plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles that have survived were those considered their best, the manuscript containing Euripides' plays was part of a multiple volume, alphabetically-arranged collection of Euripides' works, rediscovered after lying in a monastic collection for approximately 800 years. The manuscript contains those plays whose (Greek) titles begin with the letters E to K. This accounts for the large number of extant plays of Euripides (among ancient dramatists, only Plautus has more surviving plays), the survival of a satyr play, and the absence of a trilogy. It is a testament to the quality of Euripides' plays that, though their survival was dependent on the letter their title began with and not (as with Aeschylus and Sophocles) their quality, they are ranked alongside and often above the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles.
In June 2005, classicists at Oxford University worked on a joint project with Brigham Young University, using multi-spectral imaging technology to recover previously illegible writing (see References). Some of this work employed infrared technology—previously used for satellite imaging—to detect previously unknown material by Euripides in fragments of the Oxyrhynchus papyri, a collection of ancient manuscripts held by the university.
Euripides focused on the realism of his characters; for example, Euripides’ Medea is a realistic woman with recognizable emotions and is not simply a villain. In Hippolytus, Euripides writes in a particularly modern style, demonstrating how neither language nor sight aids in understanding in a civilization on its last leg. Euripides makes his point about vision both through the plot (Phaedra makes repeated references to her inability to see clearly and her wish to have her eyes covered), and through the sparseness of his staging, which lacked the dazzling elements that other plays often had. The same was true of his commentary on the use of language. The misuse of words played an important role in the storyline (Phaedra's letter, the nurse's betrayal of Phaedra's secret, Hippolytus' refusal to break his oath to save his own life, and his refusal to pay lip-service to Aphrodite), but in addition, the actual language of the play was often purposefully verbose and ungainly, again to show the ineffectual nature of language in comprehension in Euripides' age. According to Aristotle, Euripides's contemporary Sophocles said that he portrayed men as they ought to be, and Euripides portrayed them as they were.
Euripides' realistic characterizations were sometimes at the expense of a realistic plot; Among the three extant ancient Greek tragedians, Euripides is particularly known for employing the literary device known as deus ex machina, whereby a god or goddess abruptly appears at drama's end to provide a contrived solution to an intractable problem. In the opinion of Aristotle, writing his Poetics a century later, this is an inadequate way to end a play. Many classicists cite this as a reason why Euripides was less popular in his own time.
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