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Greek and Roman mythology. Lecture 19: Tues Nov. 15, 2011. EURIPIDES 485 - 406 BCE. Cyclops Alcestis Medea Herakles ’ Children Hippolytus Andromache Hecuba Suppliants Electra Herakles The Trojan Women Iphigenia in Tauris Ion Helen Phoenician Women Orestes Bacchae

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greek and roman mythology
Greek and Roman mythology

Lecture 19: Tues Nov. 15, 2011





Herakles’ Children







The Trojan Women

Iphigenia in Tauris



Phoenician Women



Iphigenia in Aulis



Medea: Essays on Medea in Myth, Literature, Philosophy, and Art.James Clauss & Sarah Iles Johnston, eds. Princeton University Press, 1997.







...instead of living among savages

You live in Greece and come to learn our laws

And how to live by justice, not brute force.

Besides, all Greece has learned how clever you are.

You're famous! If you still lived at the ends

Of the earth, nobody would have heard of you.


Medea962-1021 (excerpts):

My sons, my sons...

My sons, my sons...

Oh, oh, what shall I do? Women, my heart

Is faltering when I look at their bright eyes.

I cannot do it; I renounce the plans

I made before, my children shall go with me.

Why should I use their suffering to hurt

Their father, and so doubly hurt myself?

Not I, not I; I renounce my plans.

And yet - what is happening to me? Shall I let

My enemies go scot-free and earn their scorn?

Be bold, Medea. Why, what a coward am I

That can allow my mind talk of relenting.


Do not do this, my heart, do not do this!

Spare them, unhappy heart, let my sons go.

They will live with you in exile and make you glad.

No, by the fiends that dwell in Hell below,

It shall never come to this, that I allow

My sons to be insulted by my enemies.



Mary Whitlock Blundell: Helping Friends and Harming Enemies: A Study in Sophocles and Greek Ethics(Cambridge University Press, 1989)

This book is the first detailed study of the plays of Sophocles through examination of a single ethical principle. Sophocles has traditionally been considered the least philosophical of the three great Greek tragedians, but Professor Whitlock Blundell offers an important new examination of the ethical content of the plays by focusing primarily on the traditional Greek popular moral code of 'helping friends and harming enemies'. 


Edith Hall: Inventing the barbarian: Greek self-definition through tragedy (Oxford University Press, 1991)

Incest, polygamy, murder, sacrilege, impalement, castration, female power, and despotism: these are some of the images by which the Greek tragedians defined the non-Greek, 'barbarian' world. This book explains for the first time the reasons behind their singular fascination with barbarians. It sets the plays against the historical background of the Panhellenic wars against Persia and the establishment of an Athenian empire based on democracy and slavery. Contemporary anthropology and political philosophy is discussed, revealing how the poets conceptualized the barbarian as the negative embodiment of Athenian civic ideals. By comparing the treatment of foreigners in Homer and tragedy, it shows that the new dimension which the idea of the barbarian had brought to the tragic theatre radically affected the past, and enriched the tragedians' repertoire of aural and visual effects. The invented barbarian of the tragic stage was a powerful cultural expression of Greek xenophobia and chauvinism, but, paradoxically, produced an outburst of creative energy and literary innovation. The D.Phil. dissertation out of which this book developed won the Hellenic Foundation's prize for the best doctoral thesis in ancient Greek studies in the UK and Republic of Ireland (1988).