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Queen's University

Supporting Materials for Lectures

Lecture 10: Euripides with special reference to Hippolytus


  1. The Ancient Life of Euripides (minus the last, repetitive paragraph)
    Euripides the poet was son of Mnesarchides, a shop-keeper and Cleito, a vegetable-seller, and Athenian. He was born on Salamis under the archonship of Calliades in the 75th Olympiad when the Greeks were engaged in a sea-battle with the Persians. He trained first in the pankration (a kind of martial art) and boxing, since his father had received an oracle that he would win at the contests for which wreaths were the prize. Having done some reading, he turned to tragedy and invented many things: prologues, character-development, speeches, recognition-scenes, since he was a disciple of Anaxagoras and Prodicus and Protagoras and a companion of Socrates. It seems that Socrates [the philosopher] and Mnesilochus even wrote some things with him, as Telekleides says:


    "It's Mnesilochus who is cooking up some new play of Euripides, and Socrates is stoking the fire".

    Others, however, say that Iophon and Timocrates of Argos made lyric songs for him. And they say that he was a painter and exhibited his paintings in Megara. He also carried a torch in the procession of Apollo Zosterius, and Hellanicus says that he was born on the same day on which the Greeks won the naval victory at Salamis. He began to compete at the age of 26, and he moved to Magnesia where he was awarded resident-alien status and exemption from taxation. From there having come to the palace of Archelaus in Macedonia he spent time and wrote in his honour the tragedy that bears his name and he fared well in his presence and became part of the government. They say that he cultivated a thick beard and had spots on his eyes. He married first Helito and second Choerile. And he left three sons: Mnesarchides, the eldest was a merchant, then Mnesilochus an actor and finally Euripides, who directed some of his father's plays. He began to direct under the archonship of Callias in the first year of the 81st Olympiad. The first play he staged was the Daughters of Pelias in which he won third prize. The total number of his plays was 92, 78 are preserved of which 3 are illegitimate: Tennes, Rhadamanthys and Perithous. He died, as Philochorus says, when he was over 70 years old, or as Eratosthenes says 75, and was buried in Macedonia. The Athenians erected a cenotaph for him and the epitaph was composed either by Thucydides the historian or Timotheus the lyric poet:


    "All Greece is Euripides' tomb: but Macedon
    Holds his bones, where he received the end of life.
    His fatherland was the Greece of Greece, Athens. Having often delighted
    With the Muses, he has praise from many men."

    They say that both monuments were struck by lightning. They say that when Sophocles heard that he had died, he appeared in public in a black cloak and that he brought out his chorus and actors in the proagon [the parade on the first day of the dramatic festival] without crowns and that the people wept. He died in the following way. In Macedonia there is a village called "Of the Thracians" because Thracians once lived there. Once the Molossian bitch [i.e. a mastif] of Archelaus got lost there. The Thracians, as was their custom, sacrificed it and ate it. So Archelaus fined them one talent. Since they did not have the money, they begged Euripides to get their acquittal, by begging the king. Some time later Euripides was resting in a grove outside the city when Archelaus had gone out hunting, when the young dogs had been unleashed by the hunters and had come upon Euripides, the poet was torn to pieces and eaten. These puppies were the children of the bitch killed by the Thracians, as a result of which the saying exists among the Macedonians, "bitch-justice".

    They say that he outfitted a cave on Salamis that looked out over the sea and would pass his days there avoiding the crowds. That is why he takes most of his similes from the sea. He looked frowning and preoccupied and austere, a hater both of laughter and of women, for which reason Aristophanes blames him: "[Euripides] is bitter, I say first of all" [Alexander the Aetolian apud Aulus Gellius Attic Nights 15.20.8]. They say that he married Choerile, daughter of Mnesilochus, and that, when he noticed her wantonness, he wrote the first Hippolytus play, in which he denounces the shamelessness of women, and then he divorced her. When the man who married her [afterward] said, "She is faithful to me", he replied, "You are wretched if you think that a woman to one man might be faithful, but to another not."

    He married a second wife, whom he found to be more wanton than the first, and he was made more bold in his denunciation of women. The women, wishing to kill him, came together into the cave in which he spent his time writing. It is said out of jealousy that Cephisophon collaborated with him on his tragedies. Hermippus says that Dionysius, tyrant of Sicily, after Euripides' death, sent a talent to his heirs to receive his lyre and note-book and stylus, which when he saw them he ordered those who had brought them to dedicate them in a temple to the Muses, writing upon them his own name and that of Euripides. This is why they say that he was called most loving of foreigners because he was most loved by foreigners, for he was envied by the Athenians. When a rude young boy said from jealousy that he had bad breath, he replied, "Speak well of a mouth sweeter than honey and the Sirens".

    He mocked women in his poems for the following reason. He had a slave-boy in his house named Cephisophon. He caught his own wife in adultery with him. Having first tried to admonish him, he failed, and when he did not obey, he left him his wife, since Cephisophon wanted to have her. Aristophanes says:


    Cephisophon, oh best and blackest,
    for you live most closely with Euripides
    and collaborate, so they say, on his songs.

    They say that women, because of the blame that he was putting upon them in his poems, stood up against him at the Thesmophoria, wanting to kill him. They spared him firstly because of the Muses, and secondly because he agreed no longer to say bad things about them. He says these things about them in the Melanippe:


    In vain against women does the blame of men
    beat, a useless arrow, and speaks wrongly:
    for they are better than men, say I....

    Philemon loved him so much that he dared to say this about him:


    Truly, if those who have died
    have perception, as some say they do,
    I would kill myself in order to meet Euripides.


    • W. Nestle, Die Legende vom Tode des Euripides," Philologus 57 (1898) 134-49.
    • F. Leo, "Satyros, Bios Euripidou," Ausgewählte Kleine Schriften (Rome 1960) vol. 2, pp. 365-82.
    • M. Delcourt, "Les Biographies anciennes d'Euripide," Antiquité Classique 2 (1933) 271-90.
    • P. T. Stevens, "Euripides and the Athenians," Journal of Hellenic Studies 76 (1956) 87-94.
    • I. Gallo, "La vita di Euripide di Satiro e gli studi sulla biografia antica, La Parola del Passato 113 (1967) 134-60.
    • C. P. Ruck, "Euripides' Mother: Vegetables and the Phallos in Aristophanes, Arion 2 (1976) 13-57.
    • M. R. Lefkowitz, "The Euripides Vita," Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 20 (1979) 187-210 = The Lives of the Greek Poets (London 1981) 88-104.


  2. Hippolytus:
    Euripides wrote two plays and Sophocles one on the story of Phaedra and Hippolytus. Only one of these plays (the last to be composed) survives. Speculate on the relationship of this play to the two lost ones. Consider the role of speech (both true and false) and silence, of the tongue and the heart (line 612). Consider a leap into the sea and horses as metaphors for sex (Aphrodite was born from the sea; cf. Hippolytus' name, "loosed by horses"). Consider the motif of Potiphar's wife (Genesis 39), found in Greek myth as the Bellerophon-story (Iliad 6.156-202), especially the jealous wife who lies to her husband, the fatal writing-tablets, and catastrophe on horseback. Consider the abstract opposition of sex and chastity found not only between Aphrodite and Artemis but between the family of Hippolytus (his mother was a "breastless", i.e. sexless Amazon) and Phaedra (her mother, Pasiphae, had excessive lust: she slept with bull and bore the Minotaur; her name, "shining on all" recalls the name of the prostitute Pasiphile, "she loves everybody" (Archil. fr. 331 West). Cf. also the conflict between indulgence and self-restraint in Bacchae and in Aeschylus' lost Bassarids.


    • I. Linforth, "Hippolytus and Humanism," Transactions of the American Philological Association 45 (1914) 5-11.
    • E. R. Dodds, "The AIDOS of Phaedra and the Meaning of the Hippolytus," Classical Review 39 (1925) 102-4.
    • A. R. Bellinger, "The Bacchae and Hippolytus," Yale Classical Studies 6 (1939) 15-27.
    • W. B. Stanford, "The Hippolytus of Euripides," Hermathena 63 (1944) 11-17.
    • B. M. W. Knox, "The Hippolytus of Euripides," Yale Classical Studies 13 (1952) 3-31.
    • R. P. Winnington-Ingram, "Hippolytus: A Study in Causation," 171-97 in Euripide = Fondation Hardt, Entretiens 6 (Geneva 1960).
    • D. J. Conacher, "A Problem in Euripides' Hippolytus," Transactions of the American Philological Association 92 (1961) 37-44.
    • R. Lattimore, "Phaedra and Hippolytus," Arion 13 (1962) 5-18.
    • W. S. Barrett, Euripides: Hippolytos (Oxford 1964) Introduction pp. 1-84.
    • C. P. Segal, "The Tragedy of the Hippolytus: The Waters of Ocean and the Untouched Meadow," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 70 (1965) 117-69.
    • H. C. Avery, "My Tongue Swore but my Mind is Unsworn," Transactions of the American Philological Association 99 (1968) 19-35.
    • C. W. Willink, "Some Problems in Hippolytus," Classical Quarterly 18 (1968) 11-43.
    • C. P. Segal, "Shame and Purity in Euripides' Hippolytus," Hermes 98 (1970) 278-99.
    • B. Frischer, "Concordia Discors and Characterization in Euripides' Hippolytus," Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 11 (1970) 85-100.
    • K. J. Reckford, "Phaethon, Hippolytus and Aphrodite," Transactions of the American Philological Association 103 (1972) 405-32.
    • G. F. Fitzgerald, "Misconception, Hypocrisy and the Structure of Euripides' Hippolytus," Ramus 2 (1973) 20-44.
    • A. V. Rankin, "Euripides' Hippolytus: A Psychopathological Hero," Arethusa 7 (1974) 71-94.
    • J. M. Bremer, "The Meadow of Love and Two Passages in Euripides' Hippolytus," Mnemosyne 28 (1975) 268-80.
    • C. P. Segal, "Pentheus and Hippolytus on the Couch and on the Grid," Classical World 72 (1978-9) 129-48.
    • C. P. Segal, "Solar Imagery and Tragic Heroism in Euripides' Hippolytus," 151-61 in G. Bowersock et al. edd., Arktouros = Festschrift B. M. W. Knox (Berlin and New York 1979).
    • C. Lindsay, "Aphrodite and the Equivocal Argument," 54-72 in D. V. Stump ed., Hamartia = Festschrift J. M. Crossett (New York 1983).
    • C. P. Segal, "Senecan Baroque: The Death of Hippolytus in Seneca, Ovid and Euripides," Transactions of the American Philological Association 114 (1984) 311-26.
    • C. Wagner, "Vernunft und Tugend in Euripides Hippolytus," Wiener Studien 18 (1984) 37-51.
    • G. Devereux, The Character of EuripidesHippolytus (Chico, Ca 1985).
    • F. E. Brenk, "Phaidra's Risky Horseman: Euripides' Hippolytus 232-38," Mnemosyne 39 (1986) 385-8.
    • N. Rabinowitz, "Aphrodite and the Audience: Engendering the Reader," Arethusa 19 (1986) 171-85.
    • N. Rabinowitz, "Female Speech and Female Sexuality: Euripides' Hippolytus as Model," in M. Skinner ed., Rescuing Creusa = Helios 13 (1986).
    • M. E. Craik, "Euripides' First Hippolytos," Mnemosyne 40 (1987) 137-9.
    • G. Ley, "Placing Hippolytus Kalyptomenos," Eranos 85 (1987) 66-7.



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