Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Euripides, Suppliant Women

These are notes to myself after re-reading Euripides' Suppliant Women. Translations are by E.P. Coleridge unless otherwise indicated. I don't have access to Christopher Collard's commentary.

Adrastus exhibits "survivor's guilt" at 769 ("Ah me! how much rather I had died with them!") and 821 ("Would God the Theban ranks had laid me in the dust!"). On this phenomenon see Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character (New York: Athenaum, 1994), chapter 4 (Guilt and Wrongful Substitution).

The ways to settle disputes between states are either by words or by force of arms (ἢ λόγοισιν ἢ δορὸς / ῥώμῃ, 25-26). In hindsight Adrastus knows which way is preferable (748-749):
Ye cities likewise, though ye might by parley end your ills, yet ye choose the sword instead of reason to settle all disputes.
See also the words of Adrastus at 949-954:
O wretched sons of men! Why do ye get you weapons and bring slaughter on one another? Cease therefrom, give o'er your toiling, and in mutual peace keep safe your cities. Short is the span of life, so 'twere best to run its course as lightly as we may, from trouble free.
The Theban herald (486-493) likewise expresses a preference for peace:
And yet each man amongst us knows which of the two to prefer, the good or ill, and how much better peace is for mankind than war,-peace, the Muses' chiefest friend, the foe of sorrow, whose joy is in glad throngs of children, and its delight in prosperity. These are the blessings we cast away and wickedly embark on war, man enslaving his weaker brother, and cities following suit.
The Theban herald at 485 uses the word δοριμανής (spear-mad, spear-crazy), a form that seems to occur only here, although Liddell & Scott cite the Palatine Anthology 9.553 for δουρομανής. Cf. also Ἀρειμανής, Ἀρειμάνιος and Horace's bello furiosa (Odes 2.16.5).

The Greeks thought that shame was a good thing, as a brake on bad behavior. See 911-912 (in David Kovacs' translation):
A noble upbringing produces a sense of shame. Every man who is trained in good deeds is prevented by shame from becoming base.
On this theme see K.J. Dover, Greek Popular Morality (1974; rpt. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1994), V.B (Honour and Shame), pp. 226-242, esp. pp. 236-242 (5. Causes and effects of shame).

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