Wednesday, March 21, 2007

430BC to 415BC

430BC. The History. Herodotus. Greek. First use of the word "history." History of the Persian Wars. Largely anecdotal. Less emphasis on historical accuracy.

430/400BC? History of the Peloponnesean War. Thucydides. Greek. Athens vs. Sparta. Not as colorful as Herodotus, but historically more accurate.

429BC. Oedipus Rex. Sophocles. Greek. Play. Relentlessly, Oedipus seeks the murderer of his father, Laius. Learns that he is guilty. Further, he has unknowingly married his mother. She commits suicide. He blinds himself with her brooch.

428BC. Hippolytus. Euripides. Greek. Play. Hippolytus enrages Aphrodite by scorning the love of women. She revenges by having Phaedra, his father's wife, fall in love with him. She hangs herself, leaving a note that Hippolytus violated her. Theseus curses Hippolytus, who dies after his horse is frightened by a bull. Artemis tells Theseus the truth. He laments. Hippolytus forgives him with his dying words.

427BC. The Children of Heracles. Euripides. Greek. Play. Eurystheus, king of Argos, who forced Heracles to perform the 12 labors, persecutes his children after Heracles' death. They are championed by old Iolaus, who is young for a day. Eurystheus is killed. Ulterior meaning: Athens championed Heracles, Sparta's ancestor; Sparta should not be fighting Athens.

425BC. Hecuba. Euripides. Greek. Play. Wife of Priam, mother of Hector, Hecuba sees all 50 of her children die except her daughter Polyxena, and her son Polydorus. Polymestor kills them. In revenge, she blinds him, kills his sons. Both antagonists are reduced to the same bestial level.

423BC. The Knights. Aristophanes. Greek. Play. Topical, and therefore, less interesting to a modern audience. Remarkable for the freedom to attack the powerful Athenian demagogue Cleon.

423BC. The Clouds. Aristophanes. Greek. Play. Equates Socrates with the Sophists, noted for the ability to use argument to prove any point. Socrates, however, believed that argument was only useful to arrive at the truth. A farmer's son enrolls in Socrates' school, the Thinkery, to learn to evade creditors through shrewd argument. However, the son turns his talent against his father. The old man regrets turning away from the old virtues and sets fire to the Thinkery.

422BC. The Wasps. Aristophanes. Greek. Play. Attack on Aristophanes' favorite butt, Cleon, who initiated paying citizens for jury duty. Parody of legal proceedings. Passion of a foolish old man for jury duty.

421BC. The Peace. Aristophanes. Greek. Play. Farmers and workingmen rescue the goddess Peace from the clutches of War.

421BC. The Suppliant Women. Euripides. Greek. Play. Mothers of the Seven against Thebes plead successfully with Theseus to bury the bodies of their sons.

418BC. Ion. Euripides. Greek. Play. Ion became the king of Athens and ancestor of the Ionian race. Interpreted as questioning Apollo and the honesty of his Delphic oracle.

415BC. The Trojan Women. Euripides. Greek. Play. Fate of the family of Priam at the fall of Troy. Priam, Hector are dead. Their wives, Hecuba and Andromache and Cassandra are to be slaves. The Greeks sacrifice Hector's sister Polyxena to the ghost of Achilles. They also fling Hector's infant son from the walls to end the royal line. Helen appears and, through sheer sexual attraction, sways Menelaus from his intention of killing her. Her presence, vain and frivolous, demonstrates the futility of a war fought over her. Portrays the Greeks as cruel and cowardly. Rebukes the Athenians for the slaughter of Melos. One of the most powerful indictments of war ever.

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