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Assess The Extent In Which Euripides' Tragedy 'the Trojan Women' Is A Reflection Of The Change In Attitude To Athens' Involvement In The Peloponnesian War

1769 words - 7 pages

Euripides’ tragedy ‘The Trojan Women’ is a reflection of the changing attitude held towards Athens’ involvement in the Peloponnesian War by both Euripides and Athenian society. Euripides establishes a clear political allusion between the Peloponnesian War and ‘The Trojan Women’, asserting the futility of war and the inevitable misery for both the defeated and victorious. Written in 415 B.C., ‘The Trojan Women’ reflects a social atmosphere of political and military struggles, where Athenian civic life and public opinion were overturned by the devastations of the Peloponnesian War.The correlation between the events of ‘The Trojan Women’ and controversial episodes of the Peloponnesian War illustrate the rising resentment of war held by Euripides and his audience. Greenstein comments “In both dialogue and subject matter Euripides’ plays about the consequences of the Trojan War are often commentaries on the horrors, moral issues, and conflicts that took place” in the 5th Century B.C. The play was written in 415 B.C – a social climate where the audience could easily conceive the possibility of the destruction of a Greek city in warfare. The Ancient Greek world of 5th Century B.C. was torn asunder by continuous warfare, influencing the social and political spheres of Athenian civic life. This depicted threat of invasion is exemplified by the destruction of Plataea in 427 B.C, an allied city just forty miles from Athens conquered by the Peloponnesians. While the Trojan setting of the play appears hardly paradigmatic of a contemporary Greek polis, Professor Easterling states ‘The Trojan Women’ in light of its war-stricken context “must surely have been perceived as suggesting meanings relevant to its own times…Thedistance in time and space and the cast of appropriate heroic characters in no way reduce the power of the text to challenge and disturb.”The strongest political allusion identified with ‘The Trojan Women’ is the destruction of the Island of Melos in 416 B.C – within a year of the play’s performance. Following a siege and conquering of the neutral Dorian island of Melos, the Athenian Assembly voted to execute all Melian men who could bear arms, and sell their women and children intoslavery to fund the cost of the military operation. Indeed, this sequence of events is closely analogous to the story of the Trojan Women, where Hecuba, Andromache and Cassandralost their husbands and sons in war and awaited a foreign life of slavery in Greece. The atrocities committed by Athens in the capture of Melos had disturbed Euripides and many of his contemporaries. Thucydides, a prominent historian of the Peloponnesian War, reported the brutalities of Athenian diplomacy and armed conflict in pushing the citizens of Melos into surrender. Kagan states “[On Melos 416 B.C] Surely this was another of the events in Thucidydes’ mind when he...

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