Euripides, Dramatic Fragments

LCL 504: 260-261

Go To Section
Go To Section


some, the child is raised by herdsmen in Arcadia while the mother escapes death but is shipped to Mysia (sometimes in a chest like Danae) where Telephus finds her years later; in others, mother and child are both cast adrift and so reach Mysia together. Nearly always Auge becomes the wife of the Mysian king Teuthras, and Telephus sooner or later becomes his adopted son; thus through Telephus the historical rulers of Mysia—notably the Attalids of Pergamum in the Hellenistic period—could claim descent from Heracles.

In Euripides’ play Auge has given birth in the temple (see test. iii and F 266 below). Most scholars accept Wilamowitz’s view that the essentials of the plot can be found in a narrative summary by the Armenian rhetorician Moses of Chorene (8th c. a.d.?) based on late Greek sources (= test. iib below), with the addition of a detail from Apollodorus 2.7.4 (cf. 3.9.1) where pollution and famine caused by the birth in the temple are said to have led to the child’s discovery. The very fragmentary papyrus hypothesis (test. iia below) appears to add the important detail that Auge was raped during a festival of Athena, perhaps as she washed the goddess’s robe at a spring near the temple (see test. ii, note 2). If this is a reliable basis, we can surmise that the play began (like Alope and Melanippe Wise) with a prologue speech explaining the rape, the birth and concealment of the baby, the resulting pollution, and Aleus’ search for its cause. In F 266 Auge complains to Athena about the goddess’s unfair attitude to pollution, and F 267 might refer to the city’s need to find the pollution’s cause. In F 271, 271a and 271b Auge, advised perhaps by her nurse, seems to be looking for a means of keeping her child concealed; but her efforts were probably forestalled by the discovery of the baby and Auge’s arraignment



for a comparable sequence see Hypsipyle F 754 b–c). Aleus will then have dispatched the baby to be exposed and condemned Auge to death, but Auge may have been still at hand when Heracles later appeared with the baby after finding it being suckled by a doe in the countryside (cf. Moses’ summary: the suckling was a very popular subject in later classical art); this will have led to the recognition of Telephus as Heracles’ son with the aid of a ring (cf. Moses again) lost by Heracles during the rape and attached by Auge to the baby as a mark of his identity. F 272 and *272a have Heracles playing with the baby before or after the recognition. F 265a and 272b probably come from his apology in a subsequent scene, and F 269 might do so but could be someone else’s comment. F 268 may come from Heracles’ plea to his guest-friend Aleus for understanding, and F 272c and 274 may be Aleus responding, first censoriously then with more consideration. The sentiments in F 273 and 275 cannot be placed. Probably Aleus was persuaded by Heracles to relent, so that a divine intervention to save Auge was not needed; but a god may have directed Auge and Telephus to Mysia at the end. Strabo (= test. iv below) says that according to Euripides Auge and Telephus were cast adrift in a chest and floated to Mysia, whereas Moses says only that Teuthras took Auge as his wife and Telephus as his son in obedience to an oracle of Apollo. The voyage might perhaps have been decreed so as to satisfy the continuing resentment of Aleus (Webster) or of Athena (Huys), but it seems more likely that Strabo is inaccurate and the pair were simply told by a god that they would find their destiny with Teuthras in Mysia.

Brief fragments: F 278 ‘an upright horn’ (perhaps a euphemism for Heracles’ erect penis); F 279 ‘you cast aside

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.euripides-dramatic_fragments.2008