Euripides, Dramatic Fragments

LCL 504: 318-319

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Pechstein 123–40; Krumeich 413–9; H. Van Looy in ed. Budé VIII.2.37–44.

LIMC III.i.147–52 ‘Bousiris’; Gantz 418.

Busiris was a cruel tyrant in ‘Egypt’ (i.e. the savage East). His habit was to sacrifice strangers to the gods (like the barbarous Thoas in Iphigenia in Tauris). Heracles came to Egypt after recovering the golden apples of the Hesperides, was fettered by Busiris for sacrifice, but broke free and killed the tyrant and his son. These details are found in Pherecydes FGrH 3 F 17, and more fully in Apollodorus 2.5.11 (neither with attribution to Euripides; both = test. *iii b below; cf. Gantz). The popularity of this story is proved by the survival of twenty or so vase-paintings from the mid-6th to the early 4th centuries b.c., concentrated in the 5th, which show the death of Busiris. Scholars single out LIMC no. 9, a Caeretan hydria of c. 530 b.c. showing Heracles killing Busiris’ men and the tyrant himself in bonds, and LIMC no. 2, an Attic red-figure cup of c. 450 b.c. whose outside has Heracles in bonds being taken by black men (i.e. ‘Egyptians’) to Busiris while its inside shows Heracles with a satyr: for both see TrGF 5.369. The words ‘golden apples’ and ‘satyrs’ in the very scrappy hypothesis P. Oxy. 3651 (= test. iiia) seem to confirm the



above plot, but nothing further can be known. F 313 gives no clue, for the word ‘slave’ there only reflects the selfportrayal of satyrs common in their plays, e.g. Eurystheus F 375, Cyclops 31.

Brief fragments: F 312b ‘O deity’ (or ‘O . . . of the deity’: the play’s opening words, from the hypothesis), F 314 ‘offer a holy sacrifice’, F 315 ‘making exact’; F 313a? is missing except for a damaged heading in Stobaeus. Other proposed ascriptions: F 879, 907 (also ascribed to Syleus), 955h (see note there); adesp. F 33 (Heracles’ ‘blazing eyes’). Krumeich 416–7 wonders whether the ‘satyric’ Heracles of the Attic cup reflects Euripides’ Busiris; if so, it will have been one of his earliest productions. No other satyr-play with this subject is known, but there were five comedies entitled Busiris in the 5th and 4th centuries. For Isocrates’ propaedeutic ‘speech’ Busiris (4th. c.) and its mythical and contemporary background, see N. Livingstone, A Commentary on Isocrates’ Busiris (Leiden, 2001), 73–90, especially 80–1 on Euripides.

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.euripides-dramatic_fragments.2008