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Euripides

abortive first expedition against Troy, Telephus led a successful resistance but stumbled while pursuing the invaders and was wounded in the leg by Achilles. The wound festered, and Telephus was advised by an oracle of Apollo that only ‘the one that had wounded him’ could heal him; so he went to Argos, where the Greeks were by now assembling for a second expedition, and was healed by Achilles in return for undertaking to guide the Greeks to Troy. This story was told in the epic Cypria according to Proclus’ summary, and was dramatized in Aeschylus’ Telephus (Aesch. F 238–40) where Telephus may have taken Agamemnon’s young son Orestes to the family hearth or altar to assist his supplication, like Themistocles seeking refuge with the Molossian king Admetus (Thucydides 1.136). Little is known about Aeschylus’ play, and still less about Sophocles’ Telephus (Soph. F 727, a single word; date unknown), 1 but Euripides’ Telephus is relatively well documented, not least because of Aristophanes’ parodies of scenes from it in Acharnians 204–625 (cf. TrGF test. iva, va) and Women at the Thesmophoria 466–764 (cf. test. vb); these plays and the ancient commentaries on them provide nearly half of the book fragments of Telephus. In Acharnians (425 b.c.) Dicaeopolis borrows Telephus’ beggar costume from Euripides in order to get the chorus’s sympathy as he speaks against the war with Sparta. In

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Euripides

Women at the Thesmophoria (411b.c.) Euripides’ kinsman dresses himself as a woman in order to persuade the female chorus that Euripides’ criticisms of women are more than justified, but is exposed and takes refuge at an altar with threats to kill a ‘baby’—actually a wineskin—that he has seized from one of them (Dicaeopolis similarly threatens a charcoal basket to get the attention of the chorus in Acharnians). Telephus’ beggar role (reminiscent of Odysseus in the Odyssey), his ‘disguised speech’ (cf. MelanippeWise test. iia) and his threat to kill Orestes seem to have been the most distinctive elements in Euripides’ plot, although the first two go unmentioned in Hyginus, Fab. 101 (= test. *iiic below) which is the nearest approximation we have to a summary.2

A rough plot outline can be established incorporating the elements just mentioned and many of the fragments.3 The action was probably set in front of Agamemnon’s palace, the Chorus comprising Argive elders. F 696 is the beginning of Telephus’ prologue speech, which must have included F 697–8 explaining his disguise and probably also F 705a explaining his wound (whereas F 705 is a false explanation given later to the Greeks). Telephus’ plan for using his disguise is not entirely clear, but he may have encountered Clytemnestra and gained her assistance in using Orestes as an aid to his supplication in a scene following the prologue speech (for her possible role in the play see

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.euripides-dramatic_fragments.2008