Euripides, Trojan Women

LCL 10: 2-3

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For quite some time scholars connected Trojan Women, put on in early spring of 415 b.c., with the Athenians’ attack on the island of Melos, which ended—in the waning months of 416—with the massacre of the adult men and enslavement of the women and children. (See Thucydides 5.84–116.) The prevailing view was that the play was a sort of pièce à clef: in the play’s Greeks, who have taken Troy and proceed to kill Astyanax, the son of Hector, we are meant to see the Athenians, while the Trojans stand for the Melians. On this reading, the play expresses Euripides’ revulsion from his city’s treatment of Melos and his abhorrence of wars of aggression.

But there is evidence of various sorts against this view. First, there was not enough time between the fall of Melos and the City Dionysia for Euripides to have planned, written, and rehearsed a play on this theme: see van Erp Taalman Kip 1987. Second, the play is the only surviving part of a loosely connected trilogy whose first two plays were Alexandros and Palamedes. The fragments of the Alexandros make it plain that the fall of Troy is to be seen against a divine background, and that it was the gods in the last analysis who destroyed Troy, with the Greeks as their instrument, a theme also prominent in Trojan Women. This view of the fall of Troy would be ill suited, to say the least,

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.euripides-trojan_women.1999