Seneca the Younger, Trojan Women

LCL 62: 138-139

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TROJAN WOMEN

Aeneid, which not only retold Troy’s fall vividly, but also celebrated the partial survival of Troy in exile, a degree of continuity between Troy and Rome. Seneca’s audience would be alert to the many echoes of the Aeneid (particularly of Book 2) in his play and would find its picture of Troy as utterly annihilated all the more stark by contrast. Seneca also echoes elements of Ovid’s recounting of Polyxena’s death in Book 13 of the Metamorphoses.

The sufferings of the Trojans after Troy’s fall naturally provided subject matter for many dramas, but despite individual points of similarity, none seems likely to have been the exclusive fons et origo of Seneca’s play. Sophocles’ Polyxena, now lost, included an appearance of Achilles’ ghost demanding Polyxena’s death. Euripides’ Trojan Women, despite an identical title and a basic similarity of situation to Seneca’s play, is not at all close in plot or dramaturgy. Euripides’ Hecuba is closer in some respects: it treats Polyxena’s death and parallels it with the death of another young Trojan, Polydorus. All Roman dramas on these events have perished, including no doubt some unknown to us even by title. Accius’ Astyanax included an attempt by Andromache to conceal her son, albeit in the hills, not in the tomb. It is conceivable (but no more) that Ennius’ Andromacha Aechmalotis treated Polyxena’s death as well as Astyanax’. The most likely hypothesis is that Seneca composed independently, while drawing on a great wealth of literary precedents. His practice elsewhere makes it improbable that he followed a single model closely or for any distance.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY Commentaries
  • Boyle, A. J. Seneca’s Troades: Introduction, Text, Translation and Commentary. Leeds, 1994.
  • Fantham, E. Seneca’s Troades: A Literary Introduction with Text, Translation and Commentary. Princeton, 1982.
  • Keulen, A. J. L. Annaeus Seneca: Troades. Introduction, Text and Commentary. Leiden, 2001.
Criticism
  • Fitch, J. G. “Seneca’s Troades in a New Edition.” Classical Views 29 (1985): 435–53.
  • Lawall, G. “Death and Perspective in Seneca’s Troades.” CJ 77 (1982): 244–52.
  • Schetter, W. “Sulla Struttura delle Troiane di Seneca.” Riv. Fil. 93 (1965): 396–429; repr. as “Zum Aufbau von Senecas Troerinnen,” in Lefèvre, Senecas Tragödien, 230–71.
  • Wilson, M. “The Tragic Mode of Seneca’s Troades.” In Boyle, Seneca Tragicus, 27–60.
  • Zissos, P. A. “Shades of Virgil: Seneca’s Troades.” Materiali e discussioni per l’analisi dei testi classici 61 (2008): 189–210.
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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.seneca_younger-trojan_women.2018