The Ancient Library

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On this page: Euripides (continued)



day of the great battle. His father Mnesar-chus is said to have been a tradesman or tavern-keeper, his mother Clito a seller of herbs. His parents, however, must have had some means, judging by the fact that they gave him a careful gymnastic education to lit him for the athletic contests. This was because they had misinterpreted an oracle given them before his birth which promised the child crowns of victory. Euripides is said in his boyhood really to have gained the prize in a public contest of this kind, but in fact he was destined to win victories in a very different arena. He associated much with the philosophers AnaxagSras and Socrates, with the latter of


(Naples Museum.)

whom he enjoyed an intimate friendship during the whole of his life. He also had instruction from the sophists Protagoras and Prfidlcus. Thus he received the best of education in philosophy and rhetoric. It was in his twenty-fifth year (b.c. 455) that he first put a tetralogy on the stage. He did not win a prize till his forty-third year, and seems indeed to have been victorious only four times in all; but he was none the less indefatigable in writing tragedies. He took a lively interest in the important events and the public questions of the time; but personally he kept aloof from

public life, avoided society, and lived mostly in the enjoyment of an excellent library, amid his studies and poetical creations.

He was twice unfortunate in his mar­riage, a fact which may have encouraged him in his surly, unsociable ways. His first wife, Choerile, he had to divorce for infidelity. She bore him three daughters, the youngest of whom, who was named after her mother, put several of her father's tragedies on the stage after his death. His second wife, Melito, parted from him at her own desire. In 409, at the age of 71, he left Athens; it was said to get away from the ceaseless attacks of the comedians, and from his domestic troubles. He went to Magnesia in Thessaly, where he was received as a guest of the city. Thence he went on to Pella to the court of Archelaus, king of Macedonia, who had gathered round him a number of poets and artists, and who treated him with great respect. Here he spent the last two years of his life and died b.c. 405. According to a story for which there is little authority, he was torn to pieces by a pack of hounds when returning from a nocturnal festivity.

The number of his tragedies is variously given as seventy-five, seventy-eight, and ninety-two. Eighteen have come down to us: the Alc.estis, Andromache, Bacchce (or the arrival of Dionysus at Thebes and the murder of Pentheus), Hecuba, HllSna, Electro, the Heraclldce (or DemBphSon of Athens protecting the descendants of Hera­cles against the persecution of Eurystheus); Heracles in Madness, the Suppliants (or the mothers of the Seven Chiefs who had fallen before Thebes, at whose prayers Theseus compelled the Thebans to bury the dead heroes); Hippolytus, IphlgSnla at Aulis, Iphlg&nla among the Tauri, Ion, Medea, Orest£s, Rhesus, the TrOfid&s (or the royal house of Troy after the conquest of the city); the Phcenissa> (so called after the chorus of Phrenician maidens, an incident in the story of EteScles and Polynices); and a satyric drama, the Cyclops, the only example of this style of composition which has survived. The earliest of these pieces in point of time is the Alcestis, performed in B.C. 438. It is also noticeable because, although not a satyric drama in the proper sense, it has comic features towards the end, and was actually performed at the end of a tetralogy in place of a satyric drama. The Bacchce,. on the other hand, was written in Macedonia in the poet's last years, and performed after

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