The Message of Euripides’ “Trojan Women”
Or If There Are Losers There Are No Winners
An Illustrated Presentation by Dr. Lena Hatzichronoglou
In the winter of 416-415 BC, a nominally peaceful year during the Peloponnesian War, the war between Athens and Sparta, the Athenians invited the neutral island of Melos to join their alliance. The Melians refused, and, in a show of power, the Athenians retaliated by besieging their capital, forcing the people to capitulate, putting to death all the men, and enslaving all women and children of the island.
During the following winter (415-414 BC), the Athenians, dangerously intoxicated by their own power and equally unprovoked by the Sicilians, decided to conquer the island of Sicily. Two years later (413 BC), this expedition ended disastrously for the Athenians, who never completely recovered from its devastation.
Between these two major events of Athenian history, in the summer of 415 BC, Euripides presented on stage his Trojan Women. Using the archetype of the Trojan War, he artistically and powerfully evoked the hallucination of military and economic power, and he provided the world with an eternal and incomparable political commentary on the futility of war, which ruins equally both the victor and the vanquished.
In this play, through an artistic twist of the epic tradition, Euripides challenges us to look closely at our values and beliefs, and he ruthlessly pushes us over the edge as he confronts us with the questioning of the meaning of power, civilization, sanity, truth, beauty, justice, freedom, and above all, the meaning of personal or public victory.
In this seminar, we will take a close look at both Euripides’ tragedy and Cacoyannis’ cinematic interpretation of it, and we will seek ways of illuminating our own lives by the play’s provoking questions.
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