Euripides, empire and war
Euripides is the tragedian who most frequently engages with portrayals of Athens, and although his reputation is as a progressive, iconoclastic thinker, his portrayals of Athens are surprisingly conventional and positive - or at least, as the previous chapter suggests, they are capable of being read by his spectators as conventional and positive. The rest of this chapter contains readings of the plays in which Athens or Athenian topics are portrayed: Heraclidae, Suppliants, Heracles, the fragmentary Peirithous and Theseus, Ion, Erechtheus and Hippolytus. Only the last two show Athens as anything other than a highly successful, dominant city, and even in these, Athenians’ suffering and tragic mistakes are mitigated to a large extent. The chapter ends with a brief reading of Trojan Women which argues that it is unlikely that most Athenians would have interpreted it as a comment on Athens’ actions at Melos the previous summer.