Abstract: Euripides’ Hippolytus is the only surviving Greek tragedy that offers a scathing account of Theseus. Unlike earlier and later plays, it illustrates Theseus’s total lack of good judgment. This representation was also at odds with the visual representations of Athens’ mythical king after whom political leaders such as Cimon and, to a certain extent, Pericles modelled themselves. By the time of the first performance of Hippolytus Stephanephoros in 428 BCE the great deeds of Theseus were depicted everywhere, from temples and stoas to wine cups, in Athens and beyond. Interest in Theseus’ achievements had not abated if we are to judge from the iconography of Poseidon’s temple at Sounion, dated to late 44Os, and the metopes of the Parthenon. This paper reads the Euripidean portrait of Theseus against Athenian civic iconography and offers a political assessment of Euripides’ radical departure from previous flattering accounts.
Speaker bio: Professor Athanassaki was born and schooled in Athens first at a public school in Mets (at that time idyllic) and then at Arsakeion in Psychiko. She holds a BA in Philology from the University of Athens and a PhD in Classics from Brown University. After a brief happy stop at the University of Virginia, she joined the Faculty of Philology at the University of Crete where she has taught Greek and sometimes Latin poetry to innumerable students. Many of them have meanwhile distinguished themselves as teachers and scholars in Greece and abroad. She has worked on melic poetry, Pindar above all, Latin lyric, Greek tragedy, and more recently Plutarch. In the last two decades her research has focused on the fascinating interaction of art and text.