: ) (ca. 480 BCE–406 BCE) was the lastof the three great
tragedians of classical Athens (the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles).
Ancient scholars thought that
Euripides had written ninety-five plays, although four of those
were probably written by Critias
or nineteen of Euripides' plays have survived complete. There has
been debate about his authorship of Rhesus
, largely on stylistic grounds and
ignoring classical evidence that the play was his. Fragments, some
substantial, of most of the other plays also survive. More of his
plays have survived than those of Aeschylus
together, because of the unique nature of the Euripidean manuscript
Euripides is known primarily for having reshaped the formal structure
of Athenian tragedy
by portraying strong female characters
and intelligent slaves
and by satirizing many
. His plays seem modern by comparison with those of
his contemporaries, focusing on the inner lives and motives of his
characters in a way previously unknown to Greek audiences.
Little is known about Euripides, and most recorded sources are
based on legend and hearsay. According to one legend, Euripides was born
in Salamís on 23
September 480 BCE, the day of the Persian War's greatest naval
Other sources estimate that he was born as early as
His father's name was either Mnesarchus or Mnesarchides and his
mother's name Cleito. Evidence suggests that the family was wealthy
and influential. It is recorded that he served as a cup-bearer
dancers, but he grew to question the religion
he grew up with, exposed
as he was to thinkers such as Protagoras
, and Anaxagoras
A statue of Euripides.
He was married twice, to Choerile and Melito
though sources disagree as to which woman he married first. He had
three sons and it is rumored that he also had a daughter who was
killed after a rabid
dog attacked her (some
say this was merely a joke made by Aristophanes
, who often poked fun at
Euripides). The record of Euripides' public life, other than his
involvement in dramatic competitions, is almost non-existent. The
only reliable story of note is one by Aristotle
about Euripides' involvement in a
dispute over a liturgy (an account that offers strong evidence that
Euripides was a wealthy man). It has been said that he traveled to Syracuse, Sicily; that he engaged in
various public or political activities during his lifetime; that he
wrote his tragedies in a sanctuary, The Cave of Euripides on Salamis Island; and that he left Athens at the
invitation of King Archelaus I of
Macedon and stayed with him in Macedonia
and allegedly died there in 408 B.C. after being accidentally
attacked by the kings hunting dogs while walking in the
According to Pausanias
, Euripides was buried in
Euripides first competed in the City
, the famous Athenian dramatic festival, in 455 BCE,
one year after the death of Aeschylus
came third, reportedly because he refused to cater to the fancies
of the judges. It was not until 441 BCE that he won first prize and
over the course of his lifetime Euripides claimed only four
victories. He also won a posthumous victory.
He was a frequent target of Aristophanes
' humour. He appears as a character
in The Acharnians
most memorably in The Frogs
travels to Hades
to bring Euripides back from the dead; after a
competition of poetry, the god opts to bring Aeschylus
Euripides' final competition in Athens was in 408 BCE; there is a
story that he left Athens embittered over his defeats. He accepted
an invitation by the king of Macedon in 408 or 407 BCE, and once
there he wrote Archelaus
in honour of his host. He is
believed to have died there in winter 407/6 BCE; ancient
biographers have told many stories about his death, but the simple
truth was that it was probably his first exposure to the harsh
Macedonia winter which killed him. The
was performed after his death in 405 BCE and won
In comparison with Aeschylus (who won thirteen times) and Sophocles
(who had eighteen victories) Euripides
was the least honoured of the three, at least in his lifetime.
Later in the 4th century BCE, Euripides' plays became the most
popular, largely because of the simplicity of their language. His
works influenced New Comedy
and Roman drama
, and were later idolized
by the French classicists
influence on drama extends to modern times.
Euripides' greatest works include Alcestis
, and The
. Also considered notable is Cyclops
, the only complete satyr play
to have survived.
While the seven plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles that have survived
were those considered their best, the manuscript containing
Euripides' plays was part of a multiple volume,
alphabetically-arranged collection of Euripides' works,
rediscovered after lying in a monastic collection for approximately
800 years. The manuscript contains those plays whose (Greek) titles
begin with the letters E to K. This accounts for the large number
of extant plays of Euripides (among ancient dramatists, only
has more surviving plays), the
survival of a satyr play, and the absence of a trilogy. It is a
testament to the quality of Euripides' plays that, though their
survival was dependent on the letter their title began with and not
(as with Aeschylus and Sophocles) their quality, they are ranked
alongside and often above the plays of Aeschylus and
2005, classicists at Oxford University worked on a joint project with Brigham Young
University, using multi-spectral imaging technology to recover
previously illegible writing (see References). Some of this work
employed infrared technology—previously
used for satellite imaging—to detect
previously unknown material by Euripides in fragments of the
papyri, a collection of ancient manuscripts held by the
Euripides focused on the realism
of his characters
; for example,
is a realistic woman with
recognizable emotions and is not simply a villain. In Hippolytus
, Euripides writes in a
particularly modern style, demonstrating how neither language nor
sight aids in understanding in a civilization on its last leg.
Euripides makes his point about vision both through the plot
(Phaedra makes repeated references to her inability to see clearly
and her wish to have her eyes covered), and through the sparseness
of his staging, which lacked the dazzling elements that other plays
often had. The same was true of his commentary on the use of
language. The misuse of words played an important role in the
storyline (Phaedra's letter, the nurse's betrayal of Phaedra's
secret, Hippolytus' refusal to break his oath to save his own life,
and his refusal to pay lip-service to Aphrodite), but in addition,
the actual language of the play was often purposefully verbose and
ungainly, again to show the ineffectual nature of language in
comprehension in Euripides' age.According to Aristotle
, Euripides's contemporary Sophocles
said that he portrayed men as they ought
to be, and Euripides portrayed them as they were.
Euripides' realistic characterisations
were sometimes at the
expense of a realistic plot; he sometimes relied upon the
deus ex machina
his plays, as in Ion
. In the opinion
, writing his Poetics
a century later, this is an inadequate way to end a play. Many
classicists cite this as a reason why Euripides was less popular in
his own time.
- Alcestis (438 BCE,
- Medea (431 BCE, third
- Heracleidae (c. 430
- Hippolytus (428 BCE,
- Andromache (c. 425
- Hecuba (c. 424 BCE)
Suppliants (c. 423 BCE)
- Electra (c. 420
- Heracles (c. 416
- The Trojan Women (415
BCE, second prize)
- Iphigenia in Tauris
(c. 414 BCE)
- Ion (c. 414 BCE)
- Helen (412 BCE)
- Phoenician Women (c.
- Orestes (408 BCE)
- Bacchae and Iphigenia at Aulis (405 BCE,
posthumous, first prize)
- Rhesus (uncertain
The following plays have come down to us today only in fragmentary
form; some consist of only a handful of lines, but with some the
fragments are extensive enough to allow tentative reconstruction.
- Telephus (438 BCE)
- Cretans (c. 435 BCE)
- Stheneboea (before 429 BCE)
- Bellerophon (c. 430
- Cresphontes (ca. 425 BCE)
- Erechtheus (422 BCE)
- Phaethon (c. 420 BCE)
- Wise Melanippe (c. 420 BCE)
- Alexandros (415 BCE)
- Palamedes (415 BCE)
- Sisyphus (415
- Captive Melanippe (412 BCE)
- Andromeda (412 BCE
with Euripides' Helen)
- Antiope (c. 410 BCE)
- Archelaus (c. 410
- Hypsipyle (c. 410 BCE)
- Philoctetes (c. 410 BCE)
- Cyclops (uncertain
- Walton (1997, viii, xix).
- See  and .
- Rutherford (1996).
- A Further Note on the Modernity of "Hippolytus" Robert
Skloot. The Classical Journal, Vol. 64, No. 5. (Feb., 1969), pp.
226-227. Stable URL:
- see Euripides: Selected Fragmentary Plays (Aris and
Phillips 1995) ed. C. Collard, M.J. Cropp and K.H. Lee.
- Barrett, William Spencer, ed.
1964. Hippolytos. By Euripides. Oxford: Clarendon P. and
Toronto: Oxford UP.
- ---. 2007. Greek Lyric, Tragedy, and Textual Criticism:
Collected Papers. Ed. M. L. West. Oxford and New York: Oxford
UP. ISBN 0199203571.
- Croally, N. T. 1994. Euripidean Polemic: The Trojan Women
and the Function of Tragedy. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. ISBN
- Ippolito, P. 1999. La vita di Euripide. Napoli:
Dipartimento di Filologia Classica dell'Universit'a degli Studi di
Napoli Federico II.
- Kovacs, David. 1993 Euripidea. Leiden: Brill. ISBN
- Lefkowitz, Mary R.. 1981. The
Lives of the Greek Poets. New edition. London: Duckworth,
1998. ISBN 0715617214.
- Rutherford, Richard. 1996. Introduction. Medea and Other
Plays. By Euripides. Rev ed. London: Penguin, 2003. ISBN
- Scullion, S. 2003. "Euripides and Macedon, or the silence of
the Frogs." The Classical Quarterly 53.2: 389-400.
- Sommerstein, Alan H. 2002. Greek Drama and Dramatists.
London: Routledge. ISBN 0415260280.
- Walton, J. Michael. 1997. Introduction. In Plays VI.
By Euripides. Methuen Classical Greek Dramatists ser. London:
Methuen. vii-xxii. ISBN 0413716503.
- Webster, T. B. L. 1967. The Tragedies of Euripides.
- Multispectral imaging. Oxyrhynchos online. Retrieved on 28 Oct 2007.