Moorgate

Ancient Athenian Drama

Euripides: The Suppliants

5th century BC, Ancient Greek.

It is a small moment in the play but one that has captured my attention. Not Evadne flinging herself into the flames but a child carrying an urn, a single urn, holding the ashes of Capaneus and Evadne, mixed as though they are one.

The image will not leave my mind. The blaze of the funeral pyres has died down and children have collected the ashes of the fallen slain, the heroes of Argos whose dead bodies were fought for and retrieved from the city of Thebes by Theseus of Athens. Their ashes and hot embers now fall with burnt wood and aromatic leaves onto friendly Athenian soil.

These charred remains are collected by the children, the sons and daughters of these slain Argive warriors and carried in urns towards grieving mothers and grandmothers.

What was it that Evadne, the wife of fallen Capaneus, said before she flung herself so unexpectedly from a high place onto the pyre upon which her husband burned? 'To mix my ashes with my husbandís,' she cried. 'May loyalty inspire the husbandís heart, his nature fusing with his wifeís!'

It is a small moment in the play but one that has captured my attention. Not Evadne flinging herself into the flames but a child carrying an urn, a single urn, holding the ashes of Capaneus and Evadne, mixed as though they are one.

Story fragment retold from: Euripides: The Suppliants. English translation, Internet Classics Archive.

references

Euripides – Wikipedia

Greek tragedy – Wikipedia

Euripides: The Suppliants – English translation, Internet Classics Archive (download plain text version)

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