Greek Tragedy and the Historian by Christopher Pelling

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By Christopher Pelling

Tragedy used to be crucial to the adventure of being a fifth-century Athenian citizen. Tragedy explored primary problems with faith, of ethics, of civic ideology, and we should always count on it to be a crucial resource for the reconstruction and research of the Athenian idea and international. This selection of 11 papers investigates the tools and pitfalls of utilizing tragedy to light up fifth-century idea, tradition, and society.

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56 The deities mentioned-the Eumenides, Poseidon, Prometheus, Colonus, Dionysus, Demeter and Kore, the Muses, Aphrodite, Zeus Morios, Athena, Pythian Apollo-are all introduced in relation to the place and its sanctities, and these details, along with sacred landmarks like the Brazen Threshold (57, 1590- I) mentioned in the Messenger's speech, convey a strong sense of value and reverence. Of course there is a good reason why the details so lovingly identified should have special appeal for an Athenian audience, but plays set elsewhere sometimes evoke the significance of a community through its physical surroundings, and particularly its cults, in the same sort of way: the Argos of Aeschylus' Suppliants, for example, or the Thebes of Antigone and OT (v) OC is a play rich in intertextual resonance.

Another reason is the richness and openendedness of the dramatic tradition itself, which encouraged audiences to find cultural if not political identity through the shared language and shared models of the past. 58 Cf. Seaford (I994), ch. 4. I am grateful to Paul Cartledge and Mark Griffith for last-minute advice. 3 Tragic Filters for History: Euripides' Supplices and Sophocles' Philoctetes A. M. BOWIE Scholarship has something to make good here. It should do justice to the products of genius. But here, as so often, false ingenuity has presumed to illuminate its dimmed object by flashes of impertinent inspiration; picking out, for example, isolated words or phrases and relating them to facts (often imaginary) outside the poet's creation.

G. Hec. 607. , who argues that Orestes deserves to be crowned at public expense for having avenged his father and killed a wicked woman. Everything said by Orestes and Electra suggests that this is too simple a view of what they have done, and the farmer is in some ways as extreme as Tyndareos and the would-be stoners. From the speaker's point of view there is also a positive image of an aristocrat, that of the noble (anax) Diomedes, who piously recommends a penalty of exile (898-900). This more moderate position is what Tyndareos initially argued for.

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