Tuesday, July 7, 2015

TFBT; Medea as Fury

 Hour 25, Harvard’s classical studies club is reading “Medea by Euripides.  We are reading the translation by Ian Johnston.  He’s got a great site;  https://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/  In preparation for our July 17,  discussion I’ve now read the play three times.

Previously, I proposed that we look at Medea as an avenging Fury. We've had similar conversation about Clytemnestra in the past. I promised to follow up when I had a chance to look at the Greek. When Medea asks why she must be exiled. Jason, “You kept making all those bitter curses against the ruling family here. “ Medea “And I'm a curse against your family, too.” (607-9) I was struck instantly by a phrase from the last play of the Orestia, when one of the erinyes addresses Athena “Daughter of Zeus, you will hear it all in brief. We are the eternal children of Night. We are called Curses (ρα) at home beneath the earth.” (Eumenides 415) The Greek from Perseus for Eumenides is;

πεύσ τ πάντα συντόμως, Δις κόρη. 415
μες γάρ σμεν Νυκτς ααν τέκνα.
ρα δ ν οκοις γς πα κεκλήμεθα.

Aaron J. Atsma at www.theoi.com says on the subject of Curses;“In the sense of curse or curses, the word Erinnys or Erinnyes is often used in the Homeric poems (Il. ix. 454, xxi. 412, Od. xi. 280), and Aeschylus (Choeph. 406) calls the Eumenides Arai that is, curses." I would also suggesting visiting his comments at http://www.theoi.com/Daimon/Arai.html

Medea's line about Curses from her play is below in Greek and English from Persues;

Μήδεια; κα σος ραία γ οσα τυγχάνω δόμοις.
Medea; Yes, and I am a curse to your house too. 608

LSJ explains that the word means “prayed against, accursed,”

An additional reference to Medea as a Fury can be found at Perseus; “O light begotten of Zeus, check the cruel and murderous Fury, take her from this house [1260] plagued by spirits of vengeance.1” Footnote 1 per Perseus; “The Chorus see in the murder the work of an Erinys Fury, one of the punishing divinities usually thought of as under the control of Zeus. That human agents may be sometimes regarded as embodying this spirit or serving as its unconscious agent is clear from Aesch. Ag. 749 and Eur. Tro. 457.”




  1. I think you are right that Medea is an embodies curse against Jason and his house. Have you any concept why his mission to retrieve the golden fleece had the side-effect of bringing such a curse? I admit I haven't gone deep into this myth, because I hate it. It begins and ends with deaths of children.

  2. Maya,

    I never thought about the story of the Argo starting and ending with children sacrifice. Inieresting.