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City of Suppliants

Tragedy and the Athenian Empire

By Angeliki Tzanetou

Publication Year: 2012

With close readings of suppliant dramas by each of the major playwrights, this book explores how Greek tragedy used tales of foreign supplicants to promote, question, and negotiate the imperial ideology of Athens as a benevolent and moral ruling city.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: Ashley and Peter Larkin Series in Greek and Roman Culture


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xvi

My interest in political themes in tragedy began many years ago, and I owe thanks to many colleagues and institutions. Case Western Reserve University provided me with a leave, also supported by a grant from the Loeb Classical Library Foundation (Harvard University) in 2002–2003. The Illinois Campus Research Board of the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign supported a semester’s leave in 2007–2008, when the project was well underway...

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pp. 1-30

In this book, I argue that the depiction of Athens as a city that welcomed suppliants from other cities lends insight into the Athenians’ view of their empire. Athens’ compassion and generosity toward suppliants became a topos in Athenian civic ideology and was employed to justify possession of her empire.1 Athenian tragedy praised the city’s altruism and denied that the...

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1. Aeschylus' Eumenides: Hegemony and Justice

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pp. 31-66

Aeschylus’ Eumenides was performed in 458 BC, shortly after the reorganization of the Areopagus under Ephialtes and the new alliance between Athens and Argos in 462/1 BC. Against this background, the play paints a singular portrait of Athens’ hegemony both military and judicial. The image of Athens as protector of suppliants in this play among others challenges Sparta’s...

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2. Hegemony and Empire: Presumed Origins

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pp. 67-72

The image of Athens’ ideal leadership is reassessed in Euripides’ later suppliant plays, Children of Heracles and Suppliant Women, both of which date from the period of the Peloponnesian War and offer arguments in support of Athens’ imperial democracy. By sketching discrete types of this ideology in the Athenian suppliant plays, this chapter offers a brief excursus on the development of Athenian imperialism; it also seeks to outline the evolution of...

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3. Euripides' Children of Heracles: "Helping the Weak and Punishing the Strong"

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pp. 73-104

In Euripides’ Children of Heracles, the representation of Athens’ generosity towards a group of weak and outraged suppliants addresses the relationship between imperial Athens and her subject allies more directly perhaps than do all other dramas, featuring Athens as a haven for foreign exiles. The suppliant plot is based on the story of the flight of children of Heracles,1 who leave their native Argos as exiles to avoid execution by the tyrant Eurystheus...

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4. Hegemony in Crisis: Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus

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pp. 105-128

Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus, the last of the Athenian suppliant plays, dates to ca. 407/6 Bc1 and dramatizes the reception of the suppliant Oedipus by Theseus shortly before his death and heroization at the end of the play.2 Composed close to the end of the Peloponnesian War that marked the empire’s defeat by Sparta and her allies, the play at once constitutes a panegyric of Athens...

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pp. 129-132

The Athenian suppliant plays, whose production coincides roughly with the rise and the decline of the Athenian empire, promoted an image of the city as open to non- Athenians and as bent on protecting the rights of those wronged. At its core lie quintessentially Athenian traits such as justice, piety, compassion, and generosity. Taken together, these plays trace the beginnings of...


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pp. 133-172


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pp. 173-190

Index Locorum

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pp. 191-200

General Index

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pp. 201-206

E-ISBN-13: 9780292737174
E-ISBN-10: 0292737173
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292737167
Print-ISBN-10: 0292737165

Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Ashley and Peter Larkin Series in Greek and Roman Culture
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OCLC Number: 794672966
MUSE Marc Record: Download for City of Suppliants

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Subject Headings

  • Greek drama (Tragedy) -- History and criticism.
  • Aeschylus. Eumenides.
  • Euripides. Children of Heracles.
  • Sophocles. Oedipus at Colonus.
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