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Children in Greek Tragedy: Pathos and Potential
 0198826079, 9780198826071

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Children in Greek Tragedy

Children in Greek Tragedy Pathos and Potential EMMA M. GRIFFITHS



Great Clarendon Street, Oxford, OX2 6DP, United Kingdom Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries © Emma M. Griffiths 2020 The moral rights of the author have been asserted First Edition published in 2020 Impression: 1 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by licence or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer Published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, United States of America British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Data available Library of Congress Control Number: 2019947621 ISBN 978 0 19 882607 1 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198826071.001.0001 Printed and bound in Great Britain by Clays Ltd, Elcograf S.p.A. Links to third party websites are provided by Oxford in good faith and for information only. Oxford disclaims any responsibility for the materials contained in any third party website referenced in this work.

Acknowledgements The ideas in this book were first formulated as part of a PhD project under the supervision of Richard Buxton at the University of Bristol, with the support of the University of Bristol Alumni Association. The book has evolved through several different versions, and I am grateful to the readers (many of them anonymous) who have commented over the years. I appreciate their time and consideration, even when I have ultimately acted against their advice. The list of individuals below is by no means comprehensive. I would like to note my thanks to Mark Golden, Susan Deacy, Babette Pütz, Patrick Finglass, Alan Elliott, Sally Dormer, Stevens Anderson, Kate Cooper, Roy Gibson, and Chris Carey. My thesis examiners, Robert Fowler and Judith Mossman, have gone above and beyond in helping this book to fruition, and I cannot thank them enough for their patience, good humour, and continued faith in me. The editorial team at OUP, particularly Georgina Leighton, have my respect, thanks, and admiration for their work. This book is dedicated to my mother, Mary, who is a star.

1 Contexts 1.1 Introduction ἔγημας ἄκουσάν με κἄλαβες βίᾳ, τὸν πρόσθεν ἄνδρα Τάνταλον κατακτανών· βρέϕος τε τοὐμὸν σῷ προσούδισας πάλῳ, μαστῶν βιαίως τῶν ἐμῶν ἀποσπάσας.¹ You married me against my will, you took me by force, after killing my previous husband, Tantalos. The baby that was mine you smashed to the ground; you ripped him violently from my breast. Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis 1149–52² Klytaimestra’s words here as she fights for the life of her daughter encapsulate a popular view of children in Greek tragedy—helpless victims whose fate engages the audience’s emotions.³ This detail, probably Euripides’ invention, contextualizes the planned sacrifice of Iphigeneia as the latest in a series of brutal acts, further arousing the audience’s feelings of pity and fear, but in recalling this episode Klytaimestra is not trying to inspire pity in her target,

¹ Unless otherwise stated, Greek texts are taken from the latest Oxford Classical Texts, Aiskhylos OCT by Page (1972), Sophokles OCT by Lloyd Jones and Wilson (1990, 2nd ed.) and the Euripides OCT by Diggle (1981 94). Fragmentary texts are noted in relation to the most recent generally accessible volumes (TGrF Radt, etc). Except where stated, all translations are my own and are designed to highlight the key features of the text which previous translators may have missed because of assumptions about child roles. At times different translations are offered. I agree with Wilson (2017: 81 92) that some styles of translation create a false sense of familiarity, and perpetuate patterns of discrimination. ² Titles of tragedies are given in their Greek form except when clearer disambiguation or translation is helpful, so Aiskhylos’ Hiketides (Suppliants), Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis, Iphigeneia in Tauris. Names of characters are given in their Greek form. ³ Comments on the pathetic nature of children may be explicit, as Lloyd (1994: 131 n. on 501 44): ‘Children in tragedy are pathetic victims,’ or may be couched in more general terms where ‘pathos’ or ‘pity’ remains undefined, e.g. Pratt (2013: 235 6): ‘Again and again the tragedians evoke pity for the children, [ . . . ] it is precisely the conflict between the familiar parental emotions and the dark actions that feeds the pathos.’ Children in Greek Tragedy: Pathos and Potential. Emma M. Griffiths, Oxford University Press (2020). © Emma M. Griffiths. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198826071.001.0001


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Agamemnon.⁴ Instead, she presents her bona fides as a loyal wife who has suffered loss but has committed herself to her new family, while warning Agamemnon of repercussions if he follows through with his plan:⁵ In murdering her first family, Agamemnon ultimately reduced himself to a vulnerable suppliant, as helpless as the child he had killed.⁶ The audience in the theatre may respond to the vivid physical imagery of the baby torn from its mother’s breast, but Klytaimestra’s speech contains a specific threat related to the baby Orestes who is on stage for much of the play. Orestes is not a figure of simple pathos, inspiring the audience to feel an emotional attachment. Instead, the actions of his future adult self are conjured, as Klytaimestra envisages her son taking revenge against Agamemnon; the audience knows that the babe in arms will in fact grow up to kill Klytaimestra as the cycle of family violence continues. Two fictional babies hold our attention here, one dead, the other a living child in terms of the narrative, but most likely represented on stage by a doll, so that the baby Orestes can be understood as a stage prop as much as a figure of heroic myth. How, then, can a silent, motionless figure have such a significant stage presence? This question is at the heart of my investigation into child figures in tragedy.

1.1.1 Revisiting Aristotle Aristotelian models of Greek tragedy, where action predominates and character is revealed through choice or the expression of intention, cannot easily explain the impact of children in Greek tragedy.⁷ Aristotle set up this pattern of exclusion by focusing on the importance of prohairesis (choice) in drama, a function he elsewhere argued was impossible for children to exercise.⁸ It has long been a standard response of scholarship on tragedy that child figures inspire a sympathetic emotional response simply by being children, ⁴ On this first baby as a Euripidean invention see Hall (2010: 288); Torrance (2013: 58). ⁵ As Chang Gossard (2008: 237) notes, Klytaimestra’s language echoes that of Kassandra in Aiskh. Ag. with the emphasis on prophecy and unveiling. ⁶ Eur. IA 1153 6: καὶ τὼ Διός σε παῖδ᾽, ἐμὼ δὲ συγγόνω, / ἵπποισι μαρμαίροντ᾽ ἐπεστρατευσάτην· / πατὴρ δὲ πρέσβυς Τυνδάρεώς σ᾽ ἐρρύσατο / ἱκέτην γενόμενον, τἀμὰ δ᾽ ἔσχες αὖ λέχη. ‘And my brothers, the Dioskouri on their horses raged you down in battle. Only my father, the old Tyndareus, saved you when you’d become a suppliant. From there you took me as wife.’ ⁷ The importance of action and/or choice will be discussed in Chapter 3. ⁸ Aristotle on children’s lack of free will: EE 7.1240b33. See further examples and discussion in Golden 2015: 4.



but this line of interpretation is highly problematic. My approach is based on a fundamentally theatrical perspective. I will argue that the creation of pathos is inextricably linked to the dangerous potential of children which appears in two aspects. First, there is the threat, or threats, posed by the ‘child become adult’, an idea based on a loosely formulated idea of persisting diachronic identity, or ‘continuity of identity over time’.⁹ The individual child is in some sense the same individual as he or she will be in adult life.¹⁰ The baby Orestes in Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis is in some senses the same as the adult Orestes who will kill his mother, and the significance of the future adult role can be retrojected onto a present-time child role. While the problem of identity remains challenging for modern philosophy, the theory of ‘continuity of identity over time’ is often an underlying principle which tragedy explores through disguise, doubling, and divine manipulation.¹¹ Multiple future roles are evoked when a child figure appears on stage, an idea expressed as ‘possible identities’ in modern sociology.¹² This links to the second aspect of children’s dangerous potential—the multiple future roles which adults foresee for any given child. The multiplicity itself indicates the lack of human control over the unfolding of time, and the fragility of all human structures.¹³ Even when a child’s future in myth is flagged to the audience as ‘known’, for example, by the use of names (so, the child Asytanax ‘usually’ dies), there remains an element of ambiguity, and a possibility of competing narratives and visions of the future.¹⁴ In drama which uses the past to engage with present-time ideas, the temporal flux is a key concept and child figures play an important role in this dynamic.¹⁵ Greek tragedy’s presentation of children, I will suggest, exploits the inherent dangers in a theatrical medium, ultimately playing on anxieties about the ⁹ For the ongoing philosophical debates on identity, see Schwartz, Luyckx, and Vignoles 2011. ¹⁰ See Oyserman and James (2011) for modern perspectives on anxieties created by potentialities. ¹¹ See Bowin 2008 on Aristotle’s view of ‘continuity of identity over time’. On deceit and doubling, see on Eur. Ion Zacharia (2003: 160 5); on Eur. Helene Allan (2008: 149 n. on 19); Marshall (2014: 78). ¹² On ‘possible identities’ in modern sociology of childhood, see Kamien 2012: 142 3. ¹³ See Nussbaum (2001: 336 7) on Aristotle on the vulnerability of human character and childhood education. ¹⁴ For the dramatic tension surrounding the figure of Astyanax and the teasing of his possible future role, see Fantham 1986. ¹⁵ Cf. Kennedy (2013: xi): ‘The relationship between time and texts is a fiendishly complex one.’ His concluding remarks, however, suggest the importance of ‘potentiality’ in all our endeavours: (202): ‘[ . . . .] these moments of enlightenment that make us realise, if only temporarily, our human potential [ . . . ]’.


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human condition, without presenting a single response.¹⁶ In Aiskhylos we see some development of the thematic potential of children already present in Greek myth, and the dramatic roles were more fully explored in the works of Sophokles and Euripides. I will suggest further that the philosophical interest is central to the dramatic quality defined as ‘Euripidean’, i.e. the exploration of children’s potential is more important than any domestic or affective quality. Although I will be discussing traditional frames for viewing dramatic characterization, such as imagery or speech acts, these frames alone cannot adequately explain the roles children play in Greek tragedy. Some previous theoretical approaches, such as the use of Lacanian analysis, have provided good insights into tragedy, so there is precedent for nontraditional approaches employing aspects of non-linear thinking.¹⁷ Let us for a moment steal and mangle Plato’s imagery from the Republic. Just as the maker of tragedy is several steps removed from the truth,¹⁸ so the critic is a further step back, but may employ a mirror turned this way and that to form a better understanding, in our case, by returning to ideas and passages from different angles.¹⁹ Child figures have long resisted interpretation. Halliwell’s conclusion that ‘Character is not a subject which we can afford to explore from the starting point of a fixed definition or a set of terminology,’²⁰ is a reminder that sometimes using existing models, or indeed any models at all, can blinker our viewpoint, so that we fail to consider alternative perspectives. In attempting to explain how child figures have such powerful position on the tragic stage, we need to address questions of philosophical interest beyond those related to emotion. The intellectual atmosphere of fifth-century Athens provided avenues for consideration of temporal frames, not just in a linear chronological sense, but also in terms of potentiality and the existence of alternative futures (and pasts). In this discourse children were focal points for discussing identity, issues of heredity, and the social response to probable and possible future outcomes.²¹ The theatrical experience of tragedy confidently manipulated ideas of ¹⁶ Contra Rochelle (2012) who argues that children (broadly defined) indicate that human families can endure and prevail against divine forces. ¹⁷ See, for example, Whitmarsh (2013) on metalepsis in tragedy. Lacan’s theories on adoles cence continue to provoke fierce debate, see Farrelly Quinn 2017. ¹⁸ Plato, Republic 597e. ¹⁹ Plato, Republic 596d. On the interpretation of these arguments for the nature of Platonic mimesis, see Cain (2012) who argues that the character of Sokrates himself is using the metaphor itself in a metaphorical, and deceptive, manner here. ²⁰ Halliwell 1990: 33. ²¹ See further Lehoux (2014: 213) on the use of Aristotelian ‘potentiality’ in exploring inherited characteristics of children.



past/present/future time, as well as exploiting the inherent instability and challenges/opportunities presented by a dramatic medium.²² Against such a backdrop it might not be surprising that child figures had an important role in tragedy, although other factors complicate the picture. However, even if the fact that they had roles can be given a straightforward explanation, there remains a serious difficulty in accounting for the mechanisms through which they contributed to individual dramatic matrices. Child roles in tragedy are limited in terms of speech and action, yet no one would deny that the figure of Astyanax in Euripides’ Troades makes a powerful impression. The death cries of the anonymous children in Euripides’ Medeia rival the dramatic intensity of Agamemnon’s cries in Aiskhylos’ Agamemnon. It is difficult to pinpoint the source of this dramatic significance, but temporal awareness offers a good starting point. The lost potential of Astyanax, well discussed by Dyson and Lee, is fundamental to his dramatic roles, but I will argue that the issue of potential (lost and found) is central to all child roles, and reaches out far further into the future and the past.²³ Bassi and others have drawn attention to the roles of the ‘hypothetical past’, particularly in relation to physical objects.²⁴ In a related move, I will propose that the peculiar qualities of an embodied child character on stage make them an ideal locus for the negotiation of such hypothetical views, evoking a range of responses to what Dunn described as the ‘exciting and terrifying’ awareness of the uncertainties of human life.²⁵

1.1.2 Uncertainty Principles Classical scholarship has increasingly demonstrated the value of flexibility and imagination as tools for exploring the ancient world.²⁶ In using tools from cognitive science, Budelmann summarizes his approach thus: ‘One thing cognitive science offers us is the concepts for working [ . . . ] ²² On this temporal manipulation, see Mueller (2016: 147 8) on the idea of reading the future ‘back into the past’. ²³ Dyson and Lee 2000. ²⁴ Bassi 2014. On nostalgia as a Greek idea, see Zimmermann (2014) on late fifth century Athenian self image and Castiglioni (2012) on Euripides’ Elektra and the self conscious approach to myth/history. Cf. Murnaghan (2013) on the male tragic chorus in the political negotiation of past and present. ²⁵ Dunn 1996: 156. ²⁶ Cf. Lehoux (2007: 447) on the puzzle of reversed left and right in mirror images: ‘Perhaps the trick to the question lies in the way the answer hides itself in the space just between optics and perception, between physics and psychology, between image and imagination.’


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unexpressed instinctive beliefs into our scholarly discussions.’²⁷ In order to explore the roles of children in tragedy I have taken paths which may appear circuitous, but which ultimately prove highly fruitful. Uncertainty should not be seen as a negative, but more as an inescapable fact of life and scholarship, and the futility of quantifying metrics to assess scholarship should inspire creativity and humility. My own point of departure can be stated thus: Literary theory can provide some clues to the mechanisms employed in tragedy, so that the idea of an ‘empty sign’ or ‘floating signifier’ may explain some functions of child roles; the indeterminate status of children may paradoxically give them greater theatrical power in a medium which relies on illusion and transformation.²⁸ In order to move beyond traditional formulations we need to find analogies and respond to the current intellectual climate where language is profitably shared between humanities and scientific disciplines. Rather than speaking of any ‘real’ relationship between physics and Greek tragedy,²⁹ I attempt new paths through a field of scholarship on tragic children which has remained fixed for centuries. As the physicist Roger Penrose concludes in discussing fashion in physics: No matter how difficult it may be to shift a scientific viewpoint that has become generally established, it would seem that to do the same in the literary world [ . . . ] would be simply vast by comparison!³⁰

There have been problems that presented in science, when principles that worked to interpret most phenomena failed on the smallest level. So, too, models of characterization which work for adult figures in tragedy have failed to account for the roles of children in the same framework. In science, answers to explain the behaviour of the smallest elements eluded explanation with the frames of classical physics, only to find some explanation in the mysterious quantum mechanics. We can use this field as a source of interpretative metaphors, and I will suggest that child figures in tragedy are dramatically powerful because they exist in a sort of ‘quantum superposition ²⁷ Budelmann 2010: 118. ²⁸ The ‘empty sign’ or ‘floating signifier’ is a term used in different constructions of semiotic theory, see further Chandler 2017: 90 3. For a recent response to the semiotics of theatre, see Meerzon 2011. ²⁹ This book is not a work of deliberate misinformation such as the Sokal hoax of 1996 which mixed postmodernist ideas from science and humanities for a new approach to ‘quantum gravity’, see Sokal 2009. ³⁰ Penrose 2016: 395.



state’. The discourse of pathos, so often seen as crucial for child figures in tragedy, is only one element. We open up more avenues for discussion with the idea of ‘superposition’, related to the notorious Heisenberg uncertainty principle—the speed and position of a particle cannot both be known together on the quantum level.³¹ One development from this idea is that when we seek to speak of the present and future position of a ‘thing’, it is not possible to say with certainty that it is/will be at a certain point at a certain time. Instead, we can only give an account of the probabilities. Philosophically then, as well as scientifically, a ‘particle’ exists, or has the probability of existing in multiple locations at the same time. This gives rise to descriptions of particles in ‘superposition states’, famously illustrated by ‘Schrödinger’s Cat’ in the box where poison gas may be introduced. Newtonian physics says that whether or not we know the gas was or was not released, the cat is either dead or not. Quantum physics says that until we observe, the cat is neither dead nor alive but ‘dead/alive’. The picture becomes even more fuzzy when the double-slit experiment shows that light can be both a particle and a wave, and these implications spread out to an indefinite range of possibilities described by multiplying binary states.³² All these possibilities exist (in some sense) until the moment of observation when the ‘field of probability’ collapses, and the ‘superposition state’ of the ‘thing’ is no longer. I will be suggesting that this is a useful way of considering child figures (so long as we do not pursue the metaphor until it bleeds). Child figures lack concrete actions and speeches which give adult figures their significance, but rather can be viewed from multiple perspectives (as with Glaukon’s mirror) or conceived as existing in ‘superposition states’ where their ‘actual’ roles and ‘future’ roles all elude definition. This indefinite quality of children, combined with the inherent instability of theatre, produces plays where the audience is invited into ever deeper existential and

³¹ The Heisenberg uncertainty principle, as summarized by Eddington (quoted in Crease and Goldhaber (2014: 38): ‘A particle may have position or it may have velocity but it cannot in any exact sense have both.’ On the ‘pervasive and polymorphic’ use of the phrase ‘uncertainty principle’ in diverse cultural and philosophical contexts (including work on American Football), see Crease and Goldhaber (2014: chapter 8). ³² Attempts to explain these theories often find themselves hamstrung by language as well as mental gymnastics. When discussing philosophical perspectives Brüntrup (2014: 36) begins from this point: ‘When not measured, quantum objects are in a strange state that is yet to be fully understood. It is called “superposition”, and dynamics of these states can be calculated with the robust and well established “Schrödinger equation”, but understanding what it means to be in this state has proved elusive to such an extent that it might be due to a limitation of human understanding, i.e. a Kantian boundary of reason, as the behaviour of particles in this state seem to defy the laws of logic.’


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metaphysical labyrinths. This web of interactions is highlighted, the magician’s curtain is pulled back a little, when child figures appear on stage, and we approach the more scientific model which Cox and Forshaw describe: ‘[ . . . ] we are to imagine that the Universe is really a coherent superposition of all possible things that can happen and the world as we perceive it (with its apparently concrete reality) arises only because we are fooled into thinking that coherence is lost every time we measure something.’³³ Child figures in tragedy ask us to question the ‘apparently concrete reality’ both inside and outside the drama. This indefinite quality of children (which I will be referring to most frequently as ‘potential’) can destabilize individual and social patterns, such that child figures in tragedy provoke cognitive dissonance. This may then provoke fear extending beyond the confines of the immediate dramatic setting, where children can also be seen as dangerous because they are uncontrolled.³⁴ This fear can be linked to the construction of ghost figures in Greek tragedy, from the vivid appearance of Dareios in Aiskhylos’ Persai to the fictional baby used to lure Klytaimestra in Euripides’ Elektra.³⁵ The figure of a ghost allows further connections between ancient and modern approaches to tragic children.³⁶ The pathetic qualities of children should be balanced against the dangers they bring to mind as early as Aiskhylos’ Oresteia, where the chorus speaks of children as instruments or agents of vengeance in an active capacity. Although it is the ‘adult children’ who prove most effective, as we will discuss in Chapter 3, the potential for even dead ‘little children’ to be transformed into dangerous figures should give us pause. Rather than proposing a tabulated model of ‘child characterization’, my discussions will orbit around ideas of pathos and potential, including an attempt to explore ‘ghost-like’ characterization for child figures, before concluding in the final chapter with notes on how new perspectives may change our views of individual plays and the genre as a whole. One stumbling block faced by previous attempts to explain child figures is that statements in modern languages about pathos or pity frequently elide ³³ Cox and Forshaw 2011: 132. I am grateful to Professor Forshaw for comments on this section of the chapter. All and any mistakes of scientific expression, and the extension into metaphor, are mine alone. ³⁴ See Golden (2015: 6 7) on the dangers of ‘uncontrolled’ children in Athenian thought, and links with Dionysos and Silenos. ³⁵ See Bakola (2014) on the ghost of Dareios. ³⁶ Ghosts are ‘good to think with’ in modern conceptualizations of children’s cognitive development, see Richert and Harris 2006. Cf. Most (2010) on cross cultural perspectives of child/adult development.



the emotional affective power of child figures and their ability to inspire the cognitive processes involved in Aristotle’s famous formulation that tragedy should inspire ‘fear and pity’.³⁷ Would an ancient audience have felt that children were inherently pitiable, a comment on their perceived physical vulnerability, or is it because their suffering is ‘undeserved’, a comment on some form of moral innocence of children set in opposition to ideas of inherited family guilt?³⁸ Explicit references to pity in relation to children in tragedy do not provide clear guidance, as even the simplest expression of emotion forms part of more complex discourses of supplication, city pride, and family responsibility, not always covered by Aristotle’s formulations.³⁹ These interactions are at times complicated still further when linked to Athenian democratic ideology, and frequently involve debate over the correct response to children in a political setting.⁴⁰ So, in Euripides’ Herakleidai, the herald warns the Athenians not to help the children of Herakles because of feelings of ‘foolish pity’: οὐ γὰρ ϕρενήρη γ᾽ ὄντα σ᾽ ἐλπίζουσί που μόνον τοσαύτης ἣν ἐπῆλθον Ἑλλάδος τὰς τῶνδ᾽ ἀβούλως συμϕορὰς κατοικτιεῖν. Unless they think you’ve lost your mind, they can’t possibly expect that you alone will carelessly bestow your pity on their situation, when they’ve had no luck in the rest of Greece.⁴¹

The herald’s threats ignore the family’s position at an altar where they are invoking the protection due to suppliants rather than any protection which might be accorded to children qua children.⁴² As the debate continues, ³⁷ ‘Fear and Pity’, mentioned as fundamental elements of tragedy by Gorgias and Plato, are elucidated by Aristotle at Poetics 1449b24 27. The terms are then expanded in later parts of the discussion, notably in relation to complete action (1452a1 2), recognition and reversal (1452a37 38), and then in relation to moral character (1453a1 7). ³⁸ Discussions of inherited guilt in tragedy often include child figures, but do not distinguish between culpability at different ages, see Gagné 2013; Pedrick 2007. ³⁹ See Sternberg (2005: 42) for an assessment of the relevance of Aristotle’s formulations when considering pre fourth century material: ‘Aristotle’s view that pity accrued only to the deserving proves doubly problematic. Some fates, especially collective disaster like the plague, were so terrible that nobody deserved them. And in other contexts the would be pitier should judge, but pity itself could confound one’s judgment.’ ⁴⁰ For the discourse of pity in Athens in democratic and imperial ideology, see Falkner 2005; Johnson and Clapp 2005; Tzanetou 2005. Cf. Cairns (2016) and Konstan (2001; 2003) on ancient and modern categories of emotional and cognitive response. ⁴¹ Eur. Herakl. 150 2. ⁴² On obligations due to suppliants, see Tzanetou 2012. For the overlap between tragic and everyday suffering, see Sternberg 2005.


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it becomes clear that all parties are focused less on the children as they are, and more as they may become. The question of pity is secondary to questions of family responsibility and social alliances.⁴³ In arguing for a place of refuge in Athens, Iolaos does not rely on a plea of ‘pity these children’ to press his case, but rather talks of obligation and repayment of debts as a strategy to achieve asylum:⁴⁴ σοὶ δ᾽ ὡς ἀνάγκη τούσδε βούλομαι ϕράσαι σῴζειν, ἐπείπερ τῆσδε προστατεῖς χθονός. I want to tell you that it is absolutely imperative you save these children. This is on you, as leader of this land.⁴⁵ γένους μὲν ἥκεις ὧδε τοῖσδε, Δημοϕῶν ἃ δ᾽ ἐκτὸς ἤδη τοῦ προσήκοντός σε δεῖ τεῖσαι λέγω σοι παισί. [ . . . ] This is your family responsibility, Demophon, but aside from your shared heritage, I tell you that you must repay a debt to these children.⁴⁶ . . . Ἑλλὰς πᾶσα τοῦτο μαρτυρεῖ. ὧν ἀντιδοῦναί σ᾽ οἵδ᾽ ἀπαιτοῦσιν χάριν, All of Greece stands as witness to these events, and these children are now asking for their just recompense.⁴⁷

Throughout the play the vulnerability of the children is balanced against the threat their adult selves may pose. Social structures of reciprocity, from parent to child to aged parent, are frequently problematized in tragedy, and framing children as ‘future adults’ adds to this complexity.⁴⁸ The tension of reciprocal relationships in Euripides’ Herakleidai is embodied and then resolved when one of the nameless children emerges as a figure on the verge of adulthood, becoming ‘Makaria’ who offers herself as ⁴³ The ambiguities of pity or ‘quasi pity’ in this play are well discussed by Mills, who notes (2010: 174): ‘there is no easy reciprocation for pity.’ See Halliwell (2009: 180) on ‘quasi emotions’. ⁴⁴ Gray (2015: 338) notes that the interplay of age and gender here confuses the issues, but I would suggest that the gender confusion only becomes prominent later in the play. ⁴⁵ Eur. Herakl. 205 6. ⁴⁶ Eur. Herakl. 213 15. ⁴⁷ Eur. Herakl. 219 20. ⁴⁸ On the difficulties of reciprocity between ‘child care’ and ‘elderly care’ in tragedy, see Do Céu Fiahlo 2010.



a sacrificial victim.⁴⁹ Understanding the interplay between current weakness/ future strength is key to any explanation of how child figures as onstage characters are influential in any play, notably as part of the temporal palimpsests where past, present, and future can be embodied in one child figure.⁵⁰ Greek myth involves many children, with both divine and mortal childhood prominent in our earliest literary and visual instantiations, from the Homeric poems where we see the complex family interaction in response to the baby Asytanax in the Iliad:⁵¹ ὣς εἰπὼν οὗ παιδὸς ὀρέξατο ϕαίδιμος Ἕκτωρ ἂψ δ᾽ ὃ πάϊς πρὸς κόλπον ἐϋζώνοιο τιθήνης ἐκλίνθη ἰάχων πατρὸς ϕίλου ὄψιν ἀτυχθεὶς ταρβήσας χαλκόν τε ἰδὲ λόϕον ἱππιοχαίτην, δεινὸν ἀπ᾽ ἀκροτάτης κόρυθος νεύοντα νοήσας ἐκ δ᾽ ἐγέλασσε πατήρ τε ϕίλος καὶ πότνια μήτηρ αὐτίκ᾽ ἀπὸ κρατὸς κόρυθ᾽ εἵλετο ϕαίδιμος Ἕκτωρ, καὶ τὴν μὲν κατέθηκεν ἐπὶ χθονὶ παμϕανόωσαν αὐτὰρ ὅ γ᾽ ὃν ϕίλον υἱὸν ἐπεὶ κύσε πῆλέ τε χερσὶν εἶπε δ᾽ ἐπευξάμενος Διί τ᾽ ἄλλοισίν τε θεοῖσι: As he spoke, glorious Hektor reached for his child, but the child pulled back into the comforting arms of his nurse, scared by his own father’s appearance, terrified by the glaring bronze and horsehair plume that reared up from his helmet like a monster. His dear father and royal mother laughed, and noble Hektor immediately took the helmet from his head, placing it to one side on the ground. Then he kissed his dear son, and held him close, praying to Zeus and all the other gods.⁵² ⁴⁹ See Roselli 2007. ⁵⁰ On the interplay between different temporal fields in tragedy, see Revermann (2008) on Aiskh. Erinyes. On tragic temporality generally, see Chiasson 1999; Donelan 2014; Easterling 2008; 2014; Gasti 2003; Lamari 2007. ⁵¹ On this scene, and the parallels created in tragedy, see Farmer (1998) with Davidson (2006; 2014) on linguistic issues. It is notable that shortly before this scene Sarpedon spoke to Hektor of his wish to die at Troy, since he could not return to his wife and baby (5.686 8): . . . ἐπεὶ οὐκ ἄρ᾽ ἔμελλον ἔγωγε / νοστήσας οἶκον δὲ ϕίλην ἐς πατρίδα γαῖαν / εὐϕρανέειν ἄλοχόν τε ϕίλην καὶ νήπιον υἱόν. ‘Since now I will not be going home to my native land, bringing joy to my dear wife and newborn son.’ On children in the Homeric epics, see Briand 2011; Ingalls 1998; Le Meur Weissman 2008; Pratt 2007. ⁵² Homer, Iliad 6.466 75. See Tsagalis 2012: 104; 131.


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Given the roles of children in Greek myth one might expect the tragic playwrights to use them in their exploration of family dynamics.⁵³ It has been suggested that children in tragedy are products of epic narrative techniques whereby an external set of descriptions is placed on the child.⁵⁴ While this view can provide insight into some details of plays, I contend that the decision to use children as onstage characters is not an obvious one, and most scholars would see the use of onstage children as a dramatic innovation rather than a simple transfer of material within the mythological tradition.⁵⁵ Certainly the antics of Telephos in holding the baby Orestes hostage in Euripides’ Telephos seem to have caught the attention of Aristophanes, such that he was still parodying the scene many years later.⁵⁶ Despite the inherent theatricality of epic narrative, the presentation of dramatized story presented challenges for a playwright working towards a unique performance.⁵⁷ Tragedy could not easily accommodate figures such as an onstage baby Herakles strangling the snakes (which Pindar vividly described in Nemean 1. 39–47), and the stylized, circumscribed space of the theatre demanded a degree of physical poise and self-control not widely attributed to children.⁵⁸ Despite these apparent pitfalls, tragic expansions and innovation gave children a new prominence, such as Sophokles’ focus on the young Eurysakes in Aias or the decision to make Medeia kill her own children, first staged (or at least popularized) by Neophron or Euripides.⁵⁹

⁵³ For children in Greek myth, see Patterson (2010) on kinship myth, Huys (1995) on the motif of the abandoned baby and the collection of articles by Auger (1995), particularly Menu (1995) on Eur. Andromakhe. For the role of child figures in cult, see Pache 2004. Stories of children involving issues of immortality and cauldrons occur in many world mythologies, with several motifs being used in tragedy, see Griffiths 2002; Halm Tisserant 1993; Mathieu 1986. ⁵⁴ Menu 1992. Cf. Alaux 2011 on the process of transforming myth into drama. ⁵⁵ See Heath 1987. ⁵⁶ See further Hall (2002: 188 9) who notes that Aristophanes’ attention to the stories of Telephos and Alkestis may be understood as comment on the novelty of onstage children. For related dynamics involving fatherhood, see Télo 2010 on Aristophanes’ parody of Euripides’ Aiolos and Bellerophon. ⁵⁷ Hall (2006: 89 90) notes that tragedy may have inherited an interest in childbirth stories from satyr play: ‘Babies, moreover, are inherently part of the Dionysiac sphere.’ I would contend, however, that the shift from childbirth narratives to onstage children is not straight forward, and that the link between Dionysos and children is equally complex, as will be discussed in Chapter 4. ⁵⁸ Plato emphasizes the need for physical training in his utopian state (Republic 7. 537). On ideals of self control signalled by gesture in visual contexts see McNiven 2007. ⁵⁹ Although ancient sources assumed Neophron was the first to introduce this motif (see Nervegna 2013: 89 91). Other possibilities include the idea that Euripides’ wrote two ‘Medeia plays’, including a scene where the children were killed on stage, see Colomo (2011); Luppe (2010; 2012); Mehl (2011). Cf. Mossman (2011).



In many ways attempting to study children in tragedy is like studying people in tragedy, an open-ended chain of contexts and interactions. I will suggest that child figures do engage with many of the familiar elements of tragedy, such as the use of imagery and the construction of family history, but these aspects alone cannot adequately explain how onstage children work within their dramatic matrices. Given the limitations on their roles in comparison to adult roles, we should not expect to explain their range of significance as scaled-down adult characters or as representations of a reallife child in fifth-century Athens. Instead, child figures have a particular position at the intersection between myth/history/dramatic tradition allowing them to fulfil dramatic functions unavailable to adult characters on the Greek stage. It is this peculiar position that gives child figures their particular power, but has simultaneously frustrated attempts to explain the dynamics involved. Analyses of child figures in other dramatic traditions have revealed the wide range of possibilities open to consider when we move beyond simple categories of interpretation.⁶⁰ My analysis will draw upon modern formulations, but stay firmly within ancient contexts. Developments in recent scholarship have enhanced our understanding of the complex sociohistorical worlds of Greek childhood, allowing a greater appreciation of children as creators as well as recipients of cultural discourse, involving both ‘real’ and ‘imaginary’ childhoods.⁶¹ Although Aristotle did not mention children qua children in the Poetics, subsuming them in the general category of philia relationships, in his other works he shows a keen interest in the social and moral development of children.⁶² His remarks in other works about potential, action, pathos, and persuasion may unlock some of the mysteries of child figures in ways the formulations of the Poetics cannot.⁶³ Similar use of Aristotle’s other works has proved fruitful in exploring many other aspects of tragedy, so the approach is not without precedent.⁶⁴ In the ⁶⁰ On nineteenth century contexts, see Klein 2012; Mullenneux 2012; Varty 2007. On cinema, see Klein 2010; Lury 2010. Thompson (1999) is of particular interest in discussing the challenges posed by dead children in cinema, and cf. Kelleher (1998) on fear in cinematic childhood. ⁶¹ Funerary contexts have been particularly well served by the series of volumes discussing children and death, L’Enfant et le Mort I III (Guimier Sorbets and Morizot 2010 ). On the materiality of childhood, see Cohen and Rutter 2007; Dasen 2004; Evans Grubbs, Parkin, and Bell 2013; Neils and Oakley 2003. For the general contexts of tragedy and childhood in classical Athens, see Beaumont 2012; Golden 2015. ⁶² For Aristotle’s views about children, see McGowan Tress 1997. On Plato’s ideas about education, drama, and children, see Carter 2011; Laurent 2000; Neufeld 2003. ⁶³ Cf. Kraus (2011) on pathos and persuasion. ⁶⁴ See, for example, Sandridge (2008) on Aristotle’s Ars Rhetorica in relation to Sophoklean drama.


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closer original context of the fifth century and early fourth century, Plato’s manipulation of ideas about childhood were part of a lively discourse about education and moral development,⁶⁵ so the lines of analysis I propose are not anachronistic even when the lexis is clearly of the twenty-first century. My discussion of potential in Chapter 3 will suggest that the idea of ‘superposition’ coined by quantum physics provides a useful complement to Aristotle’s ideas on action and potential as a way to explain the function of children in tragedy.

1.2 Definitions The roles of children intersect with most, if not all, of the major themes of tragedy discerned by ancient and modern scholars, and this book will explore several points of interaction. This is not, however, a book about ‘people in tragedy’, so the scope of the enquiry must be circumscribed. The central subjects of this book are the young children of tragedy, a subset of the dramatic personae defined by age category. It is possible to define this subset with some degree of precision based on patterns of action, speech, and imagery, but in a wider context of Greek culture we may begin with a broad category of ‘small children’. Although the phrase ‘little children’ is more common in English, I will tend to avoid the word ‘little’ because of its tone as diminutive in certain modern sentimental views of children.⁶⁶ These juveniles are represented, by both the playwright and the onstage characters, as being clearly below the level of maturity necessary for the assumption of adult roles, such as marriage or military action.⁶⁷ In extant tragedy we find the following figures (names are only here given when a child is explicitly named in the text): from Sophokles, we have Eurysakes, son of Aias and Tekmessa, in Aias and the daughters of Oidipous and Iokasta in Oidipous Tyrannos; from Euripides we have named

⁶⁵ On Plato’s figurations of childhood, see McPherran 2005. ⁶⁶ For the use of ‘little’ in English translations of drama, see Wechsler 1998: 128. E.g Wohl (2015: 10 on Eur. Alkestis): ‘Her little children wail over their dead mother and beg her to come back to them [ . . . ] another dramatic amping up of pathos, as children, too, are very rare on the Greek stage.’ ⁶⁷ On the idea of childhood as ‘not quite there’, see Tiresias’ comments on the children ‘not able to fly far’ in Soph. OT, discussed below in Chapter 2. Cf. Noussia Fantuzzi (2010: 378). As with many of the linguistic issues raised in tragedy, newly discovered fragments may supplement our knowledge of the Greek usage; see, for example, Kovacs (2016: 5) on whether to read μικρον (small) or πικρον (bitter) as the adjective which may refer to the body of a child in Eur. Ino.



characters of Astyanax, son of Hektor and Andromakhe, in Troades and Orestes, son of Agamemnon and Klytaimestra, in Iphigeneia in Aulis. Euripides also presents the son of Andromakhe and Neoptolemos who is threatened by the jealous wife Hermione in Andromakhe, the two sons of Medeia and Iason in Medeia, the sons of Megara and Herakles in Herakles, and the sons of Polymestor killed in revenge for Polydoros’ death in Hekabe. To this list we may add the choral presence of children in Euripides’ Herakleidai and possibly the chorus of sons in Hiketides. The list would not be complete without the son and daughter of Alkestis and Admetos in Euripides’ Alkestis, but there are immediate problems of classification. The play belongs to the difficult category of ‘prosatyric drama’ or ‘tragic-comedy’ as it filled the slot of fourth play normally used for a satyr play, turning tragic seriousness on its head.⁶⁸ Throughout the discussions in this book I will attempt to give due consideration to both comic and tragic elements in Alkestis. Although it would be helpful for my analysis if I were convinced of the tragic nature of the play, I incline more to the view that there is a considerable comic element, and that the role of the son may be part of this comic flavour. My reasons for seeing the play as essentially comic will become clear as part of the discussion, but I note here that the status as a fourth play makes analysis as simple tragedy highly problematic, and that there is a strong association between children and humour in Greek culture which may inform the role of the son in Alkestis.⁶⁹ There are several juveniles in Greek comic drama and I will be noting some of these examples, mainly in exploring the socio-historical context, but the roles of children in comedy require a monograph of their own. For the purposes of this book the separation of the two genres is based partly on the way spatial conventions of tragedy and comedy gave child figures fundamentally different roles in the two modes of dramatic performances, although there will inevitably have been some shared points of cultural significance. My emphasis is on children within a discrete dramatic matrix of a single play (or trilogy), so only passing reference will be made to figures in lost or ⁶⁸ There is no consensus about the nature of the play, although twenty first century schol arship tends more to treat Alkestis as a serious and/or tragic drama; see Wohl (2015) on the potential political aspects to the drama. Particular issues will be explored in more detail in following chapters. See further Sicking (1998), with Marshall (2000) on the political context of Athenian law. Cf. Markantonatos (2013) on ritual considerations. ⁶⁹ On children and comedy in Greek contexts, see Bertolín Cebrián 2008. Cf. Csapo (2010: 23 5) with Rusten (2014) on the peculiar image of children playing with masks on an Athenian chous, the vessel associated with children’s roles at the Anthesteria festival, on which see Ham 1999; Hamilton 1992; van Hoorn 1951.


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fragmentary plays where we lack full contexts, including the figures of Itys in Sophokles’ Tereus and Orestes in Euripides’ Telephos, or the babies with multiple real and imagined identities in Euripides’ Auge and Hypsipyle.⁷⁰ Plays where children are not portrayed on stage, but have a key role in thematic development, will be noted when relevant, but I will generally avoid speculation about less well-attested plays such as Euripides’ Aigeus, which may have featured the offspring of Medeia and Aigeus, or Euripides’ Ino which may have featured her biological children as well as her stepchildren.⁷¹ This list of ‘small children’ does not include figures who may be viewed as adolescent or achieve a transition into adulthood. A more rigorous set of criteria for defining child characterization would need to be established before we could consider how the playwright could create a character who would be understood as occupying a liminal space between childhood and adulthood. My discussion will at times move in this direction, and suggest how we may articulate more precisely the general impression these characters may present, as Lamari comments on the figure of Menoikeus in Euripides’ Phoinissai: ‘He is presented more as a child than as a man.’⁷² These characters, such as Iphigeneia in Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis, Polyxene in Euripides’ Hekabe, or Neoptolemos in Sophokles’ Philoktetes are all open for reinterpretation in light of their childlike qualities. In the final chapters I make some suggestions for approaching these characters in terms of age and gender development, but full investigation falls outside the scope of the present study.

1.2.1 Terminology In English the word ‘child’ can denote both the member of an age group and a position within a relational process, where the term implies ‘offspring of X’, ⁷⁰ On Soph. Tereus, see fragments and reconstruction in Sommerstein, Fitzpatrick, and Tallboy (2007) with Finglass (2016a) on the new P.Oxy. 82.5292. See also Coo (2013a) on the sibling dynamic and Librán Moreno (2015) on the relationship between Tereus and the house. On Eur. Telephos, see fragments and reconstruction in Collard, Cropp, and Lee (1995) with Jouan (1986) and Tzanetou (2002) on the fertility issues involved in the myth. On Eur. Auge, see Musso (2005) on new suggestions for the staging involving the birth in the temple, and Hall (2006: 69 70) on the Aristophanic parody. On Eur. Hypsipyle, see Battezzato 2005. ⁷¹ Ambrose (2000) explores the possibility that Medeia had a child in Eur. Aigeus, drawing upon the link between marriage and childbirth. On the relevance of the myth here in Medeia, see Newton 1985. On the latest reconstructions of Eur. Ino. see Finglass (2014; 2016b) and Kovacs (2016). On the reconstruction of the Sophoklean or Euripidean Aigeus plays, see Hahnemann (2013) and Mills (2013). ⁷² Lamari 2007: 20.



without any necessary age marker, except that relative to the parent. Thus, the phrase ‘adult children’ is both paradoxical and entirely comprehensible. There is a similar overlap of semantic fields in classical Greek where the common word for child in tragedy τέκνον teknon, lit. ‘that which is given birth’, can refer both to a figure defined by age and to an adult defined by a relationship with a parent.⁷³ The semantic field evoked by the word τέκνον provides an important space within tragedy for the articulation of personal status and the continuity of identity over time. Some plays make explicit use of this vocabulary, often framed as an alliterative contrast between τίκτω tikto ‘I give birth to’ and κτείνω kteino ‘I kill’: when Iphigeneia expresses horror that her father is planning her death, she begins by asking for the mercy due to suppliants (the same mercy which Agamemnon received after killing Klytaimestra’s first family), then proceeds to draw a pointed contrast between Agamemnon’s roles as giver/taker of life: ἱκετηρίαν δὲ γόνασιν ἐξάπτω σέθεν τὸ σῶμα τοὐμόν, ὅπερ ἔτικτεν ἥδε σοι As a suppliant to your knees I join my body, the child your wife delivered to you.⁷⁴ σὺ δ᾽ ἐπιλέλησαι, καί μ᾽ ἀποκτεῖναι θέλεις. You have forgotten, and you want to destroy me.⁷⁵

Similar linguistic patterns appear in many contexts involving children, not only when the child faces imminent danger as a victim, but when the child is imagined as a future adult agent, raising the spectre of future parricide and matricide. Conflict between philoi, which Aristotle placed at the heart of his analysis of tragedy, often involves children who cannot take action in the dramatic present, but may be dangerous in the future. This dynamic can also be employed around unseen, dead, or never-existing children, such as the imaginary baby used to lure Klytaimestra in Euripides’ Elektra. When Elektra pretends to have given birth, and Klytaimestra comes to assume ⁷³ This overlap of semantic field was noted in early discussions, such as Fantham (1986), but has been overlooked by many critics discussing children in tragedy. Cf. Stanton (1988) who notes that the use of this vocabulary in koine inscriptions indicates a continued understanding of the emotional tone of the words, even when detached from an immediate parent child context. Cf. Griffith (2010) on τρέϕειν ‘to nourish’ in relation to children as well as in relation to liquids. On the ironic use of τέκνον in Soph. OT, see Nooter (2012: 84 n. 80) citing Dickey (1996: 68 9) on the use of the word for non kinship relationships. ⁷⁴ Eur. IA 1216 17. ⁷⁵ Eur. IA 1232.


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her new role as grandmother, conversation blurs the lines between birth, death, and family reciprocity and hinges on the interpretation of key vocabulary, including τέκνον as ‘child’, ‘offspring’, or ‘consequence’.⁷⁶ A similar complexity of terminology confronts us when we consider other words such as παῖς pais which may translate into English as ‘child’ or ‘slave’ denoting different positions in relation to social hierarchy, with possible linguistic connections to verbs of beating (παίω) or play (παίζω).⁷⁷ Although Pratt (2013) provides some interesting analysis of children in contexts of play, her comments about the linguistic relationship between παῖς and the verb ‘to play’ require additional thought, for the verb is most likely a derivation of the noun, i.e. ‘to behave like a pais’. The argument is thus undermined by circularity, and relies heavily on the image of Nausikaa’s ball playing in Homer’s Odyssey. Nausikaa is right on the edge of what we might call juvenile behaviour, as the princess is repeatedly described as on the cusp of marriage, and thus adulthood, so Pratt’s description of ‘the characteristic activity of teenaged children’ requires qualification. Construction of ‘play’ as a social category is also not straightforward, involving more than the happy, carefree behaviour Pratt describes.⁷⁸ In some literary contexts, the word παῖς may have some sexual connotations, but this is not the case for child figures in tragedy. Some analyses of Greek myth propose that sexual narratives involved child figures younger than those generally categorized as ‘adolescent’,⁷⁹ but tragedy does not present small children as sexualized figures—this discourse is reserved for young adult characters who are on the verge of assuming a sexual identity.⁸⁰ Children in tragedy are gendered to some degree, if only by the reactions of those around them, but we are not dealing with issues of paedophilia, although some psycho-analytical analyses of tragedy would move in this direction. Other vocabulary may qualify terms such as παῖς and τέκνον, but do not necessarily clarify the situation. The word νήπιος nepios is often translated as ‘infant’, literally ‘without speech’, but Andromakhe speaks of ⁷⁶ See Hall 2006: 80. ⁷⁷ See Golden (1985) with Wolff (2015: 7 12) on the derivation of παῖς. Ellis (2011) considers wider issues about ‘play’ and philosophy. Cf. Dickey 2004; Rutherford 2012: 105; Wrenhaven 2012: 19 21. ⁷⁸ Cf. Romero Mariscal (2011) on board games, and Levaniouk (2007) on toys and ritual symbolism. ⁷⁹ On Eur. Khrysippos, see Collard and Cropp (2008: 459 63); Hubbard 2006; Lear 2014. ⁸⁰ Regardless of debates about the age and sexual status of young men in homosexual relationships, young children are not typically sexualized in myth, see Pache (2004: 45 51) on the non sexual interpretation of eros inspired by the young Pelops. On comparative models developing out of the ancient world, see Kunz Lübcke (2007: 215 20).



the child she bore to Neoptolemos in Euripides’ play as παῖδα τόνδε νήπιον ‘my infant child’, although the child will sing later in the play.⁸¹ From Homer on, νήπιος can also be used to mean lacking sense or ‘without forethought’, i.e. ‘foolish’, or simply ‘youngster’, linked to the idea of νέος neos ‘new’, and the overlapping issues of intellect and responsibility in the Iliad and Odyssey are often centred around this word.⁸² The word βρέϕος brephos ‘baby’ connotes an even earlier perinatal stage, encompassing the unborn Dionysos saved from Semele’s womb (Euripides’ Bakκhai 289) as well as the newborn first child of Klytaimestra killed by Agamemnon (Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis 1151).⁸³ All of these words can also be used in a transferred sense as diminutives to imply affection, closeness, or concern, or to subvert expected affection, as in Kassandra’s injunction to ‘murder the baby Alexandros’ who is described as a βρέϕος by the chorus in Euripides’ Andromakhe.⁸⁴ In later chapters we will discuss the tone of such terminology and its place in tragic vocabulary, but there are no clear linguistic distinctions to establish different categories of children in drama.

1.2.2 Age Categories Considering the word ‘child’ as denoting an age category raises a further problem of definition, for ‘child’ often gains meaning by comparison to ‘adult’, but these are not necessarily constructed in terms of binary opposition. The context of Greek culture indicates that ‘child’ and ‘adult’ are points on a continuum of human life, and there are a number of surviving Greek attempts to schematize human life into different stages, such as Solon’s outline of the Ten Ages of Man.⁸⁵ Within such models other age

⁸¹ Eur. Andr. 755. See Briand 2011. ⁸² See Edmunds 1990; Ingalls 1998. On the vocabulary outside epic, see Noussia Fantuzzi (2010: 378) on Solon. The context for broader use has become even wider by the time of Theophrastus who applies the word to vegetables (H. P. 1.8.7). ⁸³ The infant Perseus is called both a τέκος (6) and βρέϕος (19) in Simonides’ Danaë fragment 543 PMG (F 271 Poltera), on which see Budelmann (2018: 21 6); Fearn (2017: 229 31); Finglass (2018a: 429). There are no surviving plays involving the infant Perseus, and although the generic interplay in tragedy may allow for linguistic comparison, as Swift (2010) notes, the language of Simonides may be allied more closely to that of Aiskhylos, and thus seen as ‘old fashioned’. ⁸⁴ Eur. Andr. 300. On diminutives for Greek children, see Golden 1995. ⁸⁵ On Solon’s ‘Ten Ages of Man’ (West 27 Philo, On the Creation of the World 104), see Falkner (1995) and Noossia Fantouzi (2010: 370 88 (23 West 27)). On age divisions in different Greek schemata, see Golden (2015: 12 15).


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markers, such as years, could be observed, as evidenced by the choes joke in Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae (746–7) where the wineskin jokingly treated as a child is ‘only three or four years old’. Hansen discusses a number of such chronological frameworks,⁸⁶ applying medical distinctions to the children of Homeric epic, but for children in tragedy it may be that the ability to speak is the most significant age marker, an ability directly showcased only in Euripides. These general schemata, however, did not necessarily reflect the lived experience in Athenian culture, where the boundaries between childhood and adulthood were variously positioned.⁸⁷ An individual in fifth-century Athens or contemporary tragedy could be defined both as adult and as child if multiple perspectives were employed at the same time.⁸⁸ Religious, social, and legal acknowledgements of adulthood were conferred on boys in stages, so there was a period of transition in which individuals could be defined as both child and adult, or neither child nor adult. An individual could be an adult in terms of biological development, i.e. having reached puberty, but still counted as a child because social status had not been granted in terms of religious or legal formalities. Physical status was also open to interpretation: Papalas has argued that officials in athletic competitions allocated boys and youths to classes based not on age but on their physical size, and Frisch has suggested that the agones were open to boys once they had grown their second set of teeth.⁸⁹ Even once they were deemed fit to fight and to assume a role as kurios, a further boundary for men remained before they could participate in the boule at the age of thirty.⁹⁰ Intellectual and moral maturity was not directly linked to the completion of chronologically defined stages, and could be challenged as individuals negotiated structures of political power.⁹¹ For women social and religious structures could similarly overlap, and, as King and others have demonstrated, physical maturity and the social status

⁸⁶ Hansen 2004. ⁸⁷ There were clear differences in practice between different visual media, such that pottery appears to have noted age distinctions more explicitly than did sculpture, a possible reflection on the different socio political contexts for assessing age, see further Osborne (2011: 109 17). ⁸⁸ On ancient adolescence, see Beaumont 2000; Kleijwegt 1991. On the related problems of initiation and liminality, see Graf 2003. ⁸⁹ Frisch 1988; Papalas 1991; Petermandl 2012. ⁹⁰ On the age restriction for participation in the boule, see Rhodes (1972), and on the implications for generational politics, see Strauss 1993. ⁹¹ See Nikias’ comments on Alkibiades’ youth in the Sicilian Debate, Thouk. 6.9 12, in particular 6.12.2. Cf. Koulakiotis (2000) on Demosthenes’ characterization of Alexander as a child.



of a woman did not always coincide.⁹² As we might expect, there was no simple mapping of contemporary child/adult categories onto the figures of Greek myth, but there was a strong awareness of the dangers involved in transitions between socially prescribed age categories. In tragedy the complexities of social status within Athens are relevant to an individual’s age categorization, but I will argue that the single most important component derives directly from dramatic technique. In terms of the construction of a dramatic figure I will demonstrate that there are a number of elements which distinguish children from adults, such that when we consider liminal, adolescent figures it may be possible to mark their position on the child/ adult continuum with some precision. The picture which will emerge cannot be described as a simple stereotype of children, but rather a complex set of ideas about personhood and identity reflecting philosophical formulations in response to the conventions of the tragic stage. A useful touchstone is Luschnig’s definition of the individual in tragedy: ‘The tragic person is seen creating his or her own role and living it to the end. The tragic person is selfconscious in making a stand against time or against reality.’⁹³ I will suggest that this, ultimately, may be a useful formulation of what it is to be a tragic adult against which we can explore constructions of the ‘tragic child’. The language of children is present-focused, they are in a ‘superposition state’, rather than acting, and that ‘field of probabilities’ only collapses when they take a position, become an observer, and thus move from ‘dramatic childhood’ into ‘dramatic adulthood’.

1.3 The Scholarly Tradition The study of ancient childhood has benefited from a surge of interest in recent decades, with new lines of enquiry opened into material culture, visual representation, and subcultures surrounding death, including infant mortality.⁹⁴ Classical Athens has been particularly well served by a number of in-depth synoptic analyses, as well as more narrowly defined research into topics such as the ritual roles of children.⁹⁵ In the excellent introduction to her 2012 volume on childhood in Athens, Beaumont provided a detailed ⁹² King 1983; Sissa 2013. Cf. Gaca (2014) on the construction of age and gender through acts of rape in warfare. ⁹³ Luschnig 1988: 126. ⁹⁴ See Guimier Sorbets and Morizot 2010. ⁹⁵ On child roles in religion, and the problematic status of ‘child gods’, see Seifert 2011; Stark 2012.


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analysis of the development of scholarship on children, but rightly put the evidence from dramatic texts into a different category.⁹⁶ My remarks in this chapter should be read not as a challenge to Beaumont’s account but rather a complementary analysis, examining specifically why children in tragedy have been discussed in particular contexts. Beaumont’s work concludes with a positive assessment of the scholarly climate, but as we will note below, there is reason to think that work on literary childhood is lagging behind work on visual representations and social structures. The complex socio-historical contexts of Greek childhood are now understood in greater depth than was the case in the early twentieth century when Devrient studied children in Greek drama, or even in the mid twentieth century when Kassel analysed the roles of children across Greek literature.⁹⁷ The fact that both of these works have been under-appreciated and their insights largely ignored is due, at least in part, to ideological factors which underplayed the value of work on children. Classical scholarship is not free of the bias articulated by Kitzinger in relation to the study of modern child abuse: Working with children is a relatively low status activity and researchers who listen to children and take them seriously as ‘objects’ of study in their own right have sometimes found their work ridiculed and ‘rubbished’ by association with their ‘childish’ subjects’ (original italics).⁹⁸

The predominant view that children were associated with pathos created a further distancing of scholarly interest, as emotion in both the humanities and sciences was viewed as a less legitimate field of study.⁹⁹ Scholarship on tragic children was largely confined to brief articles on certain aspects or certain characters.¹⁰⁰ The figure of Astyanax attracted most attention, but relevant remarks were also made as part of wider discussions such as the issue of identity in Euripides’ Ion or the construction of philia relationships of parent/child where a figure was both a child in the relational sense as well as the age category.¹⁰¹ Even into the twenty-first century, the standard point ⁹⁶ Beaumont 2012: 13. ⁹⁷ Devrient 1904; Kassel 1954 (1991: 154 73). ⁹⁸ Kitzinger 2015:152. Cf. Ambert (1986: 16) on the study of childhood in American sociology: ‘One does not become a household name [ . . . ] by studying children.’ ⁹⁹ For the general attitude to the study of emotion and its application to tragedy, see Cairns 2011a; Caston and Kaster 2016; Konstan 2002. ¹⁰⁰ Deforge 1995; Lowicka 1984; Menu 1992; Sifakis 1979a; Wesolowska 1989. ¹⁰¹ On philia, see Belfiore 2000, although Schein (1988) remains an important discussion for the depth of its insights. Fantham (1986) discusses the figure of Asytanax in different literary



of reference was the 1954 commentary by Dale on Euripides’ Alkestis. In the course of this commentary Dale made a number of assertions about children in tragedy in comparison with ‘real’ children, and these have been widely cited as authoritative, following Dale’s line that there is something ‘unrealistic’ about these figures.¹⁰² Despite the increase in attention paid to ancient childhood witnessed in the early twenty-first century, work on tragedy remains confined to short articles and side discussions. The psychological dimension has often been noted, particularly in connection with the Dionysiac aspects of tragedy.¹⁰³ Zeitlin has suggested that the childhood of Dionysos was a particular focus of religious interest, which contributed to the role of children in tragedy,¹⁰⁴ although the Dionysiac nature of tragedy by the end of the fifth century has been questioned, because the genre can be viewed as developing into a selfconsciously literary art form.¹⁰⁵ Stories of the infant Dionysos were not prominent until Roman times, and Dionysos for Greek audiences did not have a clear childhood biography.¹⁰⁶ Historical factors have also been considered such as the Athenian losses due to warfare and plague. An increased emotional attachment to children, as well as a more pragmatic, political interest in civic fertility, has been suggested as a contributory factor to the roles of children in tragedy,¹⁰⁷ along with links to other plague-related developments, such as the increased interest in games.¹⁰⁸

contexts. Cf. Dyson and Lee (2000) on Troades; Batezzato (2018 passim) and Tarkow (1984) on Hekabe. ¹⁰² Dale’s edition was published originally in 1954, then with minor alterations reprinted in 1961. Unless otherwise stated, this volume refers to the 1961 edition, except when quoting secondary material which may refer to Dale as (1954), (1961), or (1978) without any change of content. Examples of quotation of Dale as authority on child figures: Allan (2000a: 65); Wohl (1999: 242 n. 10, 11). ¹⁰³ Psychological interpretations have been on a general scale (e.g. Simon 1988) to a more specific approach to particular plays, see Bowlby 2007; Pedrick 2007. ¹⁰⁴ Zeitlin 2008. Hall (2006) suggested that an interest in childbirth narratives was linked to Dionysiac worship, particularly in the interests of satyr play. Cf. Provenzale 1999. ¹⁰⁵ See Scullion (2002) on whether the tragedies were seen as Dionysiac in any way beyond their festival setting. ¹⁰⁶ Bowerstock (2011: 3): ‘No significant episode appears to have marked the life of the infant Dionysos, nothing remotely comparable to the well documented and well illustrated story of the baby Herakles strangling a snake.’ See further Beaumont (1998) on the paradoxes divine childhood posed for Greek social thought, and Osborne (2011: 189 94) on ‘godsbodies’. ¹⁰⁷ See Hillard 2006. Cf. Oakley 2009 on the social implications of the plague. ¹⁰⁸ On the possible reconstruction of Krates’ comic play Paidiai (Children’s Games) in the late fifth century, see Smith 2011: 66.


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Child figures have been seen as a locus for negotiating conflicts, particularly between women, as for example between Andromakhe and Hermione in Euripides’ Andromakhe.¹⁰⁹ They have been viewed in the context of tragic explorations of responsibilities to oikos and polis, allowing the playwright a convenient onstage focus for questions of legitimacy or religious supplication.¹¹⁰ Reciprocal obligations have been noted as key elements in family dynamics involving children, for example between Herakles and his father/children in Euripides’ Herakles, or between Admetos and his father/ children in Euripides’ Alkestis.¹¹¹ In many of these cases we see that role of ‘child’ as ‘offspring’ as opposed to ‘young human’, and while broad social dynamics may well involve young and adult children, the particular contribution of small children is seldom clearly articulated. Attention to children is often viewed as key feature of Euripidean drama,¹¹² linked to his interest in domestic situations, but the surviving plays of Sophokles use onstage, although not speaking, child figures in similar ways, and the extant plays of Aiskhylos, although involving no onstage child figures, still employ similar frames of reference for imagery and thematic significance. Differences between the practices of playwrights will be considered in the final chapters of this book.

1.3.1 Pathetic Stereotypes Despite the many articles which have highlighted key aspects of the role of children, many fundamental issues are yet to be addressed. Underlying most analyses is the idea that children bring a quality of emotion to the drama which is then employed towards particular thematic and intellectual ends.¹¹³ This emotional affective power, often described as ‘pathos’, requires considerable elucidation to explore how and why children would provoke particular responses. The oft-quoted parallel with Athenian law

¹⁰⁹ Zeitlin 2008. ¹¹⁰ Tzanetzou (2012: 22) considers the role of child suppliants in drama establishing the motif of Athenian benevolence, see further below Chapter 4. ¹¹¹ On constructions of legitimacy, see Ebbott (2003: 109 10); Ogden 1996. ¹¹² See, for example, Rochelle (2012: 218); Zeitlin (2008: 12). ¹¹³ Rochelle (2012) argues that the pathos generated by children in tragedy allows reflection on the moral divine framework in which the family is a self repairing unit. This idea will be discussed further in Chapter 4 but is of limited value here, as Rochelle’s analysis conflates ‘child’ as age category with ‘child’ as a relational term, exploring a number of characters who would not normally be viewed as ‘child figures’, such as Pentheus in Eur. Bakkhai.



court tropes appealing for pity through children is undoubtedly relevant, but elides significant differences in the context and purpose of legal and dramatic rhetoric. Pathos alone cannot provide an adequate explanation of the multiple roles played by children. This book will explore the affective power of children on stage, looking at how a dramatized child brings particular qualities to the mythological narrative, both in terms of the Dionysiac context and the practicalities of staging child roles. Although there has been a general presumption that child actors were used, this is far from a foregone conclusion based on the limited amount of evidence available, for other theatrical traditions do not always display a clear correspondence between child figure and child actor. The re-examination of this question will be the focal point of the first part of Chapter 2, as close textual analysis will demonstrate that the verbal landscape of tragedy contains previously unacknowledged evidence for use of child actors. The following sections will explore how staging of child roles required culturally determined decisions about blocking, vocal performance, and masked gesture. The embodied nature of child roles and the different use of naming and anonymity create a range of possibilities which make some children more or less endangered and/or dangerous, as names shape an audience’s response, orientating them more to the past, present, or future. Chapter 3 will then consider the way temporal framing figures children as dangerous because of their future roles, both as individuals and as part of a wider tragic dynamic that invites consideration of the fundamental uncertainty of human existence. The imagery surrounding children will be explored in light of this perspective, challenging accepted views about the use of imagery as a reflection of weakness. From this point, we move towards a more nuanced model of child characterization in tragedy, exploring parallels with onstage ghosts and the idea of extratemporal action. Chapter 4 suggests ways to reframe our understanding of pathos to take account of potentiality, and considers how far the issue of embodiment is related to emotional and cognitive responses to children. I will argue that the relationship between pathos and potential provides a crucial explanation for how and why children play such significant roles in tragedy, despite being largely silent, passive figures. The final chapters will adopt a broader perspective examining the differences between playwrights, and exploring how this greater awareness of child characterization may alter our interpretation of particular plays and the genre as a whole.


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1.4 The ‘Universal’ or ‘Natural’ Child Regardless of the theoretical sophistication one may bring to the study of childhood there remains a vague sense of unease that the air of ‘childishness’ may somehow be transferred to the scholarship. On giving papers at conferences young scholars may still be approached by colleagues to say, ‘Oh, very interesting, but actually what my child does is this . . . ’, or to ask the speaker, ‘Do you have children?’, suggesting a biological prerequisite for the study of a fictional creation.¹¹⁴ Classical scholars working on motherhood have noted the way personal embodied experience can become part of a public discourse, and how the modern dilemmas of revealing or concealing one’s reproductive intentions still form part of the academic world.¹¹⁵ In this regard, research on ancient childhood may be read as an invitation to ask the sorts of intrusive, personal questions inadmissible in other contexts, such as the interview enquiry, ‘Do you plan on having children? (sc. because our institution can’t afford any more colleagues on maternity leave?).’ The study of children as ancient literary constructs has yet to achieve a complete break from ideological frameworks which dominated the study of children and childhood in many disciplines from the late nineteenth century. A powerful intellectual orthodoxy developed from such diverse sources as the works of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, presenting ideas which spanned the continuum from the ‘child as embodiment of original sin’ to the ‘child as tabula rasa’.¹¹⁶ All approaches to the arguments, however, operated with an underlying principle that, whatever the perspective, individual children could not, or should not, be distinguished from each other as adults were individuated. What held good for one child could, and should, apply as a general rule for all children.¹¹⁷ Distinctions of class, race, or

¹¹⁴ See Gamel 2002; Rabinowitz 2001. The issue of motherhood is highly politicized, see Greenlee (2014) on the experience in the USA. ¹¹⁵ See Petersen and Salzman Mitchell (2012) on research and the ‘personal voice’ in discussing ancient ideas of motherhood. Lee (2012: 22 3) notes the politicized dimensions of maternity wear and the implications for classical scholarship. ¹¹⁶ The formulation and later challenges to the ideology of the ‘universal child’ were clearly articulated in scholarship of the 1990s; see, in particular, Archard (2014: 1 12, 37 41). Although those discussions have themselves been superseded, they still form the basis for current thinking; note the frequent citation of Hendrick (1990; 1997), and of James, Jenks, and Prout (1998). On the philosophy of childhood, see Turner and Matthews (1998). ¹¹⁷ The controversial thesis of Ariès (1975), that societies before the nineteenth century lacked a concept of childhood, has been widely discounted, as many pinpointed the ambiguity of sentiment in French, noting that ‘awareness’ of children as an age group or social category is not



wealth were unimportant, there was little role for personality (if any was held to exist in a child), and issues of race or gender were generally irrelevant. Once such differences were discounted, then distinctions based on broad historical or cultural divisions were similarly cast aside, for if all children are the same, then a knowledge of children in one’s own society and generation provides a sufficient basis for understanding children in a neighbouring society, or in fifth-century Athens, or in a fictional context: the young Astyanax in the Iliad is the same as the young Astyanax in Euripides’ Troades, and the same as the child in Kallimakhos’ Hellenistic poetry, and the same as the child sitting in seat 4C on the 15.45 train from Manchester to London.¹¹⁸ The crucial point here is that the baseline knowledge need not be scholarly. The very experience of having been a child oneself can form a sufficient base of knowledge, according to this view, regardless of the gulf between experience and observation, or any notion of cultural specificity. A powerful pull is exerted by the idea that our understanding of children, any children, is instinctive, and this pull provides some explanation for the longevity of this ideology. These ideas, the subject of closer scrutiny by the end of the twentieth century, were well summarized by a team of social historians as the ‘everyday view’: The ubiquitous presence of children in our everyday worlds and the power of the memories of our own childhood conspire to make the child decep tively familiar to us. Both the scientific understanding of the ‘natural child’ inherited from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and our twentieth century commonsensical, folk psychology of the child hold that childhood is a human constant. Knowing the child in history poses no special problem, according to this view, just as understanding the child from another culture offers no particular challenge. Children are children.¹¹⁹

This universalizing ideology, commonly expressed in terms of the ‘Natural Child’ or the ‘Universal Child’ has severely restricted the possibilities of the same as possession of a theoretically framed ‘concept’ of childhood. Further, the absence of our own concept of childhood from any given society does not necessarily imply the lack of any concept, only that it may be constructed or expressed in a manner we find unfamiliar. See further Golden (2015: 141 7). ¹¹⁸ On the complexities surrounding children and childhood in Kallimakhos, see Payne 2011. ¹¹⁹ Cahan, Mechling, Sutton Smith, and White 1993: 192.


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intellectual engagement with the subject of child figures in tragedy.¹²⁰ When we investigate shorthand claims such as ‘Children in tragedy are pathetic victims’,¹²¹ the ‘evidence’ often points to a different conclusion from that which the theoretical framework imposes. In her commentary on Eur. Alkestis, Dale famously wrote: ‘Childishness on the stage, in anything approaching realistic sense, would be unthinkable within the Greek tragic convention.’¹²² This comment asserted the validity of mid-twentieth-century views as a standard of judgment, appealing to a common understanding of ‘childishness’ and a personal understanding of what is ‘natural’ about children. A similar approach is revealed in the 1993 discussion of Klytaimestra’s breast in Aiskhylos’ Khoephoroi, as DeForest notes: Anyone who has ever nursed a baby, even with a bottle, and even someone else’s baby, has found that the infant, as it takes in milk, engages one in eye contact.¹²³

While consideration of biological imperatives may have a place in discussion of motherhood and childhood, the assumptions here about visual engagement ignore the theatrical context of masked acting. Scholarship on motherhood, both ancient and modern, has indicated the complexity of discourses surrounding birth and nurture, and the entire Oresteia of Aiskhylos problematizes norms of child-parent relationships.¹²⁴ On reflection we should wonder how the idea of ‘anyone who has ever nursed a baby’ could go unchallenged in a scholarly discussion of a dramatized scene,¹²⁵ and yet the

¹²⁰ The terminology of ‘naturalism’ is not always limited, as in the thoughtful analysis by Michelini (2009) of the formal aspects of Euripides’ work, which she sees as a move away from Sophoklean ‘naturalism’, in the sense of deriving action from character interaction. ¹²¹ Lloyd on Eur. Andromakhe (1994: 131 n. on 501 44). Dale’s ideas about what would be ‘natural’ on stage have been rephrased and nuanced by later critics, but still remain a key starting point for discussions; see, for example, Parker 2007: 132 5. ¹²² Dale 1961 n. 501 4. ¹²³ DeForest (1993: 136). We need not investigate the phenomenon of autistic behaviour manifesting in avoidance of eye contact, but need only note that such normative comments are challenged by the fields of disability research; see Jones and Klin (2013). ¹²⁴ See Marshall (2017: 193) on the complex narrative frameworks implied by the act of breastfeeding in the trilogy. I would argue that it is the role of the child, more than the focus on the breast, which creates the most striking dramatic effects. ¹²⁵ See Salzman Mitchell (2013) on the ‘natural’ status of breastfeeding as related to classical material. For modern cross cultural perspectives, see Thomson and Kehily 2011; Vandenberg Daves 2014. Cf. the collection of articles edited by Cassidy and El Tom (2015).



pull of naturalistic thought is strong and ancient.¹²⁶ For the sake of clarity, I will henceforth refer to this idea as the ‘Universal child’, while noting that the two ideas are not identical in some contexts. ‘Common sense’ views of children and childhood still exist in modern formulations about ancient literary contexts. Pratt on the death of children in tragedy writes: [ . . . ] if these murders do in some way represent dark recesses of the Greek psyche, we need to acknowledge that identical recesses are evident in the media frenzy surrounding contemporary mothers who kill we are repelled, horrified, and perhaps titillated in the same way as was the Greek tragic audience. (my italics).¹²⁷

Given the extent to which socio-historical scholarship has assimilated developments in the study of childhood, it is striking that assumptions about the ‘Universal Child’ can underpin analysis without any of the contextualization or discussion of biological determinism which would hedge similar expressions about gender, race, or sexuality.¹²⁸ Even the most insightful commentators on tragedy may exhibit blind spots when it comes to children: Mastronarde in his study of Euripides seems to overlook his own thoughtful remarks about the offstage cries of the children in Euripides’ Medeia,¹²⁹ and notes: I do not consider here child characters, who are usually silent extras: they contribute to pathos in several plays by being victims (or expressing bereavement in Alc.), but do not themselves deliberate or take actions. See Kassel 1954.

The reference to scholarship from the mid-twentieth-century signals that something is amiss. Similarly Hall, when discussing the strange prominence ¹²⁶ The normative force of naturalistic thought has remained powerful since antiquity, even though the problems involved were acknowledged in our earliest surviving sources. See Holmes (2014) for an incisive account of how animal behaviour and care for human young provided material for ‘naturalistic fantasy’ in Graeco Roman philosophy. Cf. Fearn (2017: 246) on the ‘more natural babyish reactions’ comparing the Iliadic Astyanax with the sleeping infant Perseus in Simonides’ Danaë fragment. ¹²⁷ Pratt 2013: 236. ¹²⁸ Although see Niemann 2012 on the problems negotiating race and gender in academia. ¹²⁹ Mastronarde (2002: 369 n. on 1270a) on the children’s offstage lines in Medeia notes that such cries raise the possibility that they will stir someone into action. If this does not make them actors, it would at least figure them as catalysts for action deserving of attention.


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of childbirth stories in tragedy, invokes naturalizing ideas, even while flagging the risk of sounding ‘unscholarly’ and ‘universalizing’: One scholarly sounding reason why there are tiny babies in drama may be simply that they are charming, and likely to facilitate a prize winning theatrical coup. At the risk of making universalizing claims about the human psyche, in reality babies of the desired sex born to the right people at the right time have always made them incredibly happy.¹³⁰

Several assumptions can be challenged here, about how an onstage baby, probably played by a doll, achieves the status of ‘charming’, or about the dismissal of conflicts and disturbances to families on the birth of a child. Even the birth of the ‘right baby’ involved a subsequent anxiety about mortality, given the chances of maternal and neo-natal death in ancient societies.¹³¹ Much of the argument of this book will attempt to disentangle the raw material from the theoretical framework. This is no mean task, as within the broad framework of ‘the everyday view’ of children classical scholarship has developed its own particular orthodoxy, namely that child figures in tragedy are pathetic stereotypes. The precise nature of this ‘pathos’ and the composition of the ‘stereotype’ have been generally left undefined. Questions remain about the degree of pathos involved (e.g. are the children of Medeia more pathetic than those of Herakles?), the affective and cognitive mechanisms involved in provoking an audience’s emotion, and the fundamental question, ‘Why are children pathetic?’ My analysis in Chapter 4 aims to provide signposts towards answers for these and related questions, drawing upon ancient contexts rather than modern anecdotal evidence or personal experience with children. The strongest challenge to the ideology of the ‘Universal Child’ came from the idea of social constructs which informs much socio-historical work on ancient childhood.¹³² Nevertheless, this approach requires modification when considering theatrical process. In discussing the ‘construction’ of child roles my analysis will be framed by analysis of dramatic creation as providing a circumscribed cognitive ‘scaffolding’, rather than following a strict ¹³⁰ Hall 2006: 90. ¹³¹ Statistics for maternal and neo natal deaths are difficult to assess, due to cultural frameworks (see Demand 1994: 71 86), but, as Beaumont (2012: 86 9) emphasizes, there was a significant risk to mother and child from childbirth. ¹³² See James and Prout (1997) on the workings of social constructionism in relation to children, with discussion of later approaches disputing these strategies in Prout 1999.



model of social constructionism.¹³³ Previous work on children in tragedy and mythology employed psychoanalytical perspectives, but this is problematic because these theories developed from the same intellectual period when the ‘Universal Child’ ideology held sway.¹³⁴ I will, therefore, make only limited use of readings such as Corti’s suggestion that the children of Medeia die because of a social hostility towards children, or Griffith’s idea that the children of Herakles die because of Herakles’ displaced anger towards his own father.¹³⁵ My analyses will draw upon a number of theoretical frameworks, including social constructionism, but will centre on the processes of theatrical creation, starting with the transmitted texts as vestiges of dramatic performance in the context of fifth-century Athens and the Dionysiac festival, before using ancient and modern approaches to elucidate key aspects of the texts. When issues of ‘realism’ and ‘universality’ arise, these will be treated with special caution due to the weight of the previous ideological baggage surrounding the ‘Universal Child’.

1.5 Framing Pathos and Pity While the prevailing ideologies of classical scholarship undoubtedly played a role in restricting discussion of children in tragedy, another issue was equally significant, namely the shorthand use of terms such as ‘pathos’ and ‘pity’ to describe Greek and modern Western emotional responses. Recent scholarship has moved towards a far more sophisticated understanding of the semantic fields implied by words relating to pity. The relationship between this socio-historical discourse and the use of pity in theatrical contexts is even more contentious. Konstan has argued that tragedy shows that the force of pity is ultimately overruled by strategic, political thinking, while Tzanetou argues that pity, particularly in the context of supplication, was a force manipulated by Athenian democratic ideology in the development of imperial ideology, and that tragedy demonstrates the limits and operations of such politically situated pity.¹³⁶ An alternative perspective comes from Johnson’s approach

¹³³ See possible applications of the theories in Averill 2012; Burr 2015. ¹³⁴ See, for example, Simon 1988. ¹³⁵ Corti 1998; Griffith 1998. Eur. Ion has provoked considerable analysis from a Freudian perspective relating to the extra dramatic scenes of Ion’s childhood, on which see Weiss 2008. ¹³⁶ Konstan 2001; 2005; Tzanetou 2012; 2013; Wohl 2015: 10 17.


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to ‘compassion’ in the contexts of tragic suffering. In framing the debate, in a piece with Clapp, Johnson makes the distinction of interpretation explicit: We contend, on the contrary, that a wider survey of tragedy shows compassion to be a powerful response to human suffering, a response that transcends narrow political considerations.¹³⁷

The thesis is further developed by Johnson, apparently with an underlying ideology of children as pathetic victim, eliding ideas of pity/pathos, compassion, and emotional affect.¹³⁸ Wohl pinpoints a key problem: Troades solicits an ethical response; its pathos demands our pity. But is pity enough? We are offered a model for sympathetic spectation in the Greek herald Talthybius, who delivers the army’s devastating orders with increas ing reluctance. That man would be shameless, he says, who could deliver such commands without pity (786 89). This pity even moves him to wash the body of the dead Astyanax and dig the child’s grave himself (1151 55). It doesn’t move him, however, to resist the Greeks’ cruel orders. Shedding tears of sympathy he leads Astyanax to his death and lights the fire that will reduce Troy to ash.¹³⁹

It will become clear from this book’s discussion that neither of these broad lines of interpretation taken by itself can provide an entirely satisfactory explanation for the roles of children in tragedy, although cultural specificity and the cognitive dimensions of Greek emotion are the more salient ideas for my interpretation of the tension and symbiosis between pathos and potential. Aristotle on pity remains a central piece of the puzzle, but we might also consider Xenophon’s Oikonomikos (2.2–7) giving the reasons why women may have a stronger tendency to affection for children.

¹³⁷ Johnson and Clapp 2005: 121. ¹³⁸ So Johnson (2016: 138) on Eur. Herakles: ‘As Herakles addresses his father and gives him final instructions (1358 770) the audience surely must feel great sympathy for the hero. [ . . . ] The pathos of this speech is then intensified to still another level by Herakles’ poignant address to his children and wife.’ Cf. on Troades (2016: 142): ‘The execution of the innocent young Astyanax is an especially moving example of the cruel denial of compassion by the victors, despite the Greek messenger Talthybios’ evidently strong feeling of compassion that he never theless must inhibit in carrying through his duty to see the boy’s killing.’ While such comments express something of the emotional tone of each passage, shorthand terminology is cumulatively misleading. See further Finglass (2018a) for an overall evalution of Johnson’s approach. ¹³⁹ Wohl 2015: 47 8.



The final piece of the puzzle has been suggested by work not explicitly on pity, but rather on the experience of theatrical production. Distinctions between the ‘real life’ of the audience and ‘dramatic life’ of the characters have previously emphasized socio-historical parallels and paradoxes, ultimately returning to questions of how audiences would respond to staged situations within their own emotional and cognitive parameters. More recent work, however, has suggested a more complex psychological picture, such that audiences may use their own perspective to understand and empathize with a dramatic character, but then proceed to form opinions through mental processes which differ from those they employ in ‘real life’. So one study involving ancient tragic drama found that audiences were more willing to cut through ambiguities and form judgments about dramatic situations than they would be in responding to a ‘real-life’ situation.¹⁴⁰ The artificiality of drama, as it is often said, lies not only in the creation of character, but also in the creation of the audience. When considering ideas of pity in Greek tragedy, we must hold several different frames in mind: the day-to-day experiences of a fifth-century Athenian audience, including those of political and legal arenas; contemporary concepts of pity; the ideas and actions of characters within a dramatic narrative; and the interaction of these frames in the context of a theatrical space. Pity for a child figure in tragedy can be understood through all of these frames, but I will argue that theatricality is an even more significant factor in the creation of pathos around tragic children than around tragic adults, because of the issues raised by embodied potential and embodied action on the Greek stage.¹⁴¹

1.6 Embodiment This book will argue that there is need of a paradigm shift (or shifts) in the ways we understand child figures on the Greek tragic stage. While attempting to avoid the pitfalls which faced earlier generations by exposing the ideologies of the ‘Universal Child’ and the new world order of social constructionism, it is essential that this work acknowledges its own

¹⁴⁰ Budelmann, Maguire, and Teasdale 2016. ¹⁴¹ Embodied action has a particular relevance for issues of gender, as we will discuss in Chapter 4. Cf. Cawthorne (2008) on the tendency in some scholarship to distance tragic experience from the body in order to emphasize the role of logos.


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place in the scholarly space-time continuum, and attempts to be as clear as possible about the theoretical underpinning to the arguments. Throughout the discussion we will return to ideas of ‘embodiment’ around the role of an onstage child figure. ‘Embodiment’ has provided an important frame for analyses in many areas of modern classical scholarship, but the term is ambiguous, so some brief contextualization may be helpful at this point. The next chapter will present evidence supporting a more confident argument to establish the use of children as actors in Greek tragedy than has previously been recognized. Several consequent arguments will then be developed, but the relationship between staging and character indicates a fundamental difference between ‘child’ and ‘adult’ characters which is more than a simple matter of degree. A dramatic figure is a construct where different elements are combined to produce a syndrome or a composite illusion of a ‘dramatic figure’.¹⁴² Although many may argue that the identity of a real person is a similar illusion,¹⁴³ the artificiality of a dramatic character is more easily apprehended as the product of an external creator, rather than evolving wholly, or partially under the control of that character. We may think of the playwright as a painter with a wide palette of ‘colours’ at his disposal. A range of characterizing techniques, such as imagery or style of speech pattern, combines with structural elements such as action and response, the body of the actor and the physical setting of the theatre, and produces a character comprehensible to an audience. The character may only be a minor figure, little more than a sketch, but still drawn from the same palette of elements which create all adult figures. For a child figure, however, the palette of ‘colours’ is smaller—there are far fewer actions available, there are limited possibilities for speech, both in content and style, and while the thematic and functional roles of children are varied, they coalesce around a smaller range of options than those open to adult figures. Consequently, in this limited ‘palette of colours’ the role of the actor’s body is proportionally more significant for a child role than for an adult role. The physical presence of a child’s body contributes quantitatively more to the creation of a child character than the physical presence of an ¹⁴² See further Mastronarde (2010: 82): ‘Literary and dramatic “character”, of course, has its own problems, but it is a limited representation governed by certain conventions and ellipses, engaging the reader or audience in processes of interpretation similar, but not identical to those applied in everyday life to the conundrum of human behaviour.’ ¹⁴³ For ancient ideas of composite identity, see Bett 2008. Cf. McCabe (2008) on the interplay between mythic and philosophical ideas of the self in Plato’s Euthydemos.



adult body contributes to the creation of an adult character.¹⁴⁴ This issue will be explored more fully in the following chapter, but relies on ideas about embodiment on the Greek tragic stage. A frequent truism of twentieth-century scholarship was that children in tragedy were ‘miniature adults’, whose behaviour and sentiments matched those of adult counterparts, except in physical scale. The parallel was adduced with scenes from archaic and classical vase painting, which can show children as shrunken adults, lacking the distinctive proportions of children. Although Golden has demonstrated convincingly that such parallels are misleading, the link between tragedy and visual media is still widely held as a legitimate point of contact.¹⁴⁵ It is, however, clear from even a cursory survey of sources that the original audiences of tragedy in fifthcentury Athens understood the differences between child and adult bodies—it was not simply a matter of height differential. Discussions of educational principles reflect the visual representations of children on vases showing more lifelike proportions.¹⁴⁶ There are underlying assumptions that a child’s body is qualitatively different from that of an adult, with concomitant views about the abilities, instincts, and mental faculties of children.¹⁴⁷ In tragedy, we see elements of this in terms of both mental and physical control. Children’s lack of clear understanding is suggested, for example, when the Nurse notes the children’s situation at the start of Euripides’ Medeia: ἀλλ᾽ οἵδε παῖδες ἐκ τρόχων πεπαυμένοι στείχουσι, μητρὸς οὐδὲν ἐννοούμενοι κακῶν νέα γὰρ ϕροντὶς οὐκ ἀλγεῖν ϕιλεῖ. Anyway, the children’s playtime is over. They’re happy, they’re not thinking about their mother’s problems. The mind of a child doesn’t tend to suffer.¹⁴⁸

¹⁴⁴ Notwithstanding the intellectual problems in apprehending the physical body outside a cultural context, an issue explored in many ancient contexts, on which see Lee (2015: 33 53); Holmes 2010. ¹⁴⁵ Golden 2015: 39 40. ¹⁴⁶ On proportionality in classical Greek art, see Chang 2010. ¹⁴⁷ The links between embodiment and awareness will be noted in later discussion of potential. Modern philosophical explorations of language currently emphasize how children develop from an embodied understanding of the world to the development of symbolic thought and disembodied understanding; see Streeck, Goodwin, and LeBaron 2011. ¹⁴⁸ Eur. Med. 46 8.


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Lack of physical control is seen in various ways, such as the link with animal behaviour, as when the Nurse in Aiskhylos’ Khoephoroi talks of the child’s inability to control its bodily functions: [ . . . ] τὸ μὴ ϕρονοῦν γὰρ ὡσπερεὶ βοτὸν τρέϕειν ἀνάγκη, πῶς γὰρ οὔ; τρόπωι ϕρενός οὐ γάρ τι ϕωνεῖ παῖς ἔτ᾽ ὢν ἐν σπαργάνοις εἰ λιμὸς ἢ δίψη τις ἢ λιψουρία ἔχει νέα δὲ νηδὺς αὐτάρκης τέκνων. What else can you do? You have to follow as a baby inclines, just like you would care for a wild animal. A child still in swaddling clothes cannot tell you he’s suffering from hunger or thirst or a full bladder. A baby’s insides are a law unto themselves.¹⁴⁹

On a simple level ‘embodiment’ refers to the congruence of different aspects of identity at and through the physical body, or the idea that a physical body provides a focal point for discussion of abstract ideas, but the term has become a catch-all for a far wider range of theoretical approaches, not least in classical scholarship. In the wider fields of humanities and social sciences, Overton’s 2004 formulation is often quoted as a useful benchmark: The concept of embodiment was first fully articulated in psychology by Maurice Merleau Ponty (1962, 1963) and it represents a movement away from any dichotomous understanding of behaviour as an additive product of environmental and genetic determinants. Embodiment has a double meaning, referring both to the body as a physical structure, and the body as a form of lived experience, actively engaged with a world of socio cultural and physical objects.¹⁵⁰

Definitions continue to proliferate, and Rohrer identifies ‘at least twelve’ significantly separate senses in which the term is used to refer to cognitive processes.¹⁵¹ This is taken still further by Lindblom on embodied social cognition,¹⁵² and Hunter who notes in relation to performance: ‘Embodiment allows us to talk about emergent ways of knowing or becoming, without stabilizing either in knowledge or essence.’¹⁵³ ¹⁴⁹ Aiskh. Kh. 753 7. ¹⁵¹ Rohrer 2010.

¹⁵⁰ Overton 2004: 202. ¹⁵² Lindblom 2015. ¹⁵³ Hunter 2016: 1.



‘Embodiment’ has also become an increasingly popular word in classical scholarship, despite the problems of definition.¹⁵⁴ The terminology has spread across old disciplinary borders, and some critics downplay the anachronism of the terminology, emphasizing the harmony between ancient and modern theory.¹⁵⁵ Studies of ancient emotion, gesture, and collective behaviour have all suggested the usefulness of ‘embodiment’ as a critical lens. Work on the physicality of Greek theatre further intersects with analysis of the medical discourses in tragedy and the interplay of strength and vulnerability, as well as with the creation of illusion and spectacle.¹⁵⁶ Embodiment can be constructed in tension with a more logos-based, or ‘discourse analysis’, approach to tragedy, although I do not think we need establish such a clear opposition as Cawthorne does in arguing against the views of Murnaghan and others.¹⁵⁷ For a multi-layered medium such as tragedy, where each performance is new translation, a range of different theoretical approaches may yield unexpected results.¹⁵⁸ Modern discourses of embodiment from sociology and linguistics have changed the approaches taken within the humanities more broadly, but the most striking development for the study of ancient childhood has been in the articulation of ideas about embodiment as a mechanism of temporal bridging, with children described as ‘temporal nodes’.¹⁵⁹ This idea will be important for analysis of children in tragedy in relation to adult constructions of childhood,¹⁶⁰ but will be consequent to discussion of theatrical embodiment.¹⁶¹ The nuances of this approach will be considered in various chapters of this book, but a brief overview will provide some context. ¹⁵⁴ See, for example, Raja and Rüpke (2015: 10): ‘Being a concept that is wide ranging and not always possible to pin down in ancient contexts, embodiment constitutes a central concept to which scholars of ancient history, archaeology, and history of religion need to engage (sic) in their endeavors to understand ancient society to a more refined degree.’ ¹⁵⁵ See, for example, Devereux (2016: 239): ‘[ . . . ] embodiment as a lens for literary inter pretation is perhaps even more appropriate for ancient texts given what we know about ancient rhetorical training, which emphasized the evocation of emotion as a means not only of attracting the audience’s attention but also guiding judgment.’ ¹⁵⁶ On Greek emotion, see particularly the work of Cairns (1993; 2011a; 2011b; 2016). For the physicality of the Greek theatre, see Griffith 1998; Meineck 2012. On medical awareness in tragedy, see Allan (2014) and Mitchell Boyask (2012) on Sophokles, and Kosak (2004) on Euripides. ¹⁵⁷ Cawthorne 2008: 33. ¹⁵⁸ So Hardwick 2011: 19 20. ¹⁵⁹ The idea of ‘child as node’ in antiquity is formulated by Mizoguchi (2000), and followed by Reiterman (2014: 29) who speaks of embodiment in relation to ancient funeral practices: ‘[ . . . ] keimelia had a temporal depth that made them fitting accompaniments for children, who also embody the past, present and future simultaneously.’ ¹⁶⁰ Cf. James (2013: 101): ‘Remembered childhood experiences of embodiment are one of the hooks upon which adults hang their reflections of their past lives.’ ¹⁶¹ For modern formulations of theatrical embodiment, see Counsell and Mock 2009.


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When adult actors assumed the role of a character they exchanged their own ‘personality’ for that of another, often mimicking or assuming another biological identity, as a woman, father, as an old man, or as a foreigner, each category with its own somatic implications. There is something inherently disturbing about this theatrical transformation, which reveals an ‘ontological dilemma’.¹⁶² If adult actors played child roles in Greek tragedy a similar process would be involved, and we cannot completely discount this possibility, as the next chapter will demonstrate. However, it is more likely that child actors were used, so the existence of child bodies on the stage raises its own questions about the translation of myth into drama. As Valakas argues: ‘The transformation of poetry into theatre necessarily involved the use of the body by the performer as the kinetic and sounding instrument [ . . . ] of action.’¹⁶³ When a child actor assumed a child role, however, there was a less extensive process of exchange between the appearance and behaviour of the child actor and the child character’s ‘personality’, such that a child role was potentially more fully ‘embodied’ than an adult role.¹⁶⁴ The possible differences between one child and another are less than the potential differences between one adult and another, which again limits the range of elements available to create a ‘child figure’. One of the key elements for creating an onstage identity was the use of a physical body, and the limited range of elements available to create a child in comparison with an adult meant that the physical body was proportionally more significant for a child than an adult role. As the status of ‘child’ manifested in the physical body, the overlap between actor and character was potentially far greater than in the overlap experienced by adults, and thus the child actor was potentially more closely identified with the role he played than was an adult actor with his role. This pattern is highly significant for the dangerous aspects of children in tragedy, who are both threatened and

¹⁶² Cawthorne (2008: 33): ‘Classical Athens as a society reads qualities about a man from the presentation and exercise of his body. The performance of this male body self is crucial in building a persuasive image which encourages the audience to believe the speaker’s claim to truth. (And this is one reason why the theatrical body becomes problematic the disguised male body presents an ontological dilemma for its audience.)’ ¹⁶³ Valakas 2002: 72. ¹⁶⁴ As will become clear, my understanding of child figures resists narratological analysis, which would dismiss them as ‘flat’ because of the lack of material within the text. Thumiger (2007: 20) suggests that a reader of tragedy does not see figures as ‘complete personalities’, but the argument I make above about the quantity of elements involved for child or adult ‘figures’ still holds. Other aspects of narratological analysis (such as those used by Muich’s 2010 study of the figure Andromakhe) will be noted when relevant.



threatening, in a state of liminality that extends beyond social categories and forms part of the existential exploration of drama.¹⁶⁵ The ambiguity which child actors may bring to a production has been exploited by some modern drama, while at the same time there has been criticism of child actors who are lauded for ‘being themselves’. In discussing the phenomenon of pre-teen Oscar winners, Lury notes: The performance of a child actor who is playing ‘a child’ might be understood as having an unfair advantage [ . . . ] As real children they inevitably and unconsciously express child like attributes that allow them to seem believable as children. Another way of understanding this threat would be to suggest that a truly disabled actor has an unfair advantage over an able bodied actor if the character they are playing is similarly disabled.’¹⁶⁶

Lury’s analysis is situated in a modern Western cultural dynamic, in which playing a disabled character can be seen as a bid for an award, and relies on a set of assumptions about the ‘unconscious’ aspects of children, but we may be able to recognize some elements of related tensions in Greek tragedy, where the intersection of illusion and reality is differently configured in relation to adult and child bodies.¹⁶⁷ The contexts of fifth-century Athens provide a further dimension related to the phenomenon commonly termed ‘performance culture’ in which public visibility and physical presence were central to the formation of identity, and education aimed at producing an individual who could face this world and ‘perform’ within it. Issues of embodiment and performance in fifth-century Athens are entangled in ways which have far-reaching implications for the nature of the drama. The child characters could be viewed as more ‘real’ to an audience, facilitating the emotional engagement. The potential for manipulating the overlap between child identity and actor’s identity was noted in early formulations of embodiment theory, and has been developed both in discussions of children’s knowledge acquisition through embodiment, and the parallels between acting and childhood ¹⁶⁵ Cf. Porter (2002: 4): ‘The very idea of the body, in its shadowy intangibility, brings to mind the elusiveness of the objects of that study.’ ¹⁶⁶ Lury 2010: 148. ¹⁶⁷ The parallel between child like incapacity and disabled physicality would also be intelli gible to fifth century audiences, as the earliest philosophers did not distinguish between mental and physical disability; see Polansky 2004.


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role-playing.¹⁶⁸ These ideas can be usefully applied to children in the fusion of biological and cultural responses evoked on the Greek tragic stage, intersecting with discourses of mimesis and education. For the original audiences, I will suggest that the physical presence of children on stage emphasizes the creation of biological identity, such that the boundaries of the dramatic illusion are more troubling when child actors are involved. Although Athenian culture knew of generalizing remarks and proverbs about parents and children, the sons and daughters of fifth-century Athenians were generally viewed not so much as isolated ‘children’, but rather as ‘children of X’, drawing importance from patronymics and socio-religious affiliation. Some audience awareness of the actor beneath the mask was inevitable because of the nature of the competition, but an awareness of a real ‘child’ requires a more complex act of doublethink. There is an awareness both of the figure as ‘child of character X’, and as ‘child of citizen Y’, and as ‘child in care of citizen Z who is in charge of the production’. As no individual was ever just ‘a child’, the very presence of a child on stage provoked the audience to consider, ‘Whose child is it?’ This trigger both highlights dramatic scenarios where parenthood is at issue, and problematizes the nature of the dramatic illusion. The liminality of Kreousa’s abandoned infant in Euripides’ Ion is a clear example of the difficulty an unassigned child poses to an orderly society.¹⁶⁹ Despite their role in myth, and in festival contexts, the practicalities of the Greek theatre meant that children were not automatic participants in tragedy. When they do appear they are out of place both as performer and character, caught up in the world of adults on stage and in the story. Their bodies can perform a metatheatrical function as Rehm suggests for the bodies of children in Euripides’ Troades and Medeia who create ‘an intimate space calling forth a poetic discourse tied to proximity and sensuous detail.’¹⁷⁰ One of the underlying questions is how does a child, dead or living, create a ‘space’ on the tragic stage. In addition to the idea of child as victim we must consider ideas of the child as agent and participant. The role of the child in a dramatic context may be greater than that in any ‘real’ setting because of the ¹⁶⁸ See, for example, Peterson 1981: 283: ‘Embodiment is not a mass of sensations given exclusively to a subject, distinct in itself, to be conveyed to others. The very means by which a conduct is accessible to a person, so too is it accessible to others. Thus the ability to mimic an other (sic) depends upon a bodily capability that is not distinct from other persons but forms a system with others. Mimesis in both the child and the actor, is not a sympathy by analogy, but an undivided sympathy that is lived through together.’ ¹⁶⁹ On the liminal status of Ion, see Griffiths 2017; Zacharia 2003; Zeitlin 1989. ¹⁷⁰ Rehm 2002: 258.



nature of the dramatic illusion. This chapter’s opening quotations from Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis introduced multiple categories of children from the dead first child, to the past image of Iphigeneia as a child now transitioning into adulthood still evoking her relationship as ‘child’ of Agamemnon. It was suggested that the most powerful child in this situation was the baby Orestes, given a role as potential avenger for his sister’s death, but this ‘child’ was in all likelihood ‘played’ by a doll. In order to disentangle the layers of meaning in these characters we must first tackle the issue of how child roles were played and whether child actors were used in the original productions.

2 Staging Issues 2.1 The Basic Problem To decide whether child roles were played by child or adult actors is not merely a matter of antiquarian interest. The presence of children on stage has profound implications for the somatic architecture of tragedy and the relationships between actor/character and audience.¹ From this point in our discussion two very different books could be written. If child actors are assumed to take child roles, then we proceed to explore a style of drama which employs particular rhetorics of embodiment. If adult actors played child roles, then we must consider a clear disjunction between reality and fiction, a different, highly stylized form of drama where the discourses of identity and performance are explicitly artificial. Adults playing children would introduce a highly discordant element to tragedy as we understand it. Child actors present their own problems of interpretation, but these can be addressed within some of the more widely accepted parameters for understanding tragedy, such as the issue of knowledge and power. Using ‘embodiment’ as a frame will demonstrate how small figures can be conceptualized on a continuum, which can include the idea of babies/dolls as objects in the context of a Greek understanding of human identity. The ancient context can be approached with modern terminology, so that an Aristotelian analysis can harmonize with recent statements about embodiment in theatre.² This chapter seeks to demonstrate that the use of child actors is the more likely option for fifth-century tragedy, and that this principle of staging can be established far more strongly than previous scholarship ¹ ‘Somatic architecture’ links performance studies with socio historical work on children, while ‘somatic engagement’ in dance and related performance employs specific theoretical frames but has some points of interaction with ancient theatre. On the physicality of the ancient theatre and physical/metaphorical boundaries, see Goldhill 2007. Csapo (2010: 25) uses the terminology of somation when exploring children representing actors representing characters in visual art. ² Cf. Hunter 2016: ‘Embodiment allows us to talk about emergent ways of knowing or becoming, without stabilizing either in knowledge or essence [ . . . ].’ Children in Greek Tragedy: Pathos and Potential. Emma M. Griffiths, Oxford University Press (2020). © Emma M. Griffiths. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198826071.001.0001


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has allowed. With greater confidence about the visual dimensions of child roles, we can explore the issues of pathos and potential more directly in relation to the ‘bodily voice’.³ With a firmer basis in our knowledge of the original staging conditions we could proceed to wider discussions, such as the role of children in the performance history and reception of tragedy. For this reason, discussion in this chapter will centre on original production conditions. In the absence of any explicit source material which could indicate whether child actors were used, argument has tended to focus on the balance of probabilities from inferred evidence. Topics which are logically consequent are often adduced to solve the fundamental problem of establishing the physical presence of children on stage, and the interpretation of tragedy on a thematic, textual level has been used to argue for issues of theatricality. The present chapter will suggest a solution to the primary issue by using a neglected source of evidence, the textual indications of physical blocking. A single child figure is always under the physical control of an adult or is directed by explicit verbal cues which go beyond normal patterns of guided movement. This control can indicate the child’s inability to act and the need for protection, but may also be seen as a reflection of the chaotic, dangerous potential inherent in child actors.⁴ Unlike old figures, where the comments on movement form part of the characterization, such as in the manner of their walking with sticks, comments on the movement of child figures are centred on the fact, rather than the manner, of movement. This reveals a fundamentally different approach to the directorial control of the play, which adds another piece of evidence to support the argument that there were indeed child actors on the fifth-century stage.

2.2 Reassessing the Evidence The likelihood is that child actors were used in the fifth century, but the points considered by previous scholars are individually and cumulatively inconclusive. The presence of child actors in the fourth century may reflect

³ See further Mueller 2016: 413. ⁴ A similar conflict between the need to protect and be protected against can be observed in relation to women in historical contexts (see, for example, Georgoudi 2015), and more explicitly in tragedy. On the relationship between the tragic muse and the dramatic portrayal of women, see Hall 2007; Munteanu 2010.

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a continuity of practice from the fifth century, but the inference is not a necessary one, for the acting profession appears to have changed rapidly during this period.⁵ The fact that child roles are always minor in terms of speech and action could indicate a deliberate attempt by the playwright to minimize the demands placed on young actors, but it could equally reflect the real-life situation of Athenian children who were involved in, but had limited influence over, the world of adult action.⁶ It could be argued that the fact that all onstage lines for children are in lyric metres indicates the use of child actors because of the greater audibility of children’s voices when they sing rather than declaim.⁷ However, the contexts alone could be seen to call for lyric metres, and it has been suggested that an adult could deliver the lines as an act of ventriloquism through a child actor.⁸ Arguments about levels of audibility in ancient theatres are in themselves difficult to assess, and there is still considerable debate about the acoustic parameters of the fifth-century Theatre of Dionysos, so the audibility issue is ultimately unhelpful.⁹ Although it is seldom expressed in such direct terms, one of the most pervasive arguments has been that it was ‘natural’ for child roles to be played by child actors. Stanley-Porter notes: ‘With no contemporary evidence available for the use of children in the fifthcentury .. Attic theatre, most scholars feel that child mutes were used.’ (my italics).¹⁰ Once the ‘Universal Child’ ideology is called into question, as discussed in Chapter 1, this position becomes increasingly untenable. In a theatrical tradition where men played women, the original audiences may have accepted an adult playing a child role if the mask and the role said ‘child’.¹¹ Certainly, in a very different theatrical tradition, Japanese Noh theatre, there is no assumption that it is ‘natural’ for children to play child roles. Instead, child and adult actors play different categories of characters, and the distinctions are not between child and adult identities, but between ⁵ Sifakis (1979a: 75) gives a helpful brief discussion of the fourth century evidence. See also Jory 1967. Cf. Golden (2015: 141 53) on the way debates on ‘continuity or change’ have dominated scholarship on ancient childhood. ⁶ Golden (2015: 20 43) outlines the various roles children could perform in the community from their basis in the household. ⁷ The offstage cries of the children in Eur. Medeia (1270 6) are, however, in iambic trimeters. ⁸ Dale 1961: xx. For a more recent perspective on the idea of ‘ventriloquism’, see Davis (2003). ⁹ On theatrical acoustics, see Wiles (2000). Cf. Martin (2007) on theatrical space, and Nooter (2012) on theatrical audibility and sound effects. ¹⁰ Stanley Porter 1973: 83 n. 9. Cf. Lloyd 1994. ¹¹ MacDowell 1994: 328.


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the status and dramatic significance of the various figures, marked, for example, by the colour of costumes.¹² It is not impossible that such stylized representations of age relationships were used in Greek tragedy. The reduced size of slaves shown in Greek art suggests that ideas of category and status could override considerations of physical accuracy,¹³ and children in Greek art can be shown in different physical sizes in relation to the adults.¹⁴ The presence of an apparently over-large infant in a vase painting, for example, does not necessarily mean that the child was conceptualized as monstrously large, only that its significance in the scene was to be highlighted.¹⁵ There is no firm evidence that adults played children, and the balance of probabilities is still in favour of there having been child actors on the fifthcentury stage, so it might appear that we should let the matter rest. However, this consensus does not provide a secure foundation for the development of work on child figures. If the presence of child actors in the original production of particular tragedies can be securely established, then interpretative work, such as studies of imagery, may proceed from a firmer foundation. Sifakis approached the question from the opposite direction, arguing that in light of his interpretative work the existence of fifth-century child actors is a necessary assumption.¹⁶ As he sees no difference between child and adult roles as constructed in the text, Sifakis maintains that the distinction necessary for meaningful interaction must have been achieved through the height difference between child and adult actors. While Sifakis is surely correct to insist on the interdependence of questions of staging and interpretation, many of his conclusions are open to question, particularly his assertion that child figures are simple stereotypes with little to distinguish them from adult figures, the ‘miniature adults’ of Grube’s discussion.¹⁷ Sifakis justifies his use

¹² On the contribution of masking to identity, see Arnott 1969: 87; Halliwell 1993; Wiles 2007. For child actors in the Japanese Noh tradition, see Arnott 1969: 87 8, 205; Revermann 2013: 81. On the comparative portrayal of gender, see Llewellyn Jones 2005. ¹³ Golden’s seminal 1984 piece on the relationship between children and slaves was devel oped in his later work, commenting on the role of slave care givers (2015: 12 16). For the complexity of free/slave interactions, drama, and sexuality, see Akrigg and Tordoff 2013; Cohen 2014; Todd 2013. On affection and protection in Hellenistic and later attitudes towards slaves, see Herrmann Otto 2004; Ricl 2009. ¹⁴ On children in art, see Rühfel (1984a), and the range of articles related to visual imagery in Neils and Oakley 2003. ¹⁵ On the problem of proportion and status surrounding children in Greek art, including the very large babies, see Vassilika 1998: 94. ¹⁶ Sifakis 1979a. ¹⁷ Grübe 1941: 136.

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of this term by brief reference to an alleged parallel in the visual arts, but these parallels are selective and misleading.¹⁸ On close examination, the roles of child figures are far more varied and complex than Sifakis allowed. Even if his emphasis on the creation of pathos was accepted, the study by Menu has demonstrated the complexity of this one issue alone, as we will discuss further in following chapters.¹⁹ The complex and varied portrayals of children in tragedy do not allow simple interpretative work which can illuminate matters of staging as directly as Sifakis suggests. A theatrical issue is best approached from a theatrical perspective, particularly given the sophisticated understanding of dramatic space demonstrated in Greek tragedy. As the surviving sources do not tell us whether child actors were used, the search for evidence prompts the question, ‘Who knew?’²⁰ If Aristotle knew, he failed to mention it in the Poetics or elsewhere, so in the absence of any explicit ancient testimony the only knowledgeable persons we can access are the playwrights themselves (and the actors and directors coming after them) through the texts of the plays.²¹ This access is significantly mediated, but the argument I will here develop focuses on the broad structural patterns and practices integral to the fabric of a play, rather than relying on detailed thematic interpretations which often vitiate attempts to read authorial intention. It would be improbable for a genre to have two possible ways of portraying children on stage, so I contend that it is a near certainty that the playwrights, in their roles as didaskaloi (writer/ producer/director), knew whether the roles would be played by adult or child actors. We may then ask whether the playwrights would have constructed the roles of children in a particular way if they had anticipated the use of child actors. In the previous chapter the term ‘child’ was shown to be complex, and ancient ideas of the ‘actor’ are similarly problematic.²² Modern Western society tends to polarize concepts of the child actor into the extremes of either precocious, stage-school children and Hollywood stars, or the very ¹⁸ For a more critically nuanced approach to the representation of children on vases, see Vollkommer 2000. ¹⁹ Menu 1992. ²⁰ The question is raised indirectly by Sifakis (1979a: 69) noting that Euripides must have known for whom he was writing the child role in Alkestis, but the point is not developed. ²¹ As Dale (1969b: 119) noted: ‘Our only reliable evidence, in detail, for the staging of fifth century tragedy is the text of the plays themselves.’ See Finglass (2015; 2018c: 617) on the limited material available to judge the precise directorial control exercised by the playwrights, and the possibility that later directors and actors modified the text. Cf. Liapis (2012: lxxii lxxv) on the suggestion that the Rhesos attributed to Euripides was written by an actor, Neoptolemos. ²² See a range of approaches to the ancient acting profession in Easterling and Hall 2002.


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amateur players of infant nativities.²³ Different cultures provide other models, from the boys of the Japanese Noh theatre to the boys of the English Elizabethan theatre, who played the parts of adult women. Sifakis adduces the Elizabethan model as a parallel for fifth-century Athens, but the age of the Elizabethan boy actors may place them more in the category of ‘adolescent’ than the child actors we may find in Greek theatre.²⁴ Furthermore, issues of staging and theme involve interrelated issues of age, gender, and theatrical competence; Jamieson’s analysis of the Elizabethan tradition already provided food for thought in 1968, and recent Shakespearean scholarship has offered far more nuanced perspectives: It is true that there are aspects of female character which Shakespeare did not ask his boy actresses to explore, but I cannot agree with Miss Margaret Webster [ . . . ] who believes ‘It is easy to see what Shakespeare refrained from doing because of this limitation [the boy actresses], if such he con sidered it, but not so easy to define what positive effect it had on the great women’s parts. [ . . . ] Each of the women’s parts, particularly the uncon ventional ones . . . posed its own problems in technique, exposition and accommodation, but the inference from Rosalind and Cleopatra is that once Shakespeare was aware of what problems the boy actress would have to face, his view of the character remained unaltered [ . . . ]’²⁵

The idea that the playwright would create roles in such a way as to ‘accommodate’ a young actor may be relevant to the fifth-century experience, but the comparison is far more difficult than Sifakis allows. The Greek tragedians accepted men playing women’s roles, and there is no true parallel with what we know of the fifth-century Athenian situation to provide a reliable overall model. If we take the view that professional troupes were already established by the mid 450s, the presence of children in theatrical families would provide a neat solution.²⁶ However, although there are indications that an interest in matters theatrical did run in families, there is no evidence to support a model in which children were

²³ The peculiar nature of the child actor in Hollywood is well discussed from a personal perspective in Cary 2008. Cf. O’Connor Visser 2008; Studler 2013. ²⁴ On the different reception history of each form of theatre, see Wiles 2010. ²⁵ Jamieson 1968: 92 3. Cf. Jardine 1991; Kemp (2010: 114 15); Shapiro 1996. ²⁶ On ancient theatrical families, see Csapo (2010: 39 40, 88 9) developing some of the ideas in Sutton 1987.

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born and raised specifically to be actors at this time. Rehm’s cautious suggestion that master actors may have had apprentices is attractive,²⁷ but child roles would not obviously provide sensible preparation for adult speaking roles. A more plausible route for the development of child actors is one suggested, albeit indirectly, by Stevens (as quoted by Stanley-Porter) who speculated that the role of the child in Euripides’ Andromakhe could have been written specifically for a talented boy singer.²⁸ There was certainly an available pool of boys who had been trained to sing in a variety of settings.²⁹ Hunnigher suggested that the original adult actors would have been chosen from the outstanding musical performers of their day,³⁰ and Rehm is right to suggest that boy actors could have come from dithyrambic competitions. Although recent work on lyric and dithyramb has advanced our understanding of the socio-historical context that could have produced such child singers, there has been no new evidence or explicit change in perspective to explain the mechanisms involved. It is not unreasonable to suppose that child actors might originally have been child singers, although choral singing is rather different from solo lyric performance.³¹ This seems the most likely source for the selection of child actors in the fifth century, although recent work on choral performance and dithyramb suggests the specifically targeted nature of such performances, which may or may not relate to the production of tragic drama.³² Taking a step backwards, we might consider other factors. The choregos could have wished to see his own children in the limelight,³³ particularly in

²⁷ Rehm 1992: 28. ²⁸ Stanley Porter 1973: 87 n. 68. ²⁹ On the dithyrambic competitions, see texts in Csapo and Slater (1994: 115 17). Cf. Pickard Cambridge 1957: 47 53. ³⁰ Hunnigher 1956. ³¹ The boys introduced in Aristophanes’ Eirene (Peace) 1270 are assumed to be individual performers, but this is for a ‘party piece’, i.e. a private rather than public function. These ‘children’ may not be child actors, as they may be the same actors who earlier played Trygaios’ daughters, roles which require considerable comic skill. Russo considered the matter of these child roles and concluded that ‘the dramatist employed children trained in song’, noting the context of the children’s singing at the end of Eirene as an indication that children would have previously had appropriate training in song. On the doubling of parts between the two sets of ‘children’, see Russo 1994: 144 6; Olson 1998: 306 n. on 1265 70. ³² See Battezzato (2013) on dithyramb and tragedy. On the relationships between lyric, choral performance, and tragedy, see the collection of articles edited by Gagné and Govers Hopman (2013). Cf. Carey (2013) on choruses and comedy; Swift (2010) on tragic lyric and generic interplay; Scullion (2012) on the non ritual aspects of choral performance. ³³ Allen and Storey (2008: 19 21) provide a good summary of how a lavish production could provide prestige for the liturgist. The argument of Aiskhines in relation to Timarchos says that the lawgiver stipulated that a man should have reached the age of forty before he could act as choregos for a Boys’ Chorus (Against Timarkhos); see discussion in Spatharas 2017. Cf. Christ


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group scenes such as those in Euripides’ Herakleidai which demand no special talents from the children.³⁴ It is certainly likely that we are considering multiple possible categories—children who perform in a group, the doll babies, and the more demanding individual roles. All three categories of ‘performers’ will be relevant to the discussion of embodiment, but it is the individual child performers who are designated as ‘child actors’ in the following discussion. At this point I will be working with the assumption that all the child actors were boys, as there are no child roles in extant tragedy which required a female child’s singing voice. If child actors were drawn from the sort of background outlined above, what would this have meant for the playwright? At best, child actors in the fifth century could have been experienced performers from whom a certain degree of professionalism could be expected. The importance of kinaesthetic education is visible in our earliest literary sources, from the idea that the boys who dance around Demodokos in the Odyssey are skilled, i.e. trained to perform.³⁵ However, they were unlikely to have been experienced in the ways of the tragic stage, and this inexperience would have been most likely to manifest itself in the matter of movement. The control of actors’ movements on stage is a notoriously difficult business, and movement was central to tragedy’s presentation of reality.³⁶ The blocking of any original production would have been a complicated affair, orchestrating multiple performers, different sight lines, and different acoustic possibilities, for a single make-or-break production.³⁷ In such an acting space there must have been a need for movements to be extremely accurate and well defined, and it is likely that child actors were not expected to execute such movements as neatly as would adult performers. This is not to suggest that child actors would be wandering aimlessly around the stage, for child performers in productions such as dithyrambic competitions would undoubtedly have been called upon to develop the (2006: 200) on the real life experiences of Athens, and the suggestion that a choregos might save money by recycling costumes. ³⁴ See Leitao (2012: 125 7) on mixed metaphors for dramatic production. ³⁵ Homer’s Odyssey 8.262 3: ἀμϕὶ δὲ κοῦροι / πρωθῆβαι ἵσταντο, δαήμονες ὀρχηθμοῖο ‘Around him young men, just coming into bloom, well skilled in dancing.’ See Andújar 2018: 269 71; David 2006: 9 13. ³⁶ As Kolotourou notes (2011: 179): ‘Movement is the physical state that best reflects both temporal and spatial organisation, and this is precisely how musical rhythm is understood: as the shaping and orderly arrangement of movement in time.’ ³⁷ See in particular Hourmouziades (1965) and Rehm (1992: 43 74). On the role of the actor in the fifth century, see discussions in Easterling and Hall (2002) with Csapo (2010).

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necessary discipline to perform certain movements.³⁸ However, to negotiate the acting space of the theatre during a dramatic performance would require a particular discipline, and spatial awareness, which children might not have been expected to demonstrate.³⁹ Once again we see the importance of distinguishing between manifestations and constructions of childhood. The idea that children are unpredictable because of their lack of physical restraint is clearly a constructed viewpoint, but it is one that fifth-century Athenians might well have accepted as fact. Within tragedy, there is no mention of children running wild, although the Nurse’s comments on Orestes’ infant bodily functions in Aiskhylos’ Khoephoroi indicates a wider philosophical viewpoint.⁴⁰ Plato talks of the need for children to be trained on a somatic level, and children were generally seen as needing guidance as part of their integration into the wider society.⁴¹ Similarly the network of ideas contained in the vocabulary of paideia, ‘education’, and paidia, ‘play’, emphasizes the importance of instilling physical self-control.⁴² Within such a conceptual framework, it may be irrelevant to ask whether Athenian children physically could be trained to develop a spatial discipline. If the discourse of childhood dictated that children could not be relied upon, then that would be a decisive factor in determining the extent to which children were allowed to exercise any capabilities they may have had. In these circumstances, the playwright creating child roles would have been conscious of the need to orchestrate carefully the movements of children, and to guard against disruptive behaviour. This awareness, I suggest, manifested itself in a degree of directorial control through the text, complementing the physical authority of the playwright and adult actors.

³⁸ Pickard Cambridge 1962: 32. The dithyrambic competitions may have been performed in the Theatre of Dionysos; see Csapo (2010) with Seaford (2013) on the ritual dimensions (but contra Scullion 2012). ³⁹ In modern cultures with recording and playback we may underestimate the difficulties of learning spatial movements, particularly those in isolated occasions. Cf. Conelly (2011: 313 14) on ritual and movement. ⁴⁰ Aiskh. Khoephori 757 77, see text and comment in Chapter 1. ⁴¹ Somatic training is flagged in Plato’s ideal state (Republic 402a), and related to the idea in the Laws (798e) that children should be swaddled and ‘moulded like wax’, on which see Holman (1997). Cf. Taraskiewicz (2008: 57 8) on the social dimensions of a ‘widening circle of movement from childbed to the hearth’. ⁴² The etymological suggestions are exploited by Plato (Laws 673 c d), following the Athenian’s story about how Dionysos, children, and dancing are linked, in itself a nice comment on preceding comments about perceptions of stepmothers (Laws 672b1 672c5). See further Lonsdale (1993) on the interaction between ideas of dance, play, and education. Pratt (2013) emphasizes the role of play, but see Golden (2015: 45 8) for a more cautious reading.


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The surviving texts provide support for this hypothesis, for we find first that child roles require very little movement from the actor compared to the degree of independent action required by adult roles. Furthermore, when any independent movement is required of a child figure, the child is always given a direct verbal cue to act. Child figures are subject to close directorial control through the text itself, and a clear pattern emerges from study of the onstage roles played by children. Many of the essential movements can be directly controlled by physical means, as by the adult holding their hand, but any independent movement is explicitly cued in. Actors playing adult roles need to respond to unrelated cues, but those playing child roles do not. For comparison, we may consider Euripides’ Elektra. To create even the simplest blocking of that play the actors must take independent actions by responding to unrelated cues: (1) to begin, at 81, the Peasant must leave the stage unbidden, as he has already told Elektra to leave, and the next speaker is Orestes on an empty stage; (2) when Elektra wards Orestes off, her words suggest that he has already made some independent gesture of movement to which she is responding; (3) the prayer for help, 678, must be accompanied by the relevant actions; (4) Orestes, Elektra, Pylades, and the Old Man must leave the stage following 669 to implement their plans; (5) the Messenger must leave the stage after his speech, 858; (6) when Klytaimestra enters at 998 she is clearly directing events herself as she leaves the carriage, moves herself, and gives orders to the slaves. All of these cues require the actors to make independent movements without a direct verbal instruction to do so, whereas child roles all require direct textual cues.⁴³ An objection may be raised that the meaning discerned in this pattern is unjustified, and that the fictional control of child figures on stage may simply reflect real-life practice, if the movements of children were rigorously controlled in fifth-century Athens as a whole. If the discourse of childhood in Athens assumed that children needed to be controlled, then maybe mythological figures were similarly constructed. The audience may have expected, for example, that Astyanax, as a mythological child figure, was under the constant physical supervision of the adults around him. However, there is evidence to suggest that the discourse of childhood within the fictional world of tragic mythology was different in its treatment of child ⁴³ Similar patterns can be sketched for other plays my choice of Eur. Elektra here is motivated by the catalytic function of the non existent baby (as well as the possible further ghosts of the children of Klytaimestra and Aigisthos), and will be discussed in the following chapter. The play also contains a great deal of vocabulary evoking the parent child relationship in ideal and perverted forms; see van Emde Boas 2017: 125, 159.

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movement. The somatic control of children on stage is extradiegetic rather than, or as well as, intradiegetic. Evidence for this distinction comes from Euripides’ Herakles, a play which involves three children on stage. In this play there is a marked discrepancy between stage practice, the movement of child actors, and what is presented as the normal experience of the children as characters. Megara describes how the children are waiting for their father and how they behave when they think he is coming: . . . θαυμάζων δ᾽ ὅταν πύλαι ψοϕῶσι πᾶς ἀνίστησιν πόδα, ὡς πρὸς πατρῷον προσπεσούμενοι γόνυ. [ . . . ] Whenever they hear the gate, it’s amazing how they jump up together to run and throw their arms around their father’s knees.⁴⁴

The spontaneous reaction of the children is presented as the norm within the reality of the play. However, when the scene is realized on Herakles’ return, the children’s stage behaviour is very different. Instead of leaping up and running to their father, they wait until told to do so by Megara: δεῦρ᾽, ὦ τέκν᾽, ἐκκρίμνασθε πατρῴων πέπλων, ἴτ᾽ ἐγκονεῖτε, . . . Children, go cling to your father’s coat! Go! Run to him!⁴⁵

Attempts to explain the discrepancy as indicative of changes in the children’s psychological state, and hence behaviour, would be awkward, but the staging considerations are compelling. Describing a spontaneous, headlong dash by three children together is one thing, but actually staging it, coordinating the movement at the right time and to the right point on stage simultaneously, would be quite another. Staging considerations restrict the actions of child figures because of the nature of the medium, rather than as a reflection of socially expected behaviour. The pattern of cuing in child movements is consistent across all the extant plays, and the following section outlines how such patterns emerge as a basic

⁴⁴ Eur. Her. 77 9.

⁴⁵ Eur. Her. 520 1.


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blocking scheme. Points at which there is a direct overlap between issues of staging and interpretation are noted, but extended discussion of the thematic use of child movements is reserved until later in the chapter.

2.3 Basic Blocking Arrangements 2.3.1 Sophokles’ Aias The child Eurysakes need only be on stage for two scenes. When Tekmessa addresses him (809 and 944), he need not be present,⁴⁶ and indeed he cannot be present at 944, for when Teukros arrives shortly afterwards he is told that the boy is offstage, but liable to be forcibly moved: Τεῦκρος ϕεῦ τάλας τί γὰρ τέκνον τὸ τοῦδε, ποῦ μοι γῆς κυρεῖ τῆς Τρῳάδος; Χορός μόνος παρὰ σκηναῖσιν. Τεῦκρος οὐχ ὅσον τάχος δῆτ᾽ αὐτὸν ἄξεις δεῦρο, μή τις ὡς κενῆς σκύμνον λεαίνης δυσμενῶν ἀναρπάσῃ; Teukros: This is unbearable. Where is his son? Where (I fear) can he be in this land of Troy?⁴⁷ Chorus: He is by himself near the tent. Teukros: Quickly! Bring him here, so he doesn’t get snatched up like a lion cub from its mourning mother.⁴⁸

⁴⁶ Soph. Aias 809 19: οἴμοι, τί δράσω, τέκνον; οὐχ ἱδρυτέον. / ἀλλ᾽ εἶμι κἀγὼ κεῖσ᾽ ὅποιπερ ἂν σθένω. ‘Oh my child, what can I do? I must do something! I’ll go there myself with all the strength I have.’ Cf. 944 5: οἴμοι, τέκνον, πρὸς οἷα δουλείας ζυγὰ / χωροῦμεν, οἷοι νῷν ἐϕεστᾶσιν σκοποί. ‘Oh my child, what yoke of slavery awaits us, / what slave masters threaten us!’ ⁴⁷ The insertion here of the parenthesis (I fear) is an attempt to convey the force of the ethic dative μοι. ⁴⁸ Soph. Aias 983 8.

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Two other scenes involve the child (541–45 ff. and 1171–end), but in the first of these the child need make no independent movement as he can easily be directed by physical control. Aias tells Tekmessa to bring the boy to him (530),⁴⁹ and he is passed around under tight adult supervision, indicated by Tekmessa’s comment to the attendants: ὦ παῖ, πατὴρ καλεῖ σε. δεῦρο προσπόλων ἄγ᾽ αὐτὸν ὅσπερ χερσὶν εὐθύνων κυρεῖς. Oh child, your father calls for you. Let the servant who guides him with hands bring him here.⁵⁰ καὶ δὴ κομίζει προσπόλων ὅδ᾽ ἐγγύθεν. Bring him, whichever one of you has him. ⁵¹

Debates about the age of the child and the verbs for his actions are inconclusive. Finglass muses that the child must be walking, and must be about eight years of age, emphasizing that he is being led by the hand (χερσὶν εὐθύνων).⁵² This could, however, be a more general indication of ‘whichever servant has him in hand’, i.e. is looking after him. Given our limited evidence for the roles of children in tragedy, it is difficult to rely on references to the body (particularly the hand, for all its wider significance).⁵³ Further to this, the idea that Eurysakes must be walking onto the stage, because the word Aias uses to request his presence is ἄγειν rather than ϕέρειν, cannot be supported. The verb ἄγειν is used in many general contexts when referring to humans, beyond a specific meaning of ‘lead’.⁵⁴

⁴⁹ κόμιζέ νύν μοι παῖδα τὸν ἐμόν, ὡς ἴδω. ‘Now bring me my son, so I may see him.’ ⁵⁰ Soph. Aias 541 2. ⁵¹ Soph. Aias 544. ⁵² Finglass 2011: 294 n. on 541 2. ⁵³ On the multivalence of hands in tragedy, see Flory 1978; Provenza 2013. Cf. Ojennus (2006) on the development of the motif in Apollonios Rhodios’ Argonautica. The role of hands at the end of Soph. OT is also important see discussion of this point later in this chapter, in relation to doubts about the authenticity of the end of the play. ⁵⁴ In Eur. IA, Klytaimestra uses the word as she tells Iphigeneia to fetch Orestes, when she is explicitly told: . . . χὑπὸ τοῖς πέπλοις ἄγε / λαβοῦσ᾽ Ὀρέστην, σὸν κασίγνητον, τέκνον. ‘Pick him up from his bedding, my child, and bring your baby brother, Orestes.’ Eur. IA 1118 19. Since Iphigeneia later talks to Orestes as an infant (1244 4), he is clearly meant to be a baby who is carried rather than led, but ἄγειν is still the appropriate term. See further notes in the following chapter about the thematic implications of yoking and bearing in the play. Fitzmeyer (1972) argues that the two terms ἄγειν and ϕέρειν can be synonymous from Homer onwards. Cf. Most (2002) on the restoration of ϕέρειν at Soph. OC 1640.


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When Eurysakes arrives, Aias opens his response with ‘Lift him, lift him up here’: Αἴας αἶρ᾽ αὐτόν, αἶρε δεῦρο ταρβήσει γὰρ οὒ νεοσϕαγῆ που τόνδε προσλεύσσων ϕόνον, εἴπερ δικαίως ἔστ᾽ ἐμὸς τὰ πατρόθεν. ἀλλ᾽ αὐτίκ᾽ ὠμοῖς αὐτὸν ἐν νόμοις πατρὸς δεῖ πωλοδαμνεῖν κἀξομοιοῦσθαι ϕύσιν. ὦ παῖ, γένοιο πατρὸς εὐτυχέστερος, τὰ δ᾽ ἄλλ᾽ ὅμοιος καὶ γένοι᾽ ἂν οὐ κακός. Aias: Lift him up, lift him up here. (Don’t worry), for he will not be afraid of this fresh blood and slaughter, not if he truly is my son, heir to his father’s steely temper. He must be broken in and shaped in my image. My son, I hope you have better luck than your father, but be a mirror image in all other ways. Then you would never lack nobility.⁵⁵

The opening remark has been taken by some commentators to refer to different stage levels,⁵⁶ but it is more easily understood as referring to the handing over, or handing up, of a small child to a towering adult.⁵⁷ It is, therefore, possible to block the scene with the child led on stage by an attendant, handed over to his father, then handed back before being led off. The child may even be carried, for a likely age to fit the timescale of the play would be between three and five years of age, although an older age is not impossible.⁵⁸ This would not be inconsistent with the symbolic

⁵⁵ Soph. Aias 545 51. ⁵⁶ So Hourmouziades (1965: 102). Later commentators have tended to dismiss this idea; see Garvie 1998: 175. ⁵⁷ For further discussion of the phrase, see Finglass 2011: 293 5; Garvie 1998: 175 n. on 545 7. ⁵⁸ Stanford (1963: 128 n. 545 ff.) discusses the younger age. Finglass (2011:25) guesses an age of eight, but a central point of his argument is that Eurysakes must be physically able to help lift the body at the end of the play. As we will discuss in Chapter 4, the gesture may be more important than any physical ability in the context of supplication.

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instructions given in the final scene, and would have particular dramatic force, as the child crosses boundaries.⁵⁹ The second remaining scene, 1171–84, requires more action from the child. He is presented as able to understand and respond to the call to guard his father’s body. As Teukros sets the child over Aias, he gives precise stepby-step instructions: ὦ παῖ, πρόσελθε δεῦρο καὶ σταθεὶς πέλας ἱκέτης ἔϕαψαι πατρός, ὅς σ᾽ ἐγείνατο. θάκει δὲ προστρόπαιος ἐν χεροῖν ἔχων κόμας ἐμὰς καὶ τῆσδε καὶ σαυτοῦ τρίτου, ἱκτήριον θησαυρόν. εἰ δέ τις στρατοῦ βίᾳ σ᾽ ἀποσπάσειε τοῦδε τοῦ νεκροῦ, κακὸς κακῶς ἄθαπτος ἐκπέσοι χθονός, γένους ἅπαντος ῥίζαν ἐξημημένος, αὔτως ὅπωσπερ τόνδ᾽ ἐγὼ τέμνω πλόκον. ἔχ᾽ αὐτόν, ὦ παῖ, καὶ ϕύλασσε, μηδέ σε κινησάτω τις, ἀλλὰ προσπεσὼν ἔχου, ὑμεῖς τε μὴ γυναῖκες ἀντ᾽ ἀνδρῶν πέλας παρέστατ᾽, ἀλλ᾽ ἀρήγετ᾽, ἔστ᾽ ἐγὼ μολὼ τάϕου μεληθεὶς τῷδε, κἂν μηδεὶς ἐᾷ. Child, come here, stand close as a suppliant and touch your father, your creator. Kneel in prayer, and hold out your hand with locks of your hair, and the hair of your mother and uncle, the only thing of value for a suppliant. If anyone from the army tries to drag you away from the body by force, I curse that man to pay for his crime, cast out of his land as a criminal, his body to lie unburied after death, his family tree pulled out from the roots, just as I pull out this lock of hair. Take it, child, look after it. Do not let anyone move you, but hold your position. ⁵⁹ Cf. Seale 1982: 156: ‘It is the small child, and he alone, who gains access to Aias’ realm. The sight of the small child, cradled in the arms of the mighty Aias, amidst the bloody carcasses is perhaps the most incongruous in the whole of Greek tragedy.’


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The interplay of thematic and dramatic significance in this play continues to challenge commentators, with some emphasizing the cult context, while others note that Sophokles could have made the cult link far more explicit if this had been his intention. Stanford’s comments on these lines demonstrate how a pathos-orientated view of child figures can colour our perceptions, even when other factors may be more important: Teukros gently (and probably slowly with pauses) asks the child first to come close to him, then stand beside his father’s corpse, then to touch it, and then (having gradually in this way overcome his natural alarm) to sit [ . . . ] beside it as a suppliant at an altar. (my italics)⁶⁰

On this reading of the scene, the point of the instructions is to create a subtle characterization. However, we should note that it is Teukros who is supposedly characterized, as a man who responds to what is seen as the ‘natural’ behaviour of the/a child, rather than Eurysakes himself. If the attribute of ‘natural alarm’ was relevant to the portrayal of Eurysakes, we would have expected some sign of this in the first scene with the child. Aias dismisses this idea, and the child’s reaction is left at that. Although the immediate literary parallel is with the fear displayed by Astyanax in the face of Hektor’s helmet in Iliad 6, we should not imagine that there is any stage business which would undercut the verbal statement. The nature of the instructions need have nothing to do with the characterization of the child, and the play contains no material for us to establish what would constitute ‘natural alarm’ in this context. There are, however, stronger reasons for the inclusion of the lines, for significant stage actions such as these usually are verbally highlighted for the audience.⁶¹ It would have been particularly necessary here, because the detailed movements of a small figure would be difficult to follow visually. The scene has been viewed as a highly charged ritual passage, and we will explore the issue of supplication more fully in Chapter 4.⁶² This consideration makes it all the more important that the actions be performed accurately, and thus a greater focus on the mechanics of staging is required. While Teukros’ instructions may fulfil a number of roles indicating action and outlining ritual behaviour, the precise nature of the lines, rather than their simple inclusion, also functions to provide clear cues for action from the ⁶⁰ Stanford 1963: 204 n. on 1171 ff. ⁶¹ Taplin 1978. ⁶² See Burian 1972; Currie 2012; Henrichs 1993.

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actor playing Eurysakes. Therefore, although the scene requires a considerable degree of independent movement from the child, every action is still cued in precisely for him. We should not assume that such a highly stylized scene is created predominantly with a view to textual directorial control over a child actor, but it does demonstrate that even in this play where the child is required to perform several actions there is no need for him to do anything without a direct verbal cue. As the family gathers at Aias’ body, there are subtle shifts in the pattern of stillness/movement and directionality. The child here is envisaged as able to move under his own volition—this is more likely a recognition that Eurysakes must now grow up and assume older responsibilities, rather than an indication that the playwright had forgotten about the earlier, younger characterization. Increased movement indicates the increased demands now placed on the child, rather than any sense that he has miraculously aged a few years. A child of five could fit into both scenes. The earlier pattern is still, however, in evidence, as Teukros raises the spectre that the child will be ‘carried off ’.⁶³ The peculiarities of this scene, with the child as protector/in need of protection will be discussed further in later chapters, but we can for now note that the comments still function as directorial comments for a child actor. Teukros’ final words to Eurysakes contain a subtle reversal of Aias’ opening remarks to his son, as the child is now asked to help with lifting Aias’ body, just as he himself was lifted up to Aias: παῖ, σὺ δὲ πατρός γ᾽, ὅσον ἰσχύεις, ϕιλότητι θιγὼν πλευρὰς σὺν ἐμοὶ τάσδ᾽ ἐπικούϕιζ᾽ . . . Child, you too help with your father, with all the strength you have, lay your loving hands with me and lift up his body.⁶⁴

Although this is in many ways a symbolic comment on the ritual processes, the visual dynamics of vertical and horizontal space centre around the child. With the use of a child actor, whose movements are closely controlled by ⁶³ Thus the emphasis is still on the child under adult direction, contra Wiles (2007: 225) who figures the child as an agent here: ‘Eurysakes . . . formally positions himself as a suppliant clinging to a body.’ ⁶⁴ Soph. Aias 1409 11.


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adults and explicit verbal cues, the height differential is put to sustained use, and provides a basis for the wider thematic use of Eurysakes in the play. Although the emphasis in the play is on the child’s movement in a passive sense, Teukros’ comments at 1171–7 indicate the potential of the child to become a more active participant.

2.3.2 Sophokles’ Oidipous Tyrannos The visual roles of children are similarly exploited at the end of Oidipous Tyrannos, if we take the ending to be genuine.⁶⁵ Oidipous asks for Kreon’s care of his children, particularly the girls, and he asks to touch them: παίδων δὲ τῶν μὲν ἀρσένων μή μοι, Κρέων, προσθῇ μέριμναν ἄνδρες εἰσίν, ὥστε μὴ σπάνιν ποτὲ σχεῖν, ἔνθ᾽ ἂν ὦσι, τοῦ βίου ταῖν δ᾽ ἀθλίαιν οἰκτραῖν τε παρθένοιν ἐμαῖν, αἷν οὔποθ᾽ ἡμὴ χωρὶς ἐστάθη βορᾶς τράπεζ᾽ ἄνευ τοῦδ᾽ ἀνδρός, ἀλλ᾽ ὅσων ἐγὼ ψαύοιμι, πάντων τῶνδ᾽ ἀεὶ μετειχέτην: αἷν μοι μέλεσθαι καὶ μάλιστα μὲν χεροῖν ψαῦσαί μ᾽ ἔασον κἀποκλαύσασθαι κακά. ἴθ᾽ ὦναξ, ἴθ᾽ ὦ γονῇ γενναῖε. χερσί τἂν θιγὼν δοκοῖμ᾽ ἔχειν σϕας, ὥσπερ ἡνίκ᾽ ἔβλεπον. τί ϕημί; οὐ δὴ κλύω που πρὸς θεῶν τοῖν μοι ϕίλοιν δακρυρροούντοιν, καί μ᾽ ἐποικτίρας Κρέων ἔπεμψέ μοι τὰ ϕίλτατ᾽ ἐκγόνοιν ἐμοῖν; λέγω τι; Κρέων λέγεις ἐγὼ γὰρ εἰμ᾽ ὁ πορσύνας τάδε, γνοὺς τὴν παροῦσαν τέρψιν ἥ σ᾽ εἶχεν πάλαι. As for my children, I don’t need you to worry about my sons, Kreon. They are grown men. They can take care of themselves,

⁶⁵ On the authenticity of the ending of the play, see Finglass 2018c: 39 40.

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but I beg you to look after my poor, young daughters. They have never been away from me, never felt any lack, anything I had was theirs, my hand to their hands. Please take care of them, and if you will allow it, please let me hold them in my arms and pour out my grief. Please, my lord. You have a noble heart. If I could just touch them with my hands it would be as if I was still seeing them. (1470) What am I saying? By the gods, am I really hearing my two girls crying? Have you taken pity on me, Kreon, and sent my beloved children to me? Is this true? Kreon: You are correct. I made arrangements for this. I know how much affection you felt for them, and them for you.⁶⁶

The staging of this scene, and the timing of the daughters’ arrival, is much debated. Many translations provide a stage direction, ‘Enter Antigone and Ismene’, but this does not make good theatrical sense. It would be strange for the children to enter unannounced at this point, as no one has been sent to fetch them, and they would have no reason to enter spontaneously. Finglass argues that Kreon must make an unacknowledged summons for the children to be brought on at this point, but he notes that there is a change in the expression, as the girls are now indicated with the plural σϕας rather than the previous dual forms.⁶⁷ I would suggest this is an indication of the change of audience focus, rather than an indication that there were commands given without explicit verbal comment. The blind Oidipous unable to see that his children are in front of him is a neat twist of the play’s thematic emphasis on sight and blindness.⁶⁸ The drama unfolds most easily if the children are already on stage, so that only a short pause is needed for Kreon to push them towards Oidipous. Kreon probably brought the children on with him when he arrived, for his comment at 1476 (ἐγὼ γὰρ εἰμ᾽ ὁ πορσύνας τάδε) makes far more sense as an indication of forethought, rather than a direct response to Oidipous’ request. ⁶⁶ Soph. OT 1459 77. ⁶⁷ See Finglass 2018c: 604 n. on 1467 7. ⁶⁸ See van Erp Taalman Kip (2006: 46 8) on the patterns of sight, touch, and pity in this play and in Soph. OC.


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This forethought would involve his political awareness that the children could be useful weapons for Kreon if Oidipous refused to leave the situation quietly. In terms of the movement, then, the children can arrive on stage with Kreon, be transferred by him to Oidipous’ control, and make no independent moves on stage. When Oidipous takes hold of his children, they again are directly told to come to him, and the directorial cue is embedded in the thematic turn, as the uncertainty about their physical location is conflated with the existential confusion as the children of incest:⁶⁹ ὦ τέκνα, ποῦ ποτ᾽ ἐστέ; δεῦρ᾽ ἴτ᾽, ἔλθετε ὡς τὰς ἀδελϕὰς τάσδε τὰς ἐμὰς χέρας, αἳ τοῦ ϕυτουργοῦ πατρὸς ὑμὶν ὧδ᾽ ὁρᾶν τὰ πρόσθε λαμπρὰ προυξένησαν ὄμματα Oh my children, where, when are you? Come here, to my hands, the hands of your brother, the same hands that blinded me, took from your life giving father the eyes which saw and greeted the light.⁷⁰

The presence of the children here is an extremely disturbing addition, as they demonstrate that the story is far from over. The anonymity of the children, which we will discuss later in this chapter, cannot conceal the fact that they are monstrous children of incest. While it is not made explicit, the combination of agricultural metaphors throughout the play, and Oidipous’ physical attachment to the children, with his frequent comment on touch, may have raised fears about monstrous births—in mythology, monstrous births were to be feared (and burnt, according to the story of Melanippe), so the simple physical presence of onstage children evokes danger, as much as ⁶⁹ Although the phrase ποῦ ποτ᾽ can often be translated as a simple intensified indefinite meaning ‘wherever’, Oidipous is struggling to express even the simplest ideas. His expression is not contained within traditional metrical bounds (see Finglass 2018c: 599 n. on 1446 514, and 608 n. on 1471), so I suggest that the two indefinites may each bear their own weight as manner/ time indefinites. On tragedy’s manipulation of indefinites, particles, pronouns, etc., see Caspers 2010; Dunn 1998. ⁷⁰ Soph. OT 1480 3. The ambiguity of brother/father, life/death, and sight/knowledge are all contained in this one address, which poses particular challenges for translation. For compari son, see Knox (1984: 248) who translates: ‘Come to these hands of mine, / your brother’s hands, your own father’s hands / that served his bright eyes once so well / that made them blind. / Seeing nothing, children, /knowing nothing I became your father, / I fathered you in the soil that gave me life.’ Knox chooses to unpack the family relationships by repetition, whereas I have attempted to translate in a tighter structure.

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sympathy for their plight.⁷¹ The overlap between comedy and drama in such stories may have been more visible than we imagine, with figures such as Pasiphae and the Minotaur baby conjured, if not actually seen, onstage.⁷² The final dialogue between Kreon and Oidipous makes it clear that the children are to be kept under the strict control of an adult, probably being held by the hand, not unlike the physical control exerted over Oidipous himself at this point:⁷³ Οἰδίπους ἄπαγέ νύν μ᾽ ἐντεῦθεν ἤδη. Κρέων στεῖχέ νυν τέκνων δ᾽ ἀϕοῦ. Οἰδίπους μηδαμῶς ταύτας γ᾽ ἕλῃ μου. Κρέων πάντα μὴ βούλου κρατεῖν καὶ γὰρ ἁκράτησας οὔ σοι τῷ βίῳ ξυνέσπετο. Oidipous: Lead me away, then. Kreon: Come, but let go of your children. Oidipous: No! Don’t take them away from me! Kreon: You must stop trying to control everything. Your life is now one of powerlessness.⁷⁴ ⁷¹ For attitudes to ‘unnatural’ and ‘monstrous’ births (as the offspring seen nurtured by cows are assumed to be in the story of Melanippe), see Boardman 2004. Burning can also be constructed as a form of perverted birth; see Parker 1983: 221. ⁷² See Cozzoli 2001 on the ‘monstrous baby’ Minotaur, apparently being nursed in fr. 2. 21 2 of Eur. Kretes. ⁷³ Kreon speaks of Oidipous as an object to be moved from the start of this scene: ἀλλ᾽ εἰ τὰ θνητῶν μὴ καταισχύνεσθ᾽ ἔτι / γένεθλα, τὴν γοῦν πάντα βόσκουσαν ϕλόγα / αἰδεῖσθ᾽ ἄνακτος Ἡλίου, τοιόνδ᾽ ἄγος / ἀκάλυπτον οὕτω δεικνύναι, τὸ μήτε γῆ / μήτ᾽ ὄμβρος ἱερὸς μήτε ϕῶς προσδέξεται. / ἀλλ᾽ ὡς τάχιστ᾽ ἐς οἶκον ἐσκομίζετε· ‘But if you have no respect for mortal beings, then at least show some respect for the light that nurtures all, Lord Helios, and cover up this abomination, hide it from view. Neither earth, nor holy rain nor the light itself will willingly have it, so get it into the house as quickly as you can.’ 1424 9. ⁷⁴ Soph. OT 1521 3. On the final lines of the play, and the suggestion that 1523 may be the final line, see Finglass 2018c: 616 17. For an alternative translation of Creon’s last lines here, emphasizing the temporal and spatial restrictions on Oidipous’ actions, see Nisetich (2016: 274): ‘Cease to desire power in everything; the power you had in life has not stayed with you to the end.’


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For the final scene, the parallel between Oidipous and the small figures of his daughters is emphasized by the control of movement, and invites consideration of the issues of power and control. Kitzinger suggests: [ . . . ] for the audience, seeing them together is visual proof that the familial connections and ties have future implications that Oidipous cannot see, that their isolation from each other can never be complete.⁷⁵

The life cycle of Oidipous, as referred to in the riddle of the Sphinx, has been noted in these final scenes, but in many ways Oidipous has come not to old age, but to a second childhood, which is mythologically accomplished by his secluded, guided remaining life.⁷⁶ Whether the adults leave or remain onstage, the children here are kept by their side,⁷⁷ and need do nothing on their own which would require a direct cue. This makes the use of child actors both thematically and practically possible.⁷⁸

2.3.3 Euripides’ Andromakhe There are three direct cues in the play, all given to Andromakhe’s son. The child’s independent actions can be blocked from these cues, but most of his onstage action is controlled by an adult. He arrives onstage as Menelaos’ prisoner, and exits (at 463) similarly bound or held: Μενέλαος ἥκω λαβὼν σὸν παῖδ᾽, ὃν εἰς ἄλλους δόμους λάθρᾳ θυγατρὸς τῆς ἐμῆς ὑπεξέθου. σὲ μὲν γὰρ ηὔχεις θεᾶς βρέτας σῴσειν τόδε, τοῦτον δὲ τοὺς κρύψαντας ἀλλ᾽ ἐϕηυρέθης

⁷⁵ Kitzinger 1993: 552 5. ⁷⁶ Van Nortwick 2008: 151: ‘In his realizations of Oedipus, Sophocles has traced the arc of a masculine life from vigorous youth to mature manhood to old age.’ Antigone and Ismene in Soph. OC are not presented as children, as we will discuss in the context of names. On the Sphinx myth in general, see Baglioni 2013; Renger (2013) with Davies (2014) on the mytho logical parallels between Oidipous and Paris. Cf. Zhenzhao (2015) on the image of the Sphinx and its implications for the modern practice of classical scholarship. ⁷⁷ See Dyson (1972) for the likelihood that Kreon takes the children into his own house, in fulfilment of his promise to care for them. ⁷⁸ On the significance of staging in this scene, see Scully 1991.

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ἧσσον ϕρονοῦσα τοῦδε Μενέλεω, γύναι. κεἰ μὴ τόδ᾽ ἐκλιποῦσ᾽ ἐρημώσεις πέδον, ὅδ᾽ ἀντὶ τοῦ σοῦ σώματος σϕαγήσεται. ταῦτ᾽ οὖν λογίζου, πότερα κατθανεῖν θέλεις ἢ τόνδ᾽ ὀλέσθαι σῆς ἁμαρτίας ὕπερ, ἣν εἰς ἔμ᾽ εἴς τε παῖδ᾽ ἐμὴν ἁμαρτάνεις. Menelaos: So here I am. You tried to deceive my daughter, sending your boy away to another house, but I have him now. You looked to this statue to save your life, and looked to your son’s concealers to save his. Good thinking, but you’re not clever enough to outsmart Menelaos, the man who stands before you now. If you do not leave this place of sanctuary, this boy will be slaughtered as a substitute for you. Think about it: would you prefer to die yourself, or have him killed as punishment for the harm you have done to me and my child?⁷⁹

The initial staging probably shows us the child with the soldiers of Menelaos. Stevens suggests that a sword may be held to his throat, but the very presence of the armed men is threat enough.⁸⁰ The vulnerability of his position is indicated by Menelaos’ stark use of the deictic ὅδε (315). The boy is not an infant, so we should not imagine him being carried. He may be tied in some way (although his final scene with Peleus speaks against this), but it would be dramatically effective if he was being physically held by one of the soldiers, subverting a protective gesture. The child must exit with Andromakhe, who has now been bound herself.⁸¹ He re-enters with his mother,⁸² and Andromakhe tells him to adopt a pose of supplication: Ἀνδρομάχη λίσσου, γούνασι δεσπότου χρίμπτων, ὦ τέκνον. ⁷⁹ Eur. Andr. 309 18. ⁸⁰ Stevens 1971: 135 n. on 315. ⁸¹ In response to Menelaos’ command: λάβεσθέ μοι τῆσδ᾽, ἀμϕελίξαντες χέρας, / δμῶες· ‘Seize her, slaves, hold her tightly.’ 425 6. ⁸² The Chorus members call attention to their appearance as a pair: Χορός: καὶ μὴν ἐσορῶ τόδε σύγκρατον / ζεῦγος πρὸ δόμων ψήϕῳ θανάτου / κατακεκριμένον. Chorus: ‘I see them in front of the house, two heads yoked together, a death sentence hanging over them.’ 494 6.


    Παῖς ὦ ϕίλος ϕίλος, ἄνες θάνατόν μοι. Andromakhe: Pray, fall on your knees before him, my child. Child: Friend, friend, do not kill me!⁸³

The child must remain in a suppliant pose, which Andromakhe mirrors in supplication to Peleus.⁸⁴ Peleus then calls the child to him, and keeps the child with him: . . . ἕρπε δεῦρ᾽ ὑπ᾽ ἀγκάλας, βρέϕος, ξύλλυε δεσμὰ μητρός ἐν Φθίᾳ σ᾽ ἐγὼ θρέψω μέγαν τοῖσδ᾽ ἐχθρόν. εἰ δ᾽ ἀπῆν δορὸς τοῖς Σπαρτιάταις δόξα καὶ μάχης ἀγών, τἄλλ᾽ ὄντες ἴστε μηδενὸς βελτίονες. Come here under my arm, little one, and help me undo your mother’s ties. I myself will nurture you in Phthia, turning you into a great enemy to these people. If it wasn’t for your reputation for spear warfare, you Spartans would know that you are no better than anyone else.⁸⁵

The child’s only independent actions are directly cued by Andromakhe and Peleus, and otherwise he does not need to make any movement on stage other than under the direct physical control of an adult. Peleus’ speech, as we will discuss later, is an interesting mix of tones, as he enacts a protective gesture, with the diminutive βρέϕος, and yet his focus is clearly on the danger which the child will pose to Menelaos as an adult, echoing the sentiments Menelaos himself had expressed earlier:

⁸³ Eur. Andr. 529 31. ⁸⁴ Eur. Andr. 572 5 ἀλλ᾽ ἀντιάζω σ᾽, ὦ γέρον, τῶν σῶν πάρος / πίτνουσα γονάτων χειρὶ δ᾽ οὐκ ἔξεστί μοι / τῆς σῆς λαβέσθαι ϕιλτάτης γενειάδος / ῥῦσαί με πρὸς θεῶν· ‘I beg you, sir, I fall before your knees, for I cannot physically bring my hand to touch to your beard, by all the gods I beg you to save me.’ ⁸⁵ Eur. Andr. 722 6.

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. . . καὶ γὰρ ἀνοία μεγάλη λείπειν ἐχθροὺς ἐχθρῶν, ἐξὸν κτείνειν καὶ ϕόβον οἴκων ἀϕελέσθαι. It would be completely stupid to leave enemy’s children to be new enemies, when it is possible to kill them and take away all fear for the future of the house.⁸⁶

Such comments occur in a number of plays and we cannot always tell how the audience reacted to such moral certitude, but in this play the whole argument is undercut because Menelaos was previously leaving the decision on the boy’s fate to Hermione, suggesting that he himself was not quite as forward-looking as he claims to be. In Peleus’ closing words, we see that the threat was real, as he promises to turn ‘Molossos’ into an enemy for Menelaos: ἐν Φθίᾳ σ᾽ ἐγὼ/θρέψω μέγαν τοῖσδ᾽ ἐχθρόν. ‘In Phthia I myself will nurture you, a great enemy to these people.’⁸⁷ The blocking of the child’s role, therefore, indicates in practical terms that it could be played by a child actor subject to close directorial supervision. In thematic terms, a small child on stage in this play is a powerful visual symbol of the fragility of family relationships,⁸⁸ but is also a possible clue to Menelaos’ character—if, as seems likely, the child is not physically bound, he represents the wildcard of the future, which Menelaos in his overconfidence chooses to ignore, seeing only the weak, present-time child in front of him.⁸⁹

2.3.4 Euripides’ Hekabe Although linked thematically with Polydoros and Polyxene, the children of Polymestor are the only child figures in the play, and their role is strictly limited. They arrive on stage with their father (952), as indicated by Hekabe’s wish to speak to ‘Polymestor and his children alone’.⁹⁰ They are ⁸⁶ Eur. Andr. 519 21. ⁸⁷ Eur. Andr. 723 4. ⁸⁸ See Zeitlin 2008 on the way the child’s role delineates the conflict between Andromakhe and Hermione. ⁸⁹ On Menelaos’ moral standpoint in the Iliad, see Lawrence 2003. Cf. Widsisz (2012) on temporal awareness as a marker of an epic hero’s character and stature. ⁹⁰ Ἑκάβη: ἴδιον ἐμαυτῆς δή τι πρὸς σὲ βούλομαι / καὶ παῖδας εἰπεῖν σούς· ὀπάονας δέ μοι / χωρὶς κέλευσον τῶνδ᾽ ἀποστῆναι δόμων. Hekabe: ‘There is a personal matter I wish to discuss with you and your children. Please send your attendants out of the tents.’ 978 80.


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then kept by his side before they leave the stage with him into the private space. The children are for practical, as well as thematic, purposes seen as a unit with their father, so no cues are needed for any independent movements. Rather, it is the way that they remain under adult control, even as they are passed to their deaths at the hands of the women, that is central to the problematization of their status as innocent/guilty victims: ὅσαι δὲ τοκάδες ἦσαν, ἐκπαγλούμεναι τέκν᾽ ἐν χεροῖν ἔπαλλον, ὡς πρόσω πατρὸς γένοιντο, διαδοχαῖς ἀμείβουσαι χερῶν κᾆτ᾽ ἐκ γαληνῶν πῶς δοκεῖς προσϕθεγμάτων εὐθὺς λαβοῦσαι ϕάσγαν᾽ ἐκ πέπλων ποθὲν κεντοῦσι παῖδας, . . . The ones who were mothers, stroked and cuddled my children in their arms, getting them as far away from their father as they could, passing them on, one to another in their arms. And then, unbelievable horror, instead of their soothing words, they suddenly snatched daggers from under their robes and killed my children.⁹¹

Polymestor’s description makes it clear that the apparently safe hands of the women were accompanied by soothing words, until the moment when they pulled out their daggers—a sharp contrast with the way his soothing words continued after he had already killed Polydoros.

2.3.5 Euripides’ Herakleidai As the group of Herakles’ children in exile, the children have a strong onstage presence and may sit still throughout the play, except for three actions which are all given explicit verbal cues, the first two being simple instructions: ὦ τέκνα τέκνα, δεῦρο, λαμβάνεσθ᾽ ἐμῶν / πέπλων· ‘Children, children, come here, take hold of my coat’ (48–9); δότ᾽, ὦ τέκν᾽, αὐτοῖς χεῖρα δεξιάν, δότε, ‘Come, children clasp their hands’ (307). While that instruction has a

⁹¹ Eur. Hek. 1157 62.

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symbolic meaning as a gesture of supplication (which we will discuss in Chapter 4), the final instruction is more pointed: ὦ παῖδες, οἰχόμεσθα λύεται μέλη λύπῃ λάβεσθε κἀς ἕδραν μ᾽ ἐρείσατε αὐτοῦ πέπλοισι τοῖσδε κρύψαντες, τέκνα.⁹² Oh children, this is the end. Grief drains the life from my limbs. Take hold of me and set me down on this altar, shrouding me in my coat, children.⁹³

The combination of age and youth, old asking young for help, counterpoints the previous scene where the daughter, ‘Makaria’, has volunteered to be a sacrifice on behalf of the whole family. The movement here, then, is flagged as an indication that Iolaos has lost any semblance of control, so the contrast becomes less between old and young, and more that between dead and living. While it is possible that the original production involved more movement for the children than the text indicates, the basic blocking is embedded in the text. They have no spoken lines, and in this respect are different from the chorus of Euripides’ Hiketides. Although the possibilities for complex stage action involving the children have been noted by Marshall and others,⁹⁴ the ancient staging requires no movement other than the three cases noted above, and it may be the silent, static presence that is most significant, given the anxiety about pursuit and flight which Iolaos so clearly articulates in the play.⁹⁵

2.3.6 Euripides’ Herakles The struggle for control of events in the play is reflected in the large number of comments referring to the action: Lykos tries to control Amphitryon and Megara; they, in response, beg Herakles to come and take action; Hera sends Lyssa and Iris to intervene in affairs; Theseus tries to stir Herakles to action at the end of the play. The overall impression created is that characters in the play are rarely able to take independent ⁹² As OCT, but see app. crit 604 τέκνα] κάρα Diggle. ⁹³ Eur. Herakl. 602 4. ⁹⁴ See Marshall 1999. ⁹⁵ For Iolaos’ active role both on and offstage, see Murnaghan 2013: 181.


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action, but for the adults not every action is cued in. For example, even though Amphitryon and Megara are restricted in the range of action they can take as captives, when they ask Lykos for mercy they make uncued stage movements, which they then comment upon: Amphitryon must make some gesture when he offers Lykos his throat,⁹⁶ and Megara’s words of supplication to Lykos must be accompanied by the appropriate gestures.⁹⁷ By contrast, the child roles in the play clearly demonstrate that child figures are controlled by the text more directly. We noted above the disjunction between the children’s described behaviour when they think Herakles has returned and their actual staged behaviour, as noted above. As Herakles arrives it would be perfectly acceptable within the tragic framework for Megara to draw attention to the significant action by saying, ‘Look, how the children run to you.’ Instead, there are always specific cues given to the children to govern any movement they must make, even when they are under adult control. They are told to leave the stage with Megara at 520–1, prompting a cue to rise and follow the adult actor: Μεγάρα ὦ τέκν᾽, ὁμαρτεῖτ᾽ ἀθλίῳ μητρὸς ποδὶ πατρῷον ἐς μέλαθρον, οὗ τῆς οὐσίας ἄλλοι κρατοῦσι, τὸ δ᾽ ὄνομ᾽ ἔσθ᾽ ἡμῶν ἔτι. Megara: O children, follow your poor mother’s footsteps into your ancestral home, a place where others have the power, but the name is still ours.⁹⁸

When Herakles returns, with their mother they are told to take off their burial robes, and then told to take Herakles’ hands and follow him offstage: Ἡρακλῆς οὐ ῥίψεθ᾽ Ἅιδου τάσδε περιβολὰς κόμης καὶ ϕῶς ἀναβλέψεσθε, τοῦ κάτω σκότου ϕίλας ἀμοιβὰς ὄμμασιν δεδορκότες;

⁹⁶ Eur. Her. 319 20.

⁹⁷ Eur. Her. 327.

⁹⁸ Eur. Her. 336 8.

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Herakles: Come, tear off these death robes and look to the sun. Instead of the darkness below turn your eyes to see the light.⁹⁹ ἀλλ᾽ εἶ᾽, ὁμαρτεῖτ᾽, ὦ τέκν᾽, ἐς δόμους πατρί καλλίονές τἄρ᾽ εἴσοδοι τῶν ἐξόδων πάρεισιν ὑμῖν. ἀλλὰ θάρσος ἴσχετε καὶ νάματ᾽ ὄσσων μηκέτ᾽ ἐξανίετε But come, children, follow me into your ancestral home. Your entrance now far better than your last exit, come, cheer up, no more tears should scar your faces.¹⁰⁰

Even in this complex set of movements the children’s roles run smoothly without the need for them to do anything other than that which they are explicitly told to do. The controlled movements of the children onstage contrast not only with their imagined behaviour that Megara speaks of, but also with the chaotic scenes described by the Messenger when the children try to escape from Herakles’ madness. The children’s actions in that scene are described as futile: . . . οἳ δὲ ταρβοῦντες ϕόβῳ ὤρουον ἄλλος ἄλλοσ᾽, ἐς πέπλους ὁ μὲν μητρὸς ταλαίνης, ὁ δ᾽ ὑπὸ κίονος σκιάν, ἄλλος δὲ βωμὸν ὄρνις ὣς ἔπτηξ᾽ ὕπο. They were terrified, and scattered in panic, one to his poor mother’s skirts, one to the shadow of a column, one hid under the altar like a sheltering bird.¹⁰¹

The impossibility of escape is emphasized by the three different strategies the children employ. The first child tries to run around the column, a symbolic appeal to the house itself, a place of safety no more now that Herakles is in hunting mode: ὁ δ᾽ ἐξελίσσων παῖδα κίονος κύκλῳ τόρνευμα δεινὸν ποδός, ἐναντίον σταθεὶς βάλλει πρὸς ἧπαρ ⁹⁹ Eur. Her. 562 4.

¹⁰⁰ Eur. Her. 622 4.

¹⁰¹ Eur. Her. 971 4.


    He hunted the child in a circle around the column, tracking him round and round until he came face to face and ran him straight through.¹⁰²

The second child attempts to engage the parental link through physical contact, throwing himself at his father and attempting a supplication: ϕθάνει δ᾽ ὁ τλήμων γόνασι προσπεσὼν πατρός καὶ πρὸς γένειον χεῖρα καὶ δέρην βαλών, Ὦ ϕίλτατ᾽, αὐδᾷ, μή μ᾽ ἀποκτείνῃς, πάτερ Before he could fire, the poor child threw himself at his father’s knees, touched his beard and neck and cried, ‘Dearest father, listen to me, don’t kill me father!’¹⁰³

The third child stays in the protective arms of his mother, only for Herakles to kill mother and son in a single shot, the epic parallels highlighting the domesticity of the scene: ἀλλὰ ϕθάνει νιν ἡ τάλαιν᾽ ἔσω δόμων μήτηρ ὑπεκλαβοῦσα, καὶ κλῄει πύλας. ὁ δ᾽ ὡς ἐπ᾽ αὐτοῖς δὴ Κυκλωπίοισιν ὢν σκάπτει μοχλεύει θύρετρα κἀκβαλὼν σταθμὰ δάμαρτα καὶ παῖδ᾽ ἑνὶ κατέστρωσεν βέλει. Before he could fire, the poor mother scooped him up, ran into the house and bolted the door. It was as if Herakles was at the Kyklopean Walls, the way he wrenched open the doors with a crowbar and pulled the posts from their sockets, before he shot mother and son clean through with one shot from his bow.¹⁰⁴

¹⁰² Eur. Her. 977 9. See Stieber (2011: 359 60) on the importance of retaining κίονος κύκλῳ in 977 as it is a poetic more than a practical description in keeping with the play’s emphasis on circularity. ¹⁰³ Eur. Her. 986 8. ¹⁰⁴ Eur. Her. 996 1000.

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After this violent passage of movement, the children arrive back on stage silent and motionless, as Amphitryon welcomes them: ἰδού, θέασαι τάδε τέκνων πεσήματα. Look, the children, their fallen bodies.¹⁰⁵

2.3.7 Euripides’ Medeia The dramatic significance of the children’s movements in Medeia has been widely noted.¹⁰⁶ They are central to the audience’s attention even when other adult figures are present.¹⁰⁷ From the start of the play their movements create a tension—‘Will we see the children again?’ battles with ‘Where will the children be safe, inside the house or outside it?’¹⁰⁸ The Nurse tells the Paidagogos to keep the children away from their mother when they go inside, which Rehm aptly describes as a ‘spatial oxymoron’.¹⁰⁹ By sending the children to the palace with gifts Medeia sends the children away from the immediate danger she herself presents, but also into an ultimately fatal situation, and as her distress mounts from 1020 she appears to send the children into the safety of the house, only to follow them in herself. Most of the children’s movements are clearly controlled either by verbal cues or by the presence of an adult who moves with them. Medeia calls the children out and tells them to take Iason’s hand,¹¹⁰ then to take the gifts for Kreon’s daughter.¹¹¹ They leave the stage with Iason, following Medeia’s words, ἴθ᾽ ὡς τάχιστα· ‘Go, quickly as you can!’¹¹² Two scenes are more ¹⁰⁵ Eur. Her. 1131. ¹⁰⁶ See, for example, Bordaux 1996; Luschnig 1988: 95 6; Page 1938: 138. Lawrence (1997) discusses the wider issue of the audience response. ¹⁰⁷ See Halleran (1985:7) on the fundamentally peripheral status of the Paidagogos. ¹⁰⁸ See Ohlander (1989: 33 198) on the creation of suspense here. ¹⁰⁹ Rehm 1986: 38, and cf. Rehm (2002: 251 61) on the spatial dynamics of the play as a whole. ¹¹⁰ Eur. Med. 894 9: ὦ τέκνα τέκνα, δεῦρο, λείπετε στέγας, / ἐξέλθετ᾽, ἀσπάσασθε καὶ προσείπατε / πατέρα μεθ᾽ ἡμῶν καὶ διαλλάχθηθ᾽ ἅμα / τῆς πρόσθεν ἔχθρας ἐς ϕίλους μητρὸς μέτα· / σπονδαὶ γὰρ ἡμῖν καὶ μεθέστηκεν χόλος. / λάβεσθε χειρὸς δεξιᾶς· ‘Oh children, children, come here, leave the house, come greet your father and speak to him with your mother, now our quarrels have turned to friendship again. We have come to a truce, and the anger is all gone. Come, take his right hand.’ ¹¹¹ Eur. Med. λάζυσθε ϕερνὰς τάσδε, παῖδες, ἐς χέρας / καὶ τῇ τυράννῳ μακαρίᾳ νύμϕῃ δότε / ϕέροντες· οὔτοι δῶρα μεμπτὰ δέξεται. ‘Take these bridal gifts in your hands, children, carry them in and give them to the blessed royal bride. She will be happy to receive such gifts.’ 956 8. ¹¹² Eur. Med. 974.


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problematic, for they appear to involve divergences from established stage practices concerning the behaviour of mute actors and the response to commands.¹¹³ The first scene (89–110) poses difficulties about the apparent repetition of orders for movement, but these can be explained by the Paidagogos’ continued control over the children: Τροϕός ἴτ᾽, εὖ γὰρ ἔσται, δωμάτων ἔσω, τέκνα. σὺ δ᾽ ὡς μάλιστα τούσδ᾽ ἐρημώσας ἔχε καὶ μὴ πέλαζε μητρὶ δυσθυμουμένῃ. ἤδη γὰρ εἶδον ὄμμα νιν ταυρουμένην τοῖσδ᾽, ὥς τι δρασείουσαν: οὐδὲ παύσεται χόλου, σάϕ᾽ οἶδα, πρὶν κατασκῆψαί τινι. ἐχθρούς γε μέντοι, μὴ ϕίλους, δράσειέ τι. Μήδεια (ἔσωθεν) ἰώ, δύστανος ἐγὼ μελέα τε πόνων, ἰώ μοί μοι, πῶς ἂν ὀλοίμαν; Τροϕός τόδ᾽ ἐκεῖνο, ϕίλοι παῖδες μήτηρ κινεῖ κραδίαν, κινεῖ δὲ χόλον. σπεύδετε θᾶσσον δώματος εἴσω καὶ μὴ πελάσητ᾽ ὄμματος ἐγγὺς μηδὲ προσέλθητ᾽, ἀλλὰ ϕυλάσσεσθ᾽ ἄγριον ἦθος στυγεράν τε ϕύσιν ϕρενὸς αὐθάδους. ἴτε νυν, χωρεῖθ᾽ ὡς τάχος εἴσω. Nurse: Off you go, all will be well, into the house, children. You, you keep them well away from their mother while she’s like this. I’ve seen her look at them with such fury, as if she meant to harm them. She won’t be satisfied until her anger has found an outlet. I just pray it’s enemies and not loved ones she hurts. ¹¹³ See Bain (1981: 15 33) who demonstrates that mute actors always respond directly to orders without deviation.

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Medeia: (from inside) Ah, ah, this suffering is unbearable. I am destroyed. Death take me! Nurse: This is just what I was saying, my dear children. Your mother is stewing in pain and anger. Quick now, hurry into the house. Stay out of her way, don’t meet her eye, be careful of her temper and her darker instincts. In you go, quick as you can.

When the Nurse first tells the children to go into the house (89), they must start to move as do all mute, commanded figures on the tragic stage. The cry from Medeia which retards their movement affects not the children but the Paidagogos.¹¹⁴ He must be the one physically directing the children, probably holding their hands, so he can stop their movements. This then justifies the Nurse’s second command to the children to leave (105), which again they must respond to. A second scene which poses problems for a simple blocking of the children’s role is the highly debated section of the play where Medeia wrestles with her intentions in a complex and confusing psychological battle. Problems of the textual transmission combine with concerns over the philosophical coherence of the scene. If we take the full text of the disputed passage (1056–80) as it stands, there are three instructions to the children: ‘Go away’ (1053), ‘Give me your hands’, (1069), and ‘Go away’ (1076). If the children respond to the first command, there is a staging problem in getting them back to respond to the second. One solution would be for the children to leave, then return as if called, or for their offstage movement to be halted by Medeia’s cry, so that they do not leave the acting space. A second solution is favoured by Page, commenting that the necessary pause for the children to re-enter having already left would be ‘awkward and improbable’.¹¹⁵ Mastronarde also favours a moment of hesitation by the children, noting that Medeia’s cry at 1056 ‘apparently causes

¹¹⁴ Similarly, in Soph. OT an instruction is given to the group of children (possibly meta phorical with regards to age) to leave (142), but is not immediately followed because the children are closely associated with, and responding to the priest, who gives them their cue to move shortly afterwards as an indication that their supplication has been successful. See further Finglass (2018c: 205 7). ¹¹⁵ Page 1938: 148 n. on 1053.


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enough alarm to cause them to halt’.¹¹⁶ This solution is in itself awkward. In a play where the children’s movements are such a close focus of audience attention it would cause an unwelcome distraction to have them at large in the acting space. The children are presumably unaccompanied during this scene, for Medeia has deliberately dismissed their dedicated attendant, the Paidagogos. If we can draw a parallel with the earlier scene where the children’s movements are arrested, we would need to assume the existence of a further attendant who arrests the children’s movements in response to Medeia’s cry at 1056.¹¹⁷ With no evidence to suggest that children onstage were regularly accompanied by extra mute attendants, we must assume that the dismissal of the Paidagogos has a particular force, leaving the children in their mother’s sole care and thus emphasizing the dual threat and protection she presents, not unlike the way Polymestor’s children are exposed when the attendants are sent away in Euripides’ Hekabe. If the children are, as seems likely, unaccompanied, then to assume that their exit is arrested goes against not only the general pattern for children’s movements outlined in this chapter, but also violates the ‘rule’ which Bain has discussed, whereby an order given to mute figures onstage is carried out with no or little delay.¹¹⁸ Bain concludes, for this reason, that lines 1056–80 are indeed interpolated, as many have argued for other reasons. I do not propose to here rehearse the general arguments for the authenticity of the passage, but defer to Mastronarde’s evaluation of the issues.¹¹⁹ If the doubtful lines are included, then a more satisfactory solution to my mind is that the children do indeed leave the stage in response to Medeia’s first command, 1053: χωρεῖτε, παῖδες, ἐς δόμους. ‘Children, go into the house.’ When we reach the recall of the children, we could allow a brief pause mid-line to allow for relevant stage business: παῖδας προσειπεῖν βούλομαι δότ᾽, ὦ τέκνα, δότ᾽ ἀσπάσασθαι μητρὶ δεξιὰν χέρα. I wish to speak to the children. /(pause)/ Give me your hands, children, Give me your hands and let your mother kiss them.¹²⁰

¹¹⁶ ¹¹⁷ ¹¹⁹ ¹²⁰

Mastronarde 1979: 110. Mastronarde 1979: 110. ¹¹⁸ Bain 1981:15. On the authenticity of these lines, see Mastronarde 2002: 388 97. Eur. Med. 1069 79.

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Medeia’s comment in the first words of 1069: παῖδας προσειπεῖν βούλομαι· ‘I want to speak to the children’, then functions as a call to an offstage attendant, possibly to the Paidagogos who would be waiting for the children. The children are then sent back onstage, without any need for them to make independent actions. The objection that this solution would cause an improbably long pause in the action between the two sections of 1069 is not to my mind a serious one. Medeia’s sudden call for the children whom she has just sent to safety would create a level of audience tension which could easily provide a long enough moment for the scene to be realized, and the final words of the line could be addressed to the children as they approach, further reducing the time lag. In summary, the children’s movements in Medeia conform to the general pattern of direct verbal cues or physical control by an adult which we see elsewhere in tragedy. The disputed scene (1056–80) presents a difficulty of staging, but this could be resolved by observation of the general pattern that child figures do indeed respond to their direct cues.

2.3.8 Euripides’ Hiketides Unlike the group of children in Euripides’ Herakleidai, the ‘sons of the fallen’ in this play act as a functional chorus. This raises a number of issues about their relationship to ‘child actors’. We know that children’s choruses for dithyrambic competitions were widespread and popular, but the age of this chorus is doubtful. Some aspects of their presentation suggest that they are envisaged more as ‘dramatic adults’, with thematic and functional roles similar to those of Antigone in Euripides’ Phoinissai or Neoptolemos in Sophokles’ Philoktetes. The use of language suggests a more adult characterization, but the pattern of movement could indicate child movement in an onstage, rather than ‘in-orchestra’, context. Given the likelihood that the child actors came from previous boys’ choruses, a more accomplished set of movements might be envisaged for a chorus of boys, but in fact the chorus of sons can function on stage with a very simple blocking, which would be appropriate for the use of child figures on stage, as they appear to move only in relation to Adrastos. The chorus can enter with Adrastos (106–8), sit onstage until he leads them off for the funeral, then return with the ashes (1113–15), requiring no direct cues for movement. Halleran notes that the blocking of the scenes from 958 on stresses the lack of independence shown by the chorus of children, but in the following chapter’s discussion of potential I will argue that independence in movement


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does not correlate automatically with age-related issues of weakness—a silent, still figure may be perceived as threatening or weak, depending on other factors.¹²¹ It may be that the chorus members should be viewed as the sort of liminal figures in whom the playwright combines elements of child and adult characterization. Unlike single adolescent figures, however, they do not go through a marked transition into adulthood, so I think it more likely that they are conceived as ‘dramatic adults’ rather than the ‘dramatic children’ who form the chorus of Herakleidai.¹²² The assumed capacity of a group of children for choral singing is not necessarily extended to their role as onstage figures performing complex roles, but the language and perspective they display is a more decisive feature, figuring them as part of an adult discourse of patriotism and revenge.¹²³ For this reason, I consider them as ‘adolescent figures’, and thus detailed analysis of their roles falls outside the scope of the present study.

2.3.9 Euripides’ Troades The onstage role for Astyanax is very brief, and he is closely linked to Andromakhe, both in staging terms and in her self-presentation. Her cry of ‘Take him, then, throw him to his death’ should be read as rhetorical, given the strength of her attachment in the previous lines, and it may be that the child is never physically separated from Andromakhe. If he is, his one independent action is still cued in by Talthybios: Ταλθύβιος ἄγε παῖ, ϕίλιον πρόσπτυγμα μεθεὶς μητρὸς μογερᾶς, βαῖνε πατρῴων πύργων ἐπ᾽ ἄκρας στεϕάνας, ὅθι σοι πνεῦμα μεθεῖναι ψῆϕος ἐκράνθη. λαμβάνετ᾽ αὐτόν. Come, child, leave the loving embrace Of your poor mother. Climb to the crowning peak of your ancestral castle, where

¹²¹ Halleran 1985: 21. ¹²² The comparison between the two contexts of supplication in Athens has been widely debated, see Tzanetou (2012) on the political implications. ¹²³ On the difficulties of assigning choral identities in this play, see Scully 1996; Storey 2009.

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you are condemned to take your last breath. Take him!¹²⁴

Talthybios’ speech mixes several different frames of reference. The comment about climbing to the top of the castle is metaphorical, as the slaves are then told to ‘take hold’ of him, but the apostrophe to the child himself is effective in emphasizing his powerlessness. The expression that the vote was for him to ‘send out his breath’ is multilayered: πνεῦμα μεθεῖναι is difficult to translate as the verb can express several different meanings, from a simple idea of ‘releasing a breath’ or ‘speaking words’ to the more visceral ideas of ‘shooting’ or ‘plunging’. It also can carry the force of ‘surrender’, appropriate to the enslaved status of the nation here. It is an ironic twist that the child will be killed (passively) under the guise of (actively) following an order, but even in this example the child, whether walking or carried, is strictly under adult control.

2.3.10 Euripides’ Alkestis In all of the plays so far considered, the roles of the child or children can be specifically blocked with textual cues. Combined with the presence of an actor or supernumerary figure, such as a slave, no child figure is required to make an independent movement. In the context of a one-performance competition it is likely that the playwrights wished to keep child movements simple, or at least to control the most important moves through the text itself, if they knew (as I suggest they did) that real child actors would be playing child roles. The pattern is striking, and extant tragedy provides only one exception, in Euripides’ Alkestis, the fourth play which stood in place of the traditional satyr play. Even if we take the overall intent of the play to be tragic, the play is unusual in the extent to which Orphic mysteries are foregrounded, and the actions of the play are layered against journeys of initiation.¹²⁵ This in itself may provide a reason why the textual control of movement is handled differently, reflecting ideas of journeying and guided movements in ritual.¹²⁶ Markantonatos suggests that the son of Alkestis

¹²⁴ Eur. Tro. 782 8. ¹²⁵ On the layering of different journeys in the play, see Markantonatos 2013: 109 11. ¹²⁶ See Edmonds (2004: 88; 2011b) on the imagery in Orphic gold tablets for guiding the dead, and the parallels with the guiding of infants into life. The journey imagery is present throughout Alkestis, notably in relation to Herakles, but is also used by Alkestis herself: . . . οἵαν ὁδὸν ἁ / δειλαιοτάτα προβαίνω. ‘How miserable I am in the path I now tread.’ 262 3.


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occupies a pivotal position in the drama: ‘His threnodic lyrics signal the discontinuation of joyous song and dance in the palace.’¹²⁷ The children’s movements, then, may be subject to extra control due to the mystical nature of the story unfolding. Unfortunately this cannot in itself account for the peculiar nature of the children’s movements in the play (in addition to the peculiarities of other aspects). We can still block the basic movements of the children, assuming that child actors were used, even when the usual textual pointers are absent. The basic movements required might not be seen as requiring explicit cues, but the range of peculiarities goes beyond this, and the play’s handling of movement in relation to adults and children appears to flout tragic convention. There is no explicit cue for the children to arrive onstage, so they probably come with the group family entry, although the chorus only explicitly comments on the arrival of Alkestis and Admetos: Χορός α ἰδοὺ ἰδού ἅδ᾽ ἐκ δόμων δὴ καὶ πόσις πορεύεται. Chorus (a): Look, look! She is coming from the house, and her husband comes.¹²⁸

Unremarked and unmotivated movements of mute characters (the daughter and initially, by presumption, the son) is a feature of Greek comedy rather than tragedy, so the lack of comment on the arrival of the children is puzzling. When Alkestis speaks, it is possible she is addressing the servants for the whole passage (as she had earlier been described as treating her servants like a mother),¹²⁹ and that all of the following apostrophes to the children are rhetorical, but it is more likely that the children are assumed as part of the tableau from the beginning: Ἄλκηστις μέθετε μέθετέ μ᾽ ἤδη ¹²⁷ Markantonatos 2013: 79. ¹²⁸ Eur. Alk. 234 5. ¹²⁹ The description of Alkestis kissing her children is followed immediately by a similarly affectionate response to the servants: πάντες δ᾽ ἔκλαιον οἰκέται κατὰ στέγας / δέσποιναν οἰκτίροντες· ἡ δὲ δεξιὰν / προύτειν᾽ ἑκάστῳ κοὔτις ἦν οὕτω κακὸς / ὃν οὐ προσεῖπε καὶ προσερρήθη σερρήθη πάλιν. ‘All the servants in the house were sobbing, mourning their mistress. She clasped each of their hands, and spoke to even the humblest among them, sharing a word.’ 192 5.

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κλίνατ᾽, οὐ σθένω ποσίν. πλησίον Ἀΐδας, σκότια δ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ὄσσοισι νὺξ ἐϕέρπει. τέκνα τέκν᾽, οὐκέτ᾽ οὐκέτι δὴ οὐκέτι μάτηρ σϕῷν ἔστιν. χαίροντες, ὦ τέκνα, τόδε ϕάος ὁρῷτον. Alkestis: Let me go, let me go! Lay me down, my strength is gone. Close by now is the darkness of Hades, a shadow crawling over my eyes. Children, children, no more, no more your mother lives for you. Be happy in your bright life, my children,¹³⁰

Her further comments to Admetos about the children again seem to suppose they are on stage with her, with the deictic τούσδε,¹³¹ and the exchange between husband and wife where she formally entrusts the children to Admetos: Ἄλκηστις ὦ παῖδες, αὐτοὶ δὴ τάδ᾽ εἰσηκούσατε πατρὸς λέγοντος μὴ γαμεῖν ἄλλην ποτὲ γυναῖκ᾽ ἐϕ᾽ ὑμῖν μηδ᾽ ἀτιμάσειν ἐμέ. Ἄδμητος καὶ νῦν γέ ϕημι καὶ τελευτήσω τάδε. Ἄλκηστις ἐπὶ τοῖσδε παῖδας χειρὸς ἐξ ἐμῆς δέχου. Ἄδμητος δέχομαι, ϕίλον γε δῶρον ἐκ ϕίλης χερός. Alkestis: Oh children, you yourselves heard your father say that he would never marry, never let another woman take my place for you, dishonouring me. Admetos: Yes, I promise and I will honour that promise. ¹³⁰ Eur. Alk. 266 71. ¹³¹ Eur. Alk. 302 3: . . . τούσδε γὰρ ϕιλεῖς / οὐχ ἧσσον ἢ ἐγὼ παῖδας, εἴπερ εὖ ϕρονεῖς· ‘If you have any sense, you will love these children no less than I do.’


    Alkestis: On those conditions, receive the children from my hand. Admetos: I take them, a beloved gift from a beloved hand.¹³²

The precise significance of this exchange is debated, and may well involve a subversion of initiation rites, but clearly the children pass from control of one adult to another, an act which requires no explicit movement from them. The sudden onstage death followed by the lamentation of the son is highly irregular for tragedy, and a further reason many scholars have questioned the tone of the play. In terms of movement, the child should be imagined as under Admetos’ control, but it is likely that Admetos and the children have come close to Alkestis as she dies. In such a tableau the child could sing his lines, and stay in the same position by the body, the general situation encompassing the gesture implied by . . . ὁ σὸς / ποτὶ σοῖσι πίτνων καλοῦ- / μαι στόμασιν νεοσσός. ‘The chick falling to your lips.’¹³³ The children can then exit with Admetos, although there is no comment on this in the text. In terms of tragedy, the lack of explicit cues for child movement could simply reflect that there was no need for independent movement as the children function as a single dramatic unit, first with Alkestis when they arrive onstage, and then with Admetos. The offstage behaviour of the children had been described in similar, although possibly more fluid, terms when Alkestis was performing her final walk through the house: παῖδες δὲ πέπλων μητρὸς ἐξηρτημένοι ἔκλαιον ἡ δὲ λαμβάνουσ᾽ ἐς ἀγκάλας ἠσπάζετ᾽ ἄλλοτ᾽ ἄλλον ὡς θανουμένη. The children were clinging to their mother’s dress, sobbing. She took them into her arms, and kissed each of them, knowing she was on the verge of death.¹³⁴

It is, however, a very peculiar pattern, different from all the other onstage children in extant tragedy. The onstage movements of children, except in this play, are all explicitly cued, and even characters who do not need to move on their own, such as the doll baby Orestes in Euripides’ Iphigeneia in

¹³² Eur. Alk. 371 6.

¹³³ Eur. Alk. 402 4.

¹³⁴ Eur. Alk. 189 91.

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Aulis have attention directed to their stage position. The immediate parallel would seem to be with comedy, but we cannot discount the possibility of a strong ritual pattern, derived from Orphic rites, in which the roles of children were configured differently from those envisaged in other plays.

2.4 The Manner of Movement The preceding discussion of blocking arrangements has highlighted the direct verbal cues given to child figures as functional parts of the drama. This distinguishes them from comments in the text which highlight the manner rather than the fact of action, as, for example, we see in the use of elderly characters or those who are wounded. While in Sophocles’ Philoktetes the hero’s limping gait is flagged textually, creating the impression of a wound, comments on movement in the text do not signal ‘childishness’ in the same manner.¹³⁵ Nevertheless, the act of calling attention to onstage movement can have an important thematic function as well. It could be coincidence that Euripides’ plays contain more comments about stage movements than do those of Aiskhylos and Sophokles, and that his plays also happened to involve more child figures. Such comments may be divided into three broad categories: (1) orders to attendants; (2) comments which correspond to stage directions, which may be taken as direct verbal cues for particular dramatic figures; (3) comments as in (2), but without the same force, such as lines thrown at a departing character, orders which are disobeyed, and general requests for action which receive no immediate response. The tripartite division suggested here is not straightforward, but Euripides’ plays contain by far the highest number of comments in all three categories.¹³⁶ The difference is perhaps not so much between playwrights as between plays, as several studies of Aiskhylos have shown how effectively he

¹³⁵ Soph. Phil. 202 8. ¹³⁶ For example, Aiskhylos’ Persai contains only one movement related comment, an exhortation to action from the Chorus leader (140 6); Aiskhylos’ Hepta epi Thebas (Seven Against Thebes) similarly contains one exhortation to the citizens (30 2), and an order given to an attendant by Eteokles (675). Cf. Eur. Herakles: Orders to attendants, lines 240, 332, 724; direct cues, lines 336, 520, 562, 622, 1047; general comments, lines 494, 497, 599, 704, 720, 726, 1081, 1202. By contrast, Eur. Herakles contains three orders to attendants, five direct cues, and eight more general comments on the action. For more statistics and discussion of this point, see Shisler (1945), who notes that Euripides’ plays not only contain, but also suggest, more action than do those of the other two playwrights.


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uses movement even within a limited frame.¹³⁷ Comments on movement, or the lack of them, may reflect different styles of drama which could make certain impressions on the audience. If the number of textual comments stands in a simple relation to the actual level of movement on stage, then a play such as Aiskhylos’ Persai may have been played in a static manner, so that the movements of the actors were contrasted sharply with the dancing of the chorus. Such a style of drama may have encouraged the audience to see the actors as distant from themselves and from the chorus.¹³⁸ If there was more movement between the actors, then the opposite process of identification between the various groups might be imagined. Even if the textual comments do not directly correspond to the amount of actual stage movement, the comments themselves may still have thematic meaning. Comments on stage action may be read as the characters’ attempts to control the action, either directly through commands, or indirectly by naming actions, saying to the audience, ‘This deserves attention.’ A dramatic tension exists between a character’s attempts to control the direction of the play, and what the audience sees as outside agents who are really controlling the plot, be they gods within the play or the playwright outside. The role of Kreon in Sophokles’ Antigone provides a good example of this, for although he gives a series of orders he is never truly in control of the situation.¹³⁹ A similar pattern in seen in Euripides’ Helen where a number of orders and requests for action are frustrated, contributing to the play’s tortuous plot development.¹⁴⁰ This may be one reason why Euripides’ style of tragedy uses more comments on the action. His characters are more willing to believe in human ability to shape events, and so may automatically make frequent verbal attempts to change and control the situations they face.¹⁴¹

¹³⁷ For example, Aiskhylos’ Oresteia plays contain a great deal of movement, contra Shisler (1945: 397), who notes the more frequent attention to movement only in Euripides’ plays. Cf. Paponopoulou 2008 who notes the importance of movement in relation to dramatic tableaux in Aiskhylos. ¹³⁸ See Smethurst (1989: 148) comparing movement in Greek tragedy and Japanese Noh. ¹³⁹ On the lingustic characterization of Kreon, see Hernández Munoz (1996). Cf. Roisman (1996) on the role of personality, and Shelton (1984) who suggests that Kreon is the real focus in the play. ¹⁴⁰ See Allan (2008: 31 2) on the movement of characters in Helene. ¹⁴¹ For the confident attitude of Euripidean characters and their attempts to control events, see Mastronarde 1986: 207. Torrance (2013: 156) links this to the metatheatrical dimensions of controlling the direction of a myth, and cf. Janka (2013: 225) who notes the differences between Euripidean and Sophoklean practices with levels of knowledge and ‘das Plateau göttlicher Informationshotheit’.

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When children are introduced, there exists an analogous relationship between the control of adults over children and the control exerted over adults by gods, the sort of hierarchical structure which Aristotle used to describe human action.¹⁴² The adults hedge in the movements of the children, yet their own actions are similarly circumscribed by divine forces. This pattern is relevant to the role of children in creating pathos through their potential, and will be discussed further in the next chapter, but the physical presence of children onstage does not simply emphasize vulnerability. When combined with the circumstantial evidence for the use of child actors in the fifth century the presence of children onstage can now be assumed with greater confidence, and this opens up avenues for exploring the roles children play. They bring a peculiar quality of embodiment to a play, which contributes to their indeterminate spatial and temporal roles, or their ‘superposition states’ in drama. This indeterminacy within the narrative frame poses a threat to characters who attempt to control the future and prevent children from actualizing their potential. It can also be threatening for the audience on an existential level, as it enhances theatre’s challenge to accepted notions of reality, similar to the presentation of other unexpected characters, such as the role of Lyssa in Eur. Herakles, whose movement Holmes describes as follows: ‘The descent into the house muddies Lussa’s status as an embodied actor.’¹⁴³

2.5 Embodied Identity Sifakis suggested that the height distinction was the only feature which differentiated between children and adult roles, but in the following chapters I will demonstrate that his assertion is mistaken, and that individual child roles can be seen as constructed from similar elements to those which make up adult roles, including those which speak of threats for future situations. Although similar techniques of characterization are involved, such as movement, language, and imagery, if we think of the process of creating character in terms of a recipe, then child figures are composed of fewer ingredients than are adult figures. Consequently, the degree of difference separating one

¹⁴² Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics 8.12, 1162a 4 7. ¹⁴³ Holmes 2010: 243. Cf. Provenza (2013) on the interwoven ideas of madness and animal identity in the play.


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child figure from another will be smaller than that which potentially differentiates adult figures from one another. However, both adults and children in tragedy are characters constructed from a limited range of ingredients—we cannot enquire about the history and broader interests of an adult character as we could about a ‘real person’. In real life adults are far more complex than children, by reason of the range of experiences, traits, etc. which comprise the personality. In tragedy, however, the difference in complexity between adult and child is not as great, because they are both literary constructs. The fundamental difference is to do with the physical body as the locus for the negotiation of personal identity. The individual personality and the very status of ‘adult’ in fifth-century Athens was situated in multiple frameworks of meaning, from the biological to the social. The physical body was arguably a more central element of feminine identity, because of reproductive capacity, but masculine identity also required some physical acknowledgement such as the ability to fight or to compete in athletic competitions.¹⁴⁴ Nevertheless, the identity of an individual child was composed of fewer levels of meaning than was that of an adult, and so the physical body assumed a more important role in the formation of identity. We must be careful here not to fall into old traps and talk about the ‘nature’ of the child, but pay attention more to the ancient discourse. The physical appearance of children, their smaller size, was an immediate signifier of their status, although this biological ‘fact’ was subject to mediation in the wider discourse of power, as noted above. The physicality of children, and their connection to the earth in particular, is an important feature of child roles in Greek myth, from the birth of Erikhthonios to the death of Opheltes who dies after touching the ground, the story dramatized in Euripides’ Hypsipyle.¹⁴⁵ This embodied status as ‘child’ is brought into sharp focus when we consider the creation of the dramatic illusion. When adult actors assumed the role of a character they exchanged their own ‘personality’ for that of another, often assuming another biological identity, as a woman, as a father,

¹⁴⁴ For the importance of age categories marked by physical rather than chronological development, see discussion in Chapter 1. The problematic status of the disabled and the glorification of the body beautiful indicates the importance of somatic identity; cf. Dasen (1993). For the interaction between female identity and male physical presence in drama, see Cawthorne 2008. ¹⁴⁵ On the Erikhthonios myth and Athenian constructions of autochthony, see Baudy 1992. On Hypisyple and the ideas of tragic dissonance, see Chong Gossard 2009.

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as an old man, or as a foreigner, a category which had its own somatic implications.¹⁴⁶ Discussing the feminizing aspects of theatre, Cawthorne notes: ‘The implementation of digsuise in Athenian tragedy also implies that the body is both absent and present in tragedy, a dilemma that extends to the body in general in a profoundly complicated way.’¹⁴⁷ When a child actor assumed a child role, however, there was a less significant process of exchange between child actor’s ‘personality’ and child character’s ‘personality’. Instead, the status of ‘child’ as manifested in the physical body became merged in the overlap between actor and character, and thus the child actor was more closely identified with the role he played than was an adult actor with his role. This confusion of embodiment and performance has far-reaching implications for the nature of the drama. In some senses, the child characters become more real to an audience, facilitating the emotional engagement of the audience. In the following chapter we will explore emotional effects as a fusion of biological and cultural responses, but we should note that the physical presence of children onstage emphasizes the creation of biological identity, such that the boundaries of the dramatic illusion are more troubling when child actors are involved. Children were never viewed in Athens as ‘children’ per se, but always as ‘children of a specific individual’.¹⁴⁸ The audience awareness of the actor beneath the mask was inevitable because of the nature of the competition, but an awareness of the real ‘child’ requires a more complex act of doublethink, including awareness of the child’s role in multiple relationships at the same time. As no individual was ever just ‘a child’, the very presence of a child onstage provoked the audience to consider, ‘Whose child is it?’ This question can both highlight dramatic scenarios where parenthood is at issue and problematize the nature of the dramatic illusion. As children are not automatic participants in tragedy, they are out of place both as performer and character, caught up in the world of adults onstage and in the story. While some child roles could be ‘played’ by dolls, the child as quasi-object, the majority of roles are filled by ‘real

¹⁴⁶ See Chapter 1 on Valakas’ formulation of the body as ‘the kinetic and sounding instru ment’ (2002: 72). ¹⁴⁷ Cawthorne 2008: 20. ¹⁴⁸ The institution of the amphidromia ceremony was a performed recognition of the acceptance of a child into a household, and thus into a social identity, see Dillon 2015; Garland 2013; Hamilton 1984; Liston and Rotroff 2013. The lack of this ceremony had practical and philosophical consequences; see Griffiths (2017) with Foley (2013: 50 5) on the role of Demeter.


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children’, which credits the actors with limited agency as performers, even when the child role is an essentially passive one. The present time perception of the child is multilayered, almost fuzzy, provoking a cognitive dissonance beyond that already inherent in a theatrical mode where men play women.¹⁴⁹ Although a physical presence may operate as a grounding element, for the creation of character or the manipulation of temporal frames, child figures do not offer any resting place for interpretation, because their very embodiment is problematic. To return to the ideas of ‘superposition states’ mentioned in Chapter 1, we are forced to acknowledge our role as observer when child figures are not as fixed as we would like them to be, but seem to be both/and as well as neither/nor. The significance of child figures comes from multiple frames which may appear at first sight contradictory, and it is only by adopting a ‘quantum’ rather than a ‘classical’ perspective that we begin to see how their very indeterminacy gives them dramatic power, as different characters try to reify their visions of the children’s future. Their present roles are also indeterminate, which is troubling both for the internal audience and the external audience in the theatre. The dynamics employed are similar in some ways to the use of dramatic ghosts, which will be considered in the following chapter. There remain, however, key elements of the staging of child figures which require further attention, before moving to a discussion of potentiality.

2.6 Children as (Masked) Participants The nature of children’s bodies raises issues about vulnerability and agency, suggesting analogies with the dramatic tension between pathos and potential which surrounds child figures in tragedy. Modern research has shown how the formulation of children’s bodies as inherently vulnerable is an ideological position, ignoring evidence that there are biological bases for children to possess greater physical resilience than adults.¹⁵⁰ Although we talk in terms of the vulnerability of children as passive recipients of adult actions, Greek constructions are not identical to our own. For example, in the

¹⁴⁹ On the conflicting dynamics of normative and subversive humour in male assumption of female roles, the seminal text is Gender Trouble by Butler (1990, 2nd edn). For ancient applications, see Cawthorne (2008) and Lee (2015). ¹⁵⁰ See Prout 1999.

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Hippocratic treatises, babies can be represented as the agents of birth, forcing their way out of the womb.¹⁵¹ This assumed process is immediately subject to cultural mediation, as the birth of boys is assumed to be easier because of the greater physical strength of the male infant. Nevertheless, this construction of the infant as an active participant in labour warns us to beware of imposing our own viewpoints on the material. In Chapter 4 we will be discussing techniques of characterization which impose childhood, but we should briefly take note of the emphasis in modern sociology on the role of children in creating their own childhood, and thus see their roles as constitutive of, as well as subject to, the social discourse of childhood. At this stage, however, let us think about the issue of masking. In the previous chapter we discussed a range of issues which make it likely that child figures were masked, but this raises a problem of terminology: Was the mask placed on the child, as a set might be placed against the skene, or did the child assume the mask and with it the identity of the character? There are no scenes of masked children on vase paintings or comparable sources of evidence, although Csapo has suggested what may be a scene of children playing at being actors through the use of masks.¹⁵² Although children are said to be frightened of masks in some later sources, there is nothing to suggest that this is relevant to fifth-century tragedy.¹⁵³ The strongest consideration must be the nature of the dramatic illusion. As child figures are often involved in interaction pivotal to the plot, the mask is a necessary detail to include them fully in the dramatic reality. The idea is supported by Walton, who distinguishes child figures from the attendant figures who, he argues, would not be masked: Although no evidence can be found for the use of ‘mini masks’, the children feature prominently in every case in which they appear. In these circumstances, I feel they would have looked even more strange without them than with them.¹⁵⁴

¹⁵¹ Hipp. De octimestri partu, 5.1 3, 90 Grensemann ( 7.436 Littré): ‘The strongest and ripest foetuses, when they have forced a break in the membranes, force birth to happen.’ Translated Hansen (2004: 192) with comment on the range of references to childbirth and their place within wider views on women in the Hippocratic corpus. Cf. Aubert (1989) on magic and childbirth, Kapparis (2002) on abortion, and King (1983) on menarche. Cf. Hummel (1999) on children in ancient medicine. ¹⁵² Csapo (2010: 23 5) with Rusten (2014) on the Phanagoria chous. ¹⁵³ Children are said to be frightened of masks, Epictetus Diss. II.15, Plutarch De exilio 5, 600 E. ¹⁵⁴ Walton 1980: 148.


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It is not clear from Walton’s argument why child figures would look ‘strange’ wearing masks, unless this is a projection of ideas about the ‘natural’ state of children. I propose a further argument which is suggested, though not explicitly noted, by Walton’s discussions. In analysing the stylized forms of emotional gesture necessitated by masked acting he gives three examples of intimate gestures: the son addressing his mother in Euripides’ Alkestis, Megara’s address to the children in Euripides’ Herakles, and Andromakhe’s address to Astyanax in Euripides’ Troades.¹⁵⁵ We might with reason conclude that it would be strange if in these situations an unmasked child was seen interacting with a masked adult—ideas of ‘natural’ presentation of children clashing with the stylized nature of masked acting. Although child actors in the Japanese Noh tradition are not masked, the Dionysiac context for Greek tragedy means that once child figures are given due attention as central figures in their drama, the logic for masking becomes stronger.¹⁵⁶ The ritual, Dionysiac symbolism which many have discerned in the Greek tragic mask would support this, since child figures are centrally located in the genre’s negotiation of issues of life and death.¹⁵⁷ The mask has a further powerful function as a distancing tool to avoid the bad omen of a child playing a child who died. Child figures wore costumes (as their change of clothes in Euripides’ Herakles indicates),¹⁵⁸ so the mask should be read as an essential part of the overall appearance of the family, and which offered the prospect of visually emphasizing family links. Child masks may have in some way echoed those of certain adult figures in the drama, perhaps to symbolize family relationships, a parallel suggested by Mnesilochos’ remarks in Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazousai that sons should resemble their fathers, and that alleged similarity could be used to conceal a child’s true parentage.¹⁵⁹ If this is the case, we might imagine Medeia’s antipathy towards her children being all the more understandable if the children’s masks and clothes

¹⁵⁵ Walton 1980: 163 4. ¹⁵⁶ See Vahtikari (2014: 36 44) for a survey of gestures on Greek vases indicating emotion. Cf. Mueller (2011) and (Telò 2002a; 2002b) on the difference gesture can make in the interpretation of character presentation. ¹⁵⁷ On the symbolism of masking, see Frontisi Ducroux 1995; Halliwell 1993; Wiles 2007. ¹⁵⁸ It is likely that there was comment on the black/white clothes in Eur. Ino, but the fragmentary nature of that play limits our ability to say more. See discussion of fragments in Finglass (2014; 2016b) and Kovacs (2016). ¹⁵⁹ Aristophanes’ Thesm. 510 16. Cf. Lehoux (2007) on the differences between ancient and modern approaches to the problems of heredity which go back as far as Hesiod’s discussion of the ‘Just City’, Works and Days 217 39, on which see Cole (1996).

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emphasized a likeness to their father, Iason, or an increased sense of justice created for the audience of Euripides’ Hekabe if the children of Polymestor appeared as miniature copies of their father. The dynamic becomes even more powerful when the masks of other characters are involved, as with the disfigurement of Polymester in Euripides’ Hekabe or of Oidipous in Sophokles’ Oidipous Tyrannos. Similarly, at the end of Sophokles’ Aias the body remains important, so Wiles notes that the mask is ‘crucial to the second half of the play, when Aias is inanimate yet also an agent with the power to help friends and harm enemies’.¹⁶⁰ Here the role of the child, a similarly liminal figure, would make most sense theatrically if he was masked, and possibly masked in a manner which echoed that of his father.¹⁶¹ The centrality of the mask in Greek ritual and drama thus makes it likely that child actors were indeed masked, as their role in the drama is inextricably interwoven with issues of identity and authority. The integration with the dramatic illusion through mask and physical presence allows child figures to function as theatrical ‘nodes of past, present and future’.¹⁶² The physical body of the child actor is an essential focus for this temporal negotiation, but this raises a further philosophical question: to what extent does the present-time ‘child’ contribute to his own identity as ‘child actor’ as opposed to ‘child character’? Plato’s comment in the Laws that children who invent their own games develop into less conservative adults is akin to the modern concepts of self-created childhood,¹⁶³ but although children may be seen as performers, they are given very little room to manoeuvre, such that their performance is strictly circumscribed. Children as actors or characters cannot be described as agents, and the term ‘actor’ is similarly imprecise. For an understanding of the way this participation was viewed we must consider the spatial context of the City Dionysia, as children had important roles as ritual participants in dithyramb, and in other contexts of ritual contexts and cult, at the Anthesteria and other key moments in the Athenian calendar, where their presence was not only

¹⁶⁰ Wiles 2007: 225. ¹⁶¹ Aristotle suggests mechanisms which produce family resemblances; see Gelber (2010). While contemporary portrait sculpture in the fifth century was not naturalistic (see Dillon 2006: 9), the idea of similarities (or differences) for family masks is suggested by the famous Elektra Orestes recognition motif. ¹⁶² Mitzoguchi 2000. ¹⁶³ Plato, Laws 797a. Plato’s solution is that children should play traditional games in order to continue the values of the desired society; see Lonsdale 1993. On modern ideas of self created play and the links to Platonic ideas, see Gopnik (2011).


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expected but required.¹⁶⁴ These considerations further support the idea that child actors were masked participants.

2.7 Dolls and Objects The final aspect of embodiment to consider at this point is the role of dolls to play infants. The objectification of babies in drama is most famously demonstrated by the parody of Euripides’ Telephos in Aristophanes’ plays, where the ‘baby’ turns out to be a wineskin: τουτὶ τί ἔστιν; ἀσκὸς ἐγένεθ᾽ ἡ κόρη οἴνου πλέως καὶ ταῦτα Περσικὰς ἔχων. What’s this? It’s a skin, this girl, full of wine and wearing Persian booties.¹⁶⁵

Although the immediate joke is about the extent of women’s fondness for drink, the focusing of attention and care on an object is instructive for the use of children’s bodies as a focus for the creation of identity relationships.¹⁶⁶ The complexity of the joke, both in physical and linguistic terms, is a marked development from the more general parody of the gesture found in Aristophanes’ Akharnians where the ‘hostage children’ are pieces of coal: Δικαιόπολις δήξομἄρ᾽ ὑμᾶς ἐγώ. ἀνταποκτενῶ γὰρ ὑμῶν τῶν ϕίλων τοὺς ϕιλτάτους ὡς ἔχω γ᾽ ὑμῶν ὁμήρους, οὓς ἀποσϕάξω λαβών. Χορός εἰπέ μοι, τί τοῦτ᾽ ἀπειλεῖ τοὔπος ἄνδρες δημόται τοῖς Ἀχαρνικοῖσιν ἡμῖν; μῶν ἔχει του παιδίον τῶν παρόντων ἔνδον εἵρξας; ἢ ᾽πὶ τῷ θρασύνεται; Δικαιόπολις βάλλετ᾽ εἰ βούλεσθ᾽. ἐγὼ γὰρ τουτονὶ διαϕθερῶ.

¹⁶⁴ Csapo 2010; Maurizio 2001a. Cf. Shumka (2015) on the role of toys in education. ¹⁶⁵ Aristophanes’ Thesm. 733 4. See the fragments of Euripides’ Telephos edited by Cropp, Collard and Lee 1995: 17 52. ¹⁶⁶ Post (1939) sees similar dynamics in play with the babies in Menander, but cf. Heap (2003) on the more complex social patterns apparent in the more recently recovered fragments.

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εἴσομαι δ᾽ ὑμῶν τάχ᾽ ὅστις ἀνθράκων τι κήδεται. Χορός ὡς ἀπωλόμεσθ᾽. ὁ λάρκος δημότης ὅδ᾽ ἔστ᾽ ἐμός. ἀλλὰ μὴ δράσῃς ὃ μέλλεις μηδαμῶς ὦ μηδαμῶς. Dikaiopolis: I’ll see your blood and raise you blood. I’ll take my revenge by killing the most precious of your loved ones. Here I have the hostages, and here they are with a knife to the throat. Chorus: Speak, my fellow countrymen, what means this threat to our Akharnian kin? Can it be that he has one of our little ones inside? How can he be so cocky? Dikaiopolis: Come on! Stone me, if that’s what you want. I’ll kill this one here. Soon enough we’ll see which of you loves his coal. Chorus: We are done for. That is my citizen basket. Please don’t carry out your threat! Please! Please!¹⁶⁷

These parodies go far beyond simple mockery of a novel (or possibly overused) element of tragic practice, and reveal a complex underlying awareness of theatrical mimesis and the relationship between the human body and inanimate objects.¹⁶⁸ Tragedy makes good use of the relationship in explict contexts, such as the shield/son of Aias in Sophokles’ Aias or the shield of Hektor at the burial of Astyanax in Euripides’ Troades. It is also echoed in other plays, such as Euripides’ Hekabe where the children of Polymester are thrown around like weapons before they are killed.¹⁶⁹ In all these examples, the association with weapons of war can act both to make the child seem vulnerable, but also to highlight the inherited strength of the child, and thus the more complex moral dilemma involved in killing children.

¹⁶⁷ Aristophanes’ Akharnians 325 34. ¹⁶⁸ On the issues of embodiment raised here, see Stehle 2002. ¹⁶⁹ See Batezzato (2018: 237 n. on 1158): ‘The verb πάλλω is memorably used of Hektor tossing the child Astyanax in Il. 6.474 [ . . . ] The verb is normally associated with brandishing spears (Il. 16.142, Eur. Andr. 697, HF 437).’


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Modern anthropological studies provide some parallels for the complex negotiation of social identity through childhood games and the manipulation of objects, which may bridge some of the gap between ideas of ‘child’ and ‘slave’.¹⁷⁰ If onstage babies are ‘props’, they are at the far extreme of the continuum which gives objects power in drama, but we should not think that the converse is true, that a baby played by a doll is necessarily the least human character onstage.¹⁷¹ Our best surviving example gives us a striking indication of how a doll baby can contribute to drama. Due to the logistical problems which a real baby would bring to a tragic production, it is unlikely that they were used for tragedy, but, as we noted earlier, we should be careful not to make assumptions. In a culture where human children could be bought and sold as slaves, the idea of using a real baby as a ‘prop’ is not impossible.¹⁷² However, the practicalities still suggest that a doll would be more appropriate, and there is good enough evidence that dolls of many kinds were available in fifth-century Athens. We need not imagine that procuring a doll involved any particular expense. If we assume a doll baby ‘plays’ Orestes, then we do not have the same issue which I suggested for onstage children, namely audience awareness of the ‘real, Athenian child’ under the character. It is, however, possible that dolls had their own unsettling qualities, because of the association with ritual times of transition, when votives, toys, and similar items were dedicated to the gods.¹⁷³ In Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis the baby Orestes is brought onstage and called as an ally by Iphigeneia. As a figure on the cusp of marriage, she would be understood to be involved in a process of dedicating her childish objects such as a doll, so in some senses she becomes like a doll at the end of the play, removed from her family and sacrificed in a temple.¹⁷⁴ The interaction between Iphigeneia and Orestes, therefore, is one between different

¹⁷⁰ For a range of perspectives on child play in different modern societies, see the collection edited by Roopnarine, Patte, Johnson, and Kuschner (2014). ¹⁷¹ On the agency of props, see Pongratz Leisten and Sonik 2015; Revermann (2013). ¹⁷² On the relationship between the physical and social status of slaves and children, see Wrenhaven 2011; 2012: 19 31. See Roselli (2013) on theatrical production as ‘economic labour’ and ‘outputs’. ¹⁷³ See Pilz (2011) and Hughes (2017) on dedications of figures, and the value judgments surrounding scholarship about ‘miniature’ or ‘toy’ votives. ¹⁷⁴ See Reilly (1997) who suggests that many grave monuments in the classical period have been mistakenly described as showing girls with dolls. Reilly suggests that the ‘dolls’ are rather votive offerings from girls praying for the onset of menarche, and as such refer to the child’s lost future rather than indicating childish play.

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generations and sexes, but also between different embodied statuses.¹⁷⁵ In her apparent love for her father she paints a picture of her childhood in very physical embodied terms, and this then turns into a desperate plea based on her own childhood presence, as she begs Agamemnon to spare her life: ἱκετηρίαν δὲ γόνασιν ἐξάπτω σέθεν τὸ σῶμα τοὐμόν, ὅπερ ἔτικτεν ἥδε σοι μή μ᾽ ἀπολέσῃς ἄωρον ἡδὺ γὰρ τὸ ϕῶς βλέπειν τὰ δ᾽ ὑπὸ γῆς μή μ᾽ ἰδεῖν ἀναγκάσῃς. πρώτη σ᾽ ἐκάλεσα πατέρα καὶ σὺ παῖδ᾽ ἐμέ πρώτη δὲ γόνασι σοῖσι σῶμα δοῦσ᾽ ἐμὸν ϕίλας χάριτας ἔδωκα κἀντεδεξάμην. I fall in supplication to your knees, joining my body to yours, my body which this woman bore to you. Do not kill me before my time. It is sweet to see the light. Do not force me into darkness below the earth. I was the first one to call you ‘father’, the first one you called ‘child’. I was the first to cuddle in your lap, the first to give and receive the love of parent and child.¹⁷⁶

These images are complemented by the appeal to the silent, passive child, who in many ways has greater force as an argumentative element. As a boy, this infant has greater significance for Agamemnon, as his son and heir, and also as a source of sibling support for Iphigeneia. Even though in the immediate context the infant is powerless, his wider associations make him a powerful ally, in Iphigeneia’s own words: ἀδελϕέ, μικρὸς μὲν σύ γ᾽ ἐπίκουρος ϕίλοις, ὅμως δὲ συνδάκρυσον, ἱκέτευσον πατρὸς τὴν σὴν ἀδελϕὴν μὴ θανεῖν αἴσθημά τοι κἀν νηπίοις γε τῶν κακῶν ἐγγίγνεται.

¹⁷⁵ Cf. Chesi (2014) on the Aiskhylean model of daughter/mother which Euripides’ may be echoing. ¹⁷⁶ Eur. IA 1216 22. The translation here of ‘love of parent and child’ expands on the Greek ‘ϕίλας χάριτας’ which can bear both abstract and literal meanings as ‘dear graces’ or ‘loving kisses’.


    Brother, small though you are, be an ally to your loved ones, join your tears with mine, beg your father not to kill your sister. There is a way that even silent babies know they’re in the presence of evil.¹⁷⁷

If Iphigeneia is holding the child here, she calls upon multiple levels of significance, including her own projected role as a mother which will be lost. For the audience, the ‘doll’ has further associations—the implied ‘Orestes’ refers the audience to the later stage of the story when Orestes will be forced to choose between philoi. The vulnerable child also has a point of reference to Klytaimestra’s first baby, killed by Agamemnon. The layering of identity onto a physical object, the doll/baby Orestes is similar to the urn/Orestes scenario created in Sophokles’ Elektra. As Ringer has persuasively argued, when Elektra believes that Orestes is dead, she demonstrates a strong attachment to the urn, layering the identity of Orestes onto the physical object, as if it were a person.¹⁷⁸ Just as the urn can carry the history of Orestes, the baby/doll carries the future identity, almost as a placeholder for the character.¹⁷⁹ The most harmless of children, those played by inanimate objects, can by their very status of object assume a dangerous quality and a certain aspect of agency. Within the category of ‘child’, which previous critics assumed to be one of simple stereotype, there are multiple levels of interpretation possible even around the one issue of the physical body: babies are different from older children, and boys are different from girls. The corporality of children is an important feature distinguishing the role of child as age category from the role of child as relational marker. This distinction is particularly important in plays where the two categories are involved. In Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis, Iphigeneia bolsters her claim to the relational status as ‘child of Agamemnon’ with an appeal to her previous status as dependent child, reinforced by the physical presence of the infant Orestes. While Iphigeneia’s own status is problematized by the discourse of gender and sexuality, and the competing claims of philia advanced by Menelaos, the appeal to childhood is an important extra line of attack. In Euripides’ Hekabe, it is widely recognized that the role of children is important, with detailed analyses by Zeitlin and Tarkow.¹⁸⁰ These analyses,

¹⁷⁷ Eur. IΑ 1241 4. ¹⁷⁸ Ringer 1998: chapter 7. ¹⁷⁹ Cf. Junker (2003) who suggests that Elektra is burdened by the weight of her past. ¹⁸⁰ Tarkow 1984; Zeitlin 1991.

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however, have limitations as they fail to take due account of the way in which children’s bodies are different, both physically and conceptually on the tragic stage. Neither Polydoros nor Polyxene is constructed as a little child in this play, unlike the small children of Polymestor. The issue of corporality applies to both sets of ‘children’, with the emphasis on the physical appearance of Polydoros and Polyxene, combined with the lifting of their physical bodies, contrasted with the shift in the role of children from ‘object of care’ to simple object, as they are killed. This confusion of categories, I will suggest in the following chapter, may be profitably approached through consideration of tragic ghosts, who present their own threats to characters and audiences of tragedy.

2.8 Singing and Speaking The fact that child figures have voices in tragedy is of fundamental importance, as language is a crucial component of humanity and civilization in Greek thought.¹⁸¹ Although the early vocalizations of children can be compared to the sounds made by animals, the utterances of child figures in tragedy always mark them as human. The importance of links between the voice, strength, and motor skills is made in a number of ancient philosophical and medical texts.¹⁸² The delivery of these lines in a performance context raises a number of questions, but it is clear that children did have roles as singers in Athenian culture, mainly in choral contexts.¹⁸³ As we only have four instances of child speaking roles in extant tragedy, our sample is wholly inadequate for us to use it as a basis for generalizations, especially since the four instances are so varied: a solo lament (Euripides’ Alkestis); a lament in exchange with the mother (Euripides’ Andromakhe); offstage cries of terror (Euripides’ Medeia); and the choral singing of the boys/young men in Euripides’ Hiketides. Audibility is a crucial factor in the discussion, but so contentious is much of the evidence for the true acoustic conditions in the fifth-century Theatre of Dionysos that it is impossible to say whether a

¹⁸¹ See Heath (2005) on the role of speech as a marker of humanity and (1999) on the role of speech in establishing adult identity. ¹⁸² See further Holmes (2010: 158) on Epidemics II, and Thomas (2010) on ancient theories of child language acquisition. ¹⁸³ On choruses of children, adolescents, and young adult figures in classical Greece, see Prauscello 2013.


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child’s voice would have carried far enough to be heard.¹⁸⁴ The chorus of sons in Euripides’ Hiketides must have been audible to the same extent as the single voices of the adult actors. The offstage lines in Euripides’ Medeia may have been delivered by an offstage adult voice, for the audience never hears the children’s voices onstage, so would have no standard by which to judge the voices. It is also possible that if there was a device for projecting offstage voices, for death cries and the like, the children themselves could have benefited from this acoustic enhancement.¹⁸⁵ This leaves the two onstage children in Euripides’ Alkestis and Andromakhe. As both roles call for the lines to be sung, I think it quite possible that the lines were delivered by the children. Young boys can have exceptionally strong singing voices, which would be as audible as an adult speaking voice, and when Euripides considered the choice of a child to play the part he must have considered the question of audibility. Dale’s suggestion that the lines in Alkestis would be delivered by the actor playing the prostrate corpse of Alkestis is not impossible, but awkward, especially when we consider the nature of the lines, and the need for audience engagement.¹⁸⁶ A prostrate adult might well project a childlike voice far less effectively than a standing child actor. The importance of the authentic nature of the child’s voice is difficult to judge, given the conditions. Walton notes that the quality of the child’s voice was important,¹⁸⁷ but may overstate the case in saying that the tone of the voice was more important than the content of the words. The very fact that the lines were delivered by children, particularly in Andromakhe and Alkestis, does contribute to the thematic development of each play. The audibility of child voices is, therefore, a serious issue, but it is likely that child voices would be audible and there would be definite advantages to this arrangement. The number of cases is, however, too small to formulate generalizations, and it may be that the delivery of child lines was not a matter for standardized practice. The widespread awareness of the different sound of children’s voices leads me to believe that even if an adult did perform the lines he would have altered his voice to simulate that of a child, ¹⁸⁴ On audibility and the control of sound in the theatre, see Nooter 2012; Wiles 2000. ¹⁸⁵ On the possible acoustic enhancement in the fifth century Theatre of Dionysos, see Wiles 2000. ¹⁸⁶ Dale (1961: xx): ‘I have little doubt, strange as it may at first seem, that the child’s son was sung by the protagonist himself. The head of the dead Alkestis would be propped comfortably high on a pillow on her couch and hidden from the spectators by the child miming its part; thus the voice would proceed from very near the right spot.’ ¹⁸⁷ Walton 1980: 148.

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and thus the performed identity of the child figure would be visually and acoustically consistent. However, the anxiety of modern scholars to isolate the source of production of child voices may reflect ancient anxieties as well, for a sudden child voice in the theatre may cause a sense of unease, as could the displaced voice of Athena at the start of Sophokles’ Aias. The strange quality of voices is a further potential link between children and ghosts, which we will discuss in the following chapter, as a strange, unearthly quality was a feature of ghost voices as early as Homer.¹⁸⁸

2.9 Language Given the limited examples of child speech in extant tragedy we should be wary of generalizing, but previous scholars have tended to regard the use of children’s speech in tragedy as abnormal. This approach derives from Dale’s remarks on the ‘unthinkability’ of realism in Euripides’ Alkestis.¹⁸⁹ Far from taking the child role in Alkestis as a benchmark, in this respect also I consider it atypical of child roles in tragedy, and further discussion of this play I reserve until the end of this chapter. Dale’s comment, however, is widely echoed even in discussions of child language in general, so Thomas, discussing Greek language patterns characteristic of childhood, considers how these affect literary representations but notes: ‘Tragedy is particularly unreceptive, a fact parodied by Aristophanes. 114–49.’¹⁹⁰ Once more the idea of what is ‘natural’ must be addressed. The conventions of drama impose certain restrictions. We might not expect real children to express themselves in the ways child figures in tragedy do, but it is highly improbable that fifth-century slaves or women spoke exactly like characters in Euripides’ plays, despite the contemporary allegation of dumbing down.¹⁹¹ All figures in Greek tragedy are speaking in a stylized manner, but with the possibility of linguistic distinctiveness due to ¹⁸⁸ The strange voices of the dead in the Homeric epics are weak and almost animal like, e.g. the voices of the dead suitors, Odyssey 24: 6 10: ὡς δ᾽ ὅτε νυκτερίδες μυχῷ ἄντρου θεσπεσίοιο / τρίζουσαι ποτέονται, ἐπεί κέ τις ἀποπέσῃσιν / ὁρμαθοῦ ἐκ πέτρης, ἀνά τ᾽ ἀλλήλῃσιν ἔχονται, / ὣς αἱ τετριγυῖαι ἅμ᾽ ἤϊσαν· ἦρχε δ᾽ ἄρα σϕιν / Ἑρμείας ἀκάκητα κατ᾽ εὐρώεντα κέλευθα. ‘Just as bats in the recesses of an inhuman cave fly around screeching, when one has fallen from the chain that linked them to each other and to the cave roof, so did these men screech, and Hermes led them through the dark paths.’ Here the parallel is more on the visual and the social connections (the suitors have lost their mutual support), but it also characterizes their voices in an inhuman context. ¹⁸⁹ Dale 1961: 85 n. 393. ¹⁹⁰ Ar. Eirene. Thomas 2010: 85 n. 26. ¹⁹¹ Aristophanes’ Batrakhoi 959 60.


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age or gender.¹⁹² As Pfister notes: ‘Die Über-Artikuliertheit der dramatischen Figur, die, von konsequentnaturalistischen Texten abgesehen, in je verscheiden stark ausgeprägtem Maß eine historische Konvention des Dramas darstellt.’¹⁹³ If child figures are given speeches which seem unusual, this may be due to the nature of the genre, and thus any conclusions drawn from this would have no implications for the wider view of children in fifthcentury Athens, be they ‘miniature adults’ or not. However, there is a clear distinction between adult and child speech in tragedy, within the overall constraints of stylistic framing. I will suggest, contra Thomas, that the specific linguistic features displayed could be seen to correspond to real linguistic practices, thus rendering the language ‘natural’, or not so ‘unnatural’ that the original audience would have clearly distinguished it from their own experiences.¹⁹⁴ Golden (1995) suggests that language which makes allowances for children is a product of specific societal attitudes, and that the scarcity of such language in Greek literature suggests that children were encouraged to become socialized as quickly as possible. In light of this, we would not expect children in tragedy to display particular features, as by speaking or singing they are already shown as participants in a ritual discourse. We noted in the discussion of movement some apparent discrepancies between movement described and movement performed onstage. A similar distinction may also apply to language, but the limited material available makes further comparison extremely hazardous. The passages I will be using as a basis for discussion come from different contexts, further problematizing the analysis. I will be looking in detail at only three examples of child speech (from Euripides’ Andromakhe, Herakles, and Medeia), then considering aspects of child speech in Euripides’ Troades and Alkestis. In Herakles and Medeia, we see the use of offstage and reported speech, while the words of Astyanax (recalled as Hekabe’s memory at the end of Troades) are closely, although obliquely, linked to his onstage presence. To this list we could add

¹⁹² On the language of women, see McClure 1999; Mossman 2012. Cf. Silk (1995) on linguistic characterization of the elderly. ¹⁹³ Pfister (1984:, 174), translated by Halliday (1988:, 122): ‘If a dramatic figure is permitted to express himself in an unnaturally articulate way, then the dramatist is merely employing a historically based dramatic convention.’ ¹⁹⁴ Thomas (2010) notes sources for the modern study of linguistic development, but does not consider some of the wider background issues involving context, such as those considered by Opie and Opie (1959) on folklore and educational practices. Cf. van der Geest (2016) on children’s scatalogical humour, which indirectly supports the association between children and comedy in the ancient world.

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two further examples, but these are even more problematic than those already described. The lines of the sons in Euripides’ Hiketides are better understood in relation to the protocols of choral language, as they are a ‘figure-collective’ rather than a group of individuals; the fragment which may come from Euripides’ Theseus (385 Nauck) suggests a young speaker, but the difficulties of assigning a comic/tragic/parodic tone make this highly intractable.¹⁹⁵ Similarly the conversation between Iphigeneia and her father (Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis 1220–7), which we discussed earlier in this chapter, could be taken as reported speech from a young child, as we see in Euripides’ Herakles, but the length of the time gap involved makes these lines suspect. The idea allegedly expressed about how Iphigeneia would care for her father in his old age is designed for this context to avert her sacrifice, so should be categorized more as persuasive rhetoric than memory (even though memory is itself a highly allusive and persuasive device).¹⁹⁶ Each of the forms of child speech I will here consider in detail manages to convey something of the distinct perspectives and expressive modes of the child figures involved. In Euripides’ Medeia the children are silent throughout their appearances on stage while a battle of words is played out between Medeia and the other adults, and between Medeia’s own conflicting instincts. The children’s cries from offstage focus the audience’s attention now firmly on the act of murder, more than on the competing claims to justice. What the children say is expressed in simple language in ordinary iambic trimeters and is to the point. They do not reflect on the ‘Why?’s of their fate. In this, they are expressing themselves in a manner appropriate to their roles. The viewpoint they express is not one which would be seen as exclusively ‘childlike’ in the sense of using familiar language, hypercorisms or broken syntax, but the lines can be understood in the context of the play:

(ἔσωθεν) ἰώ μοι. Χορός ἀκούεις βοὰν ἀκούεις τέκνων; ἰὼ τλᾶμον, ὦ κακοτυχὲς γύναι.

¹⁹⁵ Cf. the parody in Aristophanes’ Sphekes (Wasps) 312 15. ¹⁹⁶ On memory, time, and speech, see later discussion in this chapter regarding the role of names.


    Παῖς α οἴμοι, τί δράσω; ποῖ ϕύγω μητρὸς χέρας; Παῖς β οὐκ οἶδ᾽, ἀδελϕὲ ϕίλτατ᾽ ὀλλύμεσθα γάρ. Χορός παρέλθω δόμους; ἀρῆξαι ϕόνον δοκεῖ μοι τέκνοις. Παῖς α ναί, πρὸς θεῶν, ἀρήξατ᾽ ἐν δέοντι γάρ. Παῖς β ὡς ἐγγὺς ἤδη γ᾽ ἐσμὲν ἀρκύων ξίϕους. Child A: (from within) Aaaaah! Chorus: Do you hear the cry, do you hear the children? Oh you poor, wicked, blighted woman! Child A: Oh no, what can I do? Where can I flee to escape my mother’s hand? Child B: I do not know, my dear brother. We are doomed. Chorus: Shall I go into the house? It must be right to try to stop the murder of children. Child A: Yes! I beg you by the gods, save us! We’re in trouble! Child B: We are on the verge of death, the tip of the sword at our throats.¹⁹⁷

On one reading the children’s words could be taken as a reformulation of the chorus’ emotions: the chorus members think, ‘How can they escape?’, and the children cry out, ‘How can we escape?’. However, the phrasing shows that the children’s lines are focused on their immediate situation rather than indulging in speculation. It is precisely their mother’s hand which is coming

¹⁹⁷ Eur. Med. 1270 9.

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towards them with a blade.¹⁹⁸ There is no general reflection in these lines about the change in Medeia’s role from mother to killer, or on her future prospects. A noteworthy feature of the children’s speech in this play is that it frustrates the expectations created by the chorus’ earlier speculations about how the children would react, and indeed speak, in this situation. They had imagined that the children would beg their mother to spare them, wondering whether Medeia would be able to ignore such a plea.¹⁹⁹ This is not what the children do.²⁰⁰ Euripides may have decided that having the children killed as they begged for mercy was too much for the audience to stomach, and that such a scene would have disturbed the complex web of significances which surrounds the act. The handling of dramatic tension before and after the scene is delicately balanced, as the strange comparison with the myth of Ino makes clear.²⁰¹ The chorus’ earlier speculation has thus presented that aspect in a less immediately dramatic manner. We could also imagine that involving the motif of supplication in this scene might have disturbed the dramatic movement and slowed the play down once the chain of Medeia’s actions had begun.²⁰² The clearest motivation for Euripides’ handling of this scene comes from the patterns of family dynamics. The children do not attempt to activate the relationship they once had with their mother. It is as though the decision Medeia made to kill the children has already changed her irrevocably into the avenging spirit Iason will see at the end of the play. Sfyroeras suggests that Medeia has been transformed into a stepmother rather than a mother to the children.²⁰³ This transformed figure, be she Erinyes or twisted perversion ¹⁹⁸ Within the overall framework of tragic diction the phrase is not overly poetic. There is also a particular point which could have been reinforced by the staging if the children were usually seen on stage holding someone’s hand in a protective gesture. Cf. Flory (1978) on the idea of ‘Medeia’s right hand’. ¹⁹⁹ Eur. Med. 862 5. Segal (1997: 174) is right to stress the circularity of motifs involved in this scene, and makes several noteworthy observations about the form of the speech, particularly noting the metrical/dramatic effect when the children’s deaths prevent them from completing their role in the dialogue. ²⁰⁰ Contra Pucci (1980: 152): ‘Medeia proves the Chorus wrong. They had assumed that Medeia could not resist the children’s pleas.’ ²⁰¹ Eur. Med. 1282 3. For the relevance of this exemplum, and the possible alternatives it masks, see Newton (1985) and Papadopoulou (2003) in conjunction with new fragments of Finglass (2014; 2016b). On the manipulation of mythological exempla, including this twist to the story of Ino, see Konstantinou 2015. ²⁰² There is a very sharp increase in pace just before this scene with the Chorus vainly trying to modulate the movement. Once the murder is committed the Chorus sinks into quiet despondency which highlights Iason’s frenzied final appearance. On supplication motifs sur rounding children in tragedy, see Menu (1992) and further discussion in Chapter 4. ²⁰³ Sfyoeras 1994: 126. On the proverbial hostility of stepmothers, see Watson 1995.


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of the maternal role, is what confronts the children, so it is unsurprising that they make no attempt to engage with her.²⁰⁴ Instead, they do the next best thing and cry out for help. These children strike me as the most resourceful in tragedy.²⁰⁵ Far from indulging in simple lamentation, these children try to get the chorus to help. The disjointed interaction between children and chorus suggests something about the general position of children in tragedy. Adult figures cry out for help when they are killed, but they do not expect the chorus to help them.²⁰⁶ The way that the children in Medeia expect to receive help implies first a naive belief in adult aid, which is highly appropriate to this play where the expected positions of safety between parent and home have been undermined. The call for help is also a mark of child characterization, as the refusal of assistance is often a feature of the assertion of adulthood in tragedy, as both Iphigenia (in Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis) and Menoikeus (in Euripides’ Phoinissai) reject help as they assert their own identities.²⁰⁷ The cries in Medeia also imply a lack of understanding of social structures, echoed in the ignorance of dramatic conventions. It is as though adult figures ‘know’ that the chorus cannot help them, whereas child figures do not, because of their simplicity of focus both as dramatic figures, and in reflection of their real-life limitations. The chorus’ cry, ‘Surely I should help them’ (1275–6) receives the response, ‘Yes, help us.’ This does far more than simply create a sense of pity. It belongs to the play’s wider examination of language and identity, indicating that these are still Medeia’s children as she kills them. Unlike their father Iason, whose temporal awareness has been at best unfocused, the children are very much in the present moment, facing what is in front of them. Like their mother, they are able to cut through to the heart of the issue.²⁰⁸ The cries increase the audience’s sense of frustration and draw out the long process of tension concerning the children’s fate which the Nurse initiated in the opening scene.²⁰⁹ ²⁰⁴ See further Jouan 1996 on the different configurations of fear in the play. ²⁰⁵ We could here compare the children in Eur. Herakles who try to escape their father’s madness by hiding and attempting to reason with him. ²⁰⁶ E.g. the death cries of Agamemnon which the Chorus members hear but do not act upon, Aiskh. Ag. 1343 51. Cf. Arnott 1982. ²⁰⁷ This straightforward quality of children’s speech can be placed within a wider continuum of age related language. Cf. McClure (1999: 261): ‘Sexually inexperienced virgins are repre sented as lacking the verbal guile of their married counterparts.’ Cf. Silk (1995) on the language of the elderly in tragedy. ²⁰⁸ Cf. Levett 2010 on Medeia’s negotiation of cultural linguistic codes in the play. ²⁰⁹ Segal (1997: 171) suggests that the Chorus members have been removed from a protective role: ‘By establishing the common bond of oppressed womanhood with the Chorus in her first

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This is the only case in extant tragedy where the audience ‘witnesses’ the death of a child, rather than being warned of it, or told about it after the event. Regardless of whether the lines were delivered by the child actors or adults offstage, the intended effect of suddenly hearing from these silent figures is striking. The lines also add a further complication to the family pattern in the play, as it introduces a relationship between the two brothers.²¹⁰ The fact that Medeia must commit two murders is thus emphasized.²¹¹ Sibling relationships have provided a subtle undercurrent to the play, both in Medeia’s lack of sibling support and Iason’s assertion that his marriage to Kreon’s daughter will provide useful half-brothers for Medeia’s sons (559–65). The brief snatch of dialogue between the two boys shows us the play’s only truly supportive family relationship, as they turn to each other for support, and ultimately face their fate together.²¹² By killing the children Medeia not only destroys the continuation of Iason’s oikos, but also destroys the possibility of a resolution of her own sibling crisis.²¹³ Thus the murder of the children is not only a destruction of the parent/child relationship but of the sibling relationship as well. In the space of a few lines Euripides here employs the device of child speech to powerful effect, using childlike simplicity of focus and expression to highlight certain features of the drama and de-emphasize others.²¹⁴ A similar process can be observed in the longer passages of child speech, the lines sung in Euripides’ Andromakhe (504–14; 526–36). The child’s words are simple, focused on the immediate situation and in direct response to adult prompting; Andromakhe tells him to beg Menelaos to spare him,

speech, Medeia detaches it from a possible protective role toward the children.’ This contention is difficult to support as it ignores the changing Chorus dynamic between the first scene and the death of the children. The force of the scene is increased not by a Chorus unwilling to help, but one unable to do so. The question of how to ensure the children’s safety is a constant focus in the play, so we should not assume that the Chorus were in any position to help. ²¹⁰ See Pucci 1980: 202 3. On more difficult sibling relationships in tragedy, see Alaux 1997. ²¹¹ Cf. the Chorus’ horror that Herakles has killed three children, Eur. Herakles 1022 4. ²¹² We might consider the relationship between Medeia and her grandfather, Helios, is a positive one, but the role of the chariot does not imply the same level of family interaction as we see between the two sons. See Fletcher (2012: 186 7); Levett (2009 164 5). ²¹³ Psychological readings of this play are fraught with difficulties, but fraternal relationships are prominent in the play and should influence our response to the children’s offstage cries as indications of their relationship with each other. See Corti (1998) for a more Freudian analysis of the play. ²¹⁴ Contra Fantham (1986: 279 n. 13) who notes: ‘In Medeia the children speak only the obligatory stichomythic pair of trimeters as they are killed inside.’ See Segal (1997) on Euripides’ manipulation of the metrical schema in this scene.


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and he does exactly that. In following chapters we will explore the ethics of Menelaos’ threat, and the perversion of the supplication context, but these thematic complexities are not translated into the speech of the child. The perspective is clearly that of a child, and there is a simplicity and directness of focus which echoes that of the children in Medeia: Παῖς μᾶτερ μᾶτερ, ἐγὼ δὲ σᾷ πτέρυγι συγκαταβαίνω. Ἀνδρομάχη θῦμα δάιον, ὦ χθονὸς Φθίας κράντορες. Παῖς ὦ πάτερ, μόλε ϕίλοις ἐπίκουρος. Ἀνδρομάχη κείσῃ δή, τέκνον ὦ ϕίλος, μαστοῖς ματέρος ἀμϕὶ σᾶς νεκρὸς ὑπὸ χθονί, σὺν νεκρῷ . Παῖς ὤμοι μοι, τί πάθω; τάλας δῆτ᾽ ἐγὼ σύ τε, μᾶτερ. Child: Mother, mother, I shelter beneath your wing. Andromakhe: This is a brutal sacrifice, lords of the land of Phthia! Child: Oh father, come and help your family. Andromakhe: My beloved child, you will curl up in your mother’s arms only as a corpse beneath the earth, body to body. Child: Oh no! What am I going to do? I am doomed, and you are, mother.²¹⁵ ²¹⁵ Eur. Andr. 504 14.

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Previous assessments that this is ‘unnatural’ language have focused on the child’s use of the phrase ‘I shelter beneath your wing’ (504–5). Stevens sees this phrase as self-reflexive and thus unnatural, quoting the parallel from Euripides’ Alkestis, 393 ff., where the child refers to himself as a young bird. That passage will be discussed later in this and the following chapter, but if we consider the possibility that Alkestis is comedy, without a tragic parallel the phrase is not as ‘unnatural’ as Stevens would have it. The child is repeating words he has just heard at 441 when Andromakhe referred to the child as a ‘bird under her wing’: Μενέλαος ὅταν τάδ᾽ ᾖ, τότ᾽ οἴσομεν σὲ δὲ κτενῶ. Ἀνδρομάχη ἦ καὶ νεοσσὸν τόνδ᾽, ὑπὸ πτερῶν σπάσας; Μενέλαος οὐ δῆτα θυγατρὶ δ᾽, ἢν θέλῃ, δώσω κτανεῖν. Menelaos: If that happens, we’ll deal with it. I will kill you. Andromakhe: And this little chick here, sheltering under my wing? Menelaos: No. That’s up to my daughter. If she wants to kill him, I’ll give him to her.²¹⁶

Any theory of language acquisition that stresses mimicry and familial idiolect would recognize repetition like this as a childlike mannerism.²¹⁷ On a dramaturgical level, we could see this as the repackaging of material, but it need not be interpreted as ‘unnatural’ for a child to use the language he has just heard in the appropriate context. When we consider the wider tragic framework the phrase becomes even less objectionable. While the ornithological context has been established by the earlier image, the word πτέρυξ is not in itself highly metaphorical, having a wide range of reference in Greek. It may be that the idea expressed by the child here sounded less artificial

²¹⁶ Eur. Andr. 440 2. ²¹⁷ The role of repetition in first and second language acquisition is still a debated topic, but there is a general acceptance that some structures of repetition and feedback are involved in the neurological correlates for linguistic development. See Clark (2009: 298 300), and cf. Reichert and Liebscher (2012) on how expert novice pairing facilitates language learning.


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than the English translation ‘under your wing’, although that English phrase has little ornithological colouring left in contexts of mentoring or protection from bullying. The phrase is, therefore, not incongruous with the overall simple tone or focus of the child’s speech in the play. The imagery is in itself more complex than a simple evocation of pathos, as we will discuss in the following chapter. We should here note the strong overall effect of combining such simple lines with the presence and voice of a child actor, both to concentrate the audience’s minds on the immediate reality of the situation, and to counterpoint the statements made by the adults in the scene. The final case to consider does not involve onstage lines for children, but is nonetheless informative. In Herakles Euripides circumvents all the difficulties of using child voices which we discussed in the previous chapter, and employs the ingenious device of giving the children voices through directly reported speech: Megara tells us how the children have been pestering her with questions. Here the same image as in Andromakhe, a child sheltering under a mother’s wing, is counterbalanced with a brighter image of the children’s behaviour and speech: ἐγὼ δὲ καὶ σὺ μέλλομεν θνῄσκειν, γέρον, οἵ θ᾽ Ἡράκλειοι παῖδες, οὓς ὑπὸ πτεροῖς σῴζω νεοσσοὺς ὄρνις ὣς ὑϕειμένους. You and I are going to die, old man, together with these children of Herakles, sheltering under my wing. I try to protect them, like a bird covers her young.²¹⁸

One of the points of greatest interest in these lines is that in the first example Megara is reporting the words of the children from a time before they were physically being threatened at the altar, but they were still in danger, and she was trying to hold them to her, not necessarily physically, for the image of a bird with her chicks (translated above as ‘like a bird covers her young’) is more complex, as we will discuss further below. Unlike most children in tragedy, the children at that moment were unaware of being in danger and we are given a snapshot of something closer to their ordinary lives. The significance of this for their actual actions we discussed earlier, and a similar principle applies to their speech. It is easier to report sustained realistic

²¹⁸ Eur. Her. 70 5. See further above on the continuation of this scene.

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speech from children than it is to stage it. In Megara’s report of their words we see the same direct focus on the situation that we saw in Medeia and Andromakhe. The children want to know where Herakles is and when he’ll be back, and that is what they ask. They are not introspective. Similarly, when in the later scene the child tries to prevent Herakles’ attack, his lines are specifically focused on the situation, responding to Herakles’ cry that these are Eurystheus’ children, and correcting what appears to be the immediate misapprehension: Ὦ ϕίλτατ᾽, αὐδᾷ, μή μ᾽ ἀποκτείνῃς, πάτερ σός εἰμι, σὸς παῖς οὐ τὸν Εὐρυσθέως ὀλεῖς. ‘My dear father,’ he cried. ‘Do not kill me! I am your son, yours. You will not be killing the child of Eurystheus.’²¹⁹

This direct response to Herakles’ previous statement resembles the simplicity of question and answer displayed when Medeia’s children try to encourage the chorus’ urge to help them. The children’s voices in the Herakles illustrate what may be key features of child speech in drama: child figures always display a close focus on the situation, never indulging in introspection or reflection on the complexities of the situation; their language is always simple, avoiding elaboration or description.²²⁰ Child speech in tragedy is simple, direct, and lacks a wider perspective. We can further note that children’s speech is characterized by questioning in a variety of contexts from the despair of Medeia’s children, to the panic of Andromakhe’s son and the persistent enquiries of Herakles’ children about his absence. Although we will never have any examples of recorded live child speech from fifth-century Athens, all of these features of child speech in tragedy are not without parallels in linguistic practices of historically ‘real’ children known from anthropological studies and classical literature, so may be characterized as ‘natural’, or at least not obviously ‘unnatural’.²²¹ While none of these features is exclusive to the characterization of child language, within the limited sample available, there is reason to sketch a syndrome

²¹⁹ Eur. Her. 987 9. ²²⁰ This analysis finds support from studies of the term νἠπιος nepios, the term which can mean ‘child’, or ‘foolish’; see discussion at Chapter 1.2.2 and Briand 2011. ²²¹ For similar patterns of child speech in different languages where questioning is culturally codified in linguistic education, see Blount 1982; Cox 1986; Helfrich 1979.


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which can differentiate child speech from adult speech within the overarching medium of tragic diction. Issues of complexity and focus are more difficult to assess in relation to the words Hekabe reports as spoken to her by Astyanax when she mourns over his corpse at the end of Euripides’ Troades. Hekabe tells how Astyanax used to talk about how he would behave at her funeral: ὦ χεῖρες, ὡς εἰκοὺς μὲν ἡδείας πατρὸς κέκτησθ᾽, ἐν ἄρθροις δ᾽ ἔκλυτοι πρόκεισθέ μοι. ὦ πολλὰ κόμπους ἐκβαλὸν, ϕίλον στόμα, ὄλωλας, ἐψεύσω μ᾽, ὅτ᾽ ἐσπίπτων πέπλους, Ὦ μῆτερ, ηὔδας, ἦ πολύν σοι βοστρύχων πλόκαμον κεροῦμαι, πρὸς τάϕον θ᾽ ὁμηλίκων κώμους ἐπάξω, ϕίλα διδοὺς προσϕθέγματα. σὺ δ᾽ οὐκ ἔμ᾽, ἀλλ᾽ ἐγὼ σὲ τὸν νεώτερον, γραῦς ἄπολις ἄτεκνος, ἄθλιον θάπτω νεκρόν. Oh these hands, so much like your father’s, but they hang now, disjointed and fractured before my eyes. This beloved mouth, so free with confident promises, now destroyed, your words proved false. You used to cuddle up with me and say, ‘Mother, I will cut off so many locks of hair for you, and bring such a large crowd of well wishers when I come to your funeral!’ You used to kiss me as you said it, but now it’s not you coming to my funeral. Instead, I mourn for you, an old woman without city, without children burying a heart breaking corpse.²²²

Fantham treats the passage as a verbatim account of the child’s words, concluding that ‘Euripides has exchanged consistency for his most vivid child-portrait.’²²³ Her subsequent analysis of the child’s psychological state is unconvincing, and I would challenge key elements in her characterization of the child’s role, particularly as she overstates the situation, describing ²²² Eur. Tro. 1178 86. I here translate ἄθλιον as ‘heart breaking’ (1186) to convey the emotional context of desolation suggested by the phrasing ἄπολις ἄτεκνος, (the alpha privatives implying destruction). ²²³ Fantham 1986: 272.

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Astyanax as ‘a little child who still loves nuzzling with his mouth and arms like a baby animal, breathing the sweet smell of baby-flesh, recently weaned and set free from swaddling clothes.’²²⁴ With such a reading there would indeed be a glaring incongruity between this sentimental infant and the selfconscious child commenting on Hekabe’s funeral. However, the picture Fantham paints of the child is not supported by the text. While Andromakhe does refer to Astyanax when he was a baby, the onstage child appears to respond to the threat he faces and clings to her for that reason, prompting his mother’s question, ‘Do you realize your situation?’ (749). The temporal frame of the picture poses a further problem. She is highly distressed, and concerned with her own frustrated hopes for the child.²²⁵ This is not unlike the temporal blurring of father and son which may be seen in Andromakhe’s lament over the body of Hektor at the end of the Iliad,²²⁶ but there is a crucial difference in that the epic body of Hektor is conjured through words alone, whereas tragedy combines the onstage presence of a ‘child/doll/actor’ combined with the verbal fiction. While the comparison suggests that passage is most profitably understood as a projection of Hekabe’s own frustrated hopes, it further emphasizes the importance of the staged presence of a child. If we do wish to involve a child’s voice, then the likely candidate may be not Astyanax, but Hektor.²²⁷ Hekabe shows strong signs of confusing the two. Astyanax’s hands remind her of Hektor’s—this may even be a comment on the battered state of Hektor’s corpse, so her somatic engagement is almost with a single figure of son/grandson in one. If we are to recreate an original conversation which she is now reporting the most likely person to have made these remarks is a young Hektor, of any suitable age, in a time when generational succession would be part of normal family life, rather than the life in a city under siege that has been the totality of Astyanax’s life. Dyson and Lee agree with Fantham that the solution is simply to understand an inconsistency between the ages of the child as envisaged in the two scenes.²²⁸ It is not clear,

²²⁴ Fantham 1986: 272. ²²⁵ See Dyson and Lee (2000) and the following chapter on potential. ²²⁶ See Tsagalis (2012: 104): ‘Andromache’s lament turns from Hektor to Astyanax as if he is already dead.’ ²²⁷ A similar confusion of generations may be relevant in Eur. Andr. where Peleus speaks of taking his grandson ‘Molossos’ and raising him in Phthia, only to collapse when he learns that his grandson Neoptolemos is dead. He laments the loss of his bloodline and talks of his empty house, ignoring the grandchild he has previously seen as the hope of the family. See further below on the construction of time in the play, and cf. Kyriakou 1997. ²²⁸ Dyson and Lee 2000: 24.


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however, that fifth-century Athenian society did show such disregard for the ages of children as these comments imply, for in issues of family and religious life age categories were important.²²⁹ Furthermore, the phrasing of arguments for this view betrays a certain amount of ‘common sense’ understanding of children, and what they may or may not be capable of. While the scene certainly raises questions about the child’s age, I would favour the interpretation of the lines as belonging more to Hekabe’s projection or a memory of Hektor, as following discussions of names and potential will explore in greater detail. Dyson and Lee’s phrase that ‘the language may prompt the audience to feel the mysterious presence of Hektor’ leaves the mystery undefined. Whichever interpretation is favoured, these lines are not immediately helpful for an understanding of child speech in tragedy. In general terms speech presents access to an adult world of communication. Children are presented as having autonomous voices which may be controlled by adults, but which are not solely motivated by adult command; This is particularly true of the children in Euripides’ Herakles and Medeia. The general presumption seems to be that children will be silent, as this allows for the dramatic aprosdoketon (unexpected twist) when they do speak, particularly in Euripides’ Medeia. The audience is led to expect the children to be silent, and thus the cries from offstage are surprising. The anomalous status of child figures as kopha prosopa (non-speaking figures) allowed the playwright flexibility in his use of speech and silence, a technique which Aiskhylos exploited to such good effect with the sudden speech of Pylades to Orestes.²³⁰ However, the speech of children is not presented as breaking a socially prescribed norm of silence, in the way that McClure has argued that female speech is transgressive.²³¹ We see in Euripides’ Herakles that the children’s normal life allows them the freedom to question their mother, and that they cry out to argue with Herakles in his madness. Speech between children and adults is not subject to strict prohibition. A number of other factors may complicate the picture. First, all the children who speak in tragedy are male. The statistical predominance of male child roles over female may explain this, but there may be an underlying gender issue which would reveal itself if we had more evidence. A further issue may be appearance of child speech at a woman’s prompting, ²²⁹ See Golden 2015: 46 60; Robertson 1995. ²³⁰ Aiskh. Kh. 900 34. ²³¹ McClure 1999.

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as we see in Euripides’ Andromakhe 529–31. The reported speech of Iphigeneia to her father in Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis does, however, suggest that the discourse of tragedy may not automatically exclude speech from children of either gender. The delivery of laments by children is a subject for which we simply have too little evidence from which to form any general conclusions. While child speech is possible, it may be that there are certain limitations which we are only able to see in glimpses.²³² For boys at least there is a presumption that the parent will speak for them, but that they are allowed independent voices in the discourse of tragedy. The centrality of speech to the democratic polis, and the transformation of this dynamic in tragedy are topics which have deservedly received much attention in recent decades, as they address the very nature of the genre and its medium.²³³ It is, therefore, of considerable interest to note that, in tragedy at least, children are not barred from this source of civic value by reason of age alone.²³⁴ In a culture which valued speech so highly, and in a genre which made so much of this discourse, it is a striking fact that children are given any voice in such a range of contexts. We see their voices in normal situations, questioning their mother, talking about their future roles in the reversal of care from child to adult. We see responses to death or the threat of death, and attempts to engage in productive dialogue in different situations. The child in Euripides’ Andromakhe engages with Menelaos, the aggressor, and with his mother who shares his plight, and the children in Euripides’ Medeia talk to each other and the chorus, while denying the expected verbal interaction with their mother. Golden has argued that classical Athenian culture, on the contrary, did exclude children from political significance by reason of their lack of speech.²³⁵ In discussing Aiskhylos’ Oresteia he explores the silent testimony of the trilogy’s hidden children as part of the drama’s highlighting of ‘communication without words’,²³⁶ and concludes that only when ‘the weeping infants are replaced with the adult Orestes’ can the characters square the circle and end the cycle of violence. While accepting some of his analysis of the role of children in the Oresteia, I see a number of difficulties ²³² See McClure (1999: 21 2) on an anonymous dramatic fragment where a girl states that it is right that her father should speak on her behalf. This awareness of self takes the likely speaker out of the ‘child figures’ bracket and implies more of a young adult status. On lamentation and related speech acts in tragedy, see the range of perspectives considered in Dué 2006; Suter 2008. ²³³ Goldhill 1986: 66. Cf. Ober and Strauss 1990; McClure 1999; Wohl 2015. ²³⁴ On the use of speech categories to exclude children from power in different cultures, see Archard 2014: 70 81; Kitzinger 1997; Qvortrup 1997. ²³⁵ Golden 1994. ²³⁶ Golden 1994: 382.


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in extrapolating from this to the broader issues Golden discusses. The genre itself has a number of conventions which frame speech in ways which undoubtedly owe something to Athens’ political discourse, but are not identical to it, and the interweaving of themes in the Oresteia situates silence and children in a range of dynamics including power/weakness and past/present/future. When we consider further examples from within the genre we find that the model which Golden draws of the passive witness, deprived of speech and thus power, is insufficient (not least because witnessing in any quasi-legal sense does not fit with classical Athenian social practice). The act of witnessing is only explicitly applicable to children in Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis and Alkestis. In Alkestis the silent witnessing is followed up by the child’s speech, and in Iphigeneia in Aulis the child’s silent tears are said by Iphigeneia to be more powerful than her own speech.²³⁷ A more serious consideration is that children do have considerable voices through a variety of mechanisms in tragedy. If we relate this to the wider society of fifth-century Athens, we may acknowledge Golden’s supporting evidence for the proposition that failure of speech marks children’s exclusion from political activity, but still argue that this exclusion is only partial. We should, perhaps, question the emphasis placed on speech as a political action, and seek to broaden our understanding of speech in tragedy beyond this sphere. While the simplicity of vocabulary and the narrow focus exhibited by child language may be interpreted in the context of potential or inadequate skills of political communication, they may also be read as expressive of a different mode of life, whether we call this a domestic or realistic mode. Thus we may read the socio-historical importance of child speech in tragedy in one of two ways, either as indicative that male children as potential citizens were granted limited voices, or that the voices of children belong to the domestic sphere, where they have closer affinities with women’s speech. My own suggestion is that the role of children’s voices in tragedy does indeed reflect a wider contemporary awareness that children engage with this mode of communication in a public sphere, and that this is preparatory to adult political speech. As noted above, within the constraints of tragic diction, child speech is both comprehensible and readily distinguished from adult speech by a number of linguistic and contextual features.

²³⁷ Eur. Alk. 371 4, Alkestis calls the children to witness Admetos’ promise. Compare Eur. IA 1241 57 which contrast the silent presence and tears of the baby with the passionate words of Iphigeneia.

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Once again, we may detect here the importation of modern attitudes into scholarship. Children in tragedy do not conform to the pattern of ‘children should be seen and not heard’. This social imperative, which still retains much of its force in modern Western society, is not directly relevant to the fifth-century situation. We may also note that child speech in tragedy may be ignored by scholars because of general assumptions about its value. In addition to the frequent dismissal of ‘childish pathetic cries’, it is also surprising to note that in an otherwise excellent study of the role of speech in Euripides’ Andromakhe McClure does not comment on the lines delivered by the child in the play, although they have an obvious relevance to the themes she discerns about power, generational conflict, and the establishment of boundaries.²³⁸ Classical scholarship has not wanted to acknowledge children’s voices in tragedy. Given that children are always minor figures, the playwrights’ manipulation of their voices and silences is markedly sophisticated and varied. The topic of children’s voices raises a number of issues about the use of language in tragedy, some of which will be explored in later chapters. While a comprehensive re-evaluation of approaches to tragic language falls outside the scope of the present study, it is worth noting that the question of child language may pose the most serious challenges to accepted readings of tragedy, as it provokes re-evaluation of gender roles, political relevance, and the very medium through which we as modern readers receive tragedy.²³⁹ Thus children present a clear exception to Kovacs’ comment that all figures in tragedy speak ‘like seasoned barristers’.²⁴⁰

2.10 Speech in Alkestis There remains one piece of evidence to consider. I noted that for many critics the child in Euripides’ Alkestis is taken as the exemplar of child speech

²³⁸ McClure 1999: 158 204. ²³⁹ Nooter’s comments on the role of infant vocalization in Aiskhylos’ Oresteia suggest a possible argument, but I would argue that her discussion is still fundamentally based on a flawed view of children in tragedy, with a strong flavour of sentimentalization which undermines the analysis of voice and embodiment on the Greek tragic stage, e.g. (2017: 49): ‘Alongside our babble in infancy is a complete alignment of body and self with nary a dishonest or evasive utterance escaping our mouths.’ ²⁴⁰ Kovacs 1980: 18.


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in tragedy, but that concerns about the generic status of the play should lead us to question that assumption. Having formed a picture, albeit provisional, of how child speech acts are portrayed in other tragic plays, we may now consider a more informed analysis of the lament sung by Alkestis’ son. The passage is not without its textual difficulties, which adds to the challenge. Diggle’s OCT gives the following rendition: Παῖς ἰώ μοι τύχας. μαῖα δὴ κάτω βέβακεν, οὐκέτ᾽ ἔστιν, ὦ πάτερ, ὑϕ᾽ ἁλίῳ, προλιποῦσα δ᾽ ἐμὸν βίον ὠρϕάνισεν τλάμων. {ἴδε γὰρ ἴδε βλέϕαρον καὶ{ παρατόνους χέρας. ὑπάκουσον ἄκουσον, ὦ μᾶτερ, ἀντιάζω. ἐγώ σ᾽ ἐγώ, μᾶτερ, { καλοῦμαι ὁ σὸς ποτὶ σοῖσι πίτ νων { στόμασιν νεοσσός. Ἄδμητος τὴν οὐ κλύουσαν οὐδ᾽ ὁρῶσαν ὥστ᾽ ἐγὼ καὶ σϕὼ βαρείᾳ συμϕορᾷ πεπλήγμεθα. Παῖς νέος ἐγώ, πάτερ, λείπομαι ϕίλας μονόστολός τε ματρός ὦ σχέτλια δὴ παθὼν ἐγὼ ἔργ᾽, ἃ σὺ σύγκασί μοι συνέτλας κούρα. < > ὦ πάτερ, ἀνόνατ᾽ ἀνόνατ᾽ ἐνύμϕευσας οὐδὲ γήρως ἔβας τέλος σὺν τᾷδ᾽ ἔϕθιτο γὰρ πάρος οἰχομένας δὲ σοῦ, μᾶτερ, ὄλωλεν οἶκος.

There are points of textual corruption throughout the play, but the corruption in both parts of the child’s song makes it difficult to assess the precise situation. Add to the linguistic uncertainty the psychological distress most adults feel when considering a child crying over the death of a parent, and it

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is not surprising that the passage is so contentious.²⁴¹ As a rough, literal translation of the text here given, we could hear the lyrics as follows: Child: Alas for my misfortune! Mother has gone below, father, she is no longer in the light. Leaving me, poor woman, she has left me the life of an orphan. ?Look, look at her eyelids and her? outstretched arms. Answer me, hear me, mother, I beg you. I you I, mother, ?call you, falling your son to you? to your lips a chick. Admetos: She cannot hear or see you. We have been smitten with a heavy blow. Child: I am young, father, loveless, left alone by you, mother. Terrible things I am suffering, and you too, sister, bear them with me. ? ? Father, unprofitable, unprofitable was your marriage, and you did not reach the end of life with her. She died before you could, you see. You’re gone, mother, and you’ve ruined the whole house.

This is not simply a projection of Admetos’ thoughts (although doubts about his self-centred attitude do suggest he was unlikely to provide any comfort for his son, in any modern sense). The problems of interpretation are far more serious. The sudden shifts of perspective, the child apparently switching from one parent to another, combined with the strained explanation for

²⁴¹ The development of future orientated tears in children is often presented as a develop mental stage, but does not always map onto ancient texts, see Vingerhoets, Bylsma, and Rottenberg 2009.


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why Admetos will die alone (the use of γὰρ at 413), is exaggerated still further by the shift from the child speaking in the first person to adopting the perspective of an outside commentator, calling himself ‘I, your chick’. All of these features are difficult to situate in a tragic lament, but most disturbing of all is that the child apparently erases not only his future, and his present happiness, but even his very existence. The house is destroyed by Alkestis’ loss, and Admetos’ marriage has proved ‘unprofitable, unfruitful’.²⁴² From one angle, Admetos’ marriage has proved extremely profitable, providing him with two children as well as someone willing to die in his place. Alkestis dies precisely to prevent her children becoming ‘orphans’ in the sense of a fatherless child who would lack social protection (see further Appendix). However, in the context of the destruction felt all round, if the marriage failed, then its products, namely the children, are nothing. This child is singing himself out of existence. In the following chapter we will discuss further the strange temporal positioning of figures in the play, and this speech from the child is almost a manifestation of the temporal disruption being dramatized. In tone and content it does not match tragic lament for men or women. Instead, it reads more like a pastiche of what tragic child figures did, or might have done, in tragedy. It also echoes other disturbing elements of the play, such as Admetos’ own self-pity and his strange conception of his place in the family unit.²⁴³ As with the analysis of movement in the play, there is something untragic here which suggests we exercise extreme caution before using the child in Alkestis as an exemplar. There are elements of the simple language and focus we see from other child figures, but this is combined with a jarring reflective tone, with glosses. In the following chapter we will see further how the image of ‘the chick’ is also not quite what we would expect from tragedy. From this I conclude that the child’s speech in Alkestis may offer some pointers to patterns of child speech in tragedy, but that it may be more as a parody than as a serious example, and thus raises an endless chain of questions. Parody is not, in any sense, a simple topic, so even the apparent Aristophanic parodies of ‘tragic child speech’ cannot be easily used to form a model of tragic child language.²⁴⁴ In its strange position as a fourth play, Euripides’ Alkestis is even less promising as a source of evidence. ²⁴² The speech also would not fit with patterns of kinship terms as referents in stichomythia, as discussed by Schuren 2015: 67 79. ²⁴³ On Admetos’ self pity and the shifting audience sympathies, see Visvardi 2017. ²⁴⁴ On the complexities of Aristophanic parody, particularly relating to language and fables, see Farmer 2016; Hall 2013.

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From this brief survey of child speech (or song) in tragedy it emerges that the examples are not as artificial, ‘unnatural’, or as divorced from contemporary practices, as is often assumed. A degree of simplicity and immediacy characterizes the children, which would not be out of keeping with perceptions of children lacking wisdom, reason, or other cognitive abilities. Their predominantly present-time focus may relate to their embodied status as actors, where the voice is an additional element which distinguishes the child/character relationship from the adult/character one. Even if we took the voice of ‘Astyanax’ in Euripides’ Troades to be focusing on Hekabe’s death, as an indication of future-orientated awareness, the apparent simplicity of the comment, a promise of great action without the apparent awareness of the emotional tone, may still be read as a childlike feature. (I remain, however, of the opinion that these are Hektor’s words, probably from a child far older than the onstage Astyanax.) These features of child speech and song may be viewed as necessities of the dramatic form, but we could also see them as part of the wider pattern of ‘superposition’ discussed in the opening chapter—these children speak, but only see themselves—they cannot engage with the wider issues, such as ‘Why is our mother trying to kill us?’ or ‘How distressed will I be when you die?’, because they are not acting as fully formed individuals. They are not observers, but rather exist in an extra-temporal state until an adult observer determines their fate. Children cannot display the perspective Luschnig suggested as a marker of tragic (adult) character: The tragic person is seen creating his or her own role and living it to the end. The tragic person is self conscious in making a stand against time or against reality.²⁴⁵

Child figures, however, are unable to create their own roles, but rather they have potential, which is viewed in different ways by the different characters. This may have provoked Dale’s idea that the children ‘sing the sentiments the adults feel for them’, and the longevity of this argument. The child’s voice is both an immediate response, produced by the embodied child (which is already problematic) and an engagement with characters who are struggling to define the child.

²⁴⁵ Luschnig 1988: 126.


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With so many issues of status and focus in play it is, perhaps, surprising that the speech of children in tragedy displays any features that relate to contemporary norms, but perhaps the relationship is not between ‘fiction’ and ‘reality’ but between ‘fiction’ and the ‘configuration of reality as we can see it constructed in our sources’. An appeal to ‘naturalism’ will not help here, and the idea of pathetic stereotypes has been further undermined, as child voices in different contexts do not immediately inspire pity. The involvement of children with speech acts indicates their integration into society—the fact that some children have voices implies that all children may have voices, so characters such as Eurysakes in Sophokles’ Aias might in theory make a sudden contribution by speaking, creating an effect similar to that of the suddenly speaking Pylades in Aiskhylos’ Choephori. The limited examples of child speech/song make it difficult to draw conclusions beyond this, but we should note that the material we do have indicates that voices give children the potential to access sources of power—Medeia’s children ultimately die, but their call for help is more successful in gaining attention (and thus potential aid) than are the cries of Agamemnon in Aiskhylos’ play.²⁴⁶

2.11 Naming and Anonymity We have so far discussed the use of child actors, issues of embodiment and masking, and the role of speaking/singing. In each case we have seen that the elements of characterization are used sparingly, but that pathos is not the only contribution child figures can make to drama. In creating a dramatic character a key point of intersection between the embodied identity and the logos-based identity is that of names. Nominative determinism combines with the symbolism of the changing situation as created by the adults around the child. The intersection is not just between different time periods, but also between different modes of constructing identity. This will be the final element of characterization considered before we turn directly to the issues of potential and pathos. One of the reasons for the dismissal of child figures has often been that they are anonymous, but anonymity in itself may be a powerful factor in determining a character’s impact in tragedy.²⁴⁷ Yoon’s analysis suggests

²⁴⁶ Aiskh. Ag. 1343 6. ²⁴⁷ Despite the suggestive comment that children are ‘the vulnerable embodiment of the future’ and the link to children as ‘stage properties’, Yoon ultimately concludes that they are not

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several avenues by which child figures could gain thematic significance, although she does not explicitly address what it means to be an anonymous child. Furthermore, many of the children in tragedy do have names, either in the text or in the wider mythic megatext.²⁴⁸ The term ‘anonymity’ needs some clarification, for those figures we call anonymous are those who have no names spoken in the text of the play.²⁴⁹ It is not obvious that this amounts to true anonymity, though this is generally assumed to be the case.²⁵⁰ There are, however, varying degrees and manners of anonymity, where names may be available, but suppressed. The power of names (and the lack of names) is demonstrated vividly in Euripides’ Ion where Kreousa’s baby is unnamed and thus left in a liminal state until he is given an identity as ‘Ion’ (in itself a problematic name), in a form of belated ‘name day’ feast at the end of the play.²⁵¹ There is no simple correlation between anonymity and insignificance of child figures. Rather, the names or anonymity of children were consciously manipulated as dramatic tools by the playwright. The assumption that the names of children were of little importance because children were not fundamentally differentiated from each other is a further consequence of the ‘Universal Child’ ideology discussed in Chapter 1. This appears to be the underlying position of Stanley-Porter, commenting on the later ascription of names to children in the scholia, who says: ‘The names found in the scholia are not necessarily those Euripides may have had in mind. In fact, by not providing this sort of identification he probably considered it irrelevant.’²⁵² The fundamental objection to this particularly interesting as parts of the dramatic matrix (2012: 31 2): ‘Children in tragedy are victims. They are always helpless, always innocent, and always caught up in their parents’ suffering. Children do not, however, become a focus of interest in themselves; they are barely individualized, and always considered as an extension of their parents. They are the vulnerable embodiment of the future; the adult reaction to them depends primarily on whether they represent future danger or future safety. [ . . . ] Dramatically speaking, children are consistently objectified; we might say that children, particularly the mute ones, are essentially stage prop erties, fulfilling a role not unlike that of the bow of Herakles in Philoktetes. They are crucial to the thematic interests of the plays, but they are scarcely figures, let alone characters.’ ²⁴⁸ See Segal (1983: 174) for the idea of the ‘mythic megatext’. ²⁴⁹ Names for these children are often given in the scholia and may be found in later mythological compendia such as those of Apollodoros, and frequently in Pausanias’s accounts, as at 2.3.6, the names for Medeia’s children. ²⁵⁰ Once again, Dale (1961: 83 n. on 393) provided a seductively neat comment: ‘Children are usually kept anonymous in Greek tragedy (except where, as with Eurysakes in S. Ajax or Astyanax in Tro., the name has a special significance).’ ²⁵¹ On identity in Eur. Ion, see Griffiths 2017; Swift 2008; Zacharia 2003. ²⁵² Stanley Porter 1973: 83 n. 7. On the transmission of plays and the associated notations, see Mastronarde (2016) on Euripides, and Hanink (2014) on fourth century practices.


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argument is that names were a matter of great interest for the playwrights and their audience, for in socio-historical terms to fifth-century Athenians a child’s identity was formally marked by the giving of a name at the amphidromia ceremony shortly after birth. The name signalled the child’s acceptance into the oikos and thus into Athenian society, and the choice of name was important. Plato in the Kratylos refers to traditional practices where names come from ancestors, or as expressions of goodwill and/or hope for the child’s future character, and by extension for the whole oikos.²⁵³ The name recognizes (and creates) a new member of the oikos, rather than a new individual. Name clusters known from Athens and elsewhere, including those spanning the fifth century, show how family connections could be expressed through patterns of repeated and related names, sons being named after uncles, grandfathers, etc.²⁵⁴ The name given to a potential citizen baby marked his entry into Athenian society, as the associations contained within the personal name dovetailed with the information conveyed by the demotic and the patronymic. It is likely that the original audiences of tragedy actively thought of any and every citizen’s child as possessing a name, even when that name was unknown to them, even in the case of female children. The widespread interest in genealogy suggests that mythological families may have been conceptualized in such terms,²⁵⁵ and once the children appeared on stage they would have assumed greater significance. The anonymity of children in tragedy is, therefore, a marked feature, not an irrelevant detail. In this it differs again from comedy where names may be introduced very late, but are not linked to a clear Athenian genealogy. The traditional use of names within the literary framework of tragedy provides a number of different models for our consideration.²⁵⁶ Tragedy has its own methodology, using a name to provide a locus for the characterization of a dramatic figure. As the tragedians drew mainly on mythological sources for their stories, the names of protagonists were usually fixed, and once the audience heard the character’s name they would have made initial ²⁵³ Plato’s Kratylus 397b. ²⁵⁴ Davies 1971; Golden 1986. The phenomenon is not unknown today, as the family of Walt Disney was full of men called Roy Disney. On the names of female children in Athens, see Pomeroy (1997: 73 4). Cf. Higby (1985) on Greek names from the maternal line, and Olson (1992) on names in Aristophanic comedy. ²⁵⁵ On the importance of genealogy in literary engagements with myth and history, see Fowler 1998. ²⁵⁶ For theories of names in fiction generally, see Docherty 1983; Pfister 1984. Cf. the use of names in Menander to indicate character types, on which see McCary 1969; 1970; 1972.

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assumptions about the likely plot and behaviour of the figure which the drama could develop or challenge.²⁵⁷ Names were a useful tool for creating an interplay of ideas and imagery, and exploring issues of identity and definition. The philosophical concept that names express something of the essence of the nominated is explored in tragedy, although it is always expressed as a personal reflection on a situation rather than a philosophical theory.²⁵⁸ Thus the chorus in Aiskhylos’ Agamemnon reflect on the name of Helen = Destroyer,²⁵⁹ shows us Aias identifying his name as a marker of his tragic fate (aiai = alas): Αἴας αἰαῖ τίς ἄν ποτ᾽ ᾤεθ᾽ ὧδ᾽ ἐπώνυμον τοὐμὸν ξυνοίσειν ὄνομα τοῖς ἐμοῖς κακοῖς; Aias: Aiai! Who would have thought my name would have such resonance with my misfortunes.²⁶⁰

Names could be deployed as dramatic tools through the use of cognate words, allusions, and similar processes. The fixed nature of names within the mythological background also contributes to the genre’s particular use of this tool of characterization. While the playwrights were free to handle this material how they wished, the existence of figures in mythology imposed constraints on their starting points and cast lists. Docherty gives an extreme statement of a phenomenon which may be seen in tragedy: ‘If the name, replete with all its potential significances comes first, [ . . . ] then we may say that the character, in metaphysical terms, is “dead”.’²⁶¹ It is this aspect of the power of names which allows children access to dramatic function through anonymity. Children have no individual past which a name can prompt the audience to remember, so characterization through this route is limited, but this allows them to be ‘alive’ as dramatic figures in the way that adult figures cannot be. Each child figure is created anew in the play to a greater extent ²⁵⁷ Thus Euripides’ opening to Helene had to establish that he was following the tradition of Stesikhoros’ Palinode rather than the epic cycle, see Allan 2008: 18 22. ²⁵⁸ On the philosophy of names, see Plato Kratylos, passim, with discussion in Barney 1998; Baxter 1992; Casey 1996; Sedley 1998. Cf. Rosenstock (1992) on father son relationships in the dialogue. On names in religious contexts, see Harrison 2000: 251 64; Pulleyn 1994. ²⁵⁹ Aiskh. Ag. 687 90: τὰν δορίγαμβρον ἀμϕινει / κῆ θ᾽ Ἑλέναν; ἐπεὶ πρεπόντως / ἑλένας ἕλανδρος ἑλέ / πτολις. ‘The contested spear bride, Helen, who lived up to her name, hell to ships, hells to men, hell to cities.’ ²⁶⁰ Soph. Aias 430 1. See further Finglass 2011: 264 6. ²⁶¹ Docherty 1983: 49.


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than are adult figures who bring with them a past history. While there is not a clear-cut difference between adults and children in relation to names, there are striking differences in the ways in which names and anonymity are used. The use of naming or anonymity provides one of the central processes which create ‘characterization’ for children, from their associations with single or multiple past experiences of one or more of the other figures in a drama, and from the multiple futures which retroject significance into their present, minor roles.

2.11.1 Named Figures Astyanax in Euripides’ Troades and Eurysakes in Sophokles’ Aias both carry a strong narrative inheritance. Their dramatic roles are shaped by their fathers’ lives and actions, which are reflected in their names. In Troades Astyanax may be said to be ‘dead’ on several levels. As he is named, a strong set of past associations is evoked in the minds of the audience, which restricts his character development. Furthermore, the story is triggered by the fact the name is one with no future. In the dominant fifth-century version, Astyanax is killed when Troy falls.²⁶² He does not go on to rebuild Troy as Hekabe hopes he will.²⁶³ His name alone implies his death. It had originally reflected Hektor’s prowess, and the community’s regard for the family, in contrast to Hektor’s chosen name for the child Skamandrios, a name emphasizing his geographical heritage.²⁶⁴ These two names reflect a different dynamic in the mythological tradition. While both names are associated with place, ‘Skamandrios’ brings with it associations about the enduring, natural landscape, perhaps also linked to the immediate female context, as Cole has argued that women’s identity is linked to the land.²⁶⁵ The name ‘Astyanax’, however, is predictive about the future adult masculine roles of the child in relation to the civilized urban centre. Thus, the two names present two different aspects of national identity, and indicate the importance of the physical city as the locus of identity, a powerful dynamic

²⁶² In the fifth century all versions of the story relate the death of Astyanax. It is only in later versions that he is allowed to survive, and no strong tradition develops around such a variant. See Ackermann, Gisler, and Reverdin (1981 99): LIMC II 930 7; Philippo 2007; Vellay 1957. ²⁶³ Eur. Tro. 701 5. See Perdicoyianne 1992 n. on 704. ²⁶⁴ Homer, Iliad 6. 420 38. ²⁶⁵ Cole 2004.

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in Athens after the sack of the Persian invasions.²⁶⁶ The name Astyanax, ‘Lord of the City’, is doubly destroyed by the death of Hektor and the fall of Troy, and the child is condemned through his name, he had no city to be lord of.²⁶⁷ The audience’s knowledge of the story and the very name limit the possibilities for the child. He can have no future, and this restricts his dramatic range as a character. Hekabe’s hopes for his future create a movement of irony and pity, but there can be no plot or character development for the child, nor can his role change in the course of the play. The audience cannot share Hekabe’s hope, for they know that the child will die even before Talthybios announces the sentence. In this case the naming of the child brings with it associations about his father and his place in society, but these are overshadowed by the knowledge of the child’s future, and thus the child can only complete one movement in the play, to fulfill the destiny the audience expects. Although I accept Meridor’s argument that there is some manipulation of the story to create dramatic suspense, I disagree with her central premise that Euripides provides no sense of foreboding for the child in order to make his death more horrific.²⁶⁸ As the dark cloud is already hanging over Astyanax in Iliad 6, the possibility for dramatic development or manipulation is strictly limited. Eurysakes in Sophokles’ Aias is similarly limited by the implied relationship with his father. While the child is involved in interaction with other figures, principally Tekmessa and Teukros, the scene between father and son is the main determinant for the child’s character.²⁶⁹ As is widely acknowledged, there is a strong process of identification between Aias’ weapons and Eurysakes = Broad Shield.²⁷⁰ With the loss of Aias’ role as a great hero the child’s name becomes empty, a symbol of his father’s tarnished glory. Given the previous details of the story, and the emphasis on the arms of Akhilleus, the importance of ownership is central, and after Aias’ death the child/shield is left with no owner. The likely conflict is reflected in the image of Tekmessa as the lioness helpless to protect her young (985–7). The child cannot move beyond the name, for he is assimilated with the object which has now lost its force. Although the name is not stressed, when Teukros sets the child over the body of his father (1171–7) there may be a note of irony that the act of

²⁶⁶ Cole 1984. ²⁶⁷ Edinger (1992) notes a particular allusion to the name at 1217. ²⁶⁸ Meridor 1989. ²⁶⁹ Soph. Aias 555 61. ²⁷⁰ Cf. Dyson and Lee (2000) and Mueller (2016: 140 3) on Eurysakes and Astyanax in relation to their fathers’ shields.


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shielding has been reversed between Aias and Eurysakes. Unlike Astyanax, Eurysakes does not die, although the possibility of his death is certainly an active issue at the end of the play. However, he does not continue the family tradition, and the hopes Aias expresses for the child’s future are not fulfilled in any way that would be meaningful in the play—there are no prophecies or links to cult as, for example, we see for the child of Andromakhe at the end of Euripides’ Andromakhe. The association with his father’s tarnished weapons is too strong for him to overcome. He lives on, but the link with his father has limited his mythological significance, so that his only adult role in Athenian myth is in connection with the cult of the Eurysakeion in Melite, an association which is not entirely plausible: Plutarch Solon 10 tells how Eurysakes and a brother Philaios gave Salamis to the Athenians and were consequently honoured by them. Pausanias 1.35 ascribes the gift to Philaeos, son of Eurysakes. In Plutarch’s account, Solon tells the story to justify Athens’ claim to Salamis, so the story sounds suspiciously like an invention.²⁷¹ Kearns notes that the cult figure may originally have been an unnamed hero with a broad shield who later became assimilated to Aias’ son.²⁷² Whether the original audience would have accepted this association is difficult to tell. Goldhill’s arguments for the relevance of the parade of orphans in the City Dionysia might suggest that the audience was thinking in these terms, but the extent to which each element of the festival shaped responses to tragedy is still open to debate.²⁷³ We will discuss the ritual aspects of this child’s role in relation to the parade of orphans further in Chapter 5, but in the absence of strong evidence of a myth of the adult Eurysakes (as anything more than ‘descendant of Aias’), I am inclined to see the name in this play as simply tying the child closely to Aias.²⁷⁴ As with Astyanax, the child’s name has associated him too strongly with only one possible future; his protection and support of his father’s corpse provide his significant action, and this limits his role in the drama as a whole.

²⁷¹ See further Kelly 2015: 70 who argues for an emphasis on the illegitimate status of the child through the use of ‘zooming’ techniques. ²⁷² Kearns 1989: 82. Cf. Kelly 2015: 70. ²⁷³ Goldhill (1990a) argues that the war orphans being raised at state expense after the death of their fathers presented a strong visual focus during the festival, as they were paraded in the theatre itself. The importance of this referent is doubted by many, partly because evidence for the parade of orphans comes from a later century and may not have actually taken place before the original productions in the fifth century. See further Appendix. ²⁷⁴ See, however, Sutton (1984: 45) on the possibility of Eurysakes as a character in other plays by Sophokles.

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However, his relationship to Athenian cult opens up another possible future, one which the audience will be currently experiencing. As Mueller suggests in discussing Sophokles’ manipulation of the epic past: ‘Eurysakes by analogy with Astyanax invites the audience to view the son’s future in Athens as part of the same teleological arc that governs Aias’ “rebirth” as a protective daimon for the Athenians.’²⁷⁵ How this onomastic dynamic might have played out in the trilogy context is difficult to see. If this was the first play of a trilogy comprising Aias, Teukros, Eurysakes, then Sophokles may have been building an even more complex role for Eurysakes than that which was already prominent in the first play.²⁷⁶ As with other plays involving child figures, the lack of a trilogy context may well be obscuring key details about their significance, particularly when the temporal field is so wide. A similar range of possibilities is posed if we accept that Euripides’ Troades belonged in a connected trilogy, beginning Hekabe’s dream of her unborn child as a firebrand destroying Troy. In such a context the story of Astyanax becomes more complex set against the figure of Alexandros.²⁷⁷ Throughout the myth we see the suggestions that the death of her grandson (and the fall of Troy itself ) could have been prevented if Priam and Hekabe had accepted the need to kill his own unborn child, an idea stated baldly by the enemy voice of Helen, 920–3: πρῶτον μὲν ἀρχὰς ἔτεκεν ἥδε τῶν κακῶν, Πάριν τεκοῦσα δεύτερον δ᾽ ἀπώλεσε Τροίαν τε κἄμ᾽ ὁ πρέσβυς οὐ κτανὼν βρέϕος, δαλοῦ πικρὸν μίμημ᾽, Ἀλέξανδρόν ποτε. First this woman gave birth to the start of our troubles, when she gave birth to Paris. Second, the old man destroyed Troy and me by not killing the baby long ago, Alexander, the bitter echo of a burning torch.²⁷⁸

In both cases, however, I would suggest that the patterns of significance given to children would only have been strengthened by the trilogy context rather than fundamentally altered. In the next chapter, comments on our ²⁷⁵ Mueller 2016: 148. ²⁷⁶ See Finglass 2011: 103 6. ²⁷⁷ On the possible existence of a trilogy about these figures, see Finglass 2015b; Karamanou 2017b. ²⁷⁸ Cf. Eur. Andr. 293 300.


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only surviving trilogy, Aiskhylos’ Oresteia, will provide material to support this view. Both the figures of Astyanax and Eurysakes are defined in relation to their fathers alone, and the deaths of these fathers limit their possible dramatic futures, linked by the background model of Iliad 6.²⁷⁹ A different dynamic pertains to the figure of Orestes in Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis where the power of the name comes not from the father’s past but from the child’s own future. Apart from Plato’s aetiology of the name meaning ‘mountain man’ in a reference to his exile (Kratylos 394e 8), the power of the name ‘Orestes’ is as a trigger for the story of the revenge taken on Klytaimestra for the murder of Agamemnon, the story told as far back as the Odyssey.²⁸⁰ In Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis, Orestes is a helpless baby, and his dramatic significance should be strictly limited. However, Iphigeneia appeals to this helpless baby for support. She appeals to the baby’s position in the oikos, and the language she employs subtly retrojects Orestes’ future adult role into this scene, thus increasing the child’s dramatic function in the play. She tells the baby to add his tears and prayers to hers, even though he is ‘only a small ally for friends’: ἀδελϕέ, μικρὸς μὲν σύ γ᾽ ἐπίκουρος ϕίλοις.²⁸¹ The phrase used is surprising when addressed to a baby. The same phase is used by Andromakhe’s child to refer to his father Neoptolemos in Euripides Andromakhe (509). In Iphigeneia in Aulis, however, the phrase acquires its force from the audience’s knowledge of the story which the name Orestes brings to mind. Orestes will be forced to choose whether to be a philos for his mother or his father, and here Iphigeneia attempts to enlist his support in a similar inter-philial conflict. This dynamic goes beyond the sibling relationship, because the name Orestes is so prominent in the play. Even though he is a baby, unconnected with the immediate plot of this play, the child’s name occurs five times in the text of the play. This compares to only two occurrences of the name Astyanax in Euripides’ Troades and two of the name Eurysakes in Sophokles’ Aias, even though these children initially appear to be more central figures. In Iphigeneia in Aulis the name ‘Orestes’ is spoken as frequently as is the name ‘Iphigeneia’. This unusual ²⁷⁹ See further Dyson and Lee on the role of the shield in Euripides’ Troades, noting the contrast between Astayanax and Eurysakes (2000: 26): ‘The one boy will live, the other has died; the one shield will survive, the other will be buried.’ ²⁸⁰ Although the Homeric epics never explicitly say that Orestes killed his mother, the link between Klytaimestra and Aigisthos as co conspirators is clearly made, suggesting that Orestes killed them both, the version explored more directly in tragedy. See further Alden (2017: 84 5) on the other early indications that Orestes was a matricide, and that Homer deliberately glossed over this element of the story in the Odyssey. ²⁸¹ Eur. IA 1241 3.

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prominence of the name of a figure without any necessary role in the plot strongly suggests that the child’s presence is intended to draw attention to the eventual continuation of the play’s storyline.²⁸² Agamemnon’s decision to sacrifice his daughter is more calamitous than he realizes, but the play as a whole contains strong ominous overtones about the parent-child relationship, not least through Klytaimestra’s reference to how Agamemnon killed her first child.²⁸³ The figure of Orestes acts as a focus for ideas about parenthood in the play, and is able to perform this dramatic function by the retrojection of significance from his future adult role. I will argue below that a similar process is involved with the anonymity of the daughters of Oidipous in Sophokles’ Oidipous Tyrannos. In Orestes’ case the strength of the name brings into play a future adult self, and thus limits the character development, but because the literary, dramatic tradition involves such a conflict for Orestes, and a struggle to make the decision, his character is not as fixed as it might be. This is highly appropriate for this play. Mythologically, Iphigeneia’s pleas to be spared cannot be successful, for the fleet must sail to Troy, yet there is still considerable dramatic suspense about the way the story unfolds. Similarly, Orestes will grow up to murder his mother, but there is still some dramatic suspense left to play out the scenario. Although at one extreme the character is dead once named, the fact that Orestes in this play is a silent baby allows Euripides to manipulate the dynamics to maximize the dramatic significance of the child figure.

2.11.2 Anonymous Figures The analysis of how names can operate for child figures provides a basis for understanding the role of anonymity. We must be alert to the danger of eliding two different categories, those figures who do not have pre-existing names in myth and for whom the playwright did not invent names, and those figures who have names in earlier or contemporary myth which the playwright chose to omit or suppress. Such distinctions are difficult to draw, for in many cases we do not know whether names did exist in contemporary

²⁸² The role of the child is far more significant than Moreau (1995) allows. While I take Moreau’s point that the child is important in the context of pathos and the establishment of a family tableau, the long term family context is far more relevant, as Iphigeneia herself indicates. ²⁸³ Eur. IA 1151 2.


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myth, or how well they would have been known to the original audience of tragedy. The discussion of anonymity must, therefore, consider individual cases as much as the general principles involved. A likely example where a pre-existing name for a child has been omitted in tragedy is in Sophokles’ Oidipous Tyrannos, where the daughters at the end are not named in the text as Antigone and Ismene. As we do not have a great deal of material from the pre-Sophoklean mythic corpus, this lack of names may not seem surprising to us, but even the fragmentary material we have suggests that these characters were known as daughters of Oidipous, with names.²⁸⁴ The alternative versions of the myths which may have been told in the epic Oidipodeia are unlikely to be part of the tragic tradition, although they may have been known by the original audiences from other contexts.²⁸⁵ Next along the scale comes the son in Euripides’ Alkestis, named in the scholia as Eumelos, a name which corresponds to the adult son of Alkestis and Admetos who plays a role in the Iliad.²⁸⁶ The children in Euripides’ Medeia, Herakles, and Herakleidai are only named in post-fifth-century sources.²⁸⁷ The names for these children do not appear to predate the tragedies, although given the interest in genealogy displayed by early works such as the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women it is possible that Pausanias and Apollodoros had access to information which originated before the fifth century. If such names did exist, however, it seems unlikely that they were widely known. The final children are the two sons of Polymestor in Euripides’ Hekabe and the son of Andromakhe in Euripides’ Andromakhe which present very different issues for interpretation.²⁸⁸ No source gives names for Polymestor’s

²⁸⁴ The children of Oidipous and the continuation of the family tragedy are mentioned in variants before the fifth century, but the first surviving mention of the name ‘Antigone’ comes from Pherekydes (3F95, see Fowler on F95. who concludes the words are Ph.’s direct quotation) and is likely to have derived from early epic. The apparent role for the daughters at the end of Aiskh. Hepta epi Thebas has been largely discounted as a later addition to the play, so does not help in assessing the pre Sophoklean myth. See further Finglass 2018c: 29; Gantz 1993: 519 21. ²⁸⁵ See Berman 2013: 52. ²⁸⁶ Iliad 2.714; 23.354. The daughter of Alkestis and Admetos is not named in any ancient sources. ²⁸⁷ Medeia’s sons are named as Mermeros and Pheres (Scholia on Med. 119; Pausanias 2.3.6; Apollodoros’ Bibliotheka I.9.28). The children in Herakles in Apollodoros (II.7.8) are Therima khos, Deikoon, and Kreontiades. Names for the children in Herakleidai might be assumed from the names of children by different mothers given by Apollodoros (II.7.8), but he lists no daughters, while the play suggests the existence of several, including the unnamed ‘Makaria’. ²⁸⁸ The sons in Eur. Hiketides are unnamed in their collective choral identity and thus less individuated than the children in Eur. Herakleidai.

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children, although in the later account of Pacuvius we find a son of Polymestor and Iliada, called Deipylus. This name is not appropriate for Euripides’ play, as Pacuvius’ version involves a substitution plot whereby the adult Deipylus is killed in place of Polydoros.²⁸⁹ The child in Euripides’ Andromakhe is frequently referred to in modern scholarship as Molossos, following the scholia’s assignation of the name Molottos. The name is inspired by Thetis’ prediction that the child will go on to rule Molossia.²⁹⁰ The child cannot possibly be named Molossos until the end of the play, for to name him thus throughout would employ a strangely predicative formula, and undermine the manner in which Euripides was shaping this particular tradition.²⁹¹ Pausanias gives three sons of Andromakhe and Neoptolemos—Molossos, Pielos, and Pergamos—suggesting a later tradition where stories and significances were assimilated around the union, following Euripides’ lead.²⁹² It does, however, seem likely that the name ‘Molossos’ was Euripides’ invention, and that the audience is not assumed to know the name at the start of the play. Thus the audience’s fears about the fate of the child will have been intensified, as they did not know whether he would survive the action of the play. The various patterns created by anonymity can be seen in analysis of three plays in particular, Euripides’ Medeia and Hekabe, and Sophokles’ Oidipous Tyrannos. It is unlikely that the audience watching Euripides’ Medeia had any strong consciousness of any pre-existing names for the two children, so Euripides would have had a free hand to invent names.²⁹³ If he had given them names which reflected their father’s family, then he could have emphasized the reason for Medeia’s ambivalence towards the children and the totality of the destruction of Iason’s oikos. Every time the children’s names were mentioned the audience would have shared Medeia’s recall of their relationship to Iason. If, however, the children had been given abstract names, such as those mentioned by Sokrates in Plato’s Kratylos, Eutychides or Theophilos, then the tragedy of the children’s fate could have been developed, harmonizing with Medeia’s regrets for their lost future.²⁹⁴ A further dynamic was possible if the names reflected their mother’s foreign origins, highlighting Medeia’s fears for their future if rejected by Iason’s political ambitions as part of the interplay of Greek versus barbarian ideas. Names for ²⁸⁹ ²⁹⁰ ²⁹¹ ²⁹³ ²⁹⁴

See Schierl 2012: 324 7 on Pacuvius’ Iliona fr. 146. Cf. Gantz 1993: 660. Stevens 1971: 159 n. on 504 ff. See Allan 2000a: 34 9. ²⁹² Pausanias 9.1. On the possible sources for the story, see Harrauer 1999. Plato Kratylos 397b 3 7; Eur. Medeia 1019 22.


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these children would have offered Euripides good material for the development of thematic links to enrich the matrix of the play. The reason he chose not to name the children may be understood if we examine the negative consequences for all the three possibilities listed above. Could Medeia’s love for the children have appeared as convincing if they bore Iason’s names? If they had foreign names, would Iason’s plans for their future have been as plausible? More abstract names would have undermined one of the key notes of the children’s role in the play, namely that they are specifically the children of this warring couple, rather than representatives of an age group. In naming the children Euripides would have been forced to align them with one aspect of the play, but as unnamed children they can be all things to all people. Every character in the play sees the children in relation to their own particular situation. Medeia loves them, but will kill them to hurt Iason; his love for the children is couched in the pragmatic terms of his own ambition and only transcends this when it is too late; Kreon is weakened by his own response to the children as a father, and this gives Medeia her opportunity; Aigeus sees the children as a visible sign that Medeia can help him to have children of his own, prompting him to help her; Kreon’s daughter recoils from the children in horror, because to her they are visible symbols of the sexual relationship between Iason and Medeia.²⁹⁵ As each figure imposes their own ideas on the children, these minor figures take on not one, but plural significances in the play. Their ‘superposition’ is what gives them such power as dramatic figures, in spite of their limited speech and action. The children of Medeia are central onstage figures, but the process of anonymity may also be observed in child figures who are given a far smaller role, such as the children of Polymestor in Euripides’ Hekabe.²⁹⁶ Their central role is as the target of Hekabe’s revenge, and her motivation provides Polymestor’s children with their thematic role, in parallel with her own children, Polydoros and Polyxene. Regardless of his innocence of Polyxene’s death, Polymestor’s killing of Polydoros makes him the focus for Hekabe’s pain, and her two children are at times treated as a single unit in the play, the only two children surviving from a large family.²⁹⁷ This is the emphasis in

²⁹⁵ Contra Corti (1998: 67). ²⁹⁶ Note Mossman (1995: 189 90): ‘It is interesting that the characters of Herakles’ children, the Heraclids, Astyanax and Molossus are all far more developed than those of Polymestor’s children, who really are only there to be killed; although I do not want to imply that their deaths are a slight or irrelevant matter.’ ²⁹⁷ See further Zeitlin 1991.

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the opening prologue where Polydoros speaks of himself and his sister using dual forms: δυοῖν δὲ παίδοιν δύο νεκρὼ κατόψεται μήτηρ, ἐμοῦ τε τῆς τε δυστήνου κόρης. Twin children, two corpses my mother will see, myself and my poor sister.²⁹⁸

If Euripides had named the children of Polymestor, there would have been obvious advantages. The children could have borne foreign names to highlight the question of civilized/barbarian practice. If their names had reflected the name of Polymester, then Euripides could have emphasized the principle that children suffer for their parents’ actions, a principle that could be seen to be at work behind the deaths of Hekabe’s children—the Greek forces would contend that it was a Trojan act of aggression which began the war and thus the Trojan children suffer because of it. Euripides employs neither tactic, and the anonymity of these children allows for a more complex dynamic at the end of the play in the tension surrounding the propriety of Hekabe’s actions. If the children had been named, we would have lost the clear parallel with Hekabe’s children. Thus the anonymity acts in this respect to support Hekabe’s political and intellectual position, but also mitigates any sympathy we might feel. First, the linking of her children to Polymestor’s is not as neat as she at first implies. Polydoros’ prologue establishes the children as a pair, and the similarity of names Polydoros/Polyxene may be subconsciously linked to Polymestor, perhaps suggesting the misuse of gifts. However, Hekabe herself exposes the flaw in her logic when she justifies the murder of the children by telling Polymestor of her grief for the one child, Polydoros, as her revenge may be seen as excessive, killing two children in return for one. The anonymity here contributes to the tension between Hekabe’s calculated response to Polymestor’s crime and her wider grief for her entire family. A second negative result is that if the children had borne names which closely associated them with Polymestor, representing them as further incarnations of the same family line, then Hekabe’s decision to kill the children would have received further justification. The children would not only have been the instruments of their father’s punishment, but they could

²⁹⁸ Eur. Hek. 45 6.


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also have been viewed as legitimate victims, using the frequent logic of tragedy that you should not leave an enemy’s child to grow up and become new versions of their parents, a topic we will discuss further in the following chapter. In contrast, the anonymity forces the audience to acknowledge ‘children’, as much as ‘Polymestor’s children’, as they have seen these embodied figures onstage (and thus have an awareness of the child actor, as well as the child character). A more disturbing engagement is thus created where the audience must acknowledge Hekabe’s killing of defenceless figures as an inversion of accepted norms of behaviour, particularly those which related to women, as will be discussed in Chapter 4.²⁹⁹ This is the force of the messenger’s description of the killing where he dwells on the manner in which female care for children was cruelly subverted. In the final sections of this chapter we will explore the tension in tragedy between seeing children as an extension of an adult or in a more general sense as a representative of an age group that deserves and expects protection from the community. The self-awareness demonstrated by the ghost of Polydoros and the ‘dead woman walking’ Polyxene, excludes them from the syndrome that creates child characters, and figures them clearly as ‘dramatic adults’. The parallels between the two sets of ‘children’ are complicated, increasing the moral ambiguity of Hekabe’s actions. The same tension will be present when we consider the use of imagery in Euripides’ Herakles— frequent imagery creates a stronger sense of the children as ‘Everychild’ than we see in Euripides’ Medeia where the use of imagery is far more restrained. In Hekabe the anonymity of the children serves to highlight the nature of Hekabe’s act in killing children qua children. The neat parallelism of two murdered children prompting Hekabe to take revenge by killing the two children of her enemy is not as straightforward as it appears, and the anonymity of Polymestor’s children contributes to this tension.³⁰⁰ A different dynamic of anonymity operates in Sophokles’ Oidipous Tyrannos which opens with children onstage and closes when Oidipous’ two daughters are brought to him.³⁰¹ These children have a definite future in fifth-century Athenian myth as Antigone and Ismene, and I would suggest that these names are being deliberately omitted. The figures are ‘anonymized’ rather than ‘anonymous’, as Sophokles plays with the various tensions involved in portraying an emotional family tableau, both as the end and the

²⁹⁹ See Burnett 1998: 142 76. ³⁰⁰ Contra Wohl (2015: 58) who sees this as an ‘exquisite symmetry of retributive justice’. ³⁰¹ Seale (1982:25) notes this as a reversal of the opening tableau of the play.

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beginning of a narrative sequence. Rather than an explicit statement of the consequences of incest, Sophokles shows us the illusory family unit blighted by this discovery, suggesting the possibility of uncomplicated affection between father and children, in the cruellest of circumstances. A contrast may be drawn with the attitude of Medeia in terms of temporal framing of children. Oidipous is apparently able to view his children with the dominant emotion of paternal affection, despite their being symbols of his misfortune, and despite his own pressing awareness of his sibling relationship to the girls. The lack of sight may be a key element of the presentation, as the Nurse’s opening remarks in Euripides’ Medeia dwell on Medeia’s inability to see the children without hostility and the leading anger of her glance.³⁰² It seems likely that by the time Sophokles produced the Oidipous Tyrannos a majority of the audience would have known the story of Antigone’s burial of Polyneices and her subsequent death, not least from Sophokles’ own Antigone.³⁰³ Just as the name Orestes in Euripides’ Iphigeneia Aulis flagged his adult role as a matricide, so I would suggest the name Antigone was overwhelmingly associated with her adult role, specifically the burial of Polyneices. If the children had been named at the end of this play, the audience would have been directed to turn away from the emotion of this play’s final scenes and to think about the unhappy sequels. The irony is there, but the anonymity of the children allows the audience to put it to the back of their minds. Names would have triggered the mental articulation of the future stories and detracted from the dramatic power of these final scenes. This is a clear example of how names may be omitted because of their associations. In other plays Antigone as a character is strongly figured as an adult because of her name (she is a dramatic adult, not constructed with the language, staging cues or ‘superposition’ of child characters), and it may be that the name ‘Antigone’ was so strongly associated with her defiant act of burying her brother that the general perception of her character always reflected this. The audience may have brought with them the expectation of Antigone as an active character, and neither playwright chose to challenge that. The anonymity in Oidipous Tyrannos, then, would have them become even more ³⁰² Euripides’ Medeia 36. Cf. 187 89, the image of Medeia as a lioness. ³⁰³ The origins of Antigone’s story are not known; both local Attic and Theban myths have been suggested. Soph. Antigone is generally agreed to precede Oidipous Tyrannos, see Finglass (2018c: 3 7 Sommerstein 2017: 24. For the reconstruction of timelines from limited evidence, see Millis and Olson (2012) on the inscriptional record. On the confusion of categories in Sophokles’ play, see Mills 2017.


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important to allow the audience to appreciate the children’s suffering rather than contemplate Antigone’s defiant attitude to her fate. The anonymity of Oidipous’ children at the end of this play is thus relevant to far wider issues than this play alone. Their anonymity expresses the hope that they can build a new future, in the way that Oidipous, hampered by his name and fate, could not, but the audience knows that the names are only being suppressed and that the chain of events will continue.³⁰⁴ The differences between the ‘child’ Antigone in this play and the ‘adult’ Antigones of other plays show that there are clear differences between the construction of ‘child’ and ‘adult’ dramatic figures. We have already noted the issues of staging, language, and perspective. In the following chapter we will see further that decision-making is central to adult identity, even if action cannot be taken. Iphigeneia is not completely ‘adult’ until she accepts her fate in Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis, and Neoptolemos struggles to assert his adult identity in Sophokles’ Philoktetes (despite his actions as commander), until he confronts the moral dilemma and chooses to relate to Philoktetes in his own way. Names and anonymity can function in many different ways, both with a reference to the past and the future. While some children are defined primarily by their family inheritance, because their name links them with the past and the actions of others, some child figures are created in terms of their future roles, so that the trail is both from the past and towards the future. In this sense they are ‘temporal nodes’, pivotal points of interaction between the past and the future. From their past they bring a dangerous (adult-inhabited) heritage, in their embodied present they are vulnerable, and an element of that vulnerability is the emotion generated by contemplation of their lost future. At the same time, however, the possibility of a future often causes their present danger, and the multiple possibilities of the future present a challenge to all characters who struggle to manifest their preferred version of the future. It is also a challenge to the audience to contemplate their own position in history as they see a child character on stage as a physical embodiment of temporal instability and the futility of mortal attempts to control events. In this respect, the potentiality of children is dangerous both intra- and extra-diagetically, one reason which makes them such intriguing figures for tragic playwrights. The use of names is a key point of intersection, not just between different time periods, but also ³⁰⁴ Cf. Eur. Phoinissai 57 8, Jokasta tells how she named Antigone and Oidipous named Ismene, perhaps with a suggestion that the naming process itself further complicates the family.

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between different modes of constructing identity. For children in tragedy, different configurations of naming and anonymity are mapped onto the embodied character (or the different embodiment of the object/doll/baby). Against this temporal dynamic we can now see more clearly how and why pathos is created, and it becomes apparent that the strongest emotional connection inspired by children is paradoxically because of the danger they may pose, rather than the danger they may face. To use a modern idiom, quoting Walter White, ‘I’m not in danger. I am the danger.’³⁰⁵ This chapter began by investigating whether child actors would have been used on the fifth-century tragic stage, and concluded that this was highly likely based on patterns of textual cuing, the lack of comments on the manner as opposed to the fact of movement, and the practical aspects of masked acting. Combined with previous studies emphasizing the probability based on historical and cultural norms, this established a firm basis from which to explore the embodied nature of a child actor playing a child role. From this point, the questions of language and physicality were explored in ways that open space for a new evaluation of the thematic roles children play, allowing us to return to the broader questions posed in the introduction about the reasons for the prominence of children and the way they can contribute to drama outside of Aristotelian models of choice and action.

³⁰⁵ ‘Cornered’. Breaking Bad, Season 6, Episode 4. 21/8/2011. AMC. Television.

3 Potential 3.1 The Next Steps The previous chapter examined aspects of the onstage presence of child figures, and in establishing with greater certainty that child actors were used, we also explored a dynamic of multiple visual and embodied identities. The visual impact of tragedy is closely related to the emotional effects generated, and the following discussions will assume that child actors were used.¹ The universal tradition asserts that all children are ‘pathetic’ or ‘pitiable’,² but the use of naming and anonymity discussed in the previous chapter introduced a dynamic opposed to victimhood. Past and present roles were shaped by a retrojection of adult significance, so that children could be ‘double-counted’ as dramatic figures, and the dangerous future adult (as avenger/murderer/ hero, etc.) has a shadowy onstage presence alongside the apparently vulnerable, helpless child. The identity of the child is created around the physical onstage child actor, at first through an immediate presence, then with links to the past, and then with links through the future. This gives children a greater role as dramatic figures than has generally been accepted.³ This chapter will take the ideas suggested by names and anonymity, and explore in greater depth the ways constructions of the future create child characters and give them their significance in drama. When the body of Astyanax is brought back to Hekabe at the end of Troades, the grief experienced is multilayered, with memories of the past and the present physical horror combined with grief for the loss of the future Hekabe expected:

¹ See Konstan 2013 and Moraitou 2015 on philosophical approaches to the visual in tragedy. Munteanu (2011b) has argued convincingly for the importance of visual aspects of emotional response to tragedy, related to an overarching view of Aristotelian philosophy. Her discussion, however, does not consider responses to children explicitly. Cf. Hesk (2013) for vision as an impetus for action in the Iliad as a precursor to the practices of tragic theatre. ² E.g. Bates (1969: 43) comments: ‘It is easy to see that nothing could so arouse the sympathy of a Greek audience as the sight of a child suffering or in danger.’ ³ See Yoon (2012: 32): ‘They are crucial to the thematic interests of the plays, but they are scarcely figures, let alone characters.’ Children in Greek Tragedy: Pathos and Potential. Emma M. Griffiths, Oxford University Press (2020). © Emma M. Griffiths. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198826071.001.0001


    ὦ χεῖρες, ὡς εἰκοὺς μὲν ἡδείας πατρὸς κέκτησθ᾽, ἐν ἄρθροις δ᾽ ἔκλυτοι πρόκεισθέ μοι. ὦ πολλὰ κόμπους ἐκβαλὸν ϕίλον στόμα, ὄλωλας, ἐψεύσω μ᾽, ὅτ᾽ ἐσπίπτων πέπλους, Ὦ μῆτερ, ηὔδας, ἦ πολύν σοι βοστρύχων πλόκαμον κεροῦμαι, πρὸς τάϕον θ᾽ ὁμηλίκων κώμους ἐπάξω, ϕίλα διδοὺς προσϕθέγματα. σὺ δ᾽ οὐκ ἔμ᾽, ἀλλ᾽ ἐγὼ σὲ τὸν νεώτερον, γραῦς ἄπολις ἄτεκνος, ἄθλιον θάπτω νεκρόν. Oh these hands, so much like your father’s, but they hang now, disjointed and fractured before my eyes. This beloved mouth, so free with confident promises, now destroyed, your words proved false. You used to cuddle up with me and say, ‘Mother, I will cut off so many locks of hair for you, and bring such a large crowd of well wishers when I come to your funeral!’ You used to kiss me as you said it, but now you are not coming to my funeral. Instead, I mourn for you, the old burying a young corpse.⁴

The temporal shifts are flagged linguistically, and highlighted by the staging where the (previously embodied) figure of Astyanax has become a disembodied doll, and his identity, past and present, is seen fragmenting around Hekabe. The grief for a lost future is enhanced not least through quantity, because multiple possible future lives are in play. While the one possible life (as Troy’s avenger) is what led to Asytanax’s death at the hands of the Greeks, the range of possible roles for the child is evoked not just by Hekabe herself, but by the remembered figure of Astyanax who may further be a construct of Hekabe’s memory of Hektor (as discussed in the previous chapter). This potential has been well analysed by Dyson and Lee, but there is another element of danger involved, not simply the danger of a specific future, but the danger presented to the very ontological stability of humankind.⁵ A particular sensitivity to such issues is suggested by Euripides’ syntactical practices, the use of future tenses, and shifts in semantic fields, which echo the linguistic developments noted by Thoukydides. Papachrysostomou

⁴ Eur. Tro. 1178 86.

⁵ Dyson and Lee 2000.



has highlighted a striking linguistic feature of Euripides’ plays, namely the prominence of linguistic innovation with the phrase οὐκ ἂν δυναίμην, a negative potential optative found in contexts of heightened emotion.⁶ Because of the layering of syntactical details, she suggests the phrase can ‘simultaneously function within and refer to two different temporal frames; present and future’.⁷ The following comment is still more suggestive for the study of children: ‘ . . . the actions or feelings/emotions expressed through this syntactic form are automatically assigned both a present and a future validity; but since it is impossible for this future temporal frame to be precisely fixed, the future duration of what is being expressed remains indefinite and—potentially—infinite.’⁸ The ambiguities of the Greek language with regard to future time have been widely noted, and discussed as part of a historical self-consciousness in the fifth century. Across a range of genres, writers can be seen articulating a Greek world view where temporality is an underlying concern, and may have had particular currency in Athens.⁹ Thoukydides’ famous expression that his work would be ‘a possession going into the future’ (κτημά τ’ ἐς ἁεί 1.22) has been interpreted in various ways as a response to a new awareness of the self in history.¹⁰ In these historical and linguistic expressions I see a more fruitful way to approach tragic children than previous models of pathos allowed. In the previous chapter we discussed issues of embodiment and naming which suggested a complex relationship between children and time. In this chapter I will articulate the connections more explicitly, proposing not so much a model as a range of parameters for thinking about children as temporal figures in tragedy. Papachrysostomou notes that οὐκ ἂν δυναίμην is not gendered as an expression, but is associated with situations of heightened emotion. I will suggest a further note, that the expression is particularly apt when discussing children, where the embodied figure of the child invites ⁶ Papachrysostomou is confident that this phrase is Euripidean, as it is not found in the works of Aiskhylos, Sophokles, or in any fragments of other playwrights. ⁷ Papachrysostomou 2015: 3. ⁸ Papachrysostomou 2015: 3. ⁹ A good range of perspectives on temporality in history and narrative can be found in Marincola, Llewellyn Jones, and Maciver 2012. See also Grethlein 2009. Liddel (2010) discusses time and continuity as principles of universal historical narrative, and see Kennedy (2013) for broader reflection on the issues. Easterling (2014) provides good examples of how tragedy engages with temporality in its use of narrative. See further Griffiths (2019) on Euripidean vocabulary. ¹⁰ Moles (1999) discussed the inscriptional nature of Thoukydides’ history, but more recent approaches have emphasized the less concrete dimensions of his work; see Grethlein 2010. On Thoukydides’ linguistic constructions and the manipulation of tense, mood, and vocabulary, see Bakker 2006; Lillo 2013.


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some mental gymnastics about the status of future events. The combination of emotion and temporal instability, I will argue, is the same wellspring from which tragedy developed the roles of children. In exploring these points of intersection, we may also find in child roles pointers towards a more holistic view of tragedy, bridging the divide between ‘embodied cognition’ and ‘discourse analysis’ approaches to tragedy, as a syntactical pattern may dovetail with physical staging practices. These patterns, which Bassi and others have viewed as a central point of negotiation between ideas of object/ person, time, and space in fifth-century Athens, have a particular relevance for the roles of children in tragedy. Any change in our understanding of tragedies’ temporal focus may have wide-reaching implications. In discussing ‘tragic metalepsis’, Whitmarsh argues convincingly that there is a ‘disturbing sensation’ caused by tragedy’s temporal shifts.¹¹ I will suggest further that one element of that ‘disturbance’ is created by child roles. The idea that tragedy has a particular approach to temporality is nothing new, from both ancient and modern perspectives. The instability of human control of temporal events is a source of anxiety, possibly linked to the worship of Dionysos, which is given a particular visible form in the ‘bodies’ of child characters.¹² It may be seen as a fundamental aspect of what makes a child in tragedy, as opposed to their mythic counterparts in epic, sculpture, etc. The ambiguity of issues of pathos and potential have already been highlighted in the previous chapter’s discussion of staging and naming in the negotiation of identity. This chapter will explore more broadly the interplay between discourses of pathos and potentiality. While some plays involve a dynamic tension between seeing children as vulnerable and seeing them as dangerous, I will argue that the most powerful emotional responses rely on a baseline understanding of children as dangerous, both as individual members of a family’s mythic history, and as embodied dramatic figures in the tragic world view. Greek identity has been imagined in terms of a Russian matryoshka doll,¹³ but the layers of identity for child figures in tragedy are multidimensional across different temporal fields. The embodied present-time identity is ambiguous, as discussed in the previous chapter, with the onstage presence of ¹¹ Whitmarsh 2013. Cf. Bassi 2005. ¹² See Borgeaud (2010: 161) on the dangers represented by the Dionysiac: ‘The Greek construction of the human is haunted by the thought of disorder, by the awareness of a potential regression to a pre cultural stage; and by the threat of madness: assumption of discordance of an abyss, that is of which precisely a divine figure like Dionysus is.’ (sic). ¹³ Cole 2004: 1.



a child actor more visible than that of an adult actor. This palimpsest can be brought more sharply into focus when the audience is asked to see ‘Athens past in Athens present’.¹⁴ Not only does Aigeus in Medeia welcome a child killer into Athens, the children are also identified as ‘Athenian’ through their underlying role as ‘real children playing child characters’, as discussed in the previous chapter.¹⁵ Throughout tragedy, the past is evoked from multiple perspectives, and the dominant view of history from the winner’s perspective dominates, the child representing a successful alliance and clan-building of the most powerful figures. At the same time, shifting political tides mean that mythical history can be rewritten, and an apparently insignificant detail of ancestry may become important—so in Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis the baby Orestes carries his present-time role as Agamemnon’s heir, but then becomes heir to the story of Klytaimestra’s first child. As we discussed in the previous chapter on names, the very name ‘Orestes’ shapes the audience’s attention, privileging one version of his future, but other versions are still possible. The figure of Eurysakes is ambiguous in Sophokles’ Aias, not just because of the issue of name/embodiment in relation to the ‘broad shield’, and the role of weapons to harm and defend. Problems about the ontological status of Eurysakes at the end of the play (as object/person/shield) may explain why the supplication scene at the end of the play continues to provoke such debate.¹⁶ Although Eurysakes is eventually ‘safe’, the importance of potential futures is repeatedly flagged. The background figure of Astyanax (still in one sense ‘alive’ in Troy, but mythologically ‘dead’) creates one set of significances for the child, where he will die because of the threat he may pose as a new version of his father. The interplay of pathos and potential is seen nowhere more clearly than in one of the most frequent scenarios, where a child is killed or threatened with death. When pathos is evoked, it is less focused on their immediate vulnerability—children are never threatened qua children. No one objects to their present-time presence as irritating or a drain on family resources. The norms of these mythological societies are not systematically hostile towards children.¹⁷ Children’s company is not seen ¹⁴ On the various temporal frames for ‘Athens’ in tragedy, and the political dimensions, see Hanink 2013. ¹⁵ On the Athenian awareness of the historical Athens in the present, see Whitmarsh 2013, with Sfyroeras (1994) on the figure of Aigeus in Eur. Medeia. ¹⁶ Mueller 2016: 147. The play’s audience would have been primed to read the ‘future’ back into the past, especially in the case of Eurysakes whose presence is key. ¹⁷ Contra Corti (1998) who suggests that Greek myths suggest a widespread society based hatred of children. Cf. Karsaï (1995) who well distinguishes child killing from hatred of offspring.


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as burdensome, but rather they are seen as precious objects/subjects.¹⁸ The reason why children are most commonly endangered is because of their status as future adults. The logic is variously expressed. Children are threatened when a parent has died, because of the fear that the child will inherit the parent’s enmities, and avenge their wrongs. So, in Euripides’ Troades, the herald Talthybios reports Odysseus’ logic: Ταλθύβιος νικᾷ δ᾽ Ὀδυσσεὺς ἐν Πανέλλησιν λέγων Ἀνδρομάχη αἰαῖ μάλ᾽ οὐ γὰρ μέτρια πάσχομεν κακά. Ταλθύβιος λέξας ἀρίστου παῖδα μὴ τρέϕειν πατρὸς Talthybios: Odysseus spoke to the entire Greek force, and won them over, saying Andromakhe: This is unbearable. Our sufferings are beyond all limits. Talthybios: He said we shouldn’t bring up a brave man’s son.¹⁹

In Euripides’ Andromakhe, the immediate threat to the child comes from Hermione because of her concerns about her marriage, but the reason Menelaos supports the threat to the child is because the child inherits family enmity: [ . . . ] καὶ γὰρ ἀνοία μεγάλη λείπειν ἐχθροὺς ἐχθρῶν ἐξὸν κτείνειν καὶ ϕόβον οἴκων ἀϕελέσθαι. It would be completely stupid to leave the hostile children of your enemy when you can kill them and remove all fear from your household.²⁰

¹⁸ If there are psychological undertones about fathers and sons, this is well hidden, contra Griffith (1998) on Eur. Herakles who suggests that the children are killed because of the displaced hostility of Herakles towards his father Amphitryon. ¹⁹ Eur. Andr. 721 4. ²⁰ Eur. Andr. 519 22.



The logic of this decision is supported by knowledge of Orestes’ story where the child survives and returns to avenge his father. The importance of this paradigm in mythological thought is suggested by its prominence in the Odyssey as the spur to Telemakhos’ actions.²¹ In Euripides’ Herakles, Lykos calls this sort of decision an act of εὐλάβεια ‘prudence’,²² and in Euripides’ Herakleidai Eurystheus’ assault on the children of Herakles shares the same motivation.²³ Aias and Tekmessa are aware of the possibility that the same fate may meet Eurysakes in Sophokles’ Aias as we discussed above. Similar patterns of preventing adult action by killing the child are found throughout Greek mythology, from Kronos’ attempts to eat his own children to the failed attempt to kill the baby Oidipous and the exposure of the babies of Danaë, Melanippe, and others. The threat derives from the aggressor’s perception of the child as a potential enemy, looking at the child and seeing the man. The child is not killed as a child but as a potential adult. The logic of this is most memorably expressed in the lion cub chorus of Aiskhylos’ Agamemnon—the lion cub itself is not immediately dangerous, but it will become so. This double perspective also applies to imagery explicitly directed towards children, as we will soon discuss. In Euripides’ Andromakhe, the audience is repeatedly given clues that the child will not just be dangerous, but is already dangerous. Peleus articulates this point to Menelaos directly: κἄπειτ᾽ ἐς οἴκους τῶν ἐμῶν ἐλθὼν τέκνων πορθεῖς ἀπόντων, καὶ γυναῖκα δυστυχῆ κτείνεις ἀτίμως παῖδά θ᾽, ὃς κλαίοντά σε καὶ τὴν ἐν οἴκοις σὴν καταστήσει κόρην, κεἰ τρὶς νόθος πέϕυκε. πολλάκις δέ τοι ξηρὰ βαθεῖαν γῆν ἐνίκησε σπορᾷ, νόθοι τε πολλοὶ γνησίων ἀμείνονες. Then you storm into my descendants’ house, while they are away, and you’re going to kill a pathetic woman quite shamefully, and a child. ²¹ The death of Agamemnon, and Orestes’ revenge, recurs as a motif throughout the Odyssey, from the opening conversation of the gods in Book 1: μνήσατο γὰρ κατὰ θυμὸν ἀμύμονος Αἰγίσθοιο, / τόν ῥ᾽ Ἀγαμεμνονίδης τηλεκλυτὸς ἔκταν᾽ Ὀρέστης· ‘For he thought back on the fate of noble Aigisthos, executed by far famed Orestes’ (1.30 1). 4.546 7. On the paradigmatic function of Orestes’ story in the Odyssey, see Goldhill 1986: 146 9; Gould 2001: 158 73. Cf. Wissmann (2009) on the comparison between the educations of Akhilleus and Telemakhos. Cf. Beck (1999) on the way language characterizes Telemakhos. ²² Eur. Her. 166. ²³ Eur. Herakl. 1000 21.


    This child will bring you grief, you and your daughter inside, even if he were three times a bastard. It’s not unknown for stony ground to do better than the rich clay, and bastards often turn out better men.²⁴

This is not a vague hint of emotional pain, but a direct threat that the child has within him the potential to do great harm. Peleus has already stated that he intends to shape the child’s future—he has a clearer vision than the child’s mother, who spoke only of her child related to ‘hope’ for the future.²⁵ As in Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis, multiple characters express a vision for the child’s future, creating a cluster of potential narratives. In this play, the immediate pathetic vulnerability of the child is countered with the frequent reference to his past (with the links to Astyanax and Neoptolemos), but also to the future. Menelaos is shown as extremely foolish, for he says he will only help ‘kin’ (539), but the child has attempted to make that link by calling him ϕίλος, ‘family member’ (Παῖς: ὦ ϕίλος, / ϕίλος, ἄνες θάνατόν μοι (531–2)). Menelaos rejects this, using the language of ‘blood family’, but Peleus will shortly reveal the limitations of this view of family—instead of accepting the child as part of his household, bringing him in as an ally, Menelaos must now confront the child’s dangerous potential: the adult ‘Molossos’ will inherit enmity from his mother, and may then follow the familiar pattern of a child avenging his parents, (as, for example, the children of Tyro grow to manhood and return to avenge the slights she suffered).²⁶ To this is now added hostility from his paternal line. This is a good example of the over-used image of ‘the child as pawn’—he is at this point extremely weak and vulnerable, but once Peleus arrives we see more clearly the potential he has to become in chess terms ‘a queen’, a powerful adult in his own right. In this play the doubling of wives and kings is mirrored in the multiplicity of future selves envisaged for the child. The chorus members express extreme anxiety about doubles, and something of this transfers into the apparently pathetic onstage appearance of the child with his mother which follows.²⁷

²⁴ Eur. Andr. 632 8. ²⁵ Eur. Andr. 26 8. ²⁶ On tragic treatments of the myth of Tyro, her ill treatment by Sidero, and the subsequent vengeance taken by her children, see Clark 2003; Fowler 2013: 162 6; Moodie 2003. ²⁷ Eur. Andr. 465 85 emphasize the negative quality of doubles, calling two wives in a house a source of strife and pain (ἔριν μελάθρων δυσμενεῖς τε λύπας 467), and calling double rule a ‘suffering heaped on suffering’ (ἄχθος ἐπ᾽ ἄχθει 475).



The murder of children is presented as a strategic political move, and similar thought processes lie behind all cases of child murder in tragedy, even those which appear to have different motivations. Following O’Connor Visser and others, McHardy argued that when mothers kill children it is presented as an act of madness, but her account does not take adequate account of the way madness is strongly related to the trangression of societal norms for the female gender, and thus her argument does not explain the basic motivation.²⁸ Mothers who kill in Greek myth are usually presented as having clear reasons for their actions. We may question whether their decision-making processes are rational, but the main factor characterizing these women as men is that they are breaking gender codes. Men and women who kill children are motivated by similar thought processes about the future roles, not least in the well-recognized role of scheming stepmother.²⁹ Although a fragment of Euripides’ Aigeus expresses this threat in terms of a ‘natural hostility’,³⁰ tragedy shows longer-term strategic reasons as the overwhelming factor. So, in Euripides’ Andromakhe, we see that while Menelaos uses the epic phrasing to justify the deaths, the real threat to the child comes from Hermione, whose motivation is not so much her present position, but her fears for the future when Andromakhe’s child may take the place intended for her own offspring. The desire to kill the child of another is motivated by the wish to secure advancement for her own children, as is the case elsewhere in myth for Ino. Mothers who kill their own child can be explained in terms of allegiance to natal family, as O’Connor-Visser and others have suggested,³¹ but they are also operating on assumptions about the value of children based on more than their immediate appeal. The clearest example of this comes from Euripides’ Medeia: Iason’s interest in the children for most of the play is in their future roles as half-brothers of princes. It is that future which Medeia destroys, as the murder of Kreon’s daughter makes clear.³² In the final showdown Iason focuses on the immediate physical loss of the children, but Medeia emphasizes the point that the real force of her revenge is still to

²⁸ McHardy 2005. ²⁹ See Watson (1995) on ancient stepmothers and Zeitlin (2008) on the child’s role in the interaction between Andromakhe and Hermione. ³⁰ ‘A woman naturally is an enemy to existing children when she becomes their father’s second wife.’ (fr. 16 Jouan and van Looy 1998). ³¹ O’Connor Visser 1986. ³² Foley (2001: 24) also suggests that Medeia destroys her own future by killing the children, but the planned flight to Athens makes this suggestion less likely.


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come. The lack of children in old age is the greatest pain.³³ The worst thing you can do to your enemy is to kill his children, because it is a double blow. The immediate shock and loss are compounded by the loss of the future adults who would have taken their place in the oikos. This is why Hera attacks Herakles’ children in Euripides’ Herakles,³⁴ and why Hekabe kills Polymestor’s children rather than him in Euripides’ Hekabe—the action is not just ‘child for child’, but ‘future for future’. Similar dynamics may operate in the stories of Prokne and Itys, or Atreus and Thyestes, but as no Greek plays on these plots have survived we cannot judge the extent to which this motive was interwoven with the physical horror of eating one’s own flesh.³⁵ The pain of losing a child in tragedy is multidimensional. Far from being a small, insignificant figure, a child can be double-counted, for the immediate loss is combined with the loss of the future. In all these cases the murder of a child is presented in terms of a lost future, but the dynamics surrounding the act are complicated. While Menelaos’ comment about the pragmatism of his action in Euripides’ Andromakhe is specious, and casts him clearly in the wrong, in the same play Andromakhe herself seems to endorse the principle, when she wishes that Paris had been killed to prevent the Trojan War (293). In Euripides’ Troades, the Greeks’ killing of Astyanax is negatively portrayed, not least by the unease of Talthybios, yet the trilogy had opened with Alexandros, the play addressing the consequences of the failure to expose the baby. In Euripides’ Herakles, the actions of Lykos are those of a villain, and Herakles expresses amazement that anyone would threaten children, yet when his madness strikes he appears to be acting with the same basic principle.³⁶ There is no moral certainty surrounding this issue in tragedy, so we must question how the audience might have reacted. Would they have had a presumption that child-killing was unacceptable, which the playwrights then problematized, or were Athenian attitudes as conflicted as those of the characters in the plays? The issue of civilized behaviour plays a role, as child-killing seems to have associations with non-Athenians and non-Greeks throughout the fifth century. The Thracian massacre of the children at Mykalessos is one of three episodes which Thoukydides calls the ‘most pathetic of the war’,³⁷ and ³³ On the concept of childlessness in Euripides’ plays, see Barone 1987. ³⁴ On Hera’s motivation and thematic implications for Eur. Herakles, see Griffiths 2002; Papadopoulou 2005. ³⁵ On the various uses of this motif in Greek myth, see Halm Tisserant 1993. ³⁶ See Griffiths 2002. ³⁷ On the ‘pathos’ of Thoukydides, see Lateiner 1977; Visvardi 2015.



Polymestor’s characterization as an uncivilized Thracian may well be drawing upon this.³⁸ However, despite the immediate cries of moral outrage such acts may have inspired, political realities made the act more ambiguous. Although the idea of exposure in tragedy is often presented as intended to kill the child, the link to fifth-century Athenian practice of exposure is difficult to make. First, when children are exposed in tragedy it is to prevent an explicit future outcome, be it violent (Oidipous), fated (Paris/Alexander), or socially disgraceful (Ion). By contrast, the socio-historical pattern seems to suggest that children are exposed because of their inability to take up future roles, either because the family is too poor to feed them, or they are disabled or females who will be a drain on family resources rather than a future asset.³⁹ A second point is that acts of tragic exposure are intended to cause the death of the child, whereas in Athens there is some reason to suppose that the social framework of exposure assumed that the child might well be found by another who ensures the child’s survival, either through adoption or enslavement, not least because widespread infertility apparently coexisted with incidents of hyperfertility.⁴⁰ The socio-historical model is still a matter of controversy, and it is possible that the death of children in tragedy did have some relationship to the practice of exposure, but I do not believe that tragedy exploited a strong link in terms of psychological guilt or societal anxiety, because the models of exposure do not match. Far more relevant is the idea of children as political pawns in a game where ruthlessness can be viewed as a positive trait. Menelaos’ position in Euripides’ Andromakhe is strongly coloured as a negative, but also as a foolish Spartan attitude towards political decisions. However, the Athenians themselves countenanced similarly pragmatic policies, as seen in Thoukydides’ account of the Melian dialogue, and the initial decision to kill all the men and enslave all the women and children after the revolt of Mytilene, a decision based on long-term strategy, at least in Kleon’s reported logic.⁴¹

³⁸ On the proverbial cruelty of Thracians, see Mossman 1995; Hall 1989. ³⁹ On the socio historical models of infant exposure, see Huys 1989; 1996. Cf. Krauße (1998) for a broader ancient perspective. ⁴⁰ See Kapparis (2002) on reasons for abortion in the ancient world. ⁴¹ Thoukydides 5.84. The Melian dialogue expounds a callous pragmatism based on long term interest, as the Melians are cautioned against false hope. On the relevance for our reading of tragedy, see Allan 2013b; Athanassaki 2018: 113; Fulkerson 2008. Kuch 1998; Visvardi 2015. The idea that the death of children could be the ‘worst thing’ is seen in other plays, e.g. Eur. Hipp. 799 when Theseus fears the disaster is the loss of his children.


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The issue raises questions about pragmatism and morality, but it is dependent on even more fundamental problems for tragedy about the conceptualization of children and man’s place in a temporal continuum. The moral ambiguities are painfully explored in Euripides’ Herakles, where the children are initially threatened by Lykos because of who their father is, and eventually die as ‘punishment’ for Herakles’ offence against Hera. In this dynamic the children are strongly identified as ‘Herakles’ children’, that is to say, with the term ‘child’ used in a relational model. However, the play also contains a strand of a generalizing sentiment, that the children are members of an age category. This strand is created through the use of imagery, and through a number of specific comments by adult figures, such as Herakles’ general assertion, ‘Mankind loves children.’⁴² We are thus encouraged to see an established pattern of adult/child affection, whether we consider this to be a biological or socially prescribed imperative. The tension between the two models is exposed when Herakles in his madness sees himself as killing Eurystheus’ children, viewing them less as children in an age group and more as ‘Eurystheus’ children’ in the relational model.⁴³ The temporal shift is also made explicit when Lykos’ comments about his ‘prudence’, looking to the future, are met with Amphitryon’s rebuff, an attempt to position the children in terms of the aorist: παῖδας δὲ δὴ τί τούσδ᾽ ἀποκτεῖναι θέλεις; / τί σ᾽ οἵδ᾽ ἔδρασαν; ‘You want to kill these children here? What have they done to you?’ (206–7). His ethical standpoint is, however, undercut by Megara’s comments about the children’s play projections of their future lives, where they will assume the same roles and attitudes as their father.⁴⁴

3.2 Temporal Palimpsests I have suggested that the significance of children in tragedy derives in part from their ability to be ‘double-counted’, as present child and future adult, but as the discussion of names indicated the idea of ‘future adult’ can have multiple dimensions, so that there is more than just a one-to-one child/adult link in play. We see a palimpsest, where multiple identities layer over each other, sometimes obscuring, sometimes enhancing each other. In some ⁴² Eur. Her. 634. ⁴³ Eur. Her. 967 74. On the changed perceptions occasioned by madness, see Padel (1995: 74 5), contra Lawrence (2013: 245 68) who views the facility to kill children as a quality created by the madness. ⁴⁴ Eur. Her. 461 8.



literary contexts, such as biography, a child can be presented as prefiguring the adult role directly as in Xenophon’s Kyropaideia where the young Kyros displays behaviour and attitudes which will characterize his adult life.⁴⁵ This one child/one adult pattern is different from the dynamic in tragedy, where there is no automatic correlation between adult self and child self. The only example of a child role linked to an adult role is in Herakles’ comment about how he fought off the snakes as an infant (Euripides’ Herakles 1266–8). This comparison only serves to highlight the failure of this strength to save him in adulthood, and his vulnerability through his children. As the previous chapter demonstrated, the anonymity of child figures creates a powerful dynamic, and the indeterminacy of their futures makes them particularly interesting. Just as Boedeker has argued that Medeia is fascinating because everyone tries but fails to pin her down,⁴⁶ so children are centres of dramatic interest because they elude easy definition. The one figure in tragedy who explicitly articulates the temporal issues is Medeia, as the tension between the two dominant models of childhood powerfully dramatized within one figure. Medeia does not only confront the conflict between seeing the children as ‘children of Medeia’ or ‘children of Iason’; she explicitly faces the problem of how an adult can harm a child against all instinctive behaviour. Her emphasis on the children’s beauty and presence goes beyond an appreciation of the children as part of her family and merges into a more general appreciation of the nature of children. This contrasts both with Iason’s pragmatic approach and with the long-term view of the chorus that children are not worth the risk. Medeia has a very strong focus on the present moment, which gives particular force to the final image we have from the children as they face their mother’s hand (1271). Medeia engages with the children on a physical level in a scene as emotionally charged as any in tragedy. The only true parallel is Andromakhe’s relationship with Astyanax in Euripides’ Troades. The scene between Herakles and his children in Euripides’ Herakles present a close image of father with clinging children, but this is horribly corrupted into physical violence in the messenger’s description of the murder. In the previous chapter’s discussion of names in the play I noted how every figure imposes their own ideas onto the children, but the dramatic process goes beyond this. Combined with the conflicting projections of the ⁴⁵ See Pelling (1990) on the role of childhood in biography. Cf. Eyben (1999) on Plutarch, and Billault (1994) on philosophical childhoods. ⁴⁶ Boedeker 1997.


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children’s futures in the play is the tension between seeing the children as they are now and seeing them as potential adults. Medeia does not resolve the dilemma in any human sense, for she cannot maintain both views, and when her focus on the future overwhelms her present focus she explicitly refers to the temporal split: . . . ἀλλὰ τήνδε γε λαθοῦ βραχεῖαν ἡμέραν παίδων σέθεν κἄπειτα θρήνει καὶ γὰρ εἰ κτενεῖς σϕ᾽, ὅμως ϕίλοι γ᾽ ἔϕυσαν δυστυχὴς δ᾽ ἐγὼ γυνή. For a moment, forget your children, then afterwards mourn them, for though you kill them, they were born very dear. I am a woman with bad fortune.⁴⁷

The tenses of the final sentences are crucial, for it indicates that Medeia has projected herself into the future when the children have been killed, but her final words, ‘Bad fortune—I—woman’, have no temporal marker, which would normally indicate a present meaning. Here, however, we could see that the final emphasis on γυνή ‘woman’ refers only to her current state, before she will ascend in the divine chariot, thus undermining her claim to mourn in the future. This ability to manipulate time is Medeia’s greatest asset in the play as she begins by using it to extract a day’s grace from Kreon. Her ability to kill the children ultimately stems from her ability to shift focus from present to future.⁴⁸ This may certainly be a psychopathic pattern of behaviour, but the rationale is quite clear as the desire to punish Iason becomes her main focus. She explicitly says that she must forget the children as present figures, and concentrate on the future. Medeia’s own relationship with the children for most of the play shows no sign that she views them with anything other than a mother’s normal affection. The opening scenes of the play may suggest that Medeia has difficulty seeing the children as hers, but the progression of the drama does not take this up as a theme, which is in itself an interesting development. The dramatic force does not come from any idea that Medeia

⁴⁷ Eur. Med. 47 50. ⁴⁸ Contra Easterling (1977b: 189) who comments of Medeia’s final decision to kill the children: ‘She is filled, in fact, with a sudden sense that she is caught in the tide of events and has no longer any choice.’ Cf. Ebener 1961.



now looks at the children and sees only Iason, but that she understands that Iason looks at the children and sees his own future.⁴⁹ We may interpret the first scenes which indicated hatred of the children as part of Medeia’s earlier irrational pain, and consider that once she appears onstage she has moved to a different stage in which she considers her options more calmly. There is a definite irony that the Nurse begins the play by fearing that Medeia will harm the children.⁵⁰ This fear on one level proves to be unfounded, as she does not act out of hatred of the children. The threat to the children comes because Medeia recognizes the value of the children and is able to block part of her own reactions in order to manipulate Iason’s. In these scenarios, we see the interplay of pathos and potential on several levels. The loss of adult potential is an additional reason for grief, and yet that very potential is the reason for the threat to the child. Astyanax is killed partly because of his father (the embodied past, as we discussed in the previous chapter in relation to names), but more importantly he is killed because of the future roles he might play. There are two forms of danger perceived: first the specific ‘dangerous adult’ who returns to avenge his father, then the uncertainty of what his future might hold, the numerous unspecified roles he might play. The indeterminacy of the second category gives children multiple layers of dramatic, as well as thematic, significance, but the very indeterminacy is a source of danger inside and outside the immediate narrative frame. The ideas of ‘future narrative lives’ and ‘potential character’ can provide starting points for a new model to explain the dramatic significance of children in tragedy. Rather than relying on the present-time characterization of child figures through imagery, language, action, and embodiment, it has been suggested that temporal shifts around an embodied figure may imbue child figures with conditional dramatic weight. The force of their multiple future adult lives is retrojected onto each child figure, giving them significance outside Aristotelian models of character and action. ⁴⁹ Papadopoulou (1997: 646 7) notes the shift in tenses in Medeia’s inner debate 1021 55: ‘Her cares and hopes belong to the past and are expressed in past tenses [ . . . ] whereas the certainty of her plan is expressed in futures which encircle and suppress the “weakness” of the maternal love.’ I contend that the temporal dynamic is more complex, as there is an idea of the future perfect in the speech. Also the reference to certainty in conjunction with the future and with ‘maternal love’ is awkward, as Medeia is the figure who engages most actively with the open ended nature of the past present future structure in the play. ⁵⁰ On the role of nurses, mortal and divine, in Greek culture, see Bassi 1942; Pournara Karydas 1992; Price Hadzisteliou 1978; Vilatte 1991.


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However, it might be argued that this emphasis on potential is a consequence of a new modern terminology. In terms of semiotics, the child could be viewed as a ‘node’ or an ‘empty sign’.⁵¹ In the vocabulary of quantum physics, child figures could be viewed as having ‘superposition’—their identity is not fixed onstage but could manifest itself in any one of a number of roles, and that very indeterminacy is the only knowable property of the child. Recent studies have argued for a commonality of approach between ancient philosophy and modern science,⁵² as discussed in the opening chapter. A good example of this can be seen in Malin’s discussion of Plato and atemporal poetics, seen as an ‘interplay between actual events, coordinated in spacetime, and fields of potentialities which refer to space and time while being outside the spacetime matrix’.⁵³ Given the constantly evolving state of modern science we should be careful not to look for definitive correlation, but a careful formulation might use the idea of ‘kinship’ between ancient and modern ideas.⁵⁴ Similarly, we must employ caution when using ideas of modern linguistics to explore ancient texts, although the Greek use of the optative mood in drama may be more revealing about family interactions than is often assumed.⁵⁵ Despite its resonance with modern theory, the ideas of childhood potential here under discussion are not anachronistic, for they are found in ancient Greek thought, if we dig a little deeper into sources that may not on the surface seem relevant. It is underpinned by the nature of the dramatic medium (particularly the Athenian one),⁵⁶ and the Greek psycho-sociological responses to the uncertainty of the future as manifested in historical institutions of oracles and curses.⁵⁷ Aristotle’s articulation of ideas of change and motion can be set alongside his ideas on drama to provide a model where becoming is more important than being, and the idea of potential is both

⁵¹ See Mizoguchi (2000) on the idea of children as temporal nodes. On the child as an ‘empty sign’, and the role this plays in literature, see Høyrup 2004: 92 6. I am grateful to Kate Cooper for discussion of this point. ⁵² See Schulman (1989) for an early investigation on Aristotle, with Bitsakis (2000) for a more recent analysis. ⁵³ Malin 2012: 118. ⁵⁴ Cf. Dubois (2002: 200) when exploring ideas in the work of Caribbean writer Wilson Harris: ‘Revisiting the past becomes akin to the retroactive creation of reality in quantum physics, in that it leads to its actual revision.’ ⁵⁵ See Drummen (2013) and Papachrysostomou (2015) on the potential optative. ⁵⁶ On the nature of drama in relation to quantum physics, see Yarrow who argues that Western views have ignored the ‘dynamic rather than static grasp of living’ inherent in drama (2001: 5). ⁵⁷ Eidinow 2007.



engaging and disturbing. The combination of these related ideas provides a strong background in which to contextualize the discussion of childhood potential.

3.3 Socio-Historical Potential In fifth-century Athens the social discourse of childhood centres on their future roles. Reasons for having children are expressed in terms of continuity. They must receive traditions, but they must also mature into adults who will adopt and carry on traditions, through the obligation of tropheia to elderly parents, and the preservation of family cult.⁵⁸ Children may be viewed collectively as ‘the future citizens of Athens’, and individually as the resources of a family. In such a social structure, it is not surprising that mythology frames the value of children in terms of their future roles. When fifth-century Athenians thought of the future their responses were not neutral. Despite the outward-looking political impetus of the Athenian Empire, the day-to-day uncertainties of mortal life may have created individual tendencies towards the pessimistic. It was not simply that they feared a negative future, but that the very uncertainty was a cause for concern. Eidinow has argued convincingly that an elaborate structure of religious elements, including prophecy, oracles, and curses, was used to contain anxieties about the future and to create a sense of managed risk.⁵⁹ The chorus of Corinthian women in Euripides’ Medeia contemplate the dangers of having children in a manner which would characterize them as highly ‘risk-averse’. Their striking statement, that the childless are better off, is based on a balance of probabilities: the childless have the challenge of not knowing whether they would be happier, but those who have children (initially seen as a ‘sweet blossoming’ 1099) face recurring uncertainties and pains. For a contemporary audience, this opinion could be heard as an adynaton ‘impossibility’, for the chorus speak of being childless and having ‘no experience’ (πάμπαν ἄπειροι 1091)—in any Greek society the need for procreation inevitably involved everyone in some capacity, from the slave wet nurse to the military general planning for his future. Characters in myth have a greater chance to be ‘inexperienced’ with children, but even ⁵⁸ This emphasis on the future contributes to the importance of adoption in classical Athens. See Leduc 1998; Rubinstein 1999. ⁵⁹ Eidinow 2007.


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aloof characters such as Hippolytos are caught up, for Phaidra’s accusation of rape in Euripides’ Hippolytos is framed as designed to protect her children.⁶⁰ There is an ironic turn to the chorus’ words in Medeia, for Medeia will be able to transcend the mortal/immortal divide in regards to children. The chorus say that the childless ‘are held’ or ‘hold themselves’ apart from many troubles: πολλῶν μόχθων ἀπέχονται (1097). At the end of the play, Medeia’s physical distancing of herself on the chariot of Helios allows her to hold Iason back from the objects of his grief, just as she has been able to divorce different elements of her own role and kill the children by postponing the grief, taking advantage of a divine flexibility of time: ἄγ᾽, ὦ τάλαινα χεὶρ ἐμή, λαβὲ ξίϕος, λάβ᾽, ἕρπε πρὸς βαλβῖδα λυπηρὰν βίου, καὶ μὴ κακισθῇς μηδ᾽ ἀναμνησθῇς τέκνων, ὡς ϕίλταθ᾽, ὡς ἔτικτες, ἀλλὰ τήνδε γε λαθοῦ βραχεῖαν ἡμέραν παίδων σέθεν κἄπειτα θρήνει καὶ γὰρ εἰ κτενεῖς σϕ᾽, ὅμως ϕίλοι γ᾽ ἔϕυσαν δυστυχὴς δ᾽ ἐγὼ γυνή. Come, my desperate hand, take hold of the sword, Take it, crawl towards the miserable marker rope of your life, And do not allow yourself to be abused, caught by thoughts of your children, How you love them, how you gave birth to them. Instead, for this short day, Blank out your children, And later grieve for them, for even though you kill them, They were once beloved. I am a woman cursed.⁶¹

The speech plays with several temporal fields, as does much of the play, moving from aorist imperatives to aorist subjunctives (common for negatives, but nevertheless an unnecessary change of construction given the Greek preference for positive exhortations, ‘Be strong’ instead of ‘Do not be weak’). We then have a further slowing of pace with the imperative ἕρπε ‘trudge’ or ‘crawl like an animal’. before the ambiguous image of ‘crossing a rope line’. This may refer to the end of a race, suggesting that Medeia’s life is ⁶⁰ Eur. Hipp. 716 7. εὕρημα δῆτα τῆσδε συμϕορᾶς ἔχω, / ὥστ᾽ εὐκλεᾶ μὲν παισὶ προσθεῖναι βίον. ‘I have thought of one way to deal with this, so I may secure my children’s good reputation.’ ⁶¹ Eur. Med. 1244 50.



over, and suggesting that she may also twist the rope into a knot and kill herself, but can also refer to the line at the start of a race, indicating Medeia’s revelation of her true divine identity.⁶² Medeia’s comments on the children now switch back and forth between past and present, framing the parodox of ‘ignore/forget about/blank out your children for one day’, and then grieve. Her control over the timing of her grief is far from the constant uncertainty the chorus associated with parenthood, and positions her outside morality; The chorus had concluded their reflection on parenthood with a view of divine malice in the death of children: πῶς οὖν λύει πρὸς τοῖς ἄλλοις τήνδ᾽ ἔτι λύπην ἀνιαροτάτην παίδων ἕνεκεν θνητοῖσι θεοὺς ἐπιβάλλειν; What’s the point, if after everything, still gods cast this unbearable grief onto mortals because of children?⁶³

Medeia is the one casting pain through/because of children (παίδων ἕνεκεν) onto the mortal Iason, and in doing so she demonstrates how children pose a danger to the emotional well-being of their parents because of the capricious nature of destiny and human fortune. For an Athenian audience, questions of children, reciprocal care of the elderly and the dead, and matters of inheritance may well have been the most anxiety-making aspects of their daily lives. The noble concerns with kleos could not provide the clear trajectory through life to which mythical heroes aspired. Mythological (and historical) appeals to oracles about problems of fertility make the appearance of Aigeus in Medeia all the more interesting.⁶⁴ Despite his comic overtones, his predicament and concern for a solution show that even wealth and power cannot magically create children— automatic fertility was a skill possessed only by gods. The subject of children, then, is one surrounded by anxieties, not just about the individual’s own family, but about the future of the entire polis. Children onstage may engender existential angst, and reflection on how children provide the ⁶² Cf. the possible race/rope imagery used to link Megara and the children in Eur. Her. 446. ⁶³ Eur. Med. 1112 15. ⁶⁴ Cf. Xuthos’ consultation of the Delphic oracle in Eur. Ion. On fertility issues, see Maurizio 2001b.


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only true consolation for death.⁶⁵ Childbirth was dangerous, infant mortality was common, so the stakes were high. We should not underestimate the fear of a failed investment in an individual who reached maturity, but did not meet family expectations. This element of danger is configured in several different ways around the onstage children of tragedy. As we discussed in the previous chapter, the name of a child may signal a particular danger from an adult role, such as Orestes or Antigone. This may be downplayed by imposed anonymity but cannot ever be completely negated because of the nature of Greek myth. The projected future role of avenger is an explicit motivation for threats to children—Astyanax is not allowed to grow up for fear he will fulfil Hekabe’s hopes; Aias fears that the Greeks will kill his son because of their fear that the child will avenge his father—a role which he has explicitly laid upon him. This potentiality can thus generate pathos at the same time as it provides a conflicting narrative impetus. Children can be an adult’s weak spot, and allow the powerless (particularly women) to exploit them as a source of pain for Iason (Medeia) and Polymestor (Hekabe). The issue of children repeatedly demonstrates the limits of earthly power, and the inability of the wealthy and the powerful to exert control over events. The children of Herakles are threatened on different occasions because of the fear they will avenge their father’s wrongs, a reasonable fear based on Megara’s description of the children’s playful assumption of their violent future adult roles. Just as the child figures of Herakleidai pose a specific threat, so too does the chorus in Hiketides (if indeed we should treat these as ‘children’ rather than ‘adolescents’). The child in Andromakhe is constructed with a pathetic character based on the loss of future potential, but ultimately is extremely dangerous—to overlook this feature makes any audience or critic as foolish as Menelaos.

3.4 Theatrical Potential The idea of potential is inherent in the Greek theatre. Actors become multiple characters through the assumption of a mask, Athenian ritual, civic space is transformed into a space in Thebes, or Troy, is moved from ⁶⁵ The ghost of Akhilleus in Odyssey 11 is consoled not by his kleos but by the life and continued kleos of his son an irony of the myth that Neoptolemos is most famous as the brutal murderer of Astyanax, as well as a reflection on the practical dangers where children may provide a weak link in a family’s protective armour. See Gainsford (2008) and further below on Akhilleus, ghosts, and children.



present to past, and can even become a different space/time portion of Athens, as in the trial scene of Aiskhylos’ Erinyes, which moves the present-time Theatre of Dionysos a little way down the road and back into history.⁶⁶ While the issue of disguise is not as explicitly employed as, for example, in some of Shakespeare’s plays, the strongly metatheatrical character of many plays indicates that there was some awareness of this dynamic, and the increased roles for children in tragedy may well be related to the metatheatrical interest in Euripides’ plays.⁶⁷ Dionysos, god of transformation, is also the god of potential for good or ill, both as a fertility figure and as god of ecstasy.⁶⁸ Due to its inherent awareness of potential, tragedy produces instantiations of myth which may diverge from standard mythological representations of children. Wathelet has suggested that in comparison with child figures in other mythologies, the child figures in Greek myth are passive because the world of myth was fixed.⁶⁹ Although this is a useful point for comparison, Greek myth is far less fixed than Wathelet allows, and tragedy employs a particularly dynamic and fluctuating process of mythopoesis. The issue of power is also frequently explored in tragedy, particularly in Euripides’ plays.⁷⁰

3.5 Philosophical Potential The lack of action taken by child figures has been a major stumbling block for previous work, not least as they apparently fail to conform to Aristotelian ideas about action and character in drama. Taking a wider perspective, however, reveals that there may be a hidden logic in Aristotle’s thought, namely his emphasis on potential, which could relate to child figures in a theatrical context. Aristotle’s comments on children are scattered throughout his work, and reveal a complex set of ideas which contains a number of ⁶⁶ Cf. Lincoln (2009) on the corresponding dynamics of Greek myth and the construction of chaos. ⁶⁷ The concept of metatheatre (following Abel 2012) is helpful for the study of child figures, though I accept some of Rosenmeyer’s arguments that this is currently an overused interpret ative framework (Rosenmeyer 2002). More recently, see Whitmarsh (2013) on the idea of metalepsis as it may be applied to the interpretation of drama. ⁶⁸ On Dionysos as a figure of transformation, see Easterling 1997c; Isler Kerényi 2001. Franks (2014) suggests a new way of conceiving movement as Dionysiac which may be relevant for the wider discussion of tragedy. ⁶⁹ Wathelet 1995. ⁷⁰ See further L’Enfant 1993. Cf. Casevitz 1991 on the terminology of power in archaic poetry.


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contradictions, despite McGowan Tress’s argument that there is a coherent idea of the relationship between child and adult underpinning Aristotle’s writing.⁷¹ We have previously noted Aristotle’s formulation of ‘child/adult’ as akin to a ‘mortal/god’ pattern of interaction, a collocation which raises issues about mortality and power through visual framing onstage. The ontological status of children is of fundamental importance to Aristotle’s philosophical programmes, and, given Euripides’ interest in philosophy, the exploration of childhood potential in his plays is not unexpected. The interest in education and games displayed in Plato’s work indicates that the philosophical interest in children was a fifth-century phenomenon.⁷² The Greek terms which would express the idea of potential in these discussions is the Aristotelian vocabulary of dynamis, as opposed to energeia or entelecheia. The idea that child figures can have power in a latent state has affinities with ideas of potential in Aristotle’s response to the Megarians in Metaphysics 9.⁷³ The question is framed in terms of whether anything has power when that power is not being used or actualized. Can power exist in a quiescent state? εἰσὶ δέ τινες οἵ ϕασιν, οἷον οἱ Μεγαρικοί, ὅταν ἐνεργῇ μόνον δύνασθαι, ὅταν δὲ μὴ ἐνεργῇ οὐ δύνασθαι, οἷον τὸν μὴ οἰκοδομοῦντα οὐ δύνασθαι οἰκοδομεῖν, ἀλλὰ τὸν οἰκοδομοῦντα ὅταν οἰκοδομῇ ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ἄλλων. οἷς τὰ συμβαίνοντα ἄτοπα οὐ χαλεπὸν ἰδεῖν. Metaphysics 9. 1046b29 33. Some people, like those in the Megarian school, say that something only has potency when it is active, and that when not active it has no potency. So, for example, they say that a man who is not actively building does not have the power to build, but rather that only the man who is building has the power to do so, and that only at the time he is building. There are other examples, but it is not difficult to see how this approach leads to absurdity.

The discussion in the Metaphysics is wide-ranging, and Aristotle notes (5.12) that dynamis can have many meanings, but he distinguishes two particular senses which are most important. The first is dynamis as the motive force leading to kinesis being a movement or process.⁷⁴ The more interesting sense, however, both for Aristotle and for the current discussion, is the

⁷¹ McGowan Tress 1997; 1998. ⁷² See Carter (2011) on the idea of children as part of the demos; Russon (2000; 2013) on ideas in the Laws; Sprague (1984) on children’s games; Thaler (2015) on musical education. ⁷³ See Code 1995; Ide 1992; Menn 1994; Panayides 1999. ⁷⁴ See Ackrill 1965.



relationship not between dynamis and kinesis, but between dynamis and energeia ‘actuality’ (1048a25). This use of potential refers to the capacity to reach a complete state. Aristotle says that this type of ‘potentiality’ is best approached through examples, frequently expressed with the dative expressing some form of instrumentality. The relationship between actuality and potentiality he describes with reference to the difference between the states of waking and sleeping: καὶ τὸ ἐγρηγορὸς πρὸς τὸ καθεῦδον, καὶ τὸ ὁρῶν πρὸς τὸ μῦον μὲν ὄψιν δὲ ἔχον, καὶ τὸ ἀποκεκριμένον ἐκ τῆς ὕλης πρὸς τὴν ὕλην, καὶ τὸ ἀπειργασμένον πρὸς τὸ ἀνέργαστον. Metaphysics 9. 1048b1 4. Such is the relationship between that which is awake to that which is sleeping, and that which is seeing to that with its eyes closed, but still possessing the ability to see, and between that which is distinguished from matter and the matter itself, and the finished item to the raw material. Let us define the actual by one side of this equation, and the potential by the other.

The emphasis here on the role of sight links to ideas of drama and the creation of emotional response, as Aristotle argues that potential can be actualized in two different ways. There is the one-directional process, whereby the change is permanent, as when an acorn becomes an oak tree, or non-permanent change, where one actualization does not destroy the potentiality, so a pile of bricks when it has become a house still has the potential to become a pile of bricks which can become an amphitheatre or a garden wall. In this structure children are potential adults, just as acorns are potential oak trees, but as we discussed above, in the social context achieving adulthood is not the simple biological process which pertains to the acorn. The multidimensionality of personhood in tragedy makes the potentiality of child figures a more complex issue than Aristotle’s formulations allow, for there are multiple possibilities in play beyond the dualistic formulation of potential for the actualization and the opposite condition, being and notbeing.⁷⁵ The acorn will not develop into a daffodil, and the fact that it will become an oak tree is the only relevant point of interest. Issues such as the size of the tree or the degree of shade its leaves afford are only secondary considerations. However, although the child will become an adult, the type ⁷⁵ Aristotle Metaphysics 9.1050b 8 12. ‘Every potential is simultaneously a potential for its opposite, because that which cannot happen, cannot happen to anything, but that which can happen may fail to happen in all cases.’ See further Kosman 1994.


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of adult is a source of great concern: will this child become a support to his mother or father, will he avenge family dishonour, or will he bring further disgrace to the family? The issue is not one of multiple serial potentialities, but of a range of potentialities which are all competing for actualization within the same time frame. Aristotle’s formulations are often produced as a response to Plato, who introduces such vivid images of reality as shadows on the wall of the cave, or the role of mirrors to approach an approximation of reality. These ideas from the fifth century developing through into the fourth are also seen in historical and poetic developments, as an increased awareness of temporal frames was expressed across genres and media. Tragedy was ideally positioned to explore these issues, with its use of embodied actors, quasiembodied props, and a sophisticated understanding of temporal fields. Children fit easily into such a discourse, bringing with them multiple future roles. The issue of staging and naming has demonstrated some of the possibilities these roles offered, and we have seen how potential, particularly dangerous potential, is often a source of pathos and emotional affect in tragedy. A further manifestation of this temporal position can be found in the use of imagery surrounding children in tragedy, where the roles of language and visual imagination interact with the physical presence of the child. Although these images have often been dismissed as simple evocations of pathos, a closer examination reveals a more complicated picture. From a closer understanding of this element of characterization, we will then be able to move to suggest something closer to a new model of characterization that acknowledges the importance of potential, and can more confidently attempt to assess the relative importance of emotional responses to children in tragedy.

3.6 Imagery Studies of imagery in literature have for centuries noted that multiple possibilities can be evoked by one image, from intertextual reference to the complexities of ‘multiple-correspondence similies’. It is, therefore, surprising that imagery surrounding children has so often been dismissed as ‘pathetic’, in the sense of ‘creating an emotional response’. Commentators were noting the complexity of images applied to children from as early as the late nineteenth century, but these works have not become fully integrated into mainstream literary scholarship. It is not surprising that when an adult figure is compared



to an animal in tragedy, his or her children will be described as that animal’s young, and the comparison of human children to young animals often relates specifically to adult children (in terms of a relational rather than age category).⁷⁶ In some cases there may be a sentimental aspect to the images, but this is not a necessary reading.⁷⁷ Peleus refers to Andromakhe’s child as a lamb, but that is in extension to seeing her as a sheep, as that image is provoked by the animal-like state in which she is bound: . . . εἰπέ, τίνι δίκῃ χέρας βρόχοισιν ἐκδήσαντες οἵδ᾽ ἄγουσί σε καὶ παῖδ᾽; ὕπαρνος γάρ τις οἶς ἀπόλλυσαι, ἡμῶν ἀπόντων τοῦ τε κυρίου σέθεν. Tell me, on whose authority have these men trussed you up with your hands tied, leading off you and your boy? You look like a nursing ewe taken off to slaughter while your masters are away.⁷⁸

Any lamb-like qualities of the child are soon forgotten when Peleus promises to turn the child into an enemy towards Menelaos, actualizing his potential not as a sheep but as a predator. His father, Neoptolemos, is referred to as ‘Akhilleus’ cub’: Χορός καὶ μὴν ὅδ᾽ ἄναξ ἤδη ϕοράδην Δελϕίδος ἐκ γῆς δῶμα πελάζει. τλήμων ὁ παθών, τλήμων δέ, γέρον, καὶ σύ δέχῃ γὰρ τὸν Ἀχίλλειον σκύμνον ἐς οἴκους οὐχ ὡς σὺ θέλεις, αὐτός τε κακοῖς εἰς ἓν μοίρας συνέκυρσας. Chorus: Here then this our master, ⁷⁶ Animal images in such contexts do not invariably signify parent and child relationships. See, for example, the image of Polyxene as the nightingale, Eur. Hek. 336 8. Michelini (1987: 171 n. 155) comments: ‘In the earlier part of the play animal references [ . . . ] emphasize the pathetic loss of Hekabe’s children, lines 90 1, 141 42, 205 56, 337. There is a reversal from the humanized animal as object of pity to the animalized human as object of horror.’ Cf. Gall 1998; Mossman 1995: 150 1, 194 6. ⁷⁷ On animal imagery in tragedy, see Thumiger 2014. ⁷⁸ Eur. Andr. 555 8.


    his body from the land of Delphi approaches his home. A terrible fate he suffered, and terrible for you too, old man. Your homecoming welcome for Akhilleus’ cub is not the one you wished for. This is the same fate as comes to evildoers.⁷⁹

Although this expression comes in a context of death, the tone is not entirely friendly, but rather refers to Neoptolemos’ role as predator, for the σκύμνος most commonly means lion cub (or wolf cub, as in Euripides’ Bakkhai).⁸⁰ If a hero is compared to a lion, then there is no necessary ascription of weakness to his children of any age described as lion cubs, an image which is applied both to adult and young children. Beyond the examples from Andromakhe and Bakkhai, σκύμνος occurs seven times in extant tragedy: Euripides’ Orestes 1213, 1387, 1492, and Rhesos 381 all refer to adult children; in Euripides’ Hekabe 205 it refers to Polyxene, who is on the threshold of adulthood; Athena uses it of the chorus of sons in Euripides’ Hiketides 1223; and Teukros uses it to describe Eurysakes in Sophokles’ Aias 987. In different language the children of Herakles are called lion cubs by Eurystheus in Euripides’ Herakleidai: οὔκουν σύ γ᾽ ἀναλαβοῦσα τὰς ἐμὰς τύχας ἐχθροῦ λέοντος δυσγενῆ βλαστήματα ἤλαυνες ἂν κακοῖσιν ἀλλὰ σωϕρόνως εἴασας οἰκεῖν Ἄργος οὔτιν᾽ ἂν πίθοις. Of course, if you had been in my shoes, faced with the enemy lion’s all too familiar offspring, I’m sure you’d have employed moderation, and allowed them to live in Argos. Come off it!⁸¹ ⁷⁹ Eur. Andr. 1166 72. ⁸⁰ The unnatural context of this scene, however, makes close interpretation of the word suspect, for the women are breastfeeding the animals: Eur. Bakkhai 699 72: αἳ δ᾽ ἀγκάλαισι δορκάδ᾽ ἢ σκύμνους λύκων / ἀγρίους ἔχουσαι λευκὸν ἐδίδοσαν γάλα, / ὅσαις νεοτόκοις μαστὸς ἦν σπαργῶν ἔτι / βρέϕη λιπούσαις· ‘Some cradled fawns or wolf cubs, some breastfeeding them with their own white milk as they had recently given birth and had swollen breasts from abandoning their infants.’ ⁸¹ Eur. Herakl. 1005 8. My translation here emphasizes the sneering tone of the address, where the comparison of the children to lion cubs is not straightforward, but can be read as condescending while hiding a real fear.



Lion cubs are generally perceived as dangerous, as they inherit their father’s past and present hostilities, and may grow to full embodiment of their father’s dangerous nature. Herakles’ children, in particular, are a real and present threat, both to Lykos in Euripides’ Herakles and to Eurystheus in Euripides’ Herakleidai. Both men plan to kill the ‘lion cubs’ because they see an opportunity to destroy them in their present vulnerable state. They also see in the children the spectre of a past or present act returning to haunt them, specifically through fear of revenge, but also in the general discomfort they provoke; it is awkward for a man to express fear of a present weak individual, still less to say you fear an imaginary adult who may or may not come into being.⁸² In Sophokles’ Aias, the child Eurysakes may be taken from his mother like a cub from a lioness (986–7) now that Aias is dead. The image suggests the child’s present-time weakness, but also the reason for his peril, for the characterization of Aias as great, lion-hearted hero continues after his death, and now characterizes his son. The grief of Tekmessa, the lioness who has lost her mate, is the focal point of this image, but the threat to Eurysakes comes because his enemies may fear what he may become, rather than what he currently is.⁸³ By contrast, the helpless lioness losing her cub is ironically transformed in Euripides’ Medeia, for Medeia’s anger as a mother lion will turn inward against her children, rather than inspire her to protect them. At the start of the play, however, the image may indicate that the Nurse is overreacting, as the children are still ‘mini lions’ with divine heritage. Audience foreknowledge of the plot’s outcome would not necessarily suggest that Medeia would herself pose the danger. When the children react at the start of the play, their verbal cries ironically mark them as human children rather than lion cubs. The lack of imagery applied directly to the children in this play is a further detail that affects their characterization, as we will explore later in this discussion. A further aspect of the ‘lion cub’ image may be seen in Euripides’ Orestes where the word σκύμνος occurs three times within two hundred lines, twice referring to Hermione and once to Helen. At the first occurrence, West ⁸² Kreon’s willingness to express his fear of Medeia in Eur. Medeia is also framed as a rational response: Κρέων: δέδοικά σ᾽ (οὐδὲν δεῖ παραμπίσχειν λόγους) / μή μοί τι δράσῃς παῖδ᾽ ἀνήκεστον κακόν. / συμβάλλεται δὲ πολλὰ τοῦδε δείγματα· / σοϕὴ πέϕυκας καὶ κακῶν πολλῶν ἴδρις, / λυπῇ δὲ λέκτρων ἀνδρὸς ἐστερημένη. Kreon: I’m afraid of you. There’s no need to dress it up. I’m afraid you’ll do something evil to my daughter. I have plenty of reasons. You’re a clever woman, skilled in dark arts, and you’re angry that your husband has divorced you.’ Euripides’ Med. 282 6. Cf. Cairns 2016 on ‘hope’ in literature. ⁸³ See Finglass 2011: 420 n. on 986 7; Garvie 1998: 218 n. on 986 7.


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notes that σκύμνος is appropriate as Hermione is facing the threat of being hunted down, and because her father is a formidable and fierce-tempered hero:⁸⁴ Ὀρέστης ἥξει δ᾽ ἐς οἴκους Ἑρμιόνη τίνος χρόνου; ὡς τἄλλα γ᾽ εἶπας, εἴπερ εὐτυχήσομεν, κάλλισθ᾽, ἑλόντες σκύμνον ἀνοσίου πατρός. Orestes: How long until Hermione gets home? As is well and good, as you say, if we catch the cub of the impious father.⁸⁵

Di Benedetto detects a more complex dynamic between σκύμνος ‘child’, and σκύμνος ‘wild beast being torn apart’.⁸⁶ Willink takes the image at 1213 to be possibly perjorative, but also pathetic as it shows Orestes ‘behaving ruthlessly towards a young creature’.⁸⁷ This overintepretation of an image is another example of how simplistic attitudes towards children in tragedy can undermine discussion of passages in plays without onstage children, for while the characterization of Orestes as ‘ruthless’ is no doubt correct in general terms, Hermione is endangered because of who her father is, but also a potentially dangerous figure, because of who her father is. The repetition of the image is given a further dangerous spin by the next use referring to Helen, and the inevitable literary memories evoked from the chorus’ lioncub parable in Aiskhylos’ Agamemnon, where the cub soon proves deadly, thus casting a dark, dangerous shadow around Hermione in this play: ἔθρεψεν δὲ λέοντος ἶ νιν δόμοις ἀγάλακτον οὕ τως ἀνὴρ ϕιλόμαστον, ἐν βιότου προτελείοις ἅμερον, εὐϕιλόπαιδα, καὶ γεραροῖς ἐπίχαρτον πολέα δ᾽ ἔσχ᾽ ἐν ἀγκάλαις νεοτρόϕου τέκνου δίκαν,

⁸⁴ West 1987: 265 6 n. on 1213. ⁸⁵ Eur. Orestes 1211 13. ⁸⁶ Di Benedetto 1967: 233 n. on 1213. ⁸⁷ Willink 1986: 281 n. on 1211 13.



ϕαιδρωπὸς ποτὶ χεῖρα σαί νων τε γαστρὸς ἀνάγκαις. χρονισθεὶς δ᾽ ἀπέδειξεν ἦ θος τὸ πρὸς τοκέων χάριν γὰρ τροϕεῦσιν ἀμείβων μηλοϕόνοισιν σὺν ἄταις δαῖτ᾽ ἀκέλευστος ἔτευξεν αἵματι δ᾽ οἶκος ἐϕύρθη, ἄμαχον ἄλγος οἰκέταις, μέγα σίνος πολυκτόνον ἐκ θεοῦ δ᾽ ἱερεύς τις Ἄ τας δόμοις προσεθρέϕθη. A man once reared in his house a lion cub, starved of mother’s milk yet still too young for solid food. In the earliest stages of its life it was gentle, a soft playmate for children, adored by the old. People cuddled it like a little baby, its eyes shining brightly, begging when hunger pangs turned its head. Time passed, and it showed the real nature of its parents. In return for all the care it had received, it prepared a feast, on its own initiative, violently slaughtering the flocks. Blood flooded the house. The family could not bear it, the pain was too much, the murders multiplied. God had sent them a destructive priest, a sleeping time bomb for a foster child.⁸⁸

This famous image may have been easy to use as a deliberate reminder of the Agamemnon, because the phrasing used by the chorus, as Denniston and ⁸⁸ Aiskh. Ag. 717 36. The confusion of human/animal begins at the opening of the play and soon reaches great heights of complexity, particularly involving the role of the gods; see, for example, the chorus’ comments on the ambiguity of Artemis, 140 5.


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Page noted, has a proverbial ring to it.⁸⁹ Similar phrases in Herodotos and Artemidoros’ Oneirokritica suggest a wider currency for the image than tragedy alone.⁹⁰ Critical attention has tended to focus on the precision or allusive nature of this story in relation to Helen and her culpability, but the description of the lion cub is interesting in its own right. There was a clear distinction between human and child acknowledged, and the charm of the creature was aimed at the young and the old—where, then, were the adults in this picture who could form a rational assessment? The persuasion employed by the cub does not so much imply deceit as it implies a natural force, as it is driven to act upon its instincts, so the following description of its adult behaviour is a comment on the inappropriate framing which the human family employed. Failure to see that a lion cub is dangerous is a very bad move, so when children in tragedy are compared to lion cubs, the correct perspective must be to acknowledge that danger. While imagery of lions undoubtedly holds powerful associations, there are different associations for the other source of imagery surrounding child figures, namely the ornithological, where they can be figured as fledglings. The Athenians of the fifth century were reasonably knowledgeable about birds and the nature of their behaviour, which is reflected in the considerable amount of ornithological imagery employed in tragedy.⁹¹ The imagery can be expressed in terms of explicit potential, that the birds are ‘not yet old enough to fly far’, as the priest describes those surrounding him at the start of Sophokles’ Oidipous Tyrannos.⁹² The imagery of flight will continue through the play, so the birds at the start are not necessarily pathetic.

⁸⁹ Denniston and Page 1957: 133 4 n. on 717ff. Links between Eur. Orestes and Aiskh. Agamemnon have received sustained, detailed attention; see in particular Silva 2010; Zeitlin 1980. ⁹⁰ Furthermore, the theme of the Atreidai’s threat to children is seen elsewhere in tragedy, particularly in Eur. Andromakhe, and possibly also in Eur. Hiketides. The image of the lion cub is used in a range of contexts, often to suggest the danger posed by the figure thus described. See Dyson (1929) on the lion cub image in Herodotos and the possible connections with Artemi doros’ Oneirokritica. Although the Oneirokritika may well be an extremely late text (second century  or later), three references to children might indicate earlier sources linked back to the fifth century: Oneir. 2.12 indicates that dreaming of a lion cub is said to be a good sign. Oneir. 1.2 and 1.26 reveal that dreams of going blind are said to foretell the death of one’s children (or, less frequently, the death of brothers or parents, a possible development from the Oidipous myth, or some common source of castration anxiety in early thought). Oneir. 1.70 suggests a similar dynamic to those found in the stories of Thyestes and Tereus. ⁹¹ Arnott 1993; Pollard 1948; 1997; Thompson 1936. ⁹² Soph. OT 16 17 οἱ μὲν οὐδέπω μακρὰν / πτέσθαι σθένοντες. See Finglass 2018a: 171 2.



The term from this category most frequently applied to children is νεοσσός neossos, a word often cited as indicative of Euripides’ stereotyping of child figures. DeLulle noted early in the twentieth century that this was an image open to several different interpretations. Barlow responded to this study, noting that it was unlikely Euripides’ usage was perceived as repetitive, but DeLulle’s work has generally gone unacknowledged.⁹³ In Greek, the word commonly refers to a young bird, comparable to the English ‘chick’ or ‘fledgling’. However, the parallel is not precise, for the word can be used of the young of other creatures, so the meaning is closer to ‘young of X’ or ‘little X’. Herodotos uses the word in his Histories about the young animal emerging from the shell, but we would not automatically translate this into English as ‘crocodile chick’.⁹⁴ When the word is applied to children in tragedy it is usually metaphorical, with the ornithological parallel explicitly included. Nevertheless, the simple translation ‘fledgling’ is more accurate than the common translation ‘chick’ or ‘birdie’.⁹⁵ While some comparison might be drawn with the Shakespearean use of ‘chuck/chick’ as a term of endearment, this would have been more appropriate with the diminutive νεοσσίον, a usage found in comedy but not in tragedy.⁹⁶ The word νεοσσός occurs twice in Homer, in both instances referring to young birds: Iliad 2.311 is the omen at Aulis, when a snake devoured a nest of young birds, and Iliad 9.323 has the word in the image of a mother bird going hungry to feed her young.⁹⁷ In both cases, the word is used in the context of danger and suffering which suggests its use in tragedy, but apart from in drama the word is not common in extant literature, and it is never used in the metaphorical manner of tragedy to describe a human child. Herodotos’ the young of the crocodile (2.68) is not necessarily a cute animal, and Philoxenos uses it for a young hen in a culinary sense, which may be an ironic use of the word or could indicate that the word had a basic meaning without any tragic overtones.⁹⁸ Given the ⁹³ Barlow 2008: 105; DeLulle 1911. ⁹⁴ Herodotous 2.68 ὁ νεοσσός. ⁹⁵ Bates (1969: 50) ‘birdie’; Dale (1961: 85) ‘chick’. ⁹⁶ See, for example, Aristophanes’ Birds 547, 642, 767. On the diminutive form, see Peterson 1910. Writing on Eur. Herakles, Wilamowitz Moellendorf described neossos as referring in the Athenian mind to a domestic hen, and asserted that the word had lost its metaphorical colour (1895, Vol. II, 21 n. on 72). This contention cannot, however, be sustained in light of the variations on the simple image we see even in the small sample of extant tragedy and the integration of the word into wider imagery systems. Thus I would favour a middle path, to see the word not as completely colourless, but equally not so closely tied to the idea of baby birds as to resist poetic manipulation. ⁹⁷ On animal imagery generally in Homer, see Hawtree 2014; Schnapp Gourbeillon 1981. ⁹⁸ Philoxenos Leukonios, Page (1962) 436, fr. 836 b 35. Cf. Xenophon, Oikonomikos 7.34 uses the word of young bees.


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range of manipulation the word can support, it seems to retain a basic sense of ‘young of ’, which is then focused in particular contexts, notably the ornithological. In the plays of Aristophanes the word νεοσσός occurs only once more, at Nepheles 999 when reference is made to the time when Pheidippides was a youngster, ‘unable to fly’, combining an ornithological meaning with the contextualized reading referring to the dramatic philosopher’s ascent to the clouds. The word occurs nine times in Ornithes, in several forms, as part of the complex ornithological patterning.⁹⁹ However, we should note that it is never used in any parody of what we, as modern readers, might think of as its tragic or sentimental usages. Rather, the play is with ideas such as ‘hatching’ money (1108), and in a story which characterizes adults as birds it is a simple extension for their child to be called νεοσσός. Dunbar talks of Aristophanes ‘reliteralizing’ a metaphorical and already proverbial expression for a child taking after its parents, quoting Eupolis, fr. 111, and indirectly following the lead given by Wilamowitz to see the image as relatively colourless in the majority of contexts.¹⁰⁰ These comic examples, however, tell us nothing about the uses in tragedy, except that the lack of parody of the tragic use does suggest that it was not seen as an obvious target for humour as a mark of high tragic style. There is no instance of a character in extant Old Comedy saying anything like ‘Oh, I am a poor baby bird with nowhere to shelter,’ a line we could easily imagine being spoken by the daughters of Trygaios in Aristophanes’ Eirene. It may be that the original audiences of tragedy did not hear the image in one of Euripides’ plays and think, ‘Here he goes again, baby birds.’ Our sensitivity to the image may well stem from a combination of the ability to read and reread the plays, our general familiarity with later traditions using the idea ‘chick’, and, once more, an ideological standpoint which presupposed that children in tragedy would be undifferentiated figures of pathos. The transferred use of νεοσσός to describe human children is a development of tragedy, which we first see in Aiskhylos’ Oresteia. The word occurs ⁹⁹ On animal imagery in Aristophanes, see Pütz 2014. ¹⁰⁰ Dunbar 1995: 474 n. on 767. Fragment 111 of Eupolis’ Demoi (Olson 2017) provides an interesting mixture of transference of human terms to animal, comparison of human to animal, and general comment on the nature of contemporary family concern: ‘Isn’t it strange that rams father offspring, and birds father chicks similar to their father.’ Storey (2003:123) tentatively places this remark as Perikles’ comment on sons in a scene showing the raising of the dead. Cf. Storey (2011) and Sonnino (2014). This could indicate the political importance of issues of inherited responsibility, and a darker context of life and death (as birds were commonly eaten), rather than making any sentimental comment about the soft nature of children.



four times in Aiskhylos’ extant plays.¹⁰¹ In two of these references the word is not used of bird: Hepta epi Thebas 503 refers to the young of a snake, and Agamemnon 825 refers to the Greek forces hiding in the Trojan Horse, a phrase commonly translated as ‘brood of the horse’ rather than ‘horse chick’.¹⁰² The two further instances of the word in the Oresteia are in the same ornithological context as noted above, and are part of the trilogy’s wider imagery system of birds and snakes.¹⁰³ The theme of ‘child as νεοσσός’ does not occur in any of Sophokles’ plays, and the word itself only appears once, when Antigone’s cries are compared to those of a mother bird finding her nest empty.¹⁰⁴ The one comparable example of children compared to young birds is strikingly different. When Tiresias at the start of Oidipous Tyrannos says the children are not fully grown, he describes them as ‘not able to fly far yet’, with the implication of ‘one day they will’: ἀλλ᾽ ὦ κρατύνων Οἰδίπους χώρας ἐμῆς, ὁρᾷς μὲν ἡμᾶς ἡλίκοι προσήμεθα βωμοῖσι τοῖς σοῖς, οἱ μὲν οὐδέπω μακρὰν πτέσθαι σθένοντες, οἱ δὲ σὺν γήρᾳ βαρεῖς ¹⁰⁵ O Oidipous, potentate of my country, you see our age range, those of us who sit at your altars, one group not strong enough yet to fly far, the other grounded by age.¹⁰⁶

Although this scene of supplication has a strong emotional impact, the comparison to the birds is not as strongly pathetic as some have suggested.¹⁰⁷ In addition to the formal context of supplication (on which see further Chapter 4), the image is linked into the play with ideas of escape ¹⁰¹ There is also one doubtful reference in a fragment (TGrF Radt 47a), which may come from another child centred story of Perseus and Danaë, probably the satyr play, Aiskh. Diktyoulkoi. See Casanova 2013; Cerbo 2015; Gantz (2007: 56 8); Nooter (2017: 50). ¹⁰² Meineck (1998) translates here ‘the deadly brood’. ¹⁰³ The robbing of the eagle’s nest (Agamemnon 48 55); the death of the pregnant hare (Agamemnon 104 8); Klytaimestra’s dream, (Ch. 527). On the image of the deserted nest and the interwoven imagery in the trilogy, see see Heath 1999; O’Neill 1998; Saayman 1993; Willink 1999. ¹⁰⁴ Sophokles’ Antigone 423 5. ¹⁰⁵ Sophokles’ OT, text as Finglass (2018) who translates as follows: ‘Oedipus, ruler of my land, you see how old we are who are sitting at your altars, some not yet strong enough to fly far, others heavy with age’ (2018c: 171 2 n. on 14 17). ¹⁰⁶ Cf. the idea that the old are burdened, Eur. Her. 637 41. ¹⁰⁷ See Finglass (2018c. 172): ‘The brief metaphor in πτέσθαι equating the children to chicks emphasises their vulnerability.’


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(and inescapability) and maturation (of people and omens), particularly in combination with the participle σθένοντες implying strength, and linking back to the opening participle for Oidipous, κρατύνων ‘the one wielding power’.¹⁰⁸ The emphasis on the weight borne by the elderly also contrasts with the lightness of the young. The translation here aims to bring out the precise focus of the call on Oidipous’ vision, implied by the use of μὲν introducing half of the equation at 15, which is then glossed and subdivided by the further μὲν and οἱ δὲ construction, before resuming with the other portion of the population τὸ δ᾽ ἄλλο ϕῦλον at verse 19. The entire supplication has been planned as a visual tableau across the city for Oidipous’ eyes. Cf. Finglass (2018c: 173 n. on 19–21) who notes: The news that the children present were specially selected hints at the planning that has gone into this supplication, and thus at the extent of the city’s plight.

This is a more than a simple nod to schema of the ‘Ages of Man’, the answer to the Sphinx’s riddle. Oidipous himself, the clear target of the spectacle, does not appear to understand his place in the city and the way his people have been making choices. The priest concludes with a reference to the omens from birds (52–3), followed by a warning to Oidipous about his choices, but Oidipous responds with riddling twists. He moves away from the language of power to that of knowledge, and speaks of the people in front of him as ‘pitiable people with desires’, as opposed to the carefully arranged civic gathering the priest describes summoning Oidipous to meet his obligations: ὦ παῖδες οἰκτροί, γνωτὰ κοὐκ ἄγνωτά μοι / προσήλθεθ᾽ ἱμείροντες·¹⁰⁹ ‘O children pitiable, known, far-too-well-known, longings you come with.’ The line is difficult to translate as the emphasis on knowledge here translated as ‘known’ and ‘extremely well-known’ (i.e. not-unknown) is a keynote of the entire play, but the opening is particularly strange. Nooter suggests that Oidipous is calling all the townspeople ‘infantile inferiors’, but Finglass disagrees, seeing the phrase as expressing his ‘quasi-paternal concern [ . . . ] and his pity for his people’s sufferings.’¹¹⁰ The difficulty with this lies in the ¹⁰⁸ Cf. Reece 2009 on the complexity of terms for strength in epic. ¹⁰⁹ Text as Finglass (2018) who translates as follows: ‘Pitiable children, you have come here with desires known and not unknown to me’ which well captures the Housman esque tone of the opening. ¹¹⁰ Finglass (2018c: 185 n. on 58 9), which concludes: ‘characterising ὦ παῖδες οἰκτροί as an address to “infantile inferiors” seriously misreads the tone.’



collocation of pity and children, which has been uncontroversial in scholarship on tragedy, as discussed in the opening chapter. In the following chapters we will see further that the link between ‘children’ and ‘pity’ is far from straightforward in the Greek context. Using the words ‘children’ and ‘pitiable’ when describing adults expresses two separate attitudes, so I am more inclined to Nooter’s view that this is at best a misconception, and at worst an indication of Oidipous’ tyrannical tendencies. The point of this discussion is to highlight that the opening metaphor of children as young birds is not intrinsically pathetic. To return to the vocabulary νεοσσός, the plays of Euripides do seem to show a striking development of the image. The strongest features of the imagery tradition outside his work are that the child/νεοσσός needs protection by a parent, is vulnerable without this, and that parents grieve for a lost child. The emphasis is on the parents. Euripides shifts the focus to the young themselves, concentrating on the young, whether or not the parents are present, and making less use of the children as the objects of parental concern. In his study of ornithological imagery, DeLulle divided all images into two distinct categories, ‘protective’ and ‘cinétique’.¹¹¹ In analysing the repetition of images he concluded that they were significant artistic details of composition which were central to individual plays. The imagery of children as young birds provides a clear example of this, encompassing both DeLulle’s categories, although DeLulle did not consider in any detail how such imagery related to the child figures themselves. In Euripides’ plays we see several refinements of the simple image and its deployment in individual plays, and we must ask what effect this image might have had on an audience. It was a highly visual image, corresponding to the stage action of putting an arm around a child,¹¹² and thus complementing the staging features discussed in Chapter 2, used to particular effect when Iphigeneia calls on her infant brother Orestes to help her, even though he is only a baby.¹¹³ In a strange mixture of frames, Iphigeneia describes herself and Orestes with dual forms, then subdivides them into parallels as ‘male youngster’ and ‘female grown up one’, repeating and rephrasing the

¹¹¹ DeLulle 1911. ¹¹² For comparison it is worth noting that even an adolescent could be represented as leaning against his parent, as does Autolykos in Xenophon’s Symposium 3.31. ¹¹³ Eur. IA 1248. The image here has no explicitly ornithological connection (although Iphigeneia or Klytaimestra could be cradling the baby in a gesture of protection), but it may hint at the idea, once again, that Orestes’ adult role is in the mind of the audience, as the imagery from Aeschylus’ Oresteia had figured Orestes and Elektra as the eagle fledglings of Agamemnon.


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pair she has created earlier in the speech: ναί, πρὸς γενείου σ᾽ ἀντόμεσθα δύο ϕίλω· / ὃ μὲν νεοσσός ἐστιν, ἣ δ᾽ ηὐξημένη. ‘Please, by your beard, we beg you, twin loved ones, the one a baby, the other grown.’¹¹⁴ The emphasis is on the two ends of the scale of childhood, and the family unit as a whole, so the image of ‘fledgling’ has a limited ornithological force, but draws attention to the visual tableau, as Agamemnon is called to focus, ἰδοὺ ‘Look!’¹¹⁵ It is likely that the image of birds sheltering their young was used in plastic arts. Although no examples survive, we would not expect to find these motifs on sculpted reliefs or drinking vessels, but rather on less durable items such as toys or children’s clothing.¹¹⁶ The image emphasizes the physical relationship between parent and child, particularly in the ‘protective’ category of DeLulle’s analysis, as in Euripides’ Andromakhe 504–5 where the staging and language of the scene (as discussed in the previous chapter) both contextualize the image of Andromakhe and her child as a single unit, around which predators are circling. For those who knew their Homer, the image could have inspired fear for the child, as both occurrences in the Iliad have negative connotations. The overall effect of the image is to draw a targeted emotive picture of children for specific dramatic moments, so, in Euripides’ Troades, Hekabe lamenting the fate of their country describes the shores crying out like a mother bird for her young, an apposite image which foreshadows the end of the play.¹¹⁷ The most awkward use of the image comes in Euripides’ Alkestis when the son calls himself a neossos (402–3) and elaborates by saying he is falling to her lips, στόμασιν νεοσσός. Kovacs’ translation is a rare example of restraint, as he gives for this passage (on his own edition of the Greek) ‘ . . . it is I,

¹¹⁴ Eur. IA 1247 8. See further Stockert (1992: 548 n. on 1248): ‘νεοσσός in metaphorischem Gebrauch ist ebenfalls ein Mittel zur Steigerung des Pathos [a means of increasing the pathos].’ ¹¹⁵ Eur. IA 1245. ¹¹⁶ References to children’s clothing are found at Eur. Orestes 811 17 and Eur. Ion 1417, and were probably important in Eur. Ino, where the myth suggests children were differentiated by wearing black or white clothing, as well as Eur. Melanippe Sophe where the children were burnt in their funeral clothes. On Ino, see Finglass (2014; 2016b) and Kovacs (2016). On Melanippe Sophe, see Cole (2004: chapter 7, updated in Lee 2015) who provides a detailed discussion of the dedication of children’s clothes to Artemis. Cf. comments in the previous chapter about Iphigeneia’s status as ‘doll dedicator’ versus ‘doll substitute’. ¹¹⁷ Eur. Troades 147. The precise position of the image within the choral ode is also well judged, so Barlow (2008: 116): ‘The sight of suffering, which the metaphors of groaning beaches and children looking like lost fledglings underline, makes a strong contrast to the initially decorative picture of Ganymede who is a classic example of frivolous and heedless divine behaviour.’ Cf. Burnett (1977). However, Ganymede should not necessarily be considered as a child but as an adolescent because of the sexual nature of his abduction.



Mother, I, your little one falling upon your lips, who call your name.’¹¹⁸ The conceptual problem, that the child appears to be aware that he is part of an imagery system imposed by others, is compounded because of the textual corruption and problems regarding the staging of the play, related to its place as a ‘fourth play’, staged in place of a traditional comic satyr play after the three tragedies. Emphasis on the inappropriate ‘adult’ use of word when translated as ‘chick’ overstates the difficulty of the Greek. A similar selfreferential use of the term is employed in Aiskhylos’ Khoephoroi when Orestes and Elektra cry out, asking for help for themselves as ‘these chicks’ (256, 501). The insistent bird imagery in the trilogy displays an ambiguity as the relationship to the eagle is explicitly given in the first reference. The first birds dramatized in the trilogy were the hawks killing the pregnant hare, so birds are not intrinsically weak. Although Orestes responds to Klytaimestra’s dream by casting himself as the snake, we remain aware that he is also the eagle, which may add a certain extra sympathy for Klytaimestra. Children as snakes may not be the obvious comparison for modern readers/ audiences contemplating children in tragedy, but the association is stronger in Greek thought, from the snakes strangled by the infant Herakles to the strange figure of the child snake-god Sosipolis.¹¹⁹ The pecularity of snakes, born from eggs, but fully formed, also links them strongly with Dionysos, who is described as ‘crowned with snakes’ at his birth in Eur. Bakkhai 101–2.¹²⁰ Given the complexity of Greek thought about snakes, it is not impossible that any suggestion of snakes and children together had the potential to cause some emotional disturbance for the original fifth-century audiences.¹²¹ The imagery of children as birds and animals displays a range of possible constructions, where background issues, such as the nature of the parent, are variously foregrounded, and the imagery is integrated into each dramatic matrix, rather than used casually to present a child as vulnerable. That Euripides was careful in his selection of imagery is suggested by his practice in Medeia, for despite the apparently similar contexts involving children in ¹¹⁸ For discussion of the textual problems in this passage, see previous chapter. ¹¹⁹ For Herakles’ strangling of the snakes sent by Hera, see Cusset 1999; Davidson 2000. On the figure of Sosipolis, see Kastenholtz 1996; Kearns 1990; Rodríguez Pérez 2010. ¹²⁰ See Lane (2016) who argues persuasively that the text should be read with στεϕανωθεντα ‘crowned with’ snakes, rather than an active construction ‘στεϕάνωσέν τε’ which would create the strange scenario of Zeus being the one to crown Dionysos. ¹²¹ On ancient snakes, see Ogden 2013. The links between Dionysos and snakes are wide spread. Of particular interest for the current discussion of imagery and children is Bailey (2007) discussing a marble stele of Dionysos with snake legs, accompanied by a child god.


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danger the play does not make use of imagery to characterize the children directly. As Boedeker has well discussed, the play makes powerful use of imagery in other respects as those around Medeia try unsuccessfully to define and contain her.¹²² If Euripides was indiscriminate in using a ‘pathetic chick’ image, it is strange that he did not use the image in this play, particularly as the imagery system of the Oresteia would have been a tempting artistic target. There was ample scope for the image to indicate the close physical relationship between Medeia and her children, but in the context of powerful direct expressions of this love, an image would have seemed at best unnecessary and at worst weakly sentimental. Medeia’s powerful emotional response to her children is best served by direct statement, as at 1071–2, 1074–5, discussed further in the following chapter. The children are caught in a world of stark emotions, and it is likely that imagery would only have blurred the children’s role in the play. There are no images applied to the children at all, except for their dangerously ambiguous role in the description of Medeia’s glare as that of a lioness with children.¹²³ This lack of imagery highlights the way the children are subject to an excess of definition in the play, conflicting with Medeia’s resistance to classification. Several different frames which identify the children as belonging to this play, from the attention to staging practice, to the sibling relationship, and the temporal focus displayed by Medeia as she contemplates them as children of ‘Iason and Medeia’, ‘Iason’ and ‘Medeia’, as well as projecting several different futures and considering the future projections of others. The lack of imagery surrounding these children may create an impression of indeterminacy similar to that displayed by Medeia. As their mother manipulates temporal fields, and eludes definition by others, she exists in a certain ‘superposition state’, not least because of the uncertainty of her divine/mortal status. Rather than trying to determine when and where Medeia’s mortality is presented, we should perhaps consider her like Schrödinger’s cat, as neither mortal nor divine but rather mortal/divine.¹²⁴ The fact that the playwright avoids using imagery around these onstage children may be a metatheatrical comment on his characters’ attempts at definition. The link between Medeia and the children has more potential for danger than we might at first imagine—the children start as lion cubs, so might one day turn on those apparently caring for them (i.e. Iason) and

¹²² Boedeker 1997. Cf. Zerba 2002 on Medeia as the actor playing multiples roles for different internal audiences. ¹²³ Eur. Med. 187 9. ¹²⁴ See Chapter 1.



punish their lack of insight, just as Tyro’s sons in the previous generation had avenged the insults done to their mother.¹²⁵ They may also in some senses have inherited their mother’s ability to confound attempts to define them in imagery.¹²⁶ Not only do we see multiple projected futures for these children competing with the present-time identities (as ‘mother’s or father’s child’), but they share Medeia’s resistance to control. This may indicate a reason why the staging of the play is so complex, if the children’s movements echo the indeterminacy of their characters, not just as children but as children of a semi-divine figure. This argument may seem excessively discursive, but is intended to demonstrate how close reading of details may open up new spaces for interpretation. The lack of imagery surrounding children in Medeia is notable at the very least, because it contrasts so strongly with Euripides’ practice in other plays, particularly Herakles, where multiple imagery systems display a tension between present-time weakness and future projected strength. The children of Megara and Herakles here are frequently characterized through imagery as they shift from being particularized to generalized children in the eyes of the various major characters. The imagery acts as signposts to the immediate significance being placed on the children, with clear ‘movements’ as we turn Glaukon’s mirror to see different aspects of their situation. There are seven specific moments where imagery brings the children into particular focus. The first movement involves ornithological imagery, as the children shelter like birds under their mother’s ‘wing’: ἐγὼ δὲ καὶ σὺ μέλλομεν θνῄσκειν, γέρον, οἵ θ᾽ Ἡράκλειοι παῖδες, οὓς ὑπὸ πτεροῖς σῴζω νεοσσοὺς ὄρνις ὣς ὑϕειμένους. You and I are going to die, old man, and the children of Herakles, whom I try to shelter like a bird shelters her chicks under her wing.¹²⁷

Amphitryon then says that all Greece should be helping Herakles’ children, describing them as neossoi, but also implying that the children are owed a

¹²⁵ See Chapter 3.1. ¹²⁶ On the rhetorical strategies of manipulation in the play, see Allan 2007. ¹²⁷ Eur. Her. 70 2.


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debt of gratitude. It is as the children of Herakles that they deserve protection, rather than simply because they are children: οὐδ᾽ Ἑλλάδ᾽ ᾔνεσ᾽ (οὐδ᾽ ἀνέξομαί ποτε σιγῶν) κακίστην λαμβάνων ἐς παῖδ᾽ ἐμόν, ἣν χρῆν νεοσσοῖς τοῖσδε πῦρ λόγχας ὅπλα ϕέρουσαν ἐλθεῖν, . . . I have not a good word to say about Greece, and I will never keep silent about it, how utterly cowardly the behaviour towards my son. The country needed to come, weapons blazing, to protect these fledglings.¹²⁸

The children are thus initially characterized as in need of protection, but when Herakles returns he attempts to breaks the imagery system, telling Megara ‘I am no winged thing’: οὐ γὰρ πτερωτὸς οὐδὲ ϕευξείω ϕίλους, before turning to the children.¹²⁹ Immediately he attempts to install a different, nautical imagery system, but the ornithological pattern reasserts itself. As Herakles rages in his madness, one of the children hides under the altar like a bird (974) and Herakles himself explicitly uses the image to describe the child of Eurystheus he imagines himself to be killing: ὁ δ᾽ ἠλάλαξε κἀπεκόμπασεν τάδε Εἷς μὲν νεοσσὸς ὅδε θανὼν Εὐρυσθέως ἔχθραν πατρῴαν ἐκτίνων πέπτωκέ μοι. He screamed a cry of triumph, saying, ‘One down, Eurystheus’s little one, paying for his father’s crimes, dead on the ground.’¹³⁰

In the aftermath, the chorus tell of Prokne’s killing of Itys (1021–5) and Amphitryon is described as crying like a bird over a robbed nest (1039). There is, however, a well-defined structure to the imagery creating a cumulative effect. The bird crying over the nest was an old image, with roots in Homer, but it is here placed in a strategically important position after six related images which increases the impact it should have on an audience. ¹²⁸ Eur. Her. 222 5.

¹²⁹ Eur. Her. 628.

¹³⁰ Eur. Her. 981 3.



The audience has been accustomed to this mode of thinking, so that the grief of birds is clearly delineated and gives greater force to the representation of Amphitryon’s distress. All of the images are found elsewhere in tragedy, but the combination in this play is particularly effective. Herakles’ explicitly uses the same motif and logic that had endangered his sons at the start of the play. His use of the metaphorical νεοσσός is an indication of his general attitude towards children. Depending on context, they are birds to be hunted. They must die to atone for their father’s crimes. This is not a comment from an addled mind, but a statement about what he would be doing if he were really in Eurystheus’ house. Herakles’ attempts to distance himself from this dynamic and his violent past with his comments on how mankind loves children are revealed to be futile. His attempt to curtail the ornithological imagery system fails, and he is revealed in some ways as not the true parent of the children, echoing the problem of his own double parentage. The children cannot escape from their role as birds, and when their father disowns his own role as a bird, he becomes the predator. These children as birds cannot actualize their potential because their father will not own the power hidden in the imagery. Instead Herakles presents a different image, but one which he does not completely understand and cannot embody because of his own problematic parentage. Higgins, discussing such imagery referring to Herakles himself, suggests that it conveys the ‘winged instability of his character’s existence’.¹³¹ I would suggest further that the existential conundra of the play extend to the children through the use of imagery. They cannot be birds, for their father rejects that pattern—he cannot, or will not, be a bird himself, so the children have nothing on which to base their inheritance. Their shared experience is expressed through their eyes, linking father and sons together, but it is Herakles’ sight that is crucially disrupted.¹³² The image that Herakles tries to use is, however, inadequate as a substitute, for he describes his children as ‘boats’, an image which will later be reversed as he becomes the ‘boat’ to Theseus. Euripides is employing a powerful and original image which is often misunderstood, possibly because Herakles himself does not realize its significance. After rejecting Megara and her birds, Herakles makes a strong statement of his position, with explicit philosophical assertions and an image to describe his relationship with his sons:

¹³¹ Higgins 1984: 93. ¹³² Ancient constructions of sight could be active or passive, figuring the eyes as agents or recipients of vision, see Porter 2013.


    οὐ γὰρ πτερωτὸς οὐδὲ ϕευξείω ϕίλους. ἆ, οἵδ᾽ οὐκ ἀϕιᾶσ᾽ ἀλλ᾽ ἀνάπτονται πέπλων τοσῷδε μᾶλλον ὧδ᾽ ἔβητ᾽ ἐπὶ ξυροῦ; ἄξω λαβών γε τούσδ᾽ ἐϕολκίδας χεροῖν, ναῦς δ᾽ ὣς ἐϕέλξω καὶ γὰρ οὐκ ἀναίνομαι θεράπευμα τέκνων. πάντα τἀνθρώπων ἴσα ϕιλοῦσι παῖδας οἵ τ᾽ ἀμείνονες βροτῶν οἵ τ᾽ οὐδὲν ὄντες χρήμασιν δὲ διάϕοροι ἔχουσιν, οἳ δ᾽ οὔ πᾶν δὲ ϕιλότεκνον γένος. I am no winged creature, and I won’t fly away from my family. Oh! They won’t let go, but they cling to my coat even more tightly. Were you that close to the knife’s edge? I will lead you, taking you by the hand I will be a boat, drawing your smaller boats behind me. Caring for children is no trouble. All men are alike in this. Everyone loves children, be they rich or poor. Their circumstances are different, but this one thing is the same: the whole human race loves children.¹³³

We will return to this passage to consider its pathetic qualities in the next chapter, but for now the image itself is my focus. The standard reading is to take the image of Herakles drawing τούσδ᾽ ἐϕολκίδας as one of pathetic dependence. Higgins calls them ‘fragile dinghies’.¹³⁴ Bond defines them as ‘little boats which attach themselves to a big ship and are towed by it’.¹³⁵ While this gives an accurate translation of the scene with particular attention to the middle verb ἀνάπτονται (629) describing the actions of the children, this is not an accurate description of the general activity of an ἐϕολκίς. It also problematizes the picture of Herakles at the end of the play, for although the reversal of the image is a powerful symbol of his changed status he has moments earlier called Theseus his son, so that to call himself a pathetically dependent boat would be incongruous. The central word of the image, ἐϕολκίς is rare, although the cognate verb, ἐϕέλκω, ‘I drag behind’

¹³³ Eur. Her. 628 36. ¹³⁴ Higgins 1984: 94. Worman (1999: 99 100) suggests the idea of interdependence for the image, but then describes the boats as ‘little skiffs that might otherwise bob helplessly in the surf ’. ¹³⁵ Bond 1981: 222 n. 631.



(transitive), is common. Euripides uses the word in the sense of ‘burden’, Andromakhe (200), where it expresses Andromakhe’s feeling of ambivalence towards the child she has borne to Neoptolemos. The nautical meaning is first given in Herakles and is noted by the gloss ‘I drag them like a boat’ (ναῦς δ᾽ ὣς).¹³⁶ Herakles does not need to add this for the strength of the image, and figuring himself as a boat would be an unusual move, so the wording is best taken as a simple gloss on an unexpected phrase. These examples from tragedy are the first occurrences of the word in extant Greek literature and the next examples come from much later writers, Akhilleus Tatios and Flavius Philostratos. The diminutive ἐϕόλκιον is more common, but again after one instance in the fourth century in a comedy by Menander, the word is found only in much later writers.¹³⁷ It seems likely that the two words were co-extensive in the nautical sense, which allows us to say a little more about the image in Herakles. Bond and others have seen the boats as dependent on the larger ship, yet ἐϕόλκιον seems to have been used by later writers to refer to little boats attached to the ship because they belonged to it, for use in circumstances when it was inconvenient to manoeuvre the larger vessel.¹³⁸ They appear to have been part of the ship’s own complement, rather than freelances.¹³⁹ They belonged to, and were useful to, the larger ship. The ἐϕολκίς in Akhilleus Tatius’ Leukippe and Kleitophon III.3 functions as a lifeboat, and in Flavius Philostratus’ Life of Apollonios IV.10 it is described as an essential part of the ship’s company. This connection gives particular force to the image of Herakles and his children. The children are not clinging to him as a pathetic nuisance. It is only in the reversal of the image that the adjective πανώλεις ‘wretched’, is applied, as Theseus moves to lead Herakles to Athens: ἡμεῖς δ᾽ ἀναλώσαντες αἰσχύναις δόμον, / Θησεῖ πανώλεις ἑψόμεσθ᾽ ἐϕολκίδες. ‘We who have destroyed our whole house in dishonour, now follow Theseus, as wretched little boats’ (1423–4). The image stresses the ideal symbiosis between parent and child, as much as the vulnerability of the weaker party, and is thus not so ¹³⁶ Euripides’ fondness for nautical imagery is noted by Barlow (2008: 14 15). This image may have been suggested to him by seeing real boats in action, or contemporary popular toys for children. A number of model boats have survived (although few from the classical period) and alongside possible votive or funerary uses they may well have served as toys; see Johnston (1985). Strepsiades in Aristophanes’ Nepheles 877 ff. describes how his son used to make toys, including a terracotta boat. ¹³⁷ Menander’s Perikeiromene 810. See Gomme and Sandbach 1973: 523. ¹³⁸ Casson 1995: 248 n. 93. ¹³⁹ Wilamowitz Moellendorff 1895, Vol. II, 143 n. 631: ‘die ἐϕολκίδες sind kleine fahrzeuge, welche mit tauen an dem hinterteil des kriegs oder lastschiffes befestigt von diesen mitges chleppt werden.’


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much expressive of weakness as of a structural relationship.¹⁴⁰ It is an expression of interdependence which places it appropriately in the context of Herakles’ relationship to Theseus and his earlier relationship to the children. The idea of trade and necessity for the small boats is supported by Herakles’ own desperate cry at 1245, γέμω κακῶν ‘I groan from/with my troubles.’ As Rutherford notes, this line, famous for its artful composition, could be ‘treating ‘troubles’ as a kind of merchandise that could be packed aboard.’¹⁴¹ We should also note that the imagery of vision in the play is further enhanced by the image of boat, as painted eyes may well have been part of the expected presentation of an epholkis.¹⁴² As in the examples of lion-cub imagery discussed above, this image of children belongs in the context of wider imagery systems.¹⁴³ It emphasizes their positive role in a situation. Readings which focus on this as an example of pathetic dependence betray their own preconceptions about the pitiable nature of children in tragedy. The overall picture created by imagery, differences of context notwithstanding, is dynamic and well-integrated into the dramatic matrix of each play. For Herakles, the choice of image is not a good one, for it provides an image of artifical reciprocity rather than the natural order suggested by images of birds and lion cubs. His access to superhuman strength and immortality places him mythologically with Medeia, and links to other mythological traditions where access to normal human ‘immortality’ through children is denied to those who have further powers.¹⁴⁴ A lifeboat, however valuable, can never develop into the full-sized ship, so the children cannot become their father. In some senses Herakles kills his children the moment he attempts to change the imagery system, for he denies one of the strongest sources of significance for children, namely their potential to inherit and embody their own father’s powers. The play presents a series of ontological problems for Herakles, which are reflected in the way Euripides constructs imagery systems around the child figures. The vulnerability of children is presented as part of the natural order (we can compare the perversion of agricultural metaphors for the family of Oidipous in tragic treatments of the myth; see,

¹⁴⁰ Although the play does contain many references to yoking, (see Barlow 2008: 107; Worman 1999: 100 2), the image is more strongly allied with the conflict of nautical and ornithological imagery in the play. ¹⁴¹ Rutherford 2012: 407. ¹⁴² On eyes and boats, see Carlson 2009. ¹⁴³ Cf. the inclusion of the children in the nautical image used by Iolaos in Eur. Herakl. 427 49. ¹⁴⁴ On the mythological parallels, see Griffiths 2002.



for example, Sophokles’ Oidipous Tyrannos 1376),¹⁴⁵ and a character who rejects such images is a creation of a playwright keenly aware of the possibilities offered by child figures. To return to the metaphors of quantum physics, the imagery systems of tragedy lay out certain possible trajectories for children. There is a sense of a natural order, where parents and children share a common bond, but in the stories of tragedy this order is constantly under threat and the imagery reflects this, as characters struggle to define children. The natural order centres on development and the actualization of qualities inherited from parents. This is not as specific as the actualization of imagined future roles, but relates more generally to the way humans use chronology and linear time frames to try to impose some order and certainty on an otherwise chaotic and uncertain existence. In Eur. Herakles, the combination of embodied child roles with vivid imagery creates a disturbing model for a house collapsing in on itself, from Amphityron’s opening lament that he is ‘out of joint’ as the ‘nursemaid to Herakles’ children’.¹⁴⁶ The physical and metaphorical supports of the house fail when the child is killed despite sheltering behind a column, and the other cannot reach the protection of the altar, but is caught on the edge.¹⁴⁷ The architectural images are linked to the nautical imagery, as Stieber well notes, for the pillars of the house evoke the masts of a ship.¹⁴⁸ If we knew more about the precise construction of an ancient ἐϕολκίς it might be possible to speculate that it was a ship without a mast, which could rescue a ship with a broken mast, thus tying the imagery together with greater force. This is a particularly useful metaphor for tragedy, given that Dionysos in myth changed the mast of the pirates’ ship into snakes, so children are centrally positioned within the imagery system of Herakles through nautical, architectural, and serpentine figurations.¹⁴⁹ The onstage presence of children is often framed in terms of architecture which links to explicit imagery, as in the case of Herakles, or to a more general metaphorical frame. So Orestes in Eur. Iphigeneia in Aulis is a ‘support’, the same vocabulary of individuals as pillars is contained in

¹⁴⁵ For the agricultural metaphors of Sophokles in relation to the Oidipous story, see Clarke 2001. ¹⁴⁶ See Griffiths 2002. ¹⁴⁷ Cf. Stieber 2011: 38. See further Rehm (2002: 100 13) on the spatial dynamics of the play. ¹⁴⁸ Cf. Rehm (2002) 100 1 on the way the Odyssey links the mast of Odysseus’ ship with the pillars of a house. ¹⁴⁹ On Dionysos and the pirates, see the Homeric Hymn to Dionysos (7) with Jaillard 2011. Cf. Turner and Fauconnier (2003) who discuss the way metaphor opens new mental spaces.


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Aiskhylos’ Agamemnon, and made explicit in Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Tauris with the comment that male children are the supporting pillars of the house.¹⁵⁰ They are crucial to the vertical axis of a play, reflecting the mortal/divine hierarchy, particularly when Athenian architecture is evoked.¹⁵¹ When Herakles spills his child’s blood on the foundation stone of the wall (980),¹⁵² he is symbolically undermining the entire family structure, inviting further thought about the nature of the family unit, so recently described in perfect harmony as a ‘well-formed chorus’ at the altar.¹⁵³ As we have noted at several points in the discussion, child characters are created with fewer elements than are adult characters, so when one of these elements is missing or goes astray, the ontological status of the character can rapidly destabilize. In different ways this can be seen in operation in both Euripides’ Medeia and Euripides’ Herakles. The lack of imagery in Medeia creates a resonance between Medeia’s own transgressive nature and that of her children, while the agonistic construction of imagery in Herakles denies the children a meaningful trajectory into the future. Their father cuts off their futures through imagery, attempting to substitute one image for another and in the process replacing a natural with an artificial relationship which superficially is positive, but ultimately offers no scope for development so causes the children to ‘die’ in a narrative sense before they die at his hands. The physical space of the play is liminal between earth and Hades, and the children are positioned over temporal and ontological rifts in the story. As Stieber notes, the past image Megara conjures of the child playing in Herakles’ lionskin is both cute and disturbing.¹⁵⁴ We might go further and add that the play presents us with the image both of the child looking out through the eyes of the lion, and then confronting it before he dies, a mixture of the visual and emotional cues for love and hatred in theatre.¹⁵⁵ To conclude this section on imagery we may note a few key points. First, that the majority of the imagery surrounding children relates to their parents, and there is an ideal of a positive parent-child relationship, based on assumed natural behaviours of animals and birds. Within this pattern, however, is the danger that the young of predators are a potential threat, as

¹⁵⁰ Aiskh. Ag. 897 8. Eur. IT. 57. ¹⁵¹ See Mueller (2016: 417 18) on tragedy’s ‘vertical axis’, and Stieber (2011: 31 2) discussing the style of Herakles’ house as an anachronistic model of a fifth century Athenian home. ¹⁵² Eur. Her. 980. Cf. Stieber (2011: 35) on the ‘orthostate’ as the lowest level of the wall struck by the child’s blood. ¹⁵³ Eur. Her. 925: χορὸς δὲ καλλίμορϕος. ¹⁵⁴ Stieber 2011: 183. ¹⁵⁵ See further Cairns (2011b) on vision and emotion.



they can become copies of their (hated) parents. A further consideration is that the manipulation of imagery has a greater power to change audience perception of a child than their equivalent perception of an adult. When Euripides explores complex intertextual games, changing or removing imagery systems, his actions may unsettle the audience, allowing them to feel something of the fear experienced by ‘negative, child-killing characters’ who have acknowledged the unsettling qualities of these children. When Eurystheus scornfully asks Iolaos how he would have handled the situation in the passage of Euripides’ Herakleidai discussed above, he closes by saying ‘If you made such a claim (i.e. that you would be able to deal with such dangerous children and remain calm), no one would believe you.’ The vivid image here of the dangerous lion cubs draws the audience very close to the action of the play, and challenges them to contemplate their own responses, as the imagery intersects with the philosophical and political debates, as we will see further in the next chapter.

3.7 Character, Quantum Physics, and Ghosts Imagery is a powerful element of characterization for adult figures, but as the discussion here has shown, imagery surrounding child figures is rather different both in degree and in tone, and cannot be dismissed as creating a simple stereotype of pathos. Similarly, when looking at issues of staging we saw that child figures have access to many of the same possibilities offered to adult characters, from speech to costume and the creation of history through names, but that the process of combining these elements, as well as the range of possibilities, is rather different. We have identified a number of paradoxes in the construction of child figures. They are immediately contextualized by the past they inherit, which allows them to have dramatic significance because of their future roles. Because they have potential and possibilities, each child figure is surrounded by a cast of ghostly adult figures, multiple possible lives, whose possible actions compensate for the static, often silent, nature of their roles as present-time children. Threats to children involve a temporal distortion, for children are never killed qua children, so when an adult threatens a child there is a conflict between focus on the ‘child as helpless’ and ‘child as dangerous future adult’. This conflict is variously played out in tragedy, and is related to a further ambiguity, between seeing the child as a representative of a weak age group or as an individual with a specific identity.


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Child figures have a structural significance in tragedy, akin to the historical value of children as ‘nodes of past, present and future’.¹⁵⁶ Child figures are positioned as a locus for the negotiation of issues of identity in tragedy, so we should not be surprised that an explanation of their power as dramatic figures requires us to look beyond traditional models of characterization. In discussing the issue of embodiment in Chapter 2 we looked at the ways in which the blurring of boundaries between child actor and child figure contributed to the dramatic illusion. In discussing character and temporality we find a different dynamic, whereby the child as dramatic figure is finished, in that the playwright had added all he is going to, yet the child as character is essentially unfinished and treated as such by the other characters in the play. When an adult actor becomes his character he then is ‘Agamemnon’ or ‘Alkmene’, and although the audience at one level is aware that the actor still has the potential to become another character, that awareness is muted. When a child actor becomes his character it cannot be said that he ‘is’ ‘Astyanax’ or ‘the son of Andromakhe’, because that child is also ‘becoming’ the adult. These existential and temporal ambiguities give children a central role in tragedy, seen most clearly in Euripides’ plays. In the dramatic medium where the status of the actor raises questions about the nature of the individual, child roles suggest a model in which the status of the isolated individual is less important than the nexus and process of interaction with other figures and other temporal fields. Identity is a process for child figures, and by extension for adult figures also. Although Aristotle talks in the Poetics as if action revealed the nature of a fixed character, and his wider philosophy assumes that identity is something fixed, his discussions of potential and the human life cycle indicate that he was aware of the problems this view entails. Tragedy does not articulate a clear philosophy about identity and personhood but the ideas are contained within the strands of myth, and drama provides an ideal medium for the negotiation of issues of identity. Child figures are ‘good to think with’, so moving beyond the stereotype of children as figures of pathos has opened up new lines of enquiry, and suggested an alternative route for dramatic significance in potential rather than action. There still remains the problem of whether these figures are characters. I suggested that children could be viewed through an Aristotelian lens if we altered the filter and considered different applications of common

¹⁵⁶ Mizoguchi 2000.



techniques. While children are to some extent characterized like adults, through techniques of naming, imagery, and so on, the most salient feature of their dramatic roles is a prism-like ability to reflect different identities. To return to the image I used in Chapter 1, children are created with a smaller ‘palette of colours’ than that which creates adult characters, and in that palette the physical body of the actor is proportionally greater for children than for adults. The issue of potentiality means that multiple colours may exist at one point, sometimes operating like a kaleidoscope, where different colours are all visible in changing combinations, sometimes operating like theatrical lighting gels on a spotlight where colour can be overlaid on different beams. Another image might be the application of different wavelengths of light to a single book. These ideas are allusive, requiring a sideways glance at quantum states of superposition where our inability to explain child figures may indicate that we are closer to understanding them than we would be in confidently tabulating and explicating a critical model. There is another possible avenue down the rabbit hole, in or out of Plato’s cave and using ancient contexts, and that is in relation to ghosts, another neglected group of figures in tragedy. When Kassandra sees visions of the house in Aiskhylos’ Agamemnon, her ability to see something outside the vision of the chorus and audience centres on the shadows of small huddled figures, the ghosts of Thyestes’ murdered children, in a scene which Rutherford well describes as ‘one of the most memorable scenes in tragedy’.¹⁵⁷ These children add weight to the immediate onstage action, as Kassandra’s vision mirrors the affliction of Orestes at the end of Khoephoroi.¹⁵⁸ The dark figures which Orestes ‘sees’ will become visible to all at the start of Erinyes. The ghosts of Thyestes’ children, murdered by their uncle and served up as food to their father, have generally been interpreted as pathetic figures, taking a cue from the chorus’ pity for Kassandra as expressed at 1069 and 1321. The pitiable aspect of the scene evokes the pattern of untimely death in the family, and sets up the tragedy of Kassandra as she sees the blood already covering the house she must enter. If, however, we look at the children as ghosts, then the scene may become rather different:

¹⁵⁷ Rutherford 2012: 253. ¹⁵⁸ Contra Rose (1950: 259) who classes the vision of Kassandra as one not in any sense shared by the audience. Mace (2004: 43) is right that the text itself contradicts Rose’s assertion that the children do not expect to converse with Agamemnon, and suggests the possibility of some embodied interaction.


    ὁρᾶτε τούσδε τοὺς δόμοις ἐϕημένους νέους, ὀνείρων προσϕερεῖς μορϕώμασιν παῖδες θανόντες ὡσπερεὶ πρὸς τῶν ϕίλων, χεῖρας κρεῶν πλήθοντες, οἰκείας βορᾶς, σὺν ἐντέροις τε σπλάγχν᾽, ἐποίκτιστον γέμος, πρέπουσ᾽ ἔχοντες, ὧν πατὴρ ἐγεύσατο. Do you see them, sitting in front of the house, the young ones, like shifting shapes in a dream? The children dead, as if by loved ones, their hands full of meat, their own flesh, entrails, and organs, a pitiable weight, plain as day they hold the morsels of their father’s meal.¹⁵⁹

As the corruption of family is such a strong theme in the trilogy, we should not think of these figures as random, pitiable children, but as the children of Thyestes, a man guilty of murder, seduction, and theft, whose surviving child, Aigisthos, will strongly continue the family feud.¹⁶⁰ As ghosts, the children could be pitiable, but they are also threatening, particularly if the audience of the play felt the ghosts might actually appear onstage, as figures holding their own entrails, a dark foreshadowing of zombie mythology.¹⁶¹ The link is made stronger because Kassandra has just before spoken of how she cheated Apollo, and the chorus’s phrasing of ‘failing to bear a child’ suggests mythological patterns where she could be punished not just by Apollo, but by the child she was supposed to bear him.¹⁶² The overall context of the trilogy is important, for Aiskhylos plays with the non-appearance of Agamemnon’s ghost in the kommos of the ¹⁵⁹ Aiskh. Ag. 1217 22. The translation here offered aims simply to bring out the main points of the Greek, with the balance between horror and pity. Other translations emphasize different elements, so Collard (2002: 34): ‘You see these young ones seated by the house, resembling dream shapes? They are children killed, as if by people outside their family! Their hands are full of their own flesh for meat, clearly visible, holding their entrails and the vitals with them, most pitiable burden, which their father tasted.’ The disputed text at line 1219 gives οὐ ϕίλων (‘not loved ones’) in West’s Teubner edition (comparing the phrase from Aiskh. Hik. 718) but τῶν ϕίλων (‘loved ones’) in the OCT. ¹⁶⁰ See Rutherford (2012: 385) on the ‘crime soaked generations of the guilty house of Atreus’. ¹⁶¹ See Johnston (1999: 127 60) on ghosts of the unavenged. Revenants and zombies in Greek myth are related to philosophical problems of identity; see Griffiths 2015; Rosenstock 1994. ¹⁶² Χο. ἦ καὶ τέκνων εἰς ἔργον ἤλθέτην ὁμοῦ; / Κα. ξυναινέσασα Λοξίαν ἐψευσάμην. ‘Chorus: So did you then in due course come to the business of children? Kassandra: I promised myself to Loxias, but then I cheated him.’ Aiskh. Ag. 1207 8.



Khoephoroi, only to then present the onstage ghost of Klytaimestra in the following play. This manipulation of audience expectation suggests that he may have planted hints that a ghost would appear (perhaps in the proagon), and if so, then the audience might have been afraid that the ghosts of children would appear. In such a situation, these children are not so much pitiable because of the loss of their potential, but more a source of anxiety because their superposition has collapsed into one identity (murder victim), which carries a host of threatening associations in Greek culture. Stories of avenging child ghosts are far more common in non-Greek mythology which otherwise runs along similar lines, so it is possible that similar stories underlie the Oresteia, as we discussed in the previous chapter on imagery, where Klytaimestra’s dream baby snake (opposed to the eagle chick) may relate to a substratum of classical mythology.¹⁶³ The imagery of flying, burning, and revenants is strong in the background of Euripides’ Hekabe where death or transformation does not end the power a figure wields, but may actually enhance it.¹⁶⁴ Hekabe’s final prayers to her dead children at the end of Troades (1302–5) imply a background idea of necromancy, that the dead may once more appear.¹⁶⁵ The children of Thyestes as avenging ghosts may require propitiation—the chorus members may feel pity but emphasize their fear and dread. Kassandra’s words indicate the mixing of past/present/ future and the intermingling of pity and fear on a physical level, rather than the more cognitive approach. The importance of temporal versus atemporal engagement in the trilogy has been explored from many angles. Mace provides a detailed account of the representation of planes of existence, light, time of day, and the way boundaries are weakened in this play, noting that Kassandra is the only one to make the link explicit early in the trilogy between dreams and avengers:

¹⁶³ On the idea that the dead/transformed may still be dangerous, see, for example, the Danaiids’ description of Prokne still pursued by Tereus after the death of Itys and the transformation into birds, Aiskh. Hiketides 62 4, ‘a hawk pursued nightingale’. For the range of possible alternatives in a hidden substratum of Greek myth, see Colesanti (2014) on lullabies. ¹⁶⁴ So Polydoros’ ghost is echoed in the revenge taken on Polymester and linked to the ongoing hostility of Hekabe, even beyond the possible transformation; see Batezzato (2018: 251) on Hekabe 1262 7. The threat posed by the flying ‘ghost’ figure links back to the opening scene where Polydoros is described as a ‘winged thing’ (30 1). See further Michelakis (2002:97) on the malevolent wishes of the ghost of Akhilleus which leads to the death of Polyxene, and the parallels between the Euripidean Polydoros and the ghost of Akhilleus himself in Sophocles’ fragmentary play Polyxene (TGrF Radt fr. 523). ¹⁶⁵ Cf. Bakola (2014) on the ghost of Dareios and the role of the earth in Aiskh. Persai.


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During Kassandra’s scene, the prophetess’s language participates directly in the patterns of night and sleep related themes and metaphors. As already mentioned, she alone in the play makes a direct connection between dreams and retaliatory violence. Specifically, when reporting a vision of Thyestes’ murdered children, she describes them as ‘resembling the shapes of dreams’. (ὀνείρων προσϕερεῖς μορϕώμασιν Ag. 1218).¹⁶⁶

I would suggest that the links are even stronger than Mace has discussed, for the children of Thyestes are sitting there holding their entrails quite clearly (πρέπουσ᾽ ἔχοντες). They are obvious candidates for an embodied role in the drama, more so even than Klytaimestra who will appear onstage in the final play. Unlike ghosts of the dead who can be seen as helpless, due to their situation as ‘sleepers’,¹⁶⁷ the children in Kassandra’s vision are remarkably upright, sitting and holding parts of their bodies. Although not active in Kassandra’s vision, there is a parallel between these children and the avenging acts of Aigisthos (their avenging sibling) who emerges like a ghost made manifest. Aigisthos’ words describing the death of his older siblings are quite literally visceral and dehumanizing, concentrating on the dismemberment and the inability to recognize human features: τὰ μὲν ποδήρη καὶ χερῶν ἄκρους κτένας { ἔθρυπτ᾽ ἄνωθεν ἀνδρακὰς καθήμενος ἄσημα δ᾽{ αὐτῶν αὐτίκ᾽ ἀγνοίαι λαβὼν ἔσθει, βορὰν ἄσωτον, ὡς ὁρᾶις, γένει. He snapped and crumbled up the tips of fingers and toes, siting apart . . . He took them without hesitation, not knowing, and ate them, food which, as you see, proved the end of hope for his family.¹⁶⁸

¹⁶⁶ Cf. Mace 2004. Mace’s discussion does not address the roles of children, but is of particular interest as her reading sets to one side ideas of the ‘natural’ which have bedevilled work on children in tragedy. See, for example, (2002: 36 n. 5): ‘One must dismiss the (otherwise natural) assumption that interrupted sleep is universally harmful; wakefulness in the trilogy is an asset for an avenger and uninterrupted sleep is associated with a victim’s helplessness.’ ¹⁶⁷ See Mace (2004: 43 n. 18) on the passive connotations of the dead in ‘underground beds’. ¹⁶⁸ Aiskh. Ag. 1594 7. The text is corrupt, with a reference to someone (Thyestes?) sitting apart. For the possible reconstruction of this passage, see discussion in Raeburn and Thomas (2011: 233 4) tied to the OCT. Reconstructions explore the sequence of events and spatial dynamics, but the passage is allusive, e.g. the emotional response provoked by describing the fingers as ‘combs’ (κτένας) frustrates a simple storyboard.



This is in sharp contrast to Kassandra’s vision where the children were partly reassembled. There is no apparent mediation involved, as there is elsewhere between the living and the dead,¹⁶⁹ so the spectre is raised of an uncontrolled universe where the ghosts of the children are not only reassembling themselves, but also potentially reanimating to become onstage figures. The children’s role here can be seen far more as threatening than pathetic, both on an immediate and a broader existential level. The chorus’ response to Kassandra makes this clear: καὶ τῶνδ᾽ ὅμοιον εἴ τι μὴ πείθω, τί γάρ; τὸ μέλλον ἥξει καὶ σύ μ᾽ ἐν τάχει παρὼν ἄγαν [γ᾽] ἀληθόμαντιν οἰκτίρας ἐρεῖς. Χορός τὴν μὲν Θυέστου δαῖτα παιδείων κρεῶν ξυνῆκα καὶ πέϕρικα, καὶ ϕόβος μ᾽ ἔχει κλύοντ᾽ ἀληθῶς οὐδὲν ἐξῃκασμένα τὰ δ᾽ ἄλλ᾽ ἀκούσας ἐκ δρόμου πεσὼν τρέχω. [Kassandra:] It makes no difference, if I cannot persuade you at all. What then? What is to happen will come, and you will stand in my place soon enough, seeing with pity, saying I was so right in my predictions. Chorus: Thyestes’ feast on the flesh of his children I knew about and it’s made my hair stand on end, and fear now grips me, hearing so accurately about things so painfully true. As for the rest of what I’ve heard, I can’t keep it straight in my head.¹⁷⁰

In this respect, the children of Thyestes prefigure the transformation of the Furies in the final play of the trilogy.¹⁷¹ From the start of Eumenides, these ‘grey haired children’ have been interpreted as disturbing because of the apparent mixing of categories, but Easterling’s suggestion that we are perhaps seeing different elements of the figures at different times sets up a

¹⁶⁹ See Johnston (2015) on the role of Apollo as mediator between different planes of existence in the trilogy. ¹⁷⁰ Aisch. Ag. 1239 45. ¹⁷¹ Easterling 2008.


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parallel with the temporal instability we see in relation to children, including the potential incongruity of character portrayal with the physical bodies of the men in the chorus.¹⁷² If we set aside the idea that children are inherently pitiable, then the description of the Furies contains no element of weakness, but rather is a manifestation of all the dangerous features of the non-human: they have the potential for the future, but can manifest multiple versions of this due to their divinity. The idea of ‘child’ in this initial representation, then, is not an element of pathetic weakness, but a further element of the danger they pose. Their ability to impose sterility is given a physical expression, as they embody the features of human life under their control, specifically the control of fertility and prosperity. The festival context provides a context for mortals to engage with divine forces, and thus the trilogy takes on a political role. Control of generative forces, both in narrative and practice, is important for the Athenian project to control the future by controlling the past, as Chiasson and others have argued.¹⁷³ In this respect, then, children are important in the tragedy not just for pathetic effect, but because they are involved with the temporal flux of the trilogy. Crucially, unlike the Iliad, where divine-mortal interaction is important for characters who mediate the temporal divides, in the Oresteia the mortal children are the ones forced to deal with the situation. The gods reveal at best a lack of understanding about human reproduction, which may be a little surprising given the prominent role Leto’s labour plays in the mythic megatext.¹⁷⁴ The difficulties of seeing child figures as ‘characters’ or even ‘dramatic figures’ have undermined many previous attempts to explain their roles in tragedy. Nevertheless, their roles are extremely powerful in ways that go beyond their contribution to overall themes. I suggested in the opening chapter that there may be an analogy with modern physics—principles of Newtonian physics, which worked well in explaining and predicting most phenomena, failed to work when applied on the smallest scale. To account for the undeniable existence of such non-classically explicable phenomena an entirely new form of physics was required, leading to the field of quantum physics which is difficult to define but provides ways of working with the smallest elements under consideration. In this same spirit, let us consider, ¹⁷² Easterling 2008; 2014. Cf. Frontisi Ducroux (2007) on the precedents, or lack of prece dents, for the creation of the Erinyes in Aiskhylos. ¹⁷³ On temporality in the trilogy, see Chiasson 1999. ¹⁷⁴ On Leto’s labour, and the various roles of the gods in this birth narrative, see Cursaru 2010; Maystre 2008.



if only as a thought experiment, that children in tragedy require a different approach—not just a different model, but a different type of physics. At this point in the evolution of my own thinking, I would not attempt to supply such a model, and indeed it may be that the only sane response to the situation is to acknowledge with extreme humility that some analysis is not possible. One avenue, however, may be worth pursuing, so I offer here some pointers for where a field of study may help to explain the children of Greek tragedy. Ghosts in tragedy have proved problematic for modern scholarship, not least because they challenge what we know about Athenian religion.¹⁷⁵ The Greek term for ghost, eidolon, can refer to many different manifestations, including an apparition representing a dead character, but it is also central to two plays where the ‘ghost’ is not that of a dead character, namely Euripides’ Helen and Euripides’ Bakkhai. In the backstory to Helene an eidolon goes to Troy and is extremely dangerous because of it, bringing problems of split identities, issues of disguise, only to vanish conveniently once the ‘real’ Helen has re-established her identity.¹⁷⁶ As Zeitlin notes, ‘phantom Helen’ presents onstage: [ . . . ] as theater does, the epistemological and even ontological questions about the world of visible phenomena and the autonomous status of the integral and integrated self.¹⁷⁷

In the Bakkhai the backstory gives us multiple babies. Whereas human babies suggest a future of multiple adult roles, Dionysos as a god has multiple possible histories—the child snatched from Semele’s womb, the fictional child created as a smokescreen to deceive Hera, and the logoscreated baby formed from linguistic confusion over ‘pledges’ and ‘thighs’ (Euripides’ Bakkhai 286–97).¹⁷⁸ Tiresias makes it clear that there was a

¹⁷⁵ On ghosts as a category in tragedy, see Bardel 1999; 2000; 2005. Individual tragic ghosts have been more widely considered; see, for example, Lane (2007). Ghosts have been examined more extensively in other aspects of Greek literature and culture, particularly in relation to magic, not least in relation to children; see, for example, Faraone 1991. Felton (2010: 7) notes the idea that ghost stories were told to children, but does not discuss any stories involving ghosts. ¹⁷⁶ On Helen and her phantom, see in particular Wohl (2014a) on the idea of hypothetical and counterfactual figures. We might add the figure of the returned Alkestis. ¹⁷⁷ Zeitlin 2010: 271. ¹⁷⁸ Interpretation of the passage is complicated by the apparently corrupted text at this point, but the repeated motif of pledges is significant throughout the play; see Segal 1997: 12.


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‘cloud baby’, which functioned as if it were Dionysos, while the ‘real’ Dionysos was protected: ῥήξας μέρος τι τοῦ χθόν᾽ ἐγκυκλουμένου αἰθέρος, ἔθηκε τόνδ᾽ ὅμηρον ἐκδιδούς, Shaping a part of the earth surrounding air, he gave this to Hera as a pledge (ὅμηρον).¹⁷⁹

This cloud baby/hidden baby aspect of Dionysos is part of his characterization as a god, but is also linked to the political and kinship issues we see creating layers of significance for the baby Orestes in Euripides’ Iphigeneia. If, as is likely, both plays were part of a set produced after Euripides’ death, we should not be surprised to find that there are similarities between the two plays. The complexities of illusion and reality in Bakkhai present too great a challenge for exploration in this volume, but given the prominence which Zeitlin and others have given to Dionysos as an explanation for children in tragedy, some comment is necessary.¹⁸⁰ This child in the Bakkhai is extremely dangerous to his natal family, symbolizing the relationship which lead to his mother’s death, and then arriving to avenge the wrong done to his mother’s reputation. The infant Dionysos is both an embodied creature and a product of language, physically pulled from the fire of his mother’s body and yet protected by a narrative and an illusion, as a ‘cloud baby’. He is anything but a Platonic ‘wind-egg’.¹⁸¹ His ability to be both physical and verbal characterizes his adult role in the play, and transfers to the ‘child’ Pentheus at the end of the play. The damaged final scenes where Agave returns to her senses have been interpreted as a psychological treatment, but the parallels between Pentheus and Dionysos are continued as Agave creates a verbal image of her child which is separate from his physical presence (now his corpse), emphasizing the disjunction of identity and corporality which has been repeated throughout the play. The infant Dionysos survives the contradictory versions of his identity as a child, but Pentheus cannot be restored, as a mortal cannot survive this sort of existential slippage.¹⁸² Similar interactions between ghosts and children exist in other plays. The role of Elektra’s ‘phantom baby’ has been widely discussed,

¹⁷⁹ Eur. Bakkhai 292 3. ¹⁸⁰ Zeitlin 2008. ¹⁸¹ See Plato’s Theaetetus for the interplay of metaphors around the ‘wind egg’ and issues about ‘phantom births’. ¹⁸² See further Thumiger (2013) on the role of hallucinations and mirrors in the play.



and the links with the phantom ‘Helen’ of Euripides’ Helene suggest the dangers that such phantoms can pose.¹⁸³ The ghost of Polydoros in Euripides’ Hekabe is more a child in the relational category rather than in the age category, because his future potential, his ‘superposition state’, was cruelly ended by Polymestor. He has now only one possible identity, that of murder victim. Ghosts can, however, be extremely dangerous, as the background figure of Akhilleus’ ghost in this play makes quite clear. The dead can overpower the living. A dead child, therefore, can assume greater powers than a live one, and some children in tragedy are already ‘dead’ because of their names (as discussed in Chapter 2). As a starting point for future exploration, I would suggest that all child figures on the tragic stage have a ghostlike quality to them. Whether as temporal nodes or figures conceived in ‘superposition states’, there is an ambiguity surrounding tragic children which poses dangers to those within and outside the narrative. The children have multiple future and present ‘roles’ surrounding them, and they are linked to the original immediate audience of Athens because of the issue of embodiment, the awareness of the ‘real’ child beneath the child role. Like ghosts, child figures inhabit a strange liminal state as dramatic ‘characters’, with, but not in, the world of adult narrative. Similar dynamics may be observed in the ‘ghostlike’ figure of Oidipus who contributes to the drama of Euripides’ Phoinissai while locked inside the house.¹⁸⁴ It may not be surprising that the image of the ‘ghost’ has been used in modern formulation of how children form an identity.¹⁸⁵ For this reason I have focused my discussion on the onstage characters (be they child actors or dolls) because of the importance of the original audience’s experience. We could develop this idea further to encompass imaginary or ‘not-fullyrealized’ children, such as Elektra’s baby used as a ruse to summon Klytaimestra in Euripides’ Elektra, or the imagined children of Klytaimestra and Aigisthos in that same play. Each child figure here adds another dimension to the family dynamics and the temporal angst for the characters and the audience. Again, we may see the spectre of the imagined child of Aigeus’ wife in conflict with the unborn (but in-the-future-threatened) Theseus in Euripides’ Medeia, hinting at wider patterns of neglect and danger for ¹⁸³ On illusion in Euripides’ Helene, see Allan 2008: 47 9. On Elektra’s baby in Euripides’ Elektra, see the possible echoes in Euripides’ Aiolos; see Hall 2006: 77 80. ¹⁸⁴ See Lamari (2010: 54 5) on Oidipous as a ‘living ghost’. ¹⁸⁵ See Richert and Harris 2006 on how modern children form an idea of the ‘self ’ in terms of ‘ghosts’.


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Athens.¹⁸⁶ Such ‘children’ can be seen as more ghostlike and thus even more disturbing than their onstage counterparts precisely because they are moving further away from the embodied onstage presence of an actor, an act of Platonic mimesis.¹⁸⁷ As the copy of the copy becomes fainter, so too the existential anxiety about the nature of reality increases. The unsettling quality of children’s roles in particular scenes has been noted in some theoretical discussions, such as Wyle’s comment that the funeral clothes on the children of Euripides’ Herakles open up a space to reflect on the transmission of the play, but the wider application of these ideas has not been developed.¹⁸⁸ Further work on fragments may one day provide new material, such as an indication of how clothing disguise/ change/colour was handled in Euripides’ Ino or Melanippe Sophe, as part of a wider symbolic system of light and dark/life and death.¹⁸⁹ The study of performance history and reception of drama has not explored these ideas to any great extent, because of the lack of attention previously paid to children in traditional scholarship. In this way, the study of child figures has moved further and further away from the cutting edges of classical scholarship. The creation of child roles through logos, the transmitted written text, has distanced us further from the child characters than from the adult characters. I offer one final lens through which to see child figures. When the Archimedes palimpsest was discovered, the application of new visual imagery techniques revealed unexpected material, a simple trick of the light revealing something that was always there, but not always visible.¹⁹⁰ Regarding children in tragedy we have for too long viewed them through the lens of pathos, ignoring other ‘perceptual filters’.¹⁹¹ Seen through pathostinged spectacles, child figures have appeared strange, disconnected from ¹⁸⁶ On these potential and future children, see Kovacs 2008. ¹⁸⁷ On this concept in Euripides, see Castiglioni 2012. ¹⁸⁸ Wyles 2010: 172: ‘a playwright can invite the audience to reflect on the nature of theatre and the nature of this performance as a theatrical activity; hence, for example, the ‘death clothing’ costumes in Euripides’ Herakles can be used to reflect on the performance of tragedy as a cultural act of bringing the dead back to life.’ ¹⁸⁹ For the nexus of mythological motifs surrounding in the stories of Melanippe, see Tatti Gartziou (2010) and Yspilanti (2009) on the link to blindness, and cf. Finglass (2016b: 307 8) on the possible use of colour in Eur. Ino. ¹⁹⁰ For the text and transmission history of the Archimedes palimpsest, including the ‘new Hyperides’, see Netz, Noel, Tchernetska, and Wilson 2011. For palimpsests as conceptual tools when exploring ancient texts and intertextuality, see Tsagalis 2008. ¹⁹¹ ‘Perceptual filters’ was Sourvinou Inwood’s phrase for the intellectual process of engaging with ancient material through understanding the ancient contexts, on which see Kindt (2012: 19). Cf. Goldhill (2010) and contra Martindale (2010) on the role of Kant in Reception Studies.



their dramatic matrix. Viewing them instead with different lenses, including the ‘frame’ of potential, allows us to see a much more complex set of figures with more clearly articulated places in the dramatic matrices of individual plays, and in the genre as a whole. The attempt to understand child figures in tragedy is unlikely to yield a model for easy tabulation, but may be closer in spirit to the mirror of Plato’s Republic Book 10, allowing Glaukon to develop multiple perspectives of one figure. If potential suggests aspects of a model in accordance with theatrical, socio-historical, and philosophical frames, where does that leave pathos?¹⁹² In the next chapter we will look at various mechanisms for the employment of pathos in tragedy, not all of which are used in the creation of child characters. Furthermore, many of the examples of pathetic creation may be seen as less straightforward than they may seem, and rely on a farreaching entanglement with ideas of potential.

¹⁹² The connection is not always obvious. Dué discusses many aspects of how captive laments contrast past with future, but believes that Andromakhe’s addresses to her son in Eur. Andr. are purely pathetic (2006: 191 2).

4 Reframing Pathos 4.1 An Integrated Approach We return, then, to the question of pathos. In the previous chapter I suggested that the strongest element creating pathos for child figures was contemplation of their lost future, and that this was connected to a wider role for children as temporal nodes. It is now possible to examine this idea of ‘pathos’, ‘pity’, and ‘vulnerability’ in greater depth, now that we have seen the counterposed dramatic forces in play. Although there are many possible avenues to provoke pathos, or other emotional responses to children onstage, ranging from culturally mediated biological responses to a quasilegal conception of morality, we will see many of these techniques are not used as widely as some have thought. One parallel dynamic, seen in Greek and Latin literature, is that suffering in the present is seen as a catalyst for future hostility on an individual level—this is the idea of the infelix furor mentioned by Servius in relation to Virgil’s Aeneid.¹ This, however, is not quite the case for children in Greek tragedy, where the temporal dynamics are very different from those of epic. The investigation opens with an analysis of the child’s role in Sophokles’ Aias, a play seen by many to be the height of pathetic drama. Here, as in other cases discussed below, we will see that the idea of potential emerges as a significant factor.

4.2 Formulating Pathos Sophokles’ Aias is a prime example of how tragedy elicits emotional responses from the audience, but the range of ideas surrounding the child, Eurysakes, has only received piecemeal attention in scholarship, usually in relation to other questions such as Aias’ own state of mind, or the role of illegitimacy.² Far from being a simple ‘pitiable’ figure, this child has multiple ¹ On this phrase and its relevance to epic, see Raymond 2011. ² Munteanu’s insightful analysis of internal and external audience responses demonstrates the importance of the visual, but does not comment on the role of the child Eurysakes except as part of a generalized comment about pity for family (2012: 194). Children in Greek Tragedy: Pathos and Potential. Emma M. Griffiths, Oxford University Press (2020). © Emma M. Griffiths. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198826071.001.0001


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identities across time, and his future adult roles are an important part of his dramatic presentation. The conflict of the play is framed by comment on family inheritance, going beyond the conventional patronymics of myth. Aias as ‘son of Telamon’ (184), and Odysseus ‘son of Sisyphos’ (190) begin the play, and Teukros will mark the reconciliation at the end by reinstating Odysseus’ lineage as ‘son of Laertes’.³ Tekmessa evokes the Athenian heritage of the chorus of sailors, addressing them as sons of the earth-born Erechtheids.⁴ In this frame, Eurysakes’ heritage is evoked—his paternal line offers an image of strength, which counterbalances the weakness of his maternal inheritance. After his repeated cries of ἰώ μοί μοι, Aias’ first words are ἰὼ παῖ παῖ. ‘Oh child, child’ (339). The ambiguity of these lines has led to debate about whether Aias is addressing his child (as Tekmessa assumes) or whether he is calling for his brother (as his next statement seems to suggest).⁵ Rather than seeing this as one or the other, we could see the idea of ‘child’ here encompassing both Teukros and Eurysakes, so that the audience is unsure of Aias’ focus at this point. These words can position ‘the child’ in many different frames. Aias may be thinking about his child as his remaining hope in life, be concerned about what he will pass on to his child, be considering Teukros as a younger brother, or be confused about his role in his (complicated) family. The audience might hear this as a cry of regret, provoking an emotional response, and the ambiguity continues as Tekmessa’s words suggests that Aias may not be experiencing a feeling of love and sympathy for his child, but rather has some darker intentions.⁶ This prompts her expression of fear for another blow: ὤμοι τάλαιν᾽ Εὐρύσακες, ἀμϕὶ σοὶ βοᾷ. τί ποτε μενοινᾷ; ποῦ ποτ᾽ εἶ; τάλαιν᾽ ἐγώ. This is agonizing. Eurysakes, he’s shouting out for you. What does he have in mind? What next? This is agony for me.⁷

³ For tragic attitudes towards Odysseus, including his parentage, see Austin (2011: 96). See Holland (2008) on the significance of the Sisyphus myth for the backstory in Euripides’ Medeia. On Aiskhylos’ Sisyphus plays, see Pietruczuk 2011; Simon 2007; Whitmarsh 2014. ⁴ ναὸς ἀρωγοὶ τῆς Αἴαντος, γενεᾶς χθονίων ἀπ᾽ Ἐρεχθειδῶν, 201 22. ⁵ Finglass (2011: 236 n. on 339) discusses the range of intepretations, concluding that the address must be to Eurysakes. ⁶ There are parallels with the opening cries in Eur. Medeia where the nurse expresses a clear anxiety for the safety of the children (89 95) using the same imagery of sight and danger that we find in Aias. ⁷ Soph. Aias 340 1.

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Eurysakes may be harmed not because he is a vulnerable child, but because Aias has already done considerable harm to grown men and animals, and even Odysseus is afraid of him (74–8). When Aias speaks, dwelling on the irony of his name and the good inheritance he received from Telamon (430–41) he is set upon dying and does not speak of his son.⁸ Tekmessa’s response conjures an image of herself and the child being enslaved (a fate feared by young and old alike), and when she calls explicitly for Aias’ pity it comes second to an appeal for respect for his parents (506–9). When she does ask him to pity his son, the source of the pain is articulated as ‘lack of care, being orphaned, and have an ill-starred life’:⁹ οἴκτιρε δ᾽, ὦναξ, παῖδα τὸν σόν, εἰ νέας τροϕῆς στερηθεὶς σοῦ διοίσεται μόνος ὑπ᾽ ὀρϕανιστῶν μὴ ϕίλων, ὅσον κακὸν κείνῳ τε κἀμοὶ τοῦθ᾽, ὅταν θάνῃς, νεμεῖς. Have pity, my lord, for your son, deprived of childcare, alone, an orphan without family, he will be burdened by the disaster your death lays upon him and me.¹⁰

The chorus responds to Tekmessa’s entreaties, saying that they would feel pity (525–6), and thus the original audience may have responded in a similar fashion,¹¹ but Aias himself is not swayed. When he calls for his son (530), Tekmessa again responds with fear, saying explicitly that she had taken his son away from him, and Aias replies by agreeing that Tekmessa was correct, and that he was a danger to his son because of his own current misfortune, πρέπον γέ τἂν ἦν δαίμονος τοὐμοῦ τόδε. ‘That’s quite right, given the cloud I’m under’ (534). In his interaction with the child onstage, Aias expresses contradictory opinions, perhaps a sign that his thinking processes are not clear.¹² First, he

⁸ See Alaux (1997) on the Homeric quality of this reflection on the name, and cf. discussion in the previous chapter. ⁹ See further Davidson 2014 on Sophoklean language. ¹⁰ Soph. Aias 510 14. ¹¹ On the distance between chorus and audience experience in this section of the play, see Kyriakou (2011: 220) and Nooter (2012: 45). ¹² The idea that Aias’ suicide is an act of insanity has been challenged by studies of tragic suicide, see Garrison (1995: 47 n. 1), but there remains debate about the construction of Aias’ mental health in social or epistemological frames. See Munteanu (2011b) on the idea that Aias is mourning his past self. Cf. Toohey (2004: 40 1) and Allan (2014) on Aias’ medical status.


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quashes any idea that the child is vulnerable and pitiable, suggesting that the child will not feel fear at the sight of so much bloodshed, and then saying that even if he is afraid, he will give no quarter, as the child must learn to tolerate it (545–9). He then expresses the famous statement, ‘Be luckier than your father,’ before changing tone and speaking of how children are happier because they have no understanding. This is highly ironic given his own state of madness, so the line, ἐν τῷ ϕρονεῖν γὰρ μηδὲν ἥδιστος βίος, ‘Being aware takes all pleasure from life,’ is not so much about his child but about his own state. As we discussed in the previous chapter, the visual dynamics of this scene are very powerful with the contrast between the small child and the great figure of Aias, as well as the vertical play of levels and shapes. As the child is framed by the arms of the blood-soaked hero, remarks about the joy of childhood are not straightforward,¹³ and this contrast is further drawn by Aias’ next comments—when the child grows up, Aias wants him to adopt his own position and do harm to his enemies: αἶρ᾽ αὐτόν, αἶρε δεῦρο ταρβήσει γὰρ οὔ, νεοσϕαγῆ που τόνδε προσλεύσσων ϕόνον, εἴπερ δικαίως ἔστ᾽ ἐμὸς τὰ πατρόθεν. ἀλλ᾽ αὐτίκ᾽ ὠμοῖς αὐτὸν ἐν νόμοις πατρὸς δεῖ πωλοδαμνεῖν κἀξομοιοῦσθαι ϕύσιν. ὦ παῖ, γένοιο πατρὸς εὐτυχέστερος, τὰ δ᾽ ἄλλ᾽ ὅμοιος καὶ γένοι᾽ ἂν οὐ κακός. καίτοι σε καὶ νῦν τοῦτό γε ζηλοῦν ἔχω, ὁθούνεκ᾽ οὐδὲν τῶνδ᾽ ἐπαισθάνει κακῶν. ἐν τῷ ϕρονεῖν γὰρ μηδὲν ἥδιστος βίος, τὸ μὴ ϕρονεῖν γὰρ κάρτ᾽ ἀνώδυνον κακόν ἕως τὸ χαίρειν καὶ τὸ λυπεῖσθαι μάθῃς. ὅταν δ᾽ ἵκῃ πρὸς τοῦτο, δεῖ σ᾽ ὅπως πατρὸς δείξεις ἐν ἐχθροῖς, οἷος ἐξ οἵου ’τράϕης.¹⁴

Kyriakou (2011: 191 2) argues persuasively Athena’s influence continues after the overt mad ness has passed. ¹³ Cf. Theseus’ horror at seeing the bloody bodies of Herakles’ children, οὐ γὰρ δορός γε παῖδες ἵστανται πέλας· ‘Children have no place on a battlefield’ (Eur. Her. 1176 7). ¹⁴ Soph. Aias 545 56. The text is corrupt, so the translation here offers an extrapolation of the key points. Cf. Finglass (2011: 99) with the following text: αἶρ᾽ αὐτόν, αἶρε δεῦρο· ταρβήσει γὰρ οὔ, / νεοσϕαγῆ {τουτονδε{ προσλεύσσων ϕόνον, / εἴπερ δικαίως ἔστ᾽ ἐμὸς τὰ πατρόθεν. / ἀλλ᾽ αὐτίκ᾽ ὠμοῖς αὐτὸν ἐν νόμοις πατρὸς / δεῖ πωλοδαμνεῖν κἀξομοιοῦσθαι ϕύσιν. / ὦ παῖ, γένοιο πατρὸς εὐτυχέστερος, / τὰ δ᾽ ἄλλ᾽ ὅμοιος· καὶ γένοι᾽ ἂν οὐ κακός. / καίτοι σε καὶ νῦν τοῦτό γε ζηλοῦν ἔχω, /

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Lift him up, lift him here, for fear of this fresh blood and the sight of this carnage will not affect him, if he truly is my son and has inherited my character. If he is afraid, then he must be whipped into shape forthwith, and learn to match his father’s iron will. My son, may you be luckier than your father, but his reflection in all other ways, then you will always be strong. For now I envy this ignorance of yours, you cannot understand how dark these times are. Ignorance is bliss, a suffering that is not experienced until you can distinguish between joy and sorrow. When you come to that understanding you must show your father’s enemies the proof of your upbringing, and present the same face to the world as your father did.

The soft being of the child is directly contrasted with the dangerous adult figure avenging his father’s wrongs, the future adult his father hopes will be almost identical to Aias who has just been shown as destructive and threatening to his own people (οἷος ἐξ οἵου ’τράϕης. ‘such a one from such a one you have been raised’ 558). The confusion in Aias’ thinking is underlined by his next comment that none of the Greek army will dare do harm to his son because of the presence of Teukros. This may not be so much an expression of faith in his half-brother’s merits, as a deluded assertion of his own continued prestige in the army.¹⁵ The final section of his address indicates his basic attitude to the child, as the overlap with the shield echoes his own opening remarks about his name. The contrast with Iliad 6 is highlighted because of the idea of child embodying family history and hopes for the future as onomastic destiny (as discussed in previous chapter). Although the spectre of Astyanax’s fate is still present, Eurysakes is more firmly situated in ὁθούνεκ᾽ οὐδὲν τῶνδ᾽ ἐπαισθάνῃ κακῶν. / ἐν τῶι ϕρονεῖν γὰρ μηδὲν ἥδιστος βίος, 554 / [τὸ μὴ ϕρονεῖν γὰρ κάρτ᾽ ἀνώδυνον κακόν,] 554b / ἕως τὸ χαίρειν καὶ τὸ λυπεῖσθαι μάθῃς. / ὅταν δ᾽ ἵκῃ πρὸς τοῦτο, δεῖ σ᾽ ὅπως πατρὸς / δείξεις ἐν ἐχθροῖς οἷος ἐξ οἵου ’τράϕης. ¹⁵ The attitude shown by Menelaos and Agamemnon at the end of the play suggests that Aias’ previous reputation could have been completely overshadowed by his murderous rage as a threat to the stability of the whole army (Aias 1235: ‘What sort of man was he?’). Ironically, Odysseus, who urges respect for Aias’ family, is also in myth the one who argues for the death of Astyanax on the principle that it was dangerous to let an enemy’s child live.


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a wide family context which lessens the fear that he will suffer from the Greek army.¹⁶ Tekmessa appears to think that consideration for the child may hold the key to changing Aias’ mind, as she appeals to him in the name of his son and the gods.¹⁷ The idea of pity is not here expressed, and it suggests that the child may have an influence comparable to that exerted by the gods (picking up the visual dynamics of power discussed in the previous chapter). Aias ignores this comment replying only that he does not care for the gods, and when Tekmessa tries again to persuade him, her appeal is only by the gods, suggesting that care for his son is no longer a motivating factor. To this point in the play, then, the vulnerability of the child has been balanced by statements about his strength and the harm his future self will cause. This is a similar dynamic to that surrounding the sword, which references multiple temporal frames as friend/enemy.¹⁸ The immediate threat Eurysakes faces is not because of his age, but because Aias is a danger to everyone. The chorus members respond to Tekmessa’s plea for pity for the child, but Aias does not, and instead thinks of arranging the child as he is arranging plans for his own armour.¹⁹ Although he will mention his son again, Aias’ subsequent thoughts will reject any plea for pity as ‘womanish’ (648–53), and the idea of pity is subsumed into the broader category of human conventions which yield to ‘the hands of Time’ (983–40). Temporal awareness provides a frame which transcends ideas of pity.²⁰ Aias’ final remarks about his family focus on his own parents, before he again rejects an emotional response and sets to his suicide (825–8). Teukros immediately assumes a parental role, asking about Eurysakes, but his phrasing implies that Aias is just as vulnerable as his son. This pattern of conflicting ideas continues into the final burial scene where Teukros encourages the child to take a role in the funeral rites. The visual aspects of this scene discussed in the previous chapter suggested the importance of positioning in a ritual space, but we should note

¹⁶ See discussion in Finglass 2011: n. on 545 6. ¹⁷ [ . . . ] καί σε πρὸς τοῦ σοῦ τέκνου / καὶ θεῶν ἱκνοῦμαι, μὴ προδοὺς ἡμᾶς γένῃ. ‘And I beg you by your child and the gods, do not betray us’ 587 8. ¹⁸ On the sword of Aias, and its role outside the play, see Michelakis 2010. A similar dynamic may operate when we consider the roles of children in the performance history of tragedy, but that falls outside the scope of the present study. ¹⁹ Cf. Naiden (2015) on the way the sword as inanimate object is figured as ‘guilty’ of causing Ajax’s death by suicide, a further blurring of existential categories. ²⁰ See further Badger (2013: 42 3) on the temporal paradox of this scene. On the ritual significance of dramatic time, cf. Easterling 2014; Woodruff 2013.

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that Teukros’ first reaction on seeing Tekmessa and Eurysakes is to welcome them into their roles as mourners, not to express any further distress: καὶ μὴν ἐς αὐτὸν καιρὸν οἵδε πλησίοι πάρεισιν ἀνδρὸς τοῦδε παῖς τε καὶ γυνή, τάϕον περιστελοῦντε δυστήνου νεκροῦ. It is indeed the right time for them to draw near, the man’s child and wife, to provide burial rites for the tragic corpse.²¹

Teukros’ interactions with the Greek leaders conjures a positive future role for Eurysakes, as the phrasing of a ‘captive woman’s son’ can apply to both figures. As Teukros is steadfast and victorious, so some of that power is transferred to the child, and in speaking his final words Teukros evokes the strength of the child rather than his pathetic qualities: παῖ, σὺ δὲ πατρός γ᾽, ὅσον ἰσχύεις, ϕιλότητι θιγὼν πλευρὰς σὺν ἐμοὶ τάσδ᾽ ἐπικούϕιζ᾽ [ . . . ] Child, with all your strength, take hold of your father’s body and carry him with me.²²

In this ‘most pitiable’ play, then, the child is not predominantly positioned in the discourse of pity, but provides a point of intersection between different discourses and between different visions of the past and the future. If the name further brings positive contemporary associations, as we discussed in the previous chapter, Eurysakes is an ever-present image evoking Athenian strength beneath the present-time vulnerability of the child.

4.3 Children and Emotion The idea of children arousing sympathetic emotional response relates to the Greek idea of pathetikos as ‘arousing emotion’, rather than as ‘sensitive’,²³ and ²¹ Soph. Aias 1168 70. ²² Soph. Aias 1410 12. ²³ See Konstan (2006: 3 40) on pathos, although this does not address children directly. Cf. Blumenthal (1991) with Rorty (1984) on the metaphysical status of pathe in Aristotle.


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has been dominated by a model of the ‘pathetic’ in rhetorical education.²⁴ We here meet the problem of reconciling modern with ancient conceptual frameworks. Although we have moved away from the idea that the ancient world did not care for its children (the Ariès model), we must still counter the modern turn that emphasizes the emotional and sentimental draw children exert, a cultural trend that has been well summarized as ‘the material devaluation but emotional elevation of the child’.²⁵ Attitudes towards children can be linked to changing economic factors,²⁶ and the idea that the sentimental value of children rises in inverse proportion to their economic utility can be useful in some analysis of ancient societies,²⁷ but we should not confuse willingness to make public expressions with the emotional reality.²⁸ Raepsaet’s study of the complex discourse surrounding childbearing in classical Athens argues persuasively that emotional reasons could not be disentangled from the practical and strategic reasons.²⁹ A recurring theme arising from Raepsaet’s analysis is the desire for continuity, be it biological, economic, social, or religious. Even in tragedy, where we might expect emotional effects to be intensified, there is not the sustained segregation of children, or the idea that they have a special status outside the normal concerns of adult affairs which describes them predominantly in terms of their emotional appeal. If we exercise due caution about the ideology of the ‘natural’ or ‘universal’ child, as discussed in Chapter 1, it is not unreasonable to start from the idea that The English term ‘pathetic’ covers a range of meanings and has undergone a historical transformation, moving from the rare late Latin ‘patheticus’ (Macr. S. 4.2.5) to the ‘modern’ OED definition from 1971 which indicates the background for describing children as pathetic and collapses a number of different aspects even under the first section of definition: 1. Producing an effect on the emotions. B ‘In modern use: Affecting the tender emotions; exciting a feeling of pity, sympathy or sadness; full of pathos’. ²⁴ On the role of rhetoric in relation to tragedy, see Karanasiou (2015) on Eur. Hekabe. Cf. Lundberg (2013) on the limits we should place on the influence of rhetoric. ²⁵ James and Prout 1997: 3. ²⁶ Scheper Hughes (1987: 12): ‘In the modern, industrial world the instrumental value of children has been largely replaced by their expressive value. Children have become relatively worthless (economically) to their parents, but priceless in terms of their psychological worth: the pleasure and satisfaction they bring.’ See further discussion in Huyhn, D’Costa, and Lee Coo (2015: 48). ²⁷ Cf. Bradley (1998) on a comparable sentimentality about pets in Roman society. Cf. Eyben (1996) on children in Plutarch. ²⁸ The idealization of modern attitudes towards children led historians such as Ariès and deMause to conclude that ancient parents were unfeeling towards their children, but Golden has argued eloquently against this view, noting that the practicalities of daily life and the formalities of public commemoration allowed limited space for expressions of grief, often confining that grief to the private world of women. See Golden 1988; 2004. ²⁹ Raepsaet 1971. Cf. Charlier and Raepsaet 1971.

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there may be a biological basis to reactions to children, that children inspire an emotional response simply by being children, drawing upon biological and cultural codes of protection for the young. There is also the fact that parental instincts tend to be focused on their own offspring, and tribal divisions make other people’s children less a matter of concern.³⁰ Even if we assume that the original audiences of fifth-century Athens were almost exclusively male, there still remain many possible divisions of attitude based on social position.³¹ Both of these ideas are present in tragedy, but they are far from straightforward, as biological factors are mediated by competing cultural codes including the conventions of the tragic stage. The internal dynamics set up a model whereby the welfare of a child may dominate a character’s thoughts, but is not by any means guaranteed, so the reactions of the audience cannot be assumed to have a positive bias towards children.³²

4.4 Biologically Determined Responses of Protection The popular modern idea that adults have an innate interest in the welfare of the young of their species might fall under the heading of Aristotle’s ‘human feeling’, to philanthropinon, which he contrasts with ‘fear and pity’ in the Poetics.³³ Although there are expressions of this human care in Greek literature, it is by no means a universal absolute and is frequently found in contexts which are difficult to read. From the Homeric contexts, some figures are more or less attached to their children (as age/relational category). Nausikaa is a figure on the verge of marriage and the transition from girl to woman, showing mixed age markers.³⁴ Historical contexts are equally challenging. Herodotos makes comments which have been read by some as evidence that there was a presumption that fathers have an emotional attachment to young children. The passage describes how the Persians insulate the father from a young child: πρὶν δὲ ἢ πενταέτης γένηται, οὐκ ἀπικνέεται ἐς ὄψιν τῷ πατρί, ἀλλὰ παρὰ τῇσι γυναιξὶ δίαιταν ἔχει. τοῦδε δὲ εἵνεκα τοῦτο οὕτω ποιέεται, ἵνα ἢν ἀποθάνῃ τρεϕόμενος, μηδεμίαν ἄσην τῷ πατρὶ προσβάλῃ. ³⁰ On the formulation of ‘other people’s children’ in a Greek context, see Golden 2011. ³¹ On the composition of the original audience, see Carter 2011; Roselli 2011. ³² On the relationship between internal and external audiences when considering ideas of pity, see Munteanu (2011a; 2011b) and Cairns (2016). ³³ See Konstan (2006) on the relationship between the various terms for emotion in Aristotle. ³⁴ Homer. Od 6 8. See, for example, Langdon 2007.


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Before a child is five years old he never comes into the sight of his father, but lives with the women. The reason for this custom is so that if the child dies, no distress should affect the father.³⁵

Cole cites this passage as evidence for ‘the depth of a father’s emotional investment in a son’, and I here use Cole’s terminology in translating μηδεμίαν ἄσην as ‘no distress’, but the degree of ‘emotional investment’ which this term suggests is perhaps misleading.³⁶ The only other instance of this vocabulary in Herodotos comes in the context of the ‘distress’ Polykrates would feel on losing his seal ring, which suggests that the emotion involved in the custom is more to do with losing an investment. Furthermore, the word is used in Eur. Medeia to describe something like boredom or irritation, which a man can assuage by consorting with friends and prostitutes.³⁷ It is not, therefore, clear that the Persian custom is evidence for an awareness that men were strongly attached to their children, still less that this comment from Herodotos implies that the Greeks would have shared, or even approved, such a sentiment. We need to distinguish between the likely experience of an emotional response and the willingness to express or acknowledge that response in a public space in fifth-century Athens. Visual evidence, as we discussed in the previous chapter, is difficult to interpret. Van Keuren has argued that a scene of Zeus with the infant Dionysos suggests that fathers did have a normal, affectionate relationship with their children,³⁸ but others have argued that fatherhood was shaped in public and was not a social status associated with overt expression of emotion.³⁹ The philosophical tradition from the late fifth century suggests that men may have felt connections to their children, or to children in general, but that openly expressing these feelings was not an ideal masculine behaviour. As we will discuss later in this chapter, the one exception is in legal cases, where the defendant is attempting to make himself more pitiable, and asking the jurors to perform an act of considered mercy. These are not the positions adopted by a theatrical audience. Xenophon says that connections to children are stronger for women, which suggests that ³⁵ Herodotos’ Histories 1.136.2. ³⁶ Cole 2004: 149 n. 11. ³⁷ Eur. Medeia 245. ³⁸ Van Keuren (1998: 21) on a fifth century RF amphora by the Eucharides Painter (Mr Gregory Callimanopoulos; on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. L.1982.27.8, figures 1 and 2 in Keuren): ‘This hypothesis is that the ancient Greek male, both mythological and real, was ideally expected to adopt a gentle and kindly attitude towards children, especially his own, a trait which he shared with Greek mothers and the female sex in general.’ ³⁹ Strauss 1993.

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men might not wish to express emotions even if they felt them.⁴⁰ Biological imperatives were explicitly codified in Athenian culture,⁴¹ and while in tragedy there is some idea about a natural order, this is shown to be a cultural norm which can be superseded. Plato even saw tragic pity in general terms as a feminized response. In discussing the role of theatre in Republic 6, he notes that a model citizen would not be overwhelmed by grief even if he suffered a disaster such as the loss of a son.⁴² This argument then is presented that the reaction would be even less visible in a public space: τόδε νῦν μοι περὶ αὐτοῦ εἰπέ πότερον μᾶλλον αὐτὸν οἴει τῇ λύπῃ μαχεῖσθαί τε καὶ ἀντιτείνειν, ὅταν ὁρᾶται ὑπὸ τῶν ὁμοίων, ἢ ὅταν ἐν ἐρημίᾳ μόνος αὐτὸς καθ᾽ αὑτὸν γίγνηται; πολύ που, ἔϕη, διοίσει, ὅταν ὁρᾶται. Now tell me about him in this respect: do you think he would resist and squash his feelings of grief more when he can be observed by other men, or when he is alone, isolated away from public view? He is much more likely, I said, to restrain himself when he is in public.⁴³

The argument then goes one stage further to characterize tragic expressions of distress as more fitting for women.⁴⁴ Plato’s remarks must be taken in context ⁴⁰ Xenophon’s Oik. 7.24: εἰδὼς δὲ ὅτι τῇ γυναικὶ καὶ ἐνέϕυσε καὶ προσέταξε τὴν τῶν νεογνῶν τέκνων τροϕήν, καὶ τοῦ στέργειν τὰ νεογνὰ βρέϕη πλέον αὐτῇ ἐδάσατο ἢ τῷ ἀνδρί. ‘It’s common knowledge that woman was made and put in place to care for children, and therefore has a greater love of new born infants than does man.’ Cf. Xenophon’s Mem. 2.2.4 5. ⁴¹ There is a vast bibliography on discussions of nature/culture and the ‘construction’ of the classical body. See, in particular, Dean Jones (1994) and Lee (2012) on the control of female bodies. Cf. Osborne (2011) the physical aspect of narrative identity. ⁴² Plato’s Republic. 603e: ἀνήρ, ἦν δ᾽ ἐγώ, ἐπιεικὴς τοιᾶσδε τύχης μετασχών, ὑὸν ἀπολέσας ἤ τι ἄλλο ὧν περὶ πλείστου ποιεῖται, ἐλέγομέν που καὶ τότε ὅτι ῥᾷστα οἴσει τῶν ἄλλων. πάνυ γε. νῦν δέ γε τόδ᾽ ἐπισκεψώμεθα, πότερον οὐδὲν ἀχθέσεται, ἢ τοῦτο μὲν ἀδύνατον, μετριάσει δέ πως πρὸς λύπην. οὕτω μᾶλλον, ἔϕη, τό γε ἀληθές. ‘As we said, when such a man experiences such a disaster, losing a son or something else of great importance, it is likely that he will find it less difficult to cope with, than would other men. Absolutely right. So, let us consider this, whether he would suffer no distress, or if that is impossible, that he would experience a sort of measured response towards his suffering. Yes, the second, I said, would be true.’ ⁴³ Plato’s Republic 604a. ⁴⁴ ὅταν δὲ οἰκεῖόν τινι ἡμῶν κῆδος γένηται, ἐννοεῖς αὖ ὅτι ἐπὶ τῷ ἐναντίῳ καλλωπιζόμεθα, ἂν δυνώμεθα ἡσυχίαν ἄγειν καὶ καρτερεῖν, ὡς τοῦτο μὲν ἀνδρὸς ὄν, ἐκεῖνο δὲ γυναικός, ὃ τότε ἐπῃνοῦμεν. ‘When such a blow strikes in real life, you’re clear that the opposite behaviour is praised, namely that we should conduct ourselves with calm strength, the mark of a man, rather than display the behaviour we have been discussing which is the mark of a woman.’


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of his ideal state, and his understanding of theatrical dynamics has been widely questioned,⁴⁵ but his emphasis on the appropriate response in public settings highlights the importance of performance culture in Athens.⁴⁶ When we consider comments in tragedy about the physical draw exerted by children, we find that they are always placed in an ironic context, so we should not assume that the audience responded openly with any simple biologically determined emotion. The most powerful expressions of children’s appeal come in contrast to a dark situation: Aias’ comments about Eurysakes’ beautiful childhood are jarring when we visualize the scene of butchered animals; Oidipous at the end of Sophokles’ Oidipous Tyrannos shows how he cares for his sister/daughters, but he embraces them with bloodied, sightless eyes; Iphigeneia’s memories of her childhood affection for her father in Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis do not prevent him from sacrificing her for the army; Euripides’ Hekabe describes a chorus of women who engage in apparently loving, maternal behaviour as a prelude to killing Polymester’s children; Herakles’ affection towards his children and the comment that all men love their children (Euripides’ Herakles 636) is followed by his homicidal rage which he believes is directed against the children of Eurystheus. In Euripides’ Medeia, there are clear expressions of the physical attachment to children: ϕεῦ ϕεῦ τί προσδέρκεσθέ μ᾽ ὄμμασιν, τέκνα; τί προσγελᾶτε τὸν πανύστατον γέλων; αἰαῖ τί δράσω; καρδία γὰρ οἴχεται, γυναῖκες, ὄμμα ϕαιδρὸν ὡς εἶδον τέκνων. No! No! Why are you looking at me like that, children? Why this final burst of laughter? Ah, what can I do? My willpower is gone, women, when I see the rosy cheeks of my children.⁴⁷ ⁴⁵ See Johnson and Clapp (2005: 141 52) who argue that despite the flaws of internal logic in Plato’s critique of tragedy, his views can find some parallel in contemporary social discourse. ⁴⁶ The idea of ‘performance culture’ (see Goldhill and Osborne 1999) has been highly influential in debates about tragedy, but see recent scholarship for specific responses, e.g. Allan and Kelly (2013) who explore the idea that tragedy was a ‘popular’ art form. The perspective given by Plato’s Laws has been the most recent point of interest; see Folch (2015). The collection of articles about Plato and the Laws (Peponi 2013) demonstrates the complexity of choreia as an organizing principle for Greek society. Cf. Heinemann (2013) on the role of symposium and dithyramb. ⁴⁷ Eur. Med 1041 4.

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δότ᾽, ὦ τέκνα, δότ᾽ ἀσπάσασθαι μητρὶ δεξιὰν χέρα. ὦ ϕιλτάτη χείρ, ϕίλτατον δέ μοι στόμα καὶ σχῆμα καὶ πρόσωπον εὐγενὲς τέκνων, εὐδαιμονοῖτον, ἀλλ᾽ ἐκεῖ τὰ δ᾽ ἐνθάδε πατὴρ ἀϕείλετ᾽. ὦ γλυκεῖα προσβολή, ὦ μαλθακὸς χρὼς πνεῦμά θ᾽ ἥδιστον τέκνων. Give me your hands, children, let me kiss them. Darling hand, darling lips, my bright, handsome, noble boys. Be well, but it will be there. Everything here your father has destroyed. How precious to hold you, How soft your skin. The breath of children is the sweetest thing in the world.⁴⁸

However touching these sentiments may be for an audience to hear, they ultimately do not outweigh Medeia’s need for revenge. The bittersweet nature of having children is further highlighted by the chorus’ considered comment that having children is not worth the heartache. We may consider that Iason’s final request to touch the bodies of his children reveals an underlying biological attachment, but this is more of an indication of the complete reversal of their positions, as the role of touch in preparing a corpse for burial was traditionally a female role.⁴⁹ The physical beauty of children has been discussed as an important factor in the interest they inspire,⁵⁰ but given the conventions of masking (as discussed in Chapter 2) it is unlikely that the physical beauty of child actors would affect the audience directly. The motif can be employed when attention is directed towards it, but the motif is highlighted only in Euripides’ Medeia and Troades, where comment on physical beauty is part of a complex discourse of family and community interaction. In Medeia, the attention to the physical beauty of the children is part of the contrast between Iason’s and Medeia’s attitudes (present versus future roles of the children),⁵¹ and is highlighted as a counterpoint to the physical disfigurement of Kreon’s daughter. In Troades, Astyanax is the embodiment of the city, and the destruction of his physical beauty symbolizes the fall of Troy

⁴⁸ Eur. Med. 1069 75. ⁴⁹ See Suter (2008) on male lamentation. ⁵⁰ Menu 1992. ⁵¹ Medeia emphasizes the physicality of the children, 1072 4, but it is Iason who eventually begs to be allowed to touch them, 1400.


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itself, and is linked with the idea of virginity and sacrifice.⁵² It is difficult to conjure a picture of his childish charm when juxtaposed with the reality of his lifeless corpse in Hekabe’s arms: δύστηνε, κρατὸς ὥς σ᾽ ἔκειρεν ἀθλίως τείχη πατρῷα, Λοξίου πυργώματα, ὃν πόλλ᾽ ἐκήπευσ᾽ ἡ τεκοῦσα βόστρυχον ϕιλήμασίν τ᾽ ἔδωκεν, ἔνθεν ἐκγελᾷ ὀστέων ῥαγέντων ϕόνος, ἵν᾽ αἰσχρὰ μὴ λέγω. ὦ χεῖρες, ὡς εἰκοὺς μὲν ἡδείας πατρὸς κέκτησθ᾽, ἐν ἄρθροις δ᾽ ἔκλυτοι πρόκεισθέ μοι. My poor child! Your father’s city walls, the towers of Apollo, have scalped you, ripping out the hair your mother brushed and covered with kisses. Fragments of your skull poke through, laughing at your death it’s unspeakable. Oh these arms, so like your dear father’s, now broken, dangling loose, useless joints.⁵³

The beauty of children is not in itself a significant factor in tragedy’s creation of emotional effects, although the physicality of children is important because of issues of performance and power, not least in terms of the dangerous lack of control associated with children.⁵⁴ The physical presence of a child character never changes the direction of the plot, and as the cultural norms of Athens indicated that women had the greater emotional connection with children it is implausible that the playwrights were creating scenarios on the assumption that male audience members would experience, and, crucially, be willing to express, a simple, emotional reaction to the presence of a child onstage. We must consider alternative mechanisms for the engagement of a masculine audience’s interest in tragedy, so that expression of emotion could be conceptualized as something beyond unmediated ‘feminine’ emotions, and closer to the response of a sensitive, but rational, mind. Several strands may provide context, from the importance of family ties, to the

⁵² Hansen 1990: 326. ⁵³ Eur. Tro. 1173 9. ⁵⁴ See the previous chapter, and discussion in Golden (2015: 6 7).

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religious connotations of supplication, but I will suggest that the child’s future roles as an adult most directly engage the audience, while also inspiring a more ill-defined anxious interest in the temporal indeterminacy of tragic myth.

4.5 The Construction of Pity Until the late twentieth century tragic children were interchangeably described as ‘pathetic’, ‘pitiable’, inspiring ‘sympathy’. More recent work on Greek emotions has demonstrated the differences between ancient and modern conceptions, including the key point that Greek ideas of pity involved a strong cognitive element.⁵⁵ Rhetorical strategies of appealing for pity and evoking emotional responses as tools of persuasion were highly visible in the fifth century, and tragedy demonstrated a close familiarity with such devices.⁵⁶ In his comments in the Poetics about the creation of pity in tragedy, Aristotle did not mention children qua children as pitiable, but only as relatives within philia relationships,⁵⁷ so we should not imagine that the mere presence of a child onstage inspired the audience to feel pity. However, as we saw in the discussion of character, the fact that Aristotle excludes children from a particular theatrical dynamic can open new avenues for discussion, and I will here propose that pity is inspired by child figures, but that the dynamics are not identical to those which create pity for adult figures.⁵⁸ While the physicality and the idea of emotional engagement are contributory factors, they are difficult to situate within the formalized structures of tragedy. This section of the discussion will explore the roles of children in tragic expressions of pity, philia, and supplication. In all these contexts, the issue of potential recurs either in enhancing or diminishing the emotive power in relation to the embodied child figure. The obvious starting points for this investigation come from within a dramatic framework where children are used to secure pity from another character, and thus to induce the character to act in a certain way. Medeia successfully appeals to the fellow feeling of parents, asking for pity for her children’s fate to allow her the day she needs for her plans. Despite his misgivings, Kreon responds to the plea, ‘Give me another day because you’re ⁵⁵ See Konstan 2001. ⁵⁶ On rhetorical awareness in tragedy, see Hesk 2000. ⁵⁷ Aristotle’s Poetics 1453b 14 20. ⁵⁸ On pathe in Aristotle, see Rorty (1984) with Espen (2014) on the Rhetoric.


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a father’ (Euripides’ Med. 344–5).⁵⁹ In Sophokles’ OT, Oidipous asks Kreon to care for his daughters by calling attention to their future situations (1503–6). As Zierl notes, Oidipous views the children as an extension of himself, asking for compassion for them when he can ask for none for himself.⁶⁰ In both cases the pattern is that the target of the appeal will pity the child and thus do what the parent wants, the child’s situation being subsumed into that of the adult. This is an appeal to a fellow feeling which can also have a threatening aspect, as when Hekabe tells Polyxene to compare her situation to that of Telemakhos, in asking for Odysseus’ pity (Hek. 339–41).⁶¹ In other cases, however, the desired result of pity is to spare the child himself, as in Euripides’ Andromakhe 529–31: Ἀνδρομάχη λίσσου, γούνασι δεσπότου χρίμπτων, ὦ τέκνον. Παῖς ὦ ϕίλος, ϕίλος, ἄνες θάνατόν μοι. Andromakhe: Beg him, fall at your master’s knees, my child. Child: Friend, friend, do not kill me.

This scenario poses several questions, for we appear to see the child acting as an agent of his own destiny, asking Menelaos to pity him directly. Although the context makes it clear that the child is acting at Andromakhe’s prompting, the idea that a child could ask for pity in his own right raises issues of individual identity and responsibility. Menelaos’ response ultimately is intellectually incoherent, for he speaks of reserving ‘pity’ for his family, and yet as slaves Andromakhe and her son are part of his extended oikos. His mistake is finally realized when Peleus tells him he intends to raise the child to become an enemy (as discussed above). Scenes containing a direct appeal to pity may involve the audience through mirroring the onstage emotions, but there are ⁵⁹ On Kreon’s susceptibility to Medeia’s manipulation, see Zerba (2002) on Medeia’s acting ability, with Mueller (2001) on the role of reciprocity. The rhetorical strategies are well discussed by McDonald (2008: 480 2). ⁶⁰ Zierl 1994: 138. ⁶¹ See Battezzato (2018: 121 n. on 339 41) who notes the poetic plural ‘children’ used to refer to the one son, Telemakhos. It may also be a hint from Hekabe that Odysseus may one day have more children of his own to worry about.

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scenes where we might imagine that an audience would pity a child even without a direct cue. In tragedy, the vocabulary used for pity around children is that of οἴκτιρω and cognates, as in Medeia’s speech to Kreon: οἴκτιρε δ᾽ αὐτούς καὶ σύ τοι παίδων πατὴρ πέϕυκας εἰκὸς δέ σϕιν εὔνοιάν σ᾽ ἔχειν. Have pity on them (sc. the children). You’re a father of children yourself. Surely you have some goodwill towards them.⁶²

This passage is not easily mapped onto the best articulated ancient explanation, the Aristotelian phrasing of ‘fear and pity’, which uses the term ἐλεεινόν ‘pitiable’. The vocabulary of οἴκτιρω is more associated with manifest mourning and lamentation than with a cognitive response, and thus there is a semantic gap between lamentation and pity.⁶³ The power of children to inspire lamentation may fall into the category of pathetikos, but the idea of pity is more complex. When Aristotle talks of fear and pity in tragedy, he is calling upon a tradition which gives pity a strong cognitive element. Certain conditions need to be met for an audience to experience ‘pity’. In Rhet. 2.8 1385b 14–18, the principles of unmerited suffering and the possibility of identification are presented as key factors in the creation of pity: ἔστω δὴ ἔλεος λύπη τις ἐπὶ ϕαινομένῳ κακῷ ϕθαρτικῷ ἢ λυπηρῷ τοῦ ἀναξίου τυγχάνειν, ὃ κἂν αὐτὸς προσδοκήσειεν ἂν παθεῖν ἢ τῶν αὑτοῦ τινα, καὶ τοῦτο ὅταν πλησίον ϕαίνηται Let pity be a type of pain in response to the perception of something terrible, deadly, or painful, which strikes someone who doesn’t deserve it, a disaster which the one who feels pity might expect to happen to him or one of his loved ones, and a disaster which seems not a distant prospect.

Despite the difficulties of reconciling disparate elements of Aristotle’s philosophy, the key issues of lack of merit and expectation of similar fate involve fundamental issues about the nature of the individual.⁶⁴ Both these issues

⁶² Eur. Med. 345 6. ⁶³ Konstan 2001. ⁶⁴ Munteanu (2011b) has demonstrated the interconnection of ideas about pathos and sight between Poetics and Rhetoric, but the precise formulation of these ideas is still a matter for debate.


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are relevant when we consider the roles of child figures because of the ambiguous nature of their personal identity on the tragic stage. We could say that the dramatic power of children is due to their general ability to be pathetikos, or to inspire to philanthropinon, and that the higher cognitive emotions such as pity only involve them at one remove, such that children are the catalyst through which audience members pity adult characters. However, the fact that children are involved in the formalized pity of supplication means that there are more complicated processes in play, and we must make some attempt to understand this aspect of their dramatic positioning. This incongruity is a further aspect of their dramatic indeterminacy which makes them so useful for the dramatist.

4.6 Merit and Suffering Child figures have no past actions of their own which could merit suffering, so at first glance their suffering qualifies as pitiable within Aristotle’s formulation. We briefly discussed this issue in the previous chapter, when Amphitryon cries out against Lykos’ ill treatment of the sons of Herakles: ‘What have they done?’ (Euripides’ Her. 206). However, the very fact that children have done nothing, good or bad, calls into question their ability to merit anything on an individual basis. As the idea of merit involves consideration of past actions, we must refer to our discussion in the previous chapter about the impact of family history. If a child has a status due to relationships with others, might not the child as an element, or representative of that family network, in some senses ‘deserve’ the suffering that is inflicted? This is the dilemma in Euripides’ Hekabe. How far are the sons of Polymestor pitied as individuals, starting with a clean slate, who have done nothing to merit suffering? Are the children viewed as extensions of Polymestor, and thus implicated in his crimes?⁶⁵ The related situation is that surrounding the story of Tereus, whose son Itys dies as an instrument of his father’s punishment.⁶⁶ We saw in the previous chapter that the killing of a child involves complex ideas of identity and inheritance, but these stories

⁶⁵ See Mossman 1995; Tarkow 1984. ⁶⁶ Dobrov (1993) argued that Soph. Tereus contained a silent, but crucially onstage, role for the child. This would allow a similar process of identification between father and son to that which we see in Eur. Hekabe, but the new fragments of the play neither support nor disprove such speculation; see Finglass (2014; 2016b) and Kovacs (2016).

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raise the possibility that children are tainted by association on many levels.⁶⁷ Children do not arrive onstage as blank slates surrounded by an aura of innocence which protects them from issues of responsibility. A claim of innocence can be made for them, but it is not to be taken for granted. The obvious problem cases involve inherited curses, but these are not as straightforward as earlier scholars on tragedy assumed. The baby Oidipous, in the history given in Sophokles’ Oidipous Tyrannos, did not arrive with a clean slate but was part of a nexus of cause and effect in which blame and responsibility were interwoven across generations.⁶⁸ There are complex moral and philosophical issues here, but, in the social structures which gave a child his or her identity in myth, tragedy, and fifth-century Athens, children arrived with baggage, and received still more when they acquired a name (as discussed in the previous chapter). Part of the attraction for the tragic playwrights is that child figures are positioned precisely at the problematic intersections of philosophy, morality, and social practice where issues cannot be articulated but only embodied.⁶⁹ In philosophical terms Aristotle could say that the adult Oidipous was to be pitied as not having merited his suffering (Poetics 1453b 3–7), so children born with any family background could be viewed as innocent victims who never brought baggage with them.⁷⁰ Unfortunately Athenian mythological and social thinking did not operate with such clear-cut logic. Children were connected to their parents in complex ways, and inherited responsibilities. Viewed from this perspective, child figures are not necessarily suffering something unmerited, even though that merit may not have been incurred by any action of their own. If, however, they are viewed as innocent individuals (the view of most previous scholars on tragedy), then their lack of any action on which to base an evaluation of their guilt or innocence would place them outside the complex dynamic of merit and responsibility. If children are not seen as part of the social and moral dynamics of tragedy, then the language of merit is not applicable. We might compare Aristotle’s

⁶⁷ Discussion of these ideas has been dominated by psychoanalytical theories; see Simon 1988. There is an increasing understanding that inheritance is not a simple matter in tragedy, and that ‘ancestral curses’ are nothing more than a shorthand for a wide range of complex interactions between gods and mortals; see, for example, Gagné 2013. ⁶⁸ The debate on the interpretation of the play is well known and too broad for full consideration at this point. As starting points, see Cairns (2013) and the commentary by Finglass (2018c). ⁶⁹ See Allan and Kelley (2013) for arguments about the affirmative or normative qualities of tragedy. ⁷⁰ Cf. Coughanowr 1997 on philosophy and children’s play.


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claim that no one feels shame in front of children (or animals) because they do not have reason (logos), and are thus excluded from a social reciprocity.⁷¹ In terms of guilt, therefore, children would be seen not as moral or immoral, but as amoral, divorced from adult patterns of interaction.⁷² This interpretation would, however, imply a role for children which isolates them from the adult world, a sentimentalized segregation which I argued above is incompatible with fifth-century Athenian thinking. In light of the importance of family history discussed in previous chapters, it is more likely that children could be viewed in terms of merit and responsibility, and that individual characters in drama placed different weight on particular issues. So, in Sophokles’ Aias, the child Eurysakes is seen very much as an extension of his father by Aias, and as a dangerous future adult, but Odysseus’ willingness to bury Aias’ body is based on a different model of identity, where death severs links and allows for closure. Consideration of inheritance, moral responsibility, and suffering returns us to the idea of the temporal palimpsests which are often used to create child figures in tragedy. A temporal doublethink is required when children are viewed either as helpless young creatures/future dangerous adults, as the previous chapter’s discussion of imagery (3.6) has articulated. There is a similar paradox between the child-as-individual and the child-as-extension of the family. The first role may presuppose innocence, but the second brings in issues of inherited responsibility. Thus the idea that children are worthy of pity because they are victims of unmerited suffering is problematic.

4.7 Identification: Parents and Philia When we consider the second criterion in Aristotle’s formulation, the need for the target to identify on some level and to fear that the same fate might befall him or those close to him, we face similar problems in applying these frames to child figures. When a child is pitied, with whom does the audience identify? Does each audience member fear experiencing the vulnerability of a child, or fear losing a child? In tragedy, where issues of performance and identity are constantly subject to negotiation, the process of identification ⁷¹ Aristotle’s Rhet. 2.6. 1384b 23: ὅλως δὲ οὐκ αἰσχύνονται οὔθ᾽ ὧν πολὺ καταϕρονοῦσι τῆς δόξης τοῦ ἀληθεύειν οὐδεὶς γὰρ παιδία καὶ θηρία αἰσχύνεται. ⁷² Holmes (2010: 193 n. 3) notes that children may be assumed not to feel shame, drawing upon evidence from medical texts, but it is difficult to assess the relationship of this idea, given that no children in tragedy are presented as suffering from a physical illness.

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works on multiple levels. Audience members can identify with the parent, pity the parent, and thus pity the child as part of the parent. However, there is also the possibility of direct identification with the child which distorts temporal logic. Each member of the audience was once a child, and each (male) child figure has the potential to be an adult with whom the audience members could identify directly. In a broader context, we could also suggest that the audience thought of old age as a second childhood, so identified with childhood as a state they had left and would probably revisit.⁷³ The idea of reciprocity is highlighted in certain plays, particularly in relation to funeral rites, so Herakles contemplates burying his children at the end of Euripides’ Herakles, and Hekabe begins in Euripides’ Troades by seeing Astyanax as the future hope of Troy (the global level), only to end by lamenting her frustrated hopes for Astyanax (a personal level, that he would give her rites of burial).⁷⁴ While this idea of reciprocity is often found in contexts where the exchange is frustrated, it also factors into the idea of pathos and potential, for the power to perform or neglect funeral rites was an important part of family responsibility, as Sophokles’ Antigone clearly demonstrates. Identification here is most strongly linked to the adult in the scene, but may also operate on a more abstract level, inspiring pity for, or by reason of, the unfulfilled potential. Laments that a child will not grow up involves the idea of identification with the future adult, but also a more generalized pity not so much for the individual, but for the lack of hope. Children’s potentiality is valued as a quality. Whereas today we might talk in abstract terms about the innocence of childhood, the original audiences were more likely to frame debate in terms of the strength of childhood potential. For every member of the audience, each child offered the hope of a future, the continuity which as we have previously noted was a strong factor in the desire for children in classical Athens.⁷⁵ When a child dies in tragedy, the audience experiences it not as a single loss of life, but as a multiple one. The death of the individual is compounded by the loss of the future adult. Even in the simplest cases such a death involves two images, the immediate and the simple future, but generally the case is complex, for a child figure in tragedy can be a repository for the hopes and dreams of several individuals, and their death destroys several projected lifetimes. This interpretation is relevant to a wide range of situations in tragedy where the ⁷³ On literary representations of old age, see Falkner 1985; 1989. Cf. Parkin (2003) on old age in Rome and the apparent lack of interest seen in surviving sources. ⁷⁴ Eur. Tro. 1181 6. ⁷⁵ Raepsaet 1971.


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child figure can provoke an audience response superficially disproportionate to the child’s dramatic role. To return to the scenario discussed in the opening chapter, when Klytaimestra begs for the life of Iphigenia in Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis, the baby Orestes is powerful because he embodies different forces and different visions of the future. He carries with him the spectre of Klytaimestra’s first baby, and the veiled threat that he will avenge the death of his sister when he grows to adulthood. When Iphigeneia appeals to the child to join her appeal, she employs multiple strategies—the baby may inspire feelings of affection, but he is also Agamemnon’s heir, so the family dynamic will become complicated if Agamemnon treats his children as a disposable resource. Against all this is the audience knowledge evoked by the name Orestes, as discussed in the previous chapter. As with the use of anonymity in creating a role for children from the negative of an adult characterization, so the pathos created by a child is a product of hijacking an existing mechanism: death, pain, and suffering provoke the audience, and the death of a child may be seen as quantitatively, as well as qualitatively, different from the death of an adult. The loss of that power of childhood potential inspires pity in part because it makes the audience reflect on their own mortality. For the Athenian audience a world in which children do not grow up is a great loss, hence Perikles’ exhortation to the women of Athens: ‘Have more babies!’⁷⁶ This pity for the loss of hope is not just about the hopes of individual parents, but those of the whole community, specifically in the context of the City Dionysia and the prayers for fertility.⁷⁷ Aristotle might have categorized this emotion as to philanthropinon, but it does make a contribution to the creation of pity specifically for lost potential as embodied in an individual child figure. Feelings of pity for a child figure must be deliberately created by the dramatist, and the most frequent mechanism for this is by reference to the child’s future. As Menu rightly emphasizes, Medeia, Megara, and Alkestis all talk of their children’s futures.⁷⁸ Iphigeneia plays on her role as a child by rehearsing her hopes for marriage; Andromakhe describes her son by Neoptolemos in terms of hope (Euripides’ Andromakhe), and Hekabe sees in Astyanax a future regeneration of Troy (Euripides’ Troades). This pattern ⁷⁶ Thoukydides’ Hist. 2. 46. We might compare P. D. James’ 1992 novel The Children of Men, where society crumbles when struck by global infertility. Dyson and Lee (2000: 21) note that pity for Astyanax is transferred to the universal context, but do not develop the idea that children expose the fragility of the human condition in all situations. ⁷⁷ Rochelle (2012: 203 4) argues that children highlight the ‘potential of the family unit’ which leads to ‘a neutralising of the influence of the gods’. I would suggest that the family unit does not have ‘potential’ in and of itself. ⁷⁸ Menu 1992.

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is common in the limited instances we have of child roles, but it is not the simple presence of the child which automatically inspires the audience to feel compassion, pity, or concern. The response must be specifically generated by the playwright. In Euripides’ Hekabe, the children of Polymestor are not used to inspire pity for them or their father, as the creation of pathos is only one element in the complex dynamics of the drama.⁷⁹ The children of Polymestor do not inspire the audience’s pity, even though they are in danger, because neither of the two principles we saw in the law courts here apply, as he has already broken the reciprocal principle by disregarding Hekabe’s parental relationship. Secondly, the audience is given no picture of these children’s future roles, except as possible clones of Polymestor which provides further justification for their deaths. The point at which we might expect the most vivid inspiration for pity, in Polymestor’s description of the children’s deaths, is noticeably bland, κεντοῦσι παῖδας, ‘They stabbed the children’ (1162), when compared to Polymestor’s vivid description of his own blinding. He describes the blinding as a far worse crime, using the same vocabulary for the stabbing of his eyes and his children: τὸ λοίσθιον δέ, πῆμα πήματος πλέον, ἐξειργάσαντο δείν᾽ ἐμῶν γὰρ ὀμμάτων, πόρπας λαβοῦσαι, τὰς ταλαιπώρους κόρας κεντοῦσιν, αἱμάσσουσιν Finally, they set about the ultimate, a vicious act of villainy upon villainy. They grabbed their brooches, and stabbed the pupils of my eyes, agonizing, a bloodbath.⁸⁰

Despite the disturbing scene of the women luring the children away in a corruption of maternal care, the emotional response of an audience is tempered by the overwrought bombast of Polymestor.

4.8 Pity and Philia While pity can be one of the emotions surrounding children in tragedy, it is not the default position which many previous critics assumed, but is one of a

⁷⁹ Tarkow 1984.

⁸⁰ Eur. Hek. 1168 71.


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range of possible dynamics involving children. In the opening chapter we noted Euripides’ Herakleidai and the way pity is downplayed as a factor. The children in this play are vulnerable and in danger, a clear case, or so it would seem, for the creation of emotional effects including pity, but this is not a keynote of the play. The situation of Iolaos is used to stir the audience, and through his distress we may feel compassion for the children, but when Iolaos argues the children’s case before Demophon he does not say ‘pity the children’, but rather ‘you owe these children.’ Pity is an element of the picture, but the children are positioned as part of a reciprocal obligation, and their strongest card is the fact that they have already staked their claim.⁸¹ Iolaos plays to the children’s strength in their family context rather than emphasizing their present weakness, because the simple pity owed to suppliants has failed them elsewhere (193–6). The importance of family context can overrule the creation of pity, and indeed it may be that the family context is never overruled, but simply admits pity in a supporting role.⁸² In this play, as in many others, children are framed more in terms of philia than pathos, and we are reminded that Aristotle located ‘fear and pity’ in tragedy not in an age group, but in the context of philia relationships.⁸³ We never see children as isolated, vulnerable figures. Instead, they are always presented in the context of a relationship with an adult, often under the physical control of adults, as discussed in Chapter 2. As isolated figures, children would in one respect become more pathetic, particularly as ‘orphans’, but they would also lose some of their dramatic power. The network of family association around child figures means that philia is one of defining features of their identity. Belfiore’s detailed study of the concept includes consideration of child/parent killings, but does not consider any distinction between adult children and young children.⁸⁴ The distinction is important, for child figures cannot immediately be full participants in the reciprocity implied in such relationships. Children can show signs of affection and engagement, but they are unable to act in maintenance of their philia relationships. The reciprocity of relationships with young children is

⁸¹ Eur. Herakl. 229 30. ⁸² Johnson and Clapp (2005: 135) note that Demophon ‘does not explicitly cite compassion among the reasons why the city should protect the suppliants, but it is implicit in his acceptance of their request’. Their analysis of the situation is part of a broad argument that compassion ‘is not negated by consideration of interest and reciprocity’. I would argue that while not negated, the role of pity and compassion is secondary to ideas of debts owed and family connections. ⁸³ Aristotle’s Poetics 1453b. ⁸⁴ Belfiore 2000. See also Perdicoyianne 1996.

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once again a potential one. When Aristotle talked of the pity and fear of tragedy being created by philos–philos murders, he made no mention of children as an age group. Also, his catalogue of family relationships did not include the possibility of a father killing a son as pitiable, even though that is exactly the situation we see dramatized in Euripides’ Herakles. Two aspects to this issue must be considered. First, the imbalance between what the child receives and the return which is only projected can be seen to create a metaphysical hiatus in the drama, destabilizing the audience’s evaluation of the relationships being played out before them. This is the situation in the family of Oidipous where the philia relationship with the infant is only realized in a warped form many years later. Secondly, the implication of tragedy’s construction of child figures with reference to the future and the past suggests that the philia relationships of the child may be partly constructed in terms of the child’s own future[s], but also as adjuncts to the philia relationships of their parents. This may explain why Aristotle does not include the example of a father murdering his son in list of family murders. Athenian society and its mythology did not have an explicit idea of patria potestas such as we see in Roman culture,⁸⁵ but the identity of a child was tied to its father, so the idea of a disturbed philia relationship between father and child may have seemed to Aristotle an impossibility, along the lines of his suggestions that one cannot pity oneself.⁸⁶ The roles of children once again present a paradox, as they can represent both the self and other. Re-evaluation of the identity of child figures leads us to contemplate the structures of institutionalized pity or philia, and we see that children are constructed by these discourses while simultaneously destabilizing them by reason of their status as potential characters in a drama which has yet to unfold. These dynamics operate on an individual family level, but are then transferred to the wider world of divine/mortal interactions, specifically through the use of supplication and ritual performance.

4.9 Supplication In the examples discussed above, emotional engagement, pathos, and pity have all been created on different levels, as emotion was contextualized and ⁸⁵ Although there is some debate about how relevant this idea was for much of Roman society, see Cantarella 2003; Crook 1967; Rawson 2003; Saller 1986. ⁸⁶ Aristotle Rhetoric 2.1386a 18 23. See Konstan 1999b.


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sanctioned for the original audience. The idea of philia raises issues of reciprocity, which is also a factor when we consider that pity in tragedy is most explicitly evoked in contexts of supplication, for when a character is asked to pity there is by extension a similar appeal to the audience. Menu argued that contexts of supplication were central to the ‘affectivité’ of children in tragedy,⁸⁷ but I will here argue that the situation is more complicated than he allowed, that the presence of child figures problematizes the codification of supplication, and that the role of children as suppliants gives them an unusually active role in drama. There is no standard pattern for the involvement of children in contexts of supplication. In Euripides’ Medeia, Medeia’s supplication of Kreon involves a crucial elision, from ‘pity my children,’ to ‘pity me because of my children,’ and the children are not physically part of the gesture. The chorus members imagine that the children will supplicate Medeia for their lives, but in the end the children do no such thing, turning instead to cry for help. In Euripides’ Andromakhe, the child makes an explicit act of supplication to Menelaos at the prompting of his mother, while in Sophokles’ Aias the child Eurysakes performs a complex and ambiguous form of supplication at the body of his father. In Euripides’ Herakleidai, the chorus of children is gathered at the tomb, and Iolaos calls on them as participants but takes the active role himself. In Euripides’ Herakles, similarly, the children are suppliants at the altar of Zeus, but their mother and grandfather speak for them. Tzanetou has suggested that supplication supports a positive model of Athenian social structures,⁸⁸ but Gould’s analysis of the mechanisms of supplication gives a better framework within which to understand the roles of children.⁸⁹ His analysis begins by positing a hierarchy within the reciprocal relationship of the suppliant and the supplicated which is paralleled by the relationship of mortal to god (or child to adult). He further argues that the adoption of a suppliant pose involves the need to adopt a subservient position. Here we find our first anomaly, for children cannot adopt a role if they are already playing it. How then can they establish a connection? This is particularly problematic in Euripides’ Andromakhe where the family dynamic is further complicated because Peleus will save ⁸⁷ Menu 1992. ⁸⁸ Tzanetou 2012. Her discussion of the choices made by adolescent figures is relevant to the role of childhood potential, but only addresses indirectly the issue of child roles in supplication. ⁸⁹ Gould 1973. Bernek (2004) does discuss Eur. Herakles but his remarks provide little guidance in how to interpret the roles of children in these contexts. Cf. Cassella 1996; Legangneux 2000.

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the child, whereas his own child killed Andromakhe’s husband.⁹⁰ Gould continues to argue that the role of suppliant is inherently ambiguous, as it involves both vulnerability and threat, a combination which we saw in the last chapter can apply strongly to child figures. Finally, children can be used as powerful tools within a context of supplication, as in the story of Telephos where the baby Orestes is held as a bargaining tool.⁹¹ With these ideas in mind we can consider the roles of child figures to assess the emotional effects activated by supplication in each drama. We noted above that in Euripides’ Medeia the manipulation of Kreon and others is dependent on knowledge of the emotional quality of parenthood. When Kreon is asked to pity the children, it is explicitly phrased as ‘because you have children’. The feelings of Kreon towards his own children can be transferred to the children of Medeia, a dynamic the audience members can share. The identification is thus with the parent, as much as it is triggered because of the innocence of the children. Even though Medeia has done something to merit her misfortune, she presents the children as innocent victims. This, however, is a conscious strategic move, for Medeia also sees the children as linked to Iason, their father, and their innocence does not ultimately make her spare them. Euripides creates a scenario where the children may fall suppliant to their mother in the words of the chorus: [ . . . ] οὐ δυνάσῃ, παίδων ἱκετᾶν πιτνόν των, τέγξαι χέρα ϕοινίαν τλάμονι θυμῷ. When your children fall before you as suppliants, you will not have the strength to harden your heart and soak your hand in their blood.⁹²

In a stroke of theatrical genius, the playwright has deliberately avoided a situation where the children fall as suppliants before their mother. Some reasons for this were considered in the previous chapter, as the visual dynamics of the play position Medeia outside the oikos. However, we can

⁹⁰ Allan 2000a: 65 6. The conflict goes back even further when we remember that Akhilleus killed not only Andromakhe’s first husband, Hektor, but also her natal family before she was married. ⁹¹ On the reconstruction of Eur. Telephos, see Heath 1987; Preiser 2000. ⁹² Eur. Med. 862 4.


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add that a scene where the children did adopt a pose of supplication would be very awkward. Whether we are to view Medeia as mortal or a god, the refusal of a formal supplication would further blur the already complicated decision to kill the children. It is also significant that these children are apparently alone when Medeia kills them. Although children do act as suppliants in tragedy, it is always at an adult’s prompting, and when the chorus respond to the children’s cries, they do not tell them to beg for mercy (1270–81). It may be that the conscious adoption of a suppliant role is one which is deemed outside the scope of child figures, as a part of the immediate focus we saw manifested in their use of language. In Euripides’ Andromakhe the child does act as a suppliant, but only at his mother’s prompting in a powerful visual tableau. Andromakhe has already been tricked from her previous position as suppliant by Menelaos, who has a difficult relationship with suppliants as far back as the Iliad.⁹³ The child’s appeal is thus likely to be doomed, so why does his mother think the child will be a more persuasive suppliant? He is a child and cannot make the gesture of debasement which Gould argues is essential to a suppliant’s cause. His position indicates that he cannot involve Menelaos in that reciprocal relationship, but although the scene is one of supplication the child appeals to Menelaos as a philos, establishing a different, and potentially more effective, dynamic. The move fails because Menelaos has already figured the child as an ekhthros, ‘enemy’, but we should perhaps surmise that a direct reciprocity between child and adult was seen as more plausible in terms of philia rather than the codified formulae of supplication. In the event, Menelaos would have been wise to accept the child’s offer of a philia-relationship, as Peleus will turn the child into an enemy for Menelaos’ entire house. The situation in Sophokles’ Aias is different, as the site of supplication, Aias’ body, involves a strange two-way dynamic.⁹⁴ The child both protects and is protected by the body, symbolically making it a sacred site. The silent Eurysakes enacts a rite of supplication but without any explicit appeal. This is not an act of supplication directed explicitly at the Atreidai. The child here takes on a role more akin to a symbolic object than an active suppliant, similar to the baby Orestes in the Telephos story discussed in the previous ⁹³ Homer’s Iliad 6.37 65, Menelaos rejects the supplication of Adrestos at the insistence of Agamemnon. ⁹⁴ On Sophokles’ approach to ritual and cult, see Currie 2012; Rehm 2012. For a comparative approach to children in cult developing from many ancient cultures, see Kunz Lübcke 2007: 205 14.

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chapter. As an embodiment of the family, Eurysakes becomes an object to be positioned. Gould argues well that the roles of children in such contexts symbolize the fragility of the house, so the creation of pity in such scenes may focus on the child as an embodiment of the house.⁹⁵ Again, we face the problem of what is this pity for. In Sophokles’ Aias, the context of supplication may inspire pity, but it is not obvious that the audience would pity the child as an individual rather than in conjunction with his mother, Tekmessa, who has more explicitly spoken and acted in ways which would inspire pity. In Euripides’ Herakleidai, as we saw above, the dynamic of supplication is of what is owed, not what is given out of pity, and is placed in a strongly political context. The children have an adult spokesperson and have more resources than just the obligations owed to suppliants. In Euripides’ Herakles, the children as suppliants are part of the family grouping and are spoken for by Megara and Amphitryon. Herakles in his madness rejects what he perceives as the supplication from ‘the father of Eurystheus’.⁹⁶ During the madness the child who asks Herakles to spare him does not make a gesture of supplication to his father, but appeals to him directly.⁹⁷ As with the children in Euripides’ Medeia, it may be that children cannot directly initiate the gestures of supplication indicating structural abasement as they are already in the lower position in a hierarchy, but this child makes a good attempt at imitating the key elements, albeit from an initially hidden position. The framework for supplication in tragedy is often explicitly political and articulated in terms of hierarchy and reciprocity between men, but the religious aspects of the ritual evoke a higher level of oversight from the gods themselves.⁹⁸ While the socio-political framework of fifth-century Athens figures children as marked by their parents’ crimes, religious contexts may suggest that children possessed a purity and innocence which makes their suffering and attempts to gain mercy even more affecting to an audience. Although this is not the same as twenty-first-century discourses of sentimentality, as discussed in the opening chapter, we do have some evidence to suggest that it

⁹⁵ Gould 1973. ⁹⁶ ὁ δέ νιν Εὐρυσθέως δοκῶν / πατέρα προταρβοῦνθ᾽ ἱκέσιον ψαύειν χερός, / ὠθεῖ, ‘But he thought it was Eurystheus’ father, reaching out as a suppliant to forestall the attack. He pushed him away.’ Eur. Her. 967 8. ⁹⁷ Eur. Her. 984 8. ⁹⁸ See Arafat 1990. The role of Zeus as protector of suppliants is seen as early as the Odyssey, 9.296 304.


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was a possible ancient argument. So Isokrates described harm to children as ‘the most unholy act’, and in Euripides’ Herakles Amphitryon describes the anticipated murder of his grandchildren by Lykos as an ‘unholy sight’.⁹⁹ Our limited sources do not necessarily indicate that children were regarded as having a religious importance simply on account of being children, but rather that they had a special status in relation to adult discourses. Children are part of religious rituals, such as the choes festival in the Anthesteria, designed to benefit the entire family and by extension the city state.¹⁰⁰ Many rituals centred around children, but some gave them an active role, as in the idea of being a ‘bear’ for Artemis.¹⁰¹ The involvement of children in rituals indicates that they were part of the social matrix, and could function as ‘signs’ for religious demarcation, rather than that they possessed special features as innocent and likely to inspire emotion. Divination rituals could use children, but this was arguably because of their exclusion from sexual activity, rather than any inherent divine quality, and thus was equivalent to the ‘purity’ of post-menopausal women who could function in specific ritual roles.¹⁰² In tragedy itself child figures do not display any unusually strong link to the gods or religion. While the gods can recognize the strength of the parent-child bond, and its vulnerability when children are young, there is no sense that the gods have a particular care for young children. So, when in Aiskhylos’ Khoephoroi Orestes and Elektra figure themselves as the young chicks of Agamemnon, they must refer to their father’s previous worship to establish a reciprocal relationship with Zeus, as discussed in the previous chapter. Tragedy presents very few examples of ritual practice, yet child figures are often associated with ritual and cult. Burian suggests that Eurysakes in Sophokles’ Aias enacts a ritual which will establish Aias’ cult, and the existence of the Eurysakeion in Athens may suggest that the Athenian audience thought of this child as a cult figure. The children of Medeia are immortalized at the end of Euripides’ Medeia in the aetiology of the cult of Hera Akraia at Corinth,¹⁰³ and Euripides’ fragmentary Hypsipyle centres on the death of a child by divinely predicted natural forces, before the baby ⁹⁹ Isokrates Panath. 121. Eur. Her. 323 6. ¹⁰⁰ See further Csapo 2010; Rusten 2014. ¹⁰¹ On the role of girls in the worship of Artemis at Brauron, see Budin 2016: 69 91; Guarisco 2016; Mikalson 2011: 60 2; Walbank 1981. ¹⁰² On divination rituals using children, see Iles Johnston (2001) who suggests that there were strategic reasons for using children, such as their lack of guile. Cf. Mantle (2002) on children in Roman religion. ¹⁰³ On the ritual significance of this cult, see Holland 2008; Pache 2004: 43.

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Opheltes becomes a cult figure in his own right.¹⁰⁴ Pache’s analysis of these child figures in cult indicates that such children are usually worshipped as adolescents.¹⁰⁵ While I question her argument that these cults are fundamentally structured around parental anxieties and feelings of guilt, the fact that children are metamorphosed into young adults is suggestive. Death seems to bestow incipient adult status in cult practices, as if to emphasize the loss of the individual’s potential, just as depictions of the young dead on tombstones often refer to the future adult status which has been lost.¹⁰⁶ However, as cult practice does not suggest a clear focus on small children qua small children, then we cannot look to socio-religious practice in fifth-century Athens as a background which would predispose an audience to respond to child figures with unusual ritual or emotional awe as figures of pathos.¹⁰⁷ The ritual roles played by children in fifth-century religion suggest that children were seen as having special qualities, but it is not clear that these features would qualify as creating a special religious awe around children in tragedy. There is no particular status assigned to the children of Medeia despite their divine descent.¹⁰⁸ In cult, children can be used for divination and in a number of fertility rites, such as the role of the amphithaleis, children with both parents living, to bless a marriage.¹⁰⁹ This is more a sense of sympathetic magic, rather than an elevation of the significance of children. Other roles in religion, such as the idea of playing the bear at Brauron, form part of wider patterns of worship and possibly initiation which make children part of the religious community rather than emphasizing their special status. There is not the idea of childhood purity which we find in some strands of the Judaeo-Christian tradition.¹¹⁰ Although children are pure to some extent, the concept of ‘purity’ is multi-dimensional and Greek ideas were often contradictory.¹¹¹ Sexual abstinence was often the key criterion, such that old women could be classed as ritually pure and able to perform key roles.¹¹² Nevertheless, the vulnerability of children (and the vulnerability of others through their children) is frequently presented in ¹⁰⁴ See Bond 1963. ¹⁰⁵ Pache 2004. ¹⁰⁶ This relates back to my discussion of embodiment and dolls in Chapter 2, with particular significance for the idea that Iphigeneia eventually replaces her own doll. ¹⁰⁷ Children are also linked inextricably with the idea of childbirth and the problems of pollution that it raises; see Hall (2006: 69 70) on the situation in Eur. Auge with the newborn in the temple. ¹⁰⁸ See Pucci 1980: 226 n. 25. ¹⁰⁹ Oepke (1934) outlines the passages where this practice is referred to. Cf. Lambrechts (1957) on the roles of children in mystery cults. ¹¹⁰ On the construction of children in the Christian world, see Bakke 2005; Vuolanto 2016. ¹¹¹ Moulinier 1952. ¹¹² See Cole 2004: 132 6.


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religious terms, particularly with the motif of the perverted sacrifice. The madness which drives Herakles to kill his children strikes when he is conducting a sacrifice, and Medeia warns the chorus to keep away with a form of ritual wording: [ . . . ] ὅτῳ δὲ μὴ θέμις παρεῖναι τοῖς ἐμοῖσι θύμασιν, αὐτῷ μελήσει [ . . . ] If there is anyone whose presence at my sacrifice is not permitted, keep to yourself.¹¹³

The mythology of the deaths of Thyestes’ children, and Itys, son of Tereus, is often presented in terms of perverted sacrifice.¹¹⁴ Although children have a particular place in this framework of ideas, it is not the special quality of the children as innocent which matters so much as the destruction of social identity, so even in the discussion of religious aspects we see the impossibility of disengaging children from a social context. It is inappropriate to talk of ‘children’ as having a peculiar ritual status, for each child in fifth-century Athens and fifth-century tragedy belongs to a family which has its own particular set of associations with the gods.¹¹⁵ These associations are far more important than any idea of the innocence of children as a generalized age category.¹¹⁶

4.10 Pity and the Law In this range of possibilities for the creation of pathos, all involve some consideration of temporality, whether about inherited guilt, present-time embodied identity, or the projection and loss of future roles. Emotional ¹¹³ Eur. Med. 1053 5. See further Foley 1985; Mastronarde 2002; Pucci 1980. ¹¹⁴ See Detienne (1989) with Halm Tisserant (1993) on the cauldron motif and the position of the child in an existential continuum. For the Thyestes myth, see Hook 1992. ¹¹⁵ A good example of the complexity of this issue comes from Eur. Herakles 1021 2 when the chorus compares the murder of Herakles’ sons with Prokne’s murder of Itys, calling her crime a ‘sacrifice to the Muses’. Pucci (1980: 223 n. 9) suggests that the text contains an elision of several modes of interpretation, so that Itys becomes a subject for lament and thus a poetic simile for weeping. Further questions provoked by this line include: to whom is the sacrifice of Herakles’ children made? Does this act increase Hera’s glory? ¹¹⁶ For this reason, Rochelle’s (2012) arguments on the role of children in a moral universe are more persuasive when discussed in terms of the ‘child/parent’ relational model than centred around the idea of a ‘small child’.

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reactions to children may not be primarily based on a gut reaction of emotion towards children, because such reactions were predominantly associated with women. There are wide-ranging problems in assessing degrees of the male/female reaction and the very prominence of childbirth stories in tragedy may be seen as odd.¹¹⁷ To understand the codification of emotional responses many have adduced the parallel of pity for children requested in legal cases, but, as we saw in the discussion of visual dynamics in the previous chapter, these parallels are not always helpful. In this case, however, the comparison may be of value in delineating acceptable limits for public masculine responses to children. The Athenian practice of defendants bringing their children into court to ask for pity is famously parodied in Aristophanes: κἂν μὴ τούτοις ἀναπειθώμεσθα, τὰ παιδάρι᾽ εὐθὺς ἀνέλκει τὰς θηλείας καὶ τοὺς υἱεῖς τῆς χειρός, ἐγὼ δ᾽ ἀκροῶμαι τὰ δὲ συγκύψανθ᾽ ἅμα βληχᾶται κἄπειθ᾽ ὁ πατὴρ ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν ὥσπερ θεὸν ἀντιβολεῖ με τρέμων τῆς εὐθύνης ἀπολῦσαι ‘εἰ μὲν χαίρεις ἀρνὸς ϕωνῇ, παιδὸς ϕωνὴν ἐλεήσαις ’ εἰ δ᾽ αὖ τοῖς χοιριδίοις χαίρω, θυγατρὸς ϕωνῇ με πιθέσθαι. And if we’re not persuaded by these tactics, in a flash he grabs his kids’ hands and hauls them up to the podium, girls and boys, and I listen as they pose their heads together and bleat. Then the father begs me as if I were a god to clear him in the investigation, for the sake of the children: ‘If you like the sound of lamb, pity the voice of my son.’ But then, if I fancy a bit of pork, he uses the voice of his daughter to tempt me.¹¹⁸ [ . . . ] οἰκτίρατ᾽ αὐτὸν ὦ πάτερε, καὶ μὴ διαϕθείρητε. ποῦ τὰ παιδία; ἀναβαίνετ᾽ ὦ πόνηρα καὶ κνυζούμενα αἰτεῖτε κἀντιβολεῖτε καὶ δακρύετε. Please father, I beg you, pity him, don’t ruin his life. Where are his little ones? Step up, you wretched creatures and whimper your petition, fall at his knees and cry.¹¹⁹

¹¹⁷ Hall 2010. Cf. Cawthorne 2008 on configurations of the male body in tragedy. ¹¹⁸ Ar. Sphekes (Wasps) 568 73. ¹¹⁹ Ar. Sphekes 975 8.


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The scenario is clearly a fantasy, as the first passage talks of the sexual exploitation of the children,¹²⁰ and in the second passage the ‘children’ are Labes’ puppies. Better evidence for the workings of this practice comes from Plato’s Apology where Sokrates refuses to behave in this manner,¹²¹ and from the apparent appeals recorded in Athenian orators (although changes in legal behaviour from the fifth century to the fourth century may be relevant). Close examination of descriptions of such scenes as played out in the courts is revealing about the handling of children in situations of pity. Although these are accounts from a historical context, the fact that they are literary constructs exploring the implications of a social practice makes them useful sources of comparison.¹²² When children are brought into court the standard formulation seems to have been to refer to them as paidia, the diminutive immediately signalling their ‘pathetic’ mode.¹²³ This term is not used in tragedy, but is found in comedy.¹²⁴ Two specific dynamics were involved. First, the jurors were expected to empathize with the relationship, to think how their own children would feel in such a situation, and thus the activation of their parental instinct would provoke them to a different state of mind. The jurors might be inspired to leniency, or perhaps to give the defendant the benefit of the doubt, for the appeal to pity was linked not to admissions of guilt but to assertions of innocence.¹²⁵ In this context, the assumed innocence of the children dovetails with the overall thrust of the defendant’s case. The appeal to children, and to ideas of shared experience and compassion, is the move Demosthenes warns his listeners against: ‘How can you pity Medias’s children when he didn’t pity Strato’s?’¹²⁶ Meidias’ appeal relies on a standard of civilized behaviour which he himself has not

¹²⁰ For the roles of females in the legal system, and the interplay between gender, age, and sexuality, see in particular Aiskhines’ speech Against Timarkhos with discussion in Shapiro 2011. ¹²¹ Plato’s Apology 34b d9. ¹²² On the literary aspects of the orators’ speeches, see Porter 1993; 2003; Worthington 1994b. ¹²³ Lysias 20.34; Demosthenes 19.310, 21.99, 21.186. While the most interesting passages are from the fourth century orators, the existence of a parody as early as 422  suggests that there was a certain formula in the fifth century. ¹²⁴ The diminutive is found most frequently in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata (18, 99, 415, 748, 877, 880, 883, 907, 909, 1067, 1205, 1295) and Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriasouzai (339, 503, 505, 511, 512, 608, 690, 706, 731, 744, 891, 1206). This might suggest that it is associated more with women, as opposed to the other plays where children play a role, as diminutives are used less frequently in comparable plays without a feminine focus: Aristophanes’ Sphekes (293, 408, 976, 1026) and Aristophanes’ Eirene (50, 111, 1265, 1268). On diminutives in Greek as a feminine feature, see Makri Tsilipakou 2013. ¹²⁵ Konstan 2001. ¹²⁶ Demosthenes 21: 99.

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observed. Similarly in the De Falsa Legatione, the conduct of the defendant in attacking the jurors’ children is introduced as a reason to reject the plea.¹²⁷ In such cases the children act as a catalyst to enable the jurors to identify with the defendant. The second dynamic is more complex, and is explored in Lysias, 20.34, Against Polystratus.¹²⁸ Speaker One makes a controversial move in claiming that greater pity should be accorded to a client’s father than to his children, and his analysis of the way children provoke pity is instructive for our present study. He claims that jurors feel pity for children because of their awareness of how the present situation will affect the future adult roles of the children. Speaker Two wishes to dismiss this principle as illogical, since the action does good to figures who in the final analysis may not be worthy of such care: καίτοι ὁρῶμέν γ᾽ ὑμᾶς, ὦ ἄνδρες δικασταί, ἐάν τις παῖδας αὑτοῦ ἀναβιβασάμενος κλαίῃ καὶ ὀλοϕύρηται, τούς τε παῖδας δι᾽ αὐτὸν εἰ ἀτιμωθήσονται ἐλεοῦντας, καὶ ἀϕιέντας τὰς τῶν πατέρων ἁμαρτίας διὰ τοὺς παῖδας, οὓς οὔπω ἴστε εἴτε ἀγαθοὶ εἴτε κακοὶ ἡβήσαντες γενήσονται ἡμᾶς δ᾽ ἴστε ὅτι πρόθυμοι γεγενήμεθα εἰς ὑμᾶς, καὶ τὸν πατέρα οὐδὲν ἡμαρτηκότα. ὥστε πολλῷ δικαιότεροί ἐστε, ὧν πεπείρασθε, τούτοις χαρίσασθαι, ἢ οὓς οὐκ ἴστε ὁποῖοί τινες ἔσονται. And yet what we actually see, members of the jury, is that if someone brings up his children with crying and wailing, you pity his children because of what would happen if they were disenfranchised, then let the father’s crimes slide because of the children, even though you have no way of knowing whether those children will grow up to be good or bad men. In our case, however, you know already that we have shown our dedication to you, and that our father has done nothing wrong. So, there is much more justification for you to look favourably on those who have proved their worth to you than on those whose future character you do not yet know.

This speech reveals a mechanism through which children provoke pity not so much because of their present plight but because of their future roles, that is to say their potential. This is an appeal to pity which plays with temporal shifts. The children are seen to be worthy of pity not as vulnerable children but as ‘potential adults’, and this is the fundamental point, that the

¹²⁷ Demosthenes 19.310.

¹²⁸ See Konstan 2000.


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emotional interest and engagement from the audience inspiring pity is about the children’s future roles more than their status as children qua children.

4.11 Pathos and Potential Combined An emotional response may be generated by an onstage child through various mechanisms, so it is far from an easy matter to say that children are ‘pathetic victims’. Dramatic techniques may draw upon the idea of biological attachment to any children, a response to perceived vulnerability, but such reactions from onstage characters are repeatedly problematized. Unmediated emotional responses to children are associated with women in Athens, so an audience of men would require a more culturally acceptable frame through which to experience ‘fear and pity’ in relation to child figures. These frames may include the religious dimensions of supplication, or more commonly rely on transference of identification with the parents in a scenario. The evocation of pity in legal cases suggests that the prime factor is considering the future of the children. When we transfer this to the world of tragic myth we move beyond the frame of fifth-century Athenian society and into a world where the future of the child is both narratively and dramatically more important. This links to the previous chapter where the child actor/child character overlap is more closely connected than the adult actor/character, and further relates to tragedy’s use of temporal instability. If children in fifth-century Athens can be viewed as ‘temporal nodes’, then children in tragedy may be viewed as nodes of temporal instability. Many of the projected future roles for children involve them becoming dangerous adults, but as the previous chapter suggested the danger is perceived on a personal level in the audience as well. The very instability of the future is embodied in the onstage presence of children, and this, combined with the metatheatrical tendencies of Greek drama, makes them useful figures for the playwrights. We cannot adequately account for impact of the child roles through Aristotleian models of prohairesis or ‘pity and fear’, although both are factors in the creation of child roles. Instead, we must seek a new model of child characterization which incorporates the nature of their onstage presence and the temporal instability that surrounds them. The discussions of pathos and pity have indicated a possible method for constructing such a model. On the one hand, there is a dynamic tension between figuring children as pathetic, vulnerable figures and evoking

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their future power as dangerous adults. At the same time, however, this opposition is collapsed when we consider how pathos is often evoked because of the consideration of lost future potential—Medeia’s children may inspire the audience to pity less because of her comments on their soft skin, and more because she speaks of the loss of her hopes. The physical presence of the children in Euripides’ Herakles is enhanced by Megara’s cries about the futures she expected for them, and those futures in turn make Herakles’ actions all the more horrifying. This is not an exclusively Euripidean pattern, for the figure of Eurysakes in Sophokles’ Aias is theatrically sophisticated, and needs no support from ideas of links to the parade of war orphans, often adduced as a historical context by Goldhill and others. Although the evidence comes from a later period, there are many adherents to the idea that the Athenians celebrated their care of war orphans in a way that influenced father/son dynamics in tragedy. Kelly argues that the parade is highly relevant to Aias, as it foreshadows the coming danger faced by the family of Aias, as part of a reading which stresses the positive role of tragedy in supporting Athenian norms.¹²⁹ This view can be challenged from several perspectives, but for me the crucial point that distinguishes the parade from the child onstage is the age of the characters involved—the figures in the parade were clearly assuming adult identity (while being still ‘children of Athens’, i.e. adult children), whereas the child Eurysakes is anything but adult, still ‘child’ as young human. Kelly’s analysis, I suggest, misses one of its own key points, for when he discusses the creation of emotional affect and Aias’ state of mind he notes: ‘his refusal to “think like a mortal” hardly augurs well for the prospects of his soon-to-be-orphaned son, even if we leave aside his father’s rather dangerous hopes (545–51).’ To ‘leave aside’ the idea of ‘dangerous hopes’ misses one of the central dynamics in the role of Eurysakes, who is both dangerous and pathetic. When discussing a case which would lend itself more easily to comparison, the chorus of sons in Euripides’ Hiketides, the parallel with the parade of orphans is still weak. This is one example where a closer reading of child figures in tragedy may add a new dimension to much vexed questions in scholarship. To conclude this theoretical discussion, the ideas of ‘ghost-like’ characterization suggested in the previous chapter may provide some direction for an overall approach to children in tragedy, but, returning to my opening

¹²⁹ Kelly 2015.


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thesis, that pathos has been overstated and created blinkered view of child figures. I close this section of discussion with a brief summary of the argument so far: 1. Pathos based on physical presence is limited and problematized. Expressions of the beauty or joy of children are juxtaposed with images of horror and/or expressed by characters whose views are suspect. 2. Likely audience responses to children often relate more closely to the adult characters. Audience members may reflect on how they would feel if it were their child in the situation rather than identify with the child directly. Such mediated responses involve the Aristotelian ‘pity and fear’. There may also be a sense that the child is ‘part’ of the adult (as Aristotle NE 8.12), so the target of the audience response is the same.¹³⁰ 3. Immediate responses to children are strongly linked to their future roles. Individual characters imagine conflicting future roles for child figures, and see children as conduits to affect the future. 4. Consideration of future roles involves the specific and the general, referring to (a) the dangerous adults they may become, particularly in taking revenge, and (b) the dangerous inherent instability of time. 5. Theatre, because of its metatheatrical elements and playing with temporal fields, is uniquely positioned to exploit this, and this provides one explanation for the powerful roles of children in tragedy. When confronted with the inevitable instability of life, Greek responses tended to be defensive, so children onstage would more likely provoke a response of fear and withdrawal, rather than an immediate feeling of sympathy and well-wishing. The social structures of classical Athens find parallels in Aristotle’s philosophy; the idea of action in the Poetics is discussed in finer detail in other works which suggest that children’s silent, actionless roles could be accommodated in his model of tragedy.

¹³⁰ Cf. Wilgaux (2011) who suggests that Greek parents and children shared the same ‘bodily identity’. While this may be true in some senses for social structure, the formalized relationships of the Greek stage indicate that this statement is false for tragedy; see Chapter 2 on embodiment.

5 Plays and Playwrights 5.1 Exploring the Ideas My goal in writing this book was to challenge the dominant assumptions underlying previous scholarship on child figures, and to suggest alternative models where pathos is only one part of the overall pattern. In the course of this enquiry I have suggested that the potential of children is more important than any action they take, and that this is a major reason for their prominent roles in tragedy. This perspective allows us to articulate the differences between ‘child’ and ‘adult’ characterization in ways which enhance our understanding of liminal figures, such as Antigone or Menoikeus in Euripides’ Phoinissai.¹ The fact remains, however, that we are working on the basis of limited material, so generalizations about the generic habits of the tragic playwrights must be approached with caution.² One test of these ideas is their applicability to individual plays, and to that end this chapter will explore the roles of individual child figures in the dramatic matrices of particular plays, noting where the ideas advanced in this book may be most effective in nuancing our understanding. Given the complexity of the issues involved in each play, it would be impossible to attempt here any comprehensive account of, say ‘the child in Aias’ or ‘the children in Medeia’. These topics deserve not articles but whole volumes to themselves. Instead I will confine myself to brief remarks on individual plays in relation to particular playwrights, noting where fine-tuning our understanding of pathos and potential may alter or enhance our understanding of key issues. This will then lead to cautious conclusions about the habits of playwrights and the evolution of the genre. The final chapter will suggest lines of future development and ways in which this research may contribute to some of the broader current debates about the meaning and function of tragedy.

¹ See further Petridou 2014 on the issue of transitions into adulthood in tragedy. ² Cf. Zeitlin (2008: 12) and Rochelle (2012: 218): ‘Throughout Euripides’ plays, more than in Aeschylus’ and Sophocles’ plays, children are perceived as “special people”.’ Children in Greek Tragedy: Pathos and Potential. Emma M. Griffiths, Oxford University Press (2020). © Emma M. Griffiths. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198826071.001.0001


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5.2 Aiskhylos We have previously noted that Aiskhylos employed many of the same thematic motifs with regard to children, as those found in the later playwrights. The patterns of imagery he employs to suggest parent-child relationships involve certain conceptions of the child as participant in family dynamics, based on age as much as kinship relationship. The broader issue of interactions between pathos and potential is also relevant in Hiketides where the portrayal of the Danaiids involves a retrojection of their future roles in concert with a focus on their present-time plight.³ Although these figures are depicted as dramatic adults, their social liminality as unmarried girls introduces an element of dangerous instability which we have seen associated in tragedy most strongly with women and children, and the dangerous aspects of the Danaiids are foregrounded in the context of their pathetic appeals. Although the surviving plays of Aiskhylos give us no onstage child figures, we come very close to this situation in the Oresteia. The prominence of parent/child imagery and the problematic status of the young as weak/dangerous have been widely discussed, but there are child figures who almost have an onstage presence, namely the children of Thyestes. The dangers posed by these children as potential avenging ghosts was discussed in Chapter 4, and we should emphasize this still further in the context of the trilogy’s manipulation of temporal awareness.⁴ The danger posed by children in the play starts from the very beginning, and should influence our reading of other pathetic details. Take, for example, the image of the pregnant hare torn apart by the eagles. The image is hard to interpret but is generally seen in terms of the pity Artemis feels for the young unborn animals. With a greater sense of the pathos/potential dynamic, however, we may wonder whether the original audience felt such uncomplicated pity. The hare is a large animal, capable of harming a human being, but it is particularly a dangerous creature in political terms—introducing hares to an island or enclosed community could be an act of warfare across the Mediterranean because of the way they destroyed ecosystems.⁵ The unborn leverets, therefore, may have a darker aspect to them than Artemis’ sympathy allows.

³ See Bednarowski 2010. ⁴ See further Grethlein 2013. ⁵ See Sallares (1991: 38 40) for this form of ecoterrorism, suggesting that the practice was widespread, although our ancient evidence is limited to a few examples.

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The Oresteia plays with the audience expectations in the role of the ghost, summoned as the father in the second play but appearing as the mother in the third. The ghostly children of Thyestes in the first play share in the sense of theatrical suspense, and the fear that they might have an onstage role indicates that Aiskhylos was aware of the value of child figures’ potentiality, a theatrical source of significance which would be actualized in the plays of Sophokles and Euripides. In Euripides’ Elektra, we will find not only the fictional baby of Elektra, but also her (real-but-not-seen) half-siblings, as the marriage of Klytaimestra and Aigisthos produced further children (as implied by vv. 62–3, a daughter, Erigone, is known in later sources) who will also take on family roles. It is not impossible that Aiskhylos may in other plays have brought them onstage, as another experiment with the dramatic form.⁶ We should not, therefore, assume that there were no onstage children in Aiskhylos, although the history of the genre’s development and questions over the third actor may still suggest this was unlikely. It is not, however, true to say that there was no role for children in Aiskhylean tragedy.

5.3 Sophokles I have argued above that the Euripidean focus on children is more about philosophy and temporal flux than it is about domestic issues and the creation of pathos. How then does the oft-noted philosophical distance between the two playwrights change the dramatic techniques they used when considering child roles?⁷ Our limited evidence prevents clear conclusions, but despite the absence of child speaking roles in the surviving plays of Sophokles, the two plays where children do appear are similar to those of Euripides, in terms of their thematic and dramatic integration. In Aias, the child ‘Eurysakes’ is centrally positioned within the play’s examination of pity and compassion, but not a simple figure evoking an emotional response. The visual aspects of a small figure onstage are exploited for contrast between horror and domesticity, but also to counterpoint the relationship between gods and men. The parallel is shown to be misleading, for humans cannot transcend the power divide with gods, whereas children can succeed in overpowering their elders with the passage of time. The threats to Eurysakes ⁶ On Aiskhylean innovations, see Carrara 2007; Doyle 2008; Michelini 1982: 129. ⁷ On current assessments of the relationship between the three playwrights, see Davidson 2012.


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himself are assumed because of the danger he might pose when grown to adulthood, and Aias’ assertions about his son’s inheritance make this possibility highly likely. The final supplication scene is complex, and eludes easy definition, which may reflect something of the inherent fearful instability of human life which children force us to confront. When we turn to Oidipous Tyrannos, the presence of the two unnamed girls makes strong thematic and theatrical sense. The lack of names, combined with the physical presence of the girls, provides a similar, graphic contrast to that presented in the Aias. Given that Sophokles had already produced his tragedy, Antigone, many years before, the names of the girls at the end of the play are almost a projection of dangerous times to come.⁸ They are not simply evoking pathos, but indicating the continued dangers presented by the family. Sophokles may not have been as innovative as Euripides, but he showed that he could handle child roles deftly, with a clear awareness of the dramatic potential, so it is not inconceivable that there were speaking or singing roles for children in lost Sophoklean drama. Here, as always, the limited scope of our material advises caution in generalizing too far, but speculation has a role, if only to keep an open mind. If we were to discover, for example, a fragment of Sophokles’ Tereus (or another play on this subject) with lines from a young Itys, they could well display similar features to those we see in Euripides’ plays. We could even contemplate a thematic bridge with the neossos/baby bird image which could underpin the Aristophanic parody of reliteralizing a metaphor and ‘hatching money’ in Ornithes (see Chapter 3 on imagery). Once the stereotype of ‘children are pathetic victims’ is set to one side, we may find a greater space for contemplation of wider issues. Sophokles’ interest in young characters may also be nuanced by consideration of what makes a child. I have suggested previously that Neoptolemos in Philoktetes achieves a clear transition from ‘more childlike’ to ‘more adultlike’ as the play progresses in ways that can be quantified through analysis of dramatic technique. We can then see more clearly the significance of the central passage where Philoktetes is compared to a child.⁹ There is a dual dynamic here, that even when he is rendered helpless by the pain, Philoktetes still retains something of the dangerous power his healthy, adult persona wields. The child in this image is vulnerable because of its lack of human connections (it has no nurse), so human

⁸ See discussion in Chapter 2 on anonymous figures. ⁹ Soph. Phil. 701 6. On the central position of this ode in the play, see Visvardi 2015: 190 2.

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connection will eventually restore Philoktetes to his true adult role through the friendship of Neoptolemos and Herakles.

5.4 Euripides The idea that child figures may have had an onstage role before Euripides is relevant when we come to his earliest surviving play, Alkestis. In previous chapters I have noted several features of the play, and in particular the role of the son, that leads me to doubt the tragic essence of the story, and to position it more closely to the spirit of a satyr play.¹⁰ If tragic interest in childbirth narratives is somehow linked to tragedy’s origins in satyr play, then Euripides’ earliest ‘child’ could have been a creation in response to existing ‘satyric children’.¹¹ The satyric child comes first, and the Aristophanic parody is then metatheatrical as a comment on Euripides’ appropriation of these tropes.¹² If Aristophanic parody was simply of the manner of Euripides’ children, then his continued use of onstage child figures is difficult to assess. If, however, there were already suggestions about child figures in satyr play, and Aiskhylos highlighted the darker thematic potential of children in his plays, then Euripides’ contribution may have been to combine the two, first in the experimental context of Alkestis and then with greater confidence in his other plays. Arguments based on chronology are inevitably shaky, but the distinct possibility that Alkestis was the satyr play for a Euripidean set of plays involving Telephos raises the possibility that Euripides was parodying himself in this fourth play.¹³ An element of poetic competition regarding the portrayal of children would not be out of character with what we currently understand of Euripides’s attitude towards other poets.¹⁴ While the contribution of the children to the general themes of Alkestis has been noted in a number of contexts,¹⁵ the temporal frames have received less ¹⁰ For a summary of the arguments, see Visvardi 2017: 62 5. ¹¹ Hall 2006. ¹² On Aristophanes’ attitude towards Euripides and generic convention, see Foley 2008. Cf. Sansone (1978) on the satyric elements in Eur. Bakkhai, and Rosenbloom (2011) on the Panhellenic nature of different plays. Cf. Usher (2002) on the interplay between ideas of tragedy and satyr play in Plato’s Symposium. ¹³ For the role of self parody in drama, particularly comedy, see Konstan (1990: 221); Torrance (2013: 291). ¹⁴ Jendza (2015) has argued persuasively for an ‘escalation’ of parody between Euripides’ Helene and Orestes. ¹⁵ For a balanced approach to psychoanalytical readings of Alkestis, see Gounaridou 1998.


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attention and the play’s construction of future time is decidedly untragic in nature. Temporal instability abounds in this play, in a manner which is far more characteristic of comedy. We have Admetos’ apparent wish to prevent a future he had chosen, to his desire to ask for further parenting (by asking for his parents to die for him), and the final peculiar acceptance of ‘the woman’ into his house, against his earlier protestations of everlasting fidelity to his dying wife. When the children are involved, the motifs of fearing for the future life of orphans is used both to explain Alkestis’ decision and to enforce the pathos of it—she explicitly makes them ‘orphans’ because she does not wish them to be ‘orphans’.¹⁶ The idea that the children’s future is destroyed by Alkestis’ death is difficult to reconcile with her apparent emphasis on protecting her daughter from the future villainy of a stepmother (called explicitly ‘just as vicious as a viper’, 310). In essence, the children’s lives do not exist in any real sense beyond the immediate time frame of the play. This further undermines the potential serious message about family interactions—how can Admetos have a relationship into the future with his own children, when he is still expecting his parents to die for him? His behaviour is not simply selfcentred, but rather indicates the whole temporal problem of the play, and the challenge to the norms of society in tragedy, where parental care is reciprocated by care for the elderly. The play invites comparison with Euripides’ Herakles which begins with the old Amphitryon in the awkward role of carer/nurse for his grandchildren, and ends with the still more inappropriate situation of Amphitryon seeing to the burial of his grandsons, and worrying about who will bury him. This situation is highly tragic, as it is again in Euripides’ Troades as Hekabe prepares the corpse of Asytanax. By contrast, in Alkestis these most fundamental building blocks of society are ignored. It is not just that Admetos is selfish, but rather that ‘time is out of joint’. In this context, the unusual features of the son’s role, from his language to the movement and the exaggerated use of metaphor, all contribute to a pattern where Euripides is undermining tragic structures by pushing their limits, and in doing so creating a tragi-comedy which questions the very nature of pathos. The generic issues, then, bear similarities with the problems in classifying Euripides’ Orestes, on which Faas succinctly notes: ‘Compared with Aristophanes’

¹⁶ On the classical Athenian models of care for orphans, see Cudjoe (2010) with Eidinow (2016: 298 300). See further Appendix.

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buffoonish skit on Andromeda, Euripides’ self-parody in Orestes is a serious attack on the tragic mode.’¹⁷ The idea of pathos for a child because of the lack of a future role is untenable in this play, because Alkestis’ death was intended to assure a positive future for the children. While the assumed grief of a child for losing a mother is an important mythological factor, the son of Admetos is not being prefigured as a future avenger who will return to seek revenge for his mother’s death. There is no link made between ‘Pheres-Admetos-Son’ and ‘Admetos’ mother’-Alkestis-‘Admetos’ Daughter’, so neither the role of mother or father is taken seriously in this play, despite their apparent prominence. The fact that the children are simply absent at the end of the play adds to the sense that this is comedy, where children and other minor figures come and go as needed, rather than tragedy, where children are embedded in the thematic and dramatic matrix from the start through their relationships with others and their projected future roles. When we speak of Aristophanes’ parodying of Euripides, we should not necessarily think that he fixated on a single ‘Euripidean’ motif, but rather consider whether certain features were of interest—the graphic visual of Telephos and the hostage baby Orestes was arresting, and is relevant to the creation of Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis. Alkestis may have been seen as a Euripidean experiment in genre, and attracted attention for just that purpose. Similarly, the parody of Euripides’ Auge may be a response to the shock value of presenting temple pollution through childbirth onstage, or in a tragic setting.¹⁸ Given the complexity of Aristophanes’ response to Euripides, it is likely that he was sensitive to different treatments of a similar motif.¹⁹ Alkestis may have been a Euripidean experiment, taking some elements of ‘familiar’ child characterization, but also altering the issue of temporality and embodiment to fit a fourth-place play; Aristophanes may have been parodying that dramatic innovation in a Platonic mimesis of mimesis. If Alkestis was, as appears, the earliest surviving play by Euripides, then the response to it did not prevent him from deploying children in future ¹⁷ Faas 1986: 62. Despite its early date, Fass’s comments have the advantage of being set in a broad historical perspective, where ideas of parody can be explored in different contexts. For more recent approaches to the generic status of Eur. Orestes, see Wright (2013: 95 7). ¹⁸ On Eur. Auge as a source of parody for Old Comedy, see Farmer 2016: 93 n. 60. ¹⁹ Our understanding of the relationship between Old Comedy and tragedy has been enhanced by recent close attention to fragmentary non Aristophanic comedy; see Telò (2016), with Storey (2003) on Eupolis. Cf. the range of perspectives in Harvey and Wilkins (2000).


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dramas. Without a clear chronology we cannot comment on the ‘development’ of his use of child figures, but even his surviving works show a variety of ways to use the idea of ‘the tragic child’, with dolls, silent figures, singing figures (on- and offstage). Other plays undoubtedly offered the chance to use onstage figures in similar roles, or indeed to develop them further. As it stands, the only other singing role for an onstage child is in Euripides’ Andromakhe, where the child is an important part of the dynamic between Andromakhe and Hermione.²⁰ Much of the play is about the pathos of the child (although his lost future potential contributes to this). The physical presence of the child is complicated by the figure of Astyanax, making Neoptolemos both killer and creator of Andromakhe’s son. His name may or may not be known, more likely not, to make the child’s role more openended. His end is not foretold like that of Astyanax, so a question araises: Can he escape the dynamic pattern? Threats to the child come from every angle: Menelaos says he is ‘dangerous’ for Hermione and ‘dangerous to her future’; for Andromakhe he represents hope, and yet is a source of weakness because she sacrifices herself to save him. His role is created through an interplay of pathos and potential, and the danger of open-endedness is important: the death of Astyanax was supposed to bring an end to the cycle of danger from the Trojan, but now another danger appears; Menelaos fails to see the need to incorporate him into a family structure, and faces a potential danger from Molossos. The child will become not only another Asytanax, but another Neoptolemos as well—a double enemy for Menelaos. The threat to a child is, therefore, dangerous to all parties in the situation.²¹ Euripides constructs a powerful nexus of ideas around the child even before he appears onstage, from Andromakhe’s opening remarks about hope (26–8) to the chorus’ reflection on how Kassandra begged for the murder of the baby Alexandros (299–300), concluding their song by characterizing the Trojan War as leaving ‘old men orphaned of children’ (306) τεκέων ὀρϕανοὶ γέροντες.²² This is followed immediately by Menelaos’ entrance where he frames the conflict in terms of ‘your son/my daughter: Μενέλαος: ἥκω λαβὼν σὸν παῖδ᾽, ὃν εἰς ἄλλους δόμους / λάθρᾳ θυγατρὸς τῆς ἐμῆς ὑπεξέθου ‘Here I have your son, the one you sent to another house, hiding from my daughter’ ²⁰ See further Zeitlin 2008. ²¹ Muich (2010: 215) notes that the parallel between Andromakhe’s son in the Iliad and Eur. Andromakhe shares a global view of cultural inheritance, and thus ‘the threat symbolizes the threat against the Trojan or Phthian way of life.’ I contend that the danger is far more widespread, involving all associated families. ²² See Appendix on the vocabulary of orphaned/bereaved.

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(307–8). Menelaos’ characterization is repeatedly framed by his attitude towards the child. Not only is he callous, and foolish in his assessment of family dynamics, but he expresses an inhuman attitude towards civilized society. He is described as a bird of prey (Andromakhe 65), recalling the twin eagle image of Aiskhylos’ Agamemnon, but when he dismisses Andromakhe’s pleas, by twisting her image of the land and sea, he styles himself as a cliff or ocean wave similar to the dark imagery which marks Medeia as lacking human weakness.²³ A further parallel which highlights his crime compares him to Herakles, as his actions come after an explicit statement about the nature of care for children: πᾶσι δ᾽ ἀνθρώποις ἄρ᾽ ἦν / ψυχὴ τέκν᾽· ‘After all, children are life for all men.’²⁴ Andromakhe’s words are approved by the chorus, only to be dismissed by Menelaos, where Herakles’ own statement about the universality of love for children (Herakles 636) is undercut by the magnitude of the violence that follows. Appreciation of the child’s role contributes to our understanding of the figure of Andromakhe, supporting Muich’s contention that she is given ‘confirmable traits’ in the play. The issue of potentiality for Astyanax in Troades has been well discussed by Dyson and Lee, so I note here only a few additional aspects. The danger he poses is not just a specific threat (to rebuild Troy), but a threatening memento mori for the instability of human fortune. The Iliad had conjured a third life for Asytanax, where he is an abandoned orphan, and the double name of the child as Skamandrios/ Astyanax introduced the river-nature/culture-civilization paradox which destroys him. Tragedy takes this further, as the extreme pathos of these scenes relies upon consideration of the loss of future potential: the vulnerable child is killed because of the danger he might pose in the future. This exposes a cognitive dissonance which goes beyond the immediate frame of the production.²⁵ The physicality of the child is important, as the first appearance of Astyanax is the embodied role of a child actor, rather than a doll. Is killing a child justified? Is Astyanax on many levels already dead before he arrives onstage with his mother, so that he is already a ghost? Although Andromakhe’s address to her child is moving, the level of intertextuality involved makes the creation of ‘pathos’ anything but simple.²⁶ ²³ Eur. Andr. 537 8. See further Rood (2006) on the likely origins of this ambiguity in the vultures image in Odyssey 16. ²⁴ Eur. Andr. 418 19. ²⁵ For the disturbing quality of tragic time, see Whitmarsh 2013; 2014. ²⁶ Contra Muich (2010: 191 2) who views Andromakhe’s words to her child as ‘purely pathetic’.


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In many ways she is paralleled with Astyanax himself, for, as Muich rightly notes, Andromakhe’s ‘actions’ in this play are all offstage and she is characterized through reference to her past and future. She herself is addressed as ‘child’ twice in the play (632, 697). The physicality of the child Astyanax is emphasized at the end of the play when the grief expressed over the ‘dead’ child distinguishes him from the actual inanimate object of Hektor’s shield. The spectre of a revenant is also raised at this point, if we question whether the ‘child’ corpse would be a doll, or the same child actor previously seen onstage. This question is more pressing for a child, for the reasons we discussed in Chapter 2. When we see the dead body of Aias, our knowledge of conventions requires us to accept that the figure given burial is a dummy, as the actor who ‘played’ Aias is now ‘playing’ X. For a child figure, the situation is not so clear. In watching this play, we must consider whether we get past our physical revulsion at the dismemberment of a child’s body and move to more philosophical reflections. The end of the play is a stark challenge to the illusions civilization builds around the identity of a person, suggesting that the human body is just ‘food for birds’.²⁷ This image links to the role of the ‘ghost children’ of Thyestes in the Oresteia. Their dreamlike appearance to Kassandra is vivid, and is then developed further by Aigisthos’ explicit comment on their culinary disarticulation (as discussed in Chapter 3). The body of Astyanax at the end of Troades is similarly prepared for consumption by the earth. In the same Trojan setting Hekabe’s response to her son’s ghost in Hekabe introduces the question of child/adult. Polydoros’ potential has been cut off, and his superposition has collapsed into one state, that of a murder victim. We are asked to question, once again, what it means to kill a child. What threat did he pose? The killing of the children of Polymester is not caused by anything they might do. It is clearly about the way children can hurt people the most. This is a separate aspect of danger, that the emotions they can provoke provide a weakness and a vulnerability, the soft spot noted by the chorus in Euripides’ Medeia. We see here the relationship between women and children being problematized in ways that complicate simple attributions of pathos—and lead, ultimately, to questions about the potentiality of

²⁷ On the idea that unclaimed babies are simply ‘food for birds’ and the vital role of social identity, see Griffiths (2017) on Eur. Ion. Cf. Eidinow (2016: 158) on the role of the ‘untimely dead’ as magical objects.

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women. The women who take Polymestor’s children are apparently completely helpless slaves, yet they have the power to commit murder. The theme of identity between parents and children is also explored in Euripides’ Herakles where the pathos of the children’s immediate vulnerability (caused by Lykos’ fear of their future dangerous actions) is counterpointed by a double prefiguration in Megara’s description of the children’s play. These images evoke not just the way they are killed, but also the way they themselves would have become killers if they had grown to adulthood (the future feared by Lykos). Embodiment is used to great effect here, not just with visual tableaux, but also in the recurrent images of burial.²⁸ In keeping with my remarks on Aiskhylos’ Oresteia, I offer one further note, that the concern about burial at the end of the play may also contain a hint of anxiety about Herakles’s children becoming ghosts. The children of Medeia are propitiated by cult, so the children of Herakles may have similar issues. If this was an issue, then the end of the play contains even more disturbing overtones than is generally acknowledged.²⁹ The role of Herakles the child killer, welcomed into Athens, brings in the relationship between children and Athens’ self-image as a place of asylum, just as it does in Euripides’ Medeia.³⁰ As in other plays, the children die to prevent them from doing or becoming something in Iason’s vision of the future. In killing them, Medeia relinquishes her hopes for the children’s future as well. In this play, however, Iason’s focus on the future was at the expense of his present-time awareness, unlike Medeia, who was able to balance her present-time responses to the children, with a temporal bridging. They could potentially avenge her, just as Pelias (Iason’s uncle) had avenged his own mother, Tyro. In dealing with Aigeus, Kreon, and Iason, Medeia is the only one able to handle the temporal chaos which children bring to a situation. In considering the issue, the chorus come to the startling conclusion that children are not worth the trouble. We also see conflict over the nature of parenthood, as Iason wishes for parenthood without women, and the chorus refer to parenthood without men in referring to the birth of Harmonia.³¹ ²⁸ On the range of possible burial procedures for children in Athens, see Houby Nielsen 2000. ²⁹ Revenants and haunting may underlie more tragic scenarios than is immediately apparent; see further Griffiths 2015. ³⁰ On Athens’ asylum policy, see Sfyroeras 1994. ³¹ Eur. Medeia 830 3, on which see Rutherford (2012: 239 n.64) who asks: ‘Should we observe that the conception in the Medeia avoids the offensive presence of a male parent?’ The idea of divine birth was an important element of Greek cult, on which see Rigoglioso 2009.


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In Euripides’ Herakleidai, the dynamics of explicit requests for pity (for the present weakness) take second place to an emphasis on the obligations owed (past) and the potential for retribution/reciprocity (future). These are Herakles’ children, valuable because of their ancestry, but dangerous— especially to Eurystheus—because of the threat their adult selves may pose. For Theseus and the Athenians, the question is not so much about expediency versus compassion, as it is a judgment about temporal perspectives— including, for the original audience, the comparison with their own situation, viewing this play as an episode from their past. The resolution comes when one element of the group is individualized and becomes an adult, as ‘Makaria’. Her lack of a name in the text is an indication of how carefully Euripides’ modulated her role, turning a potential danger into a positive symbol of hope and community solidarity. In many ways the separation of ‘Makaria’ from her siblings is the theoretical ideal, against which we should set the reality of Iphigeneia’s role in Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis. Iphigeneia’s separation from her role as ‘child’ is difficult, and made more complicated by the presence of the baby Orestes and Klytaimestra’s narrative of her first baby’s death at Agamemnon’s hands. The paradox of pathos and potential is at its most visible in this play, as the baby Orestes is layered with other identities (as is the child in Euripides’ Andromakhe) and carries a heavy burden of his own future adult role. He is seen to have power even as a vulnerable baby simply because of his social status and the role of his history traditionally referenced by the name as ‘son of Agamemnon’, yet his name actually has greater significance because of the retrojection of adult actions. The threat is posed not just because ‘he may become a dangerous adult’, but because he holds the promise of multiple future roles, as Klytaimestra suggests that he will become an avenger for Iphigeneia’s death. For the audience watching this play, the baby Orestes may well hold their attention like no other character in the play, raising questions of topical interest in discerning the hidden forces of history. While acknowledging the limitations of chronology-based argument, it may still be worth noting that if, as seems highly likely, this was Euripides’ last—or certainly one of his last—plays, he has used the child figure here with exceptional skill. If we further accept the scholiast’s note that Bakkhai did belong to the same group (along with Alkmaion),³² then the shadowy Dionysiac ‘baby’ in that play, and the discussion of ‘pledges’, ³² Scholion to Aristophanes’ Batrakhoi 407 (Chantry 1999). See further Francisetti Brolin 2013.

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may indicate an enhanced awareness of the inherent potential of children and their impact in drama (as we discussed in Chapter 3 in relation to ghostlike characterization). We may also imagine that Euripides’ Alkmaion had something to say about children returning and repeating patterns. The Bakkhai can be seen as presenting all stages of the ‘child–adult’ continuum, from the unborn foetus to the figure of Pentheus, the child killed by his mother. Pentheus is often included in discussions of children in tragedy, even though he is clearly operating as an adult, being the king of the city. One outcome of this study is that we can explore with greater clarity the way in which adolescence is presented onstage, distinguishing between ‘child’ and ‘adult’ characterization. Pentheus becomes more childlike in his interaction with Dionysos precisely when he starts asking questions and appears to have the potential to change (in this case role playing as a woman, then later being viewed as a mountain lion). From the earliest to the latest, Euripides presents child figures whose characterization is predicated on an interplay between pathos and potential. As the greatest source of pathos is the loss of future potential, we may then see ‘potential’ as the more important, for it both creates and mitigates against the creation of ‘pathos’.³³ The importance of a future-orientated role in tragedy is important for tragedy’s preoccupation with temporal control, in the context of Athenian history, and particularly with Euripides’ interest in philosophical issues. The agency of a child, despite his powerlessness, can be tied to broader concepts of ‘hope/change/expectation’, as when Andromakhe speaks of her child: καὶ πρὶν μὲν ἐν κακοῖσι κειμένην ὅμως ἐλπίς μ᾽ ἀεὶ προσῆγε σωθέντος τέκνου ἀλκήν τιν᾽ εὑρεῖν κἀπικούρησιν δόμον Before now, even though I was crushed by my suffering, elpis always pulled me forward, believing that if my child was saved my house would find a protector and ally.³⁴

³³ Contra Zeitlin (2008: 331) who describes Euripides’ use of emotional effects around children as ‘bordering on the sentimental’. ³⁴ Eur. Andr. 26 8. The Greek pairs the agency of ἐλπίς with the genitive construction σωθέντος τέκνου ‘child saved’, allowing for a vague field of future activity. The child may be the catalyst to bring help to Andromakhe, or he himself may prove to be the ‘strength and ally’ she desires.


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Here the phrasing is vague and elpis is not given a qualifying adjective which would make it a positive ‘hope’, but Andromakhe draws a picture of possible change for the good from her current and past passive state ‘crushed by/laid low by suffering/evils’.³⁵ This very indeterminacy which we see in Greek linguistic constructions of future time is strongly linked to the presentation of tragic children. An onstage child provokes a complex response from the audience which is then manipulated by the playwright, allowing him ‘to play upon us like a pipe’ (to misquote Hamlet). Instead of a simple response of pity, Euripides challenges us to consider the cognitive and moral aspects of our emotional responses. In concert with his manipulation of theatrical convention, this allows him to question the audience’s understanding of reality, and to challenge the traditional norms of society which constructed a linear model of time. Interest in the domestic role of children is not as important for Euripides as many have thought, partly because these children are ‘royal’. The interest is not so much from pathos, because the simple emotional appeal of the children is heavily mediated. What is important is that children are ideally positioned as focal points for tragedy’s negotiation of identity across time, linking the mythic past with the fifth-century present. As the audience contemplate onstage children in Euripides’ plays, they ‘see’ the real child playing the role more than they ‘see’ the adult actors, and because of that the future roles of the contemporary children introduce a level of anxiety about their own futures, which adds to tragedy’s psychological force. The link between Euripides and children, therefore, is more easily explained in terms of Euripides’ engagement with the philosophical climate of the time, and with questions of education, than with any specific issue of pathos or domestic focus.³⁶

³⁵ On Euripides’ use of ἐλπίς, see Griffiths 2019. ³⁶ On Euripides’ relationship to the sophists in late fifth century Athens, see Allan 2000b.

6 Conclusions and Future Directions 6.1 The Value of Potential I have argued that the dramatic force exerted by child figures in Greek tragedy derives from their particular position (or superposition) in the dramatic matrix. This is more important than considerations of pathos, and is indeed fundamental to the creation of that pathos. Child figures are not easily explained in Aristotelian terms of character and action, but a mode of explanation can be found in Aristotle’s broader ideas about potentiality and action. Several further monographs are needed to explore other aspects of child roles, not least to consider the possible avenues offered by fragmentary plays.¹ For the present study, the lack of dramatic framework has excluded such plays from any detailed consideration, but there are tantalizing details that would open further lines of investigation. If we were to find more of Euripides’ lost Danaë, we might be able to make more sense of the quotation that the joy shared between parent and child is not as great as the pleasure given by gold.² The motif exists in other forms, such as Hekabe’s lament over the death of Polydoros, ‘My child would have provided a great treasure for you’ (E. Hek. 1229). The value of children, I have suggested, owes more to their potential than their present time, and so study of their position in relation to economic factors might offer something to our understanding of the capital versus interest models of interaction in tragedy.³ Similarly, a further example of the role of light in relation to children in Danaë could add to our understanding of the role of Helios as distant great-grandfather in Euripides’ Medeia.⁴ Should we emphasize the ¹ Cf. Funke 2013 on the way fragments may alter our view of the gendered dynamics of tragedy. ² Karamanou 7 TGrF 324. See Karamanou 2006: 78 82. ³ See Seaford (2012) for economic analysis of tragedy. Cf. Danes (2015) who argues that the situation in Eur. Herakleidai reveals the importance of placing justice over profit, and Bollack (2010: 261) who notes that children and wealth form an external backdrop for negotiation of the self in Eur. Hekabe. ⁴ On the imagery of light and children in the play, especially in fr. 2 Karamanou TGrF 316, see Karamanou 2006: 65 6; Syropoulos 2010. On the role of light in creating character, see a Children in Greek Tragedy: Pathos and Potential. Emma M. Griffiths, Oxford University Press (2020). © Emma M. Griffiths. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198826071.001.0001


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possibilities of staging with costume to present them (in Luschnig’s phrase) as ‘golden-haired great grandsons of Helios’?⁵ Further discoveries could offer the chance to explore other features of children’s roles, such as the metrical considerations involved in child speech, linking to theories of rhythm and actor-network theory in the theatre.⁶ At present, the limited amount of material available would render any analysis unduly speculative. Similarly a single contextualized example of a female child speaking role could significantly alter the ways we understand the gendered dynamics of tragedy.⁷ My emphasis on potentiality has drawn upon modern theoretical formulations, but remains grounded in ancient ideas, offering an insight into the ways the tragic playwrights thought about children in relation to drama. Potential adds force to the pathos in tragedy (laments for the child’s lost future, etc.), but crucially gives a far more threatening and intriguing dimension to child figures, beyond their largely static, silent onstage presence. In the temporal flux of drama, the child’s potential future actions have a dramatic power, hovering over them like ghosts. This dynamic is enhanced by the use of child actors in the fifth century, a probability we established with greater certainty in Chapter 2. Although the loss of a child’s future can create pathos, it is modulated as the strength of the future adult is retrojected onto the onstage weakness of the child. This interplay of pathos and potential invites consideration of a more subtle reason for the inclusion of child figures in tragedy, despite the many reasons to exclude them. The multiple future roles which adults foresee for any given child indicate the lack of human control over the unfolding of time, and the fragility of human life. An onstage child is a palimpsest of multiple future roles, as well as a complex socio-physical entity. I have argued that this dramatic status can be viewed as a form of ‘quantum superposition’ where the child’s role never fully coalesces, forcing the audience to confront their own fears about the nature of existence. From these arguments, certain details of particular plays can be re-evaluated, as

range of perspectives in Christopolos, Karankantza, and Levaniouk (2010), and cf. Barnaby (2016: 81 5) for cross cultural perspectives on mirrors in theatre. ⁵ Luschnig 2007: 94, who continues with provocative phrasing, suggesting greater temporal play in the situation: ‘The children are her past labours.’ ⁶ See, for example, Levine (2015: 85 93) on Sophocles’ Antigone. ⁷ For an indication of the range of possibilities, see Funke 2013.

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explored in the previous chapter. A paradigm shift in the way we approach child figures offers many possibilities for re-evaluating aspects of our approach to Greek tragedy. In this final chapter, I will outline some directions this work may take.

6.2 Adolescence First, in establishing a stronger case for the use of child actors, it becomes possible to see a syndrome of characterizing features which creates a dramatic ‘child’. The use of a small physical body, patterns of imagery, and patterns of speech all contribute to a picture of a child, such that we can now approach with greater clarity the case of ‘adolescent’ characters. Scholars have rightly seen many such figures as displaying childlike features, but without any definition of how that dramatic effect is achieved. With a stronger sense of what makes a ‘dramatic child’ we can now assess liminal characters more clearly, noting which features of their presentation create the impression of a child, and when a change in dramatic practice (such as a move away from questions, or a widening of self-definition) marks that the character has become a dramatic adult. Characters such as Iphigeneia in Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis or ‘Makaria’ in Euripides’ Herakleidai undergo a transition from child to adult which can be plotted along a line of dramatic characterization. A greater understanding of this theatrical process may allow us to explore further the interaction with concomitant socio-historical patterns of adolescence. To take one example, Shipton presents an persuasive analysis of Neoptolemos in Sophocles’ Philoktetes, where the status of different age categories is linked explicitly to political skill. Shipton rightly notes that the word νέος is only used once in the entire play (96–7), and even then of Odysseus himself. He then continues: ‘The absence of the term in Philoctetes suggests that the psychological traits of youth are of little relevance to the action.’⁸ I would argue instead that the psychological traits of youth can be translated into markers of dramatic childhood, such as physical guidance, repeated questioning, and inability to project an idea of oneself outside of the present situation, and that Neoptolemos does indeed present some of these features throughout the play. Furthermore, elements of child characterization in the

⁸ Shipton 2018: 97.


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play invite us to revisit issues of masculinity and the physical body.⁹ The semiotic category of ‘empty sign’ which we discussed in relation to children can also be applied in the discourse of disability, so that both Philoctetes and Neoptolemos are theatrically unstable figures who resist the attempts of Odysseus to direct them.¹⁰ It may be significant that major tragic figures who experience disability, or are struck by illness/madness, such as Oidipous, Philocketes, Aias, or Herakles, are frequently contextualized by references to children, ritual, and social maturation.¹¹ By highlighting the specific details which mark Neoptolemos’ age, we are better able to evaluate the dramatic progression. Shipton compares the parental dynamic in Philoktetes with the father-son argument of Sophocles’ Antigone, but I would suggest that this can only be useful if we also factor in the father-son dynamic between Kreon and Menoikeus in Euripides’ Phoenissai. The three young men can be positioned on a continuum of dramatic age: Menoikeus begins as a child, but becomes a dramatic adult; Neoptolemos is a dramatic adult with elements of child characterization; Haimon is completely adult, able to maintain a broad perspective and take his own decisions from the start of the action. In this way we can profitably use knowledge of children in tragedy to nuance our understanding of many ‘youth’ characters and the socio-political aspects of many plays. However, in seeing the techniques of dramatic construction, and realizing the artificiality of children’s roles, we expose the difficulty of seeing socio-historical comment refracted through their stories.

6.3 Politics The morality or wisdom of ‘killing the enemy’s’ child is frequently an issue, but never one presented with a clear moral viewpoint, so, as we have seen, the agonizing murder of Astyanax in Euripides’ Troades can be read against the grain with Hekabe’s failure to kill Alexandros, and her murder of the children of Polymester in Euripides’ Hekabe. The death of Astyanax echoes in the threat to Andromakhe’s child in Euripides’ Andromakhe, but there again the warning that the baby Alexandros should have been killed is presented in unflinching terms:

⁹ On the physicality of Philoktetes, see Stephens 1995. ¹⁰ On disability and dramatic signification, cf. Love (2018) on Early Modern Theatre. ¹¹ On the typology of disability and its links to ritual, see Quayson 2007: 4.

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Χορός ἀλλ᾽ εἴθ᾽ ὑπὲρ κεϕαλὰν ἔβαλεν κακὸν ἁ τεκοῦσά νιν μόρον πρὶν Ἰδαῖον κατοικίσαι λέπας, ὅτε νιν παρὰ θεσπεσίῳ δάϕνᾳ βόασε Κασάνδρα κτανεῖν, μεγάλαν Πριάμου πόλεως λώβαν. τίν᾽ οὐκ ἐπῆλθε, ποῖον οὐκ ἐλίσσετο δαμογερόντων βρέϕος ϕονεύειν;¹² Chorus: How I wish the mother had cast him out, as a curse thrown over her shoulder, before he could live to dwell on the Idaian rock. It should have happened when Kassandra by the foreseeing laurel cried out that he must die, or else bring total ruin to Priam’s city. Was there any of the authorities she did not approach, any prayer she did not offer, begging that the baby should be murdered?

Tragic treatments of myths involving exposure (a less violent fate than the ‘murder’ (ϕονεύειν 300) urged by Kassandra) may reveal some underlying social or psychological anxiety, but the specific stories do not provide any clear guidance about likely responses of a contemporary audience.¹³ For all of these issues the fundamental nature of the ‘child actor’ under the ‘child character’ may well be prominent, inviting comparison with contemporary social norms. Given the complexity of this interplay, I think we can safely say that the contemporary audience had a very strong interest in anything to do with children, but that there was no coherent ideology of childhood which carried over from ‘real life’ to ‘dramatic fiction’. The discourse of childhood in tragedy emphasizes the dangers involved with children, and this is at once constitutive and reflective of the wider contemporary discourse of childhood, but the dramatic configurations of ideas may have been very different from those we see in contemporary socio-historical sources. One simple point to arise from this is a restatement of the need to respect generic conventions when discussing tragic children, not only to avoid ¹² Eur. Andr. 293 300. ¹³ On the psychological aspects of myths involving infant exposure, see Huys 1995.


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anachronistic importation of modern views, but also to avoid seeing them as reflections of fifth-century Athenian children. The temptation to use tragic children as socio-historical examples is great because of the paucity of evidence we have for speaking children in the Greek world. We can, however, reopen debates which have been prematurely closed, such as asking about the possible presence of children in the original audience.¹⁴ This is a different question from those addressed in this book, but if children are viewed as socially complex, potentially threatening figures, then their role in an audience becomes more intriguing. Again, the evidence is scarce and inconclusive. Reactions to child figures onstage, I have suggested, involved some awareness of ‘real-life’ children beneath the mask, but the degree and nature of emotional engagement could be very different if the members of the audience had their own small children sat beside them. The issue of education has received considerable attention in recent scholarship, but the children in tragedy do not learn anything, except for implicit ‘life lessons’ about the failure of adult protection, the failure of supplication rituals, and the fact that life is painful.¹⁵ While modern education stresses ‘lifelong learning’ and the ‘potential’ of children and adults, there is a considerable gap between ancient and modern thinking. Study of children in tragedy, then, may cause us to reflect on the place of education in times of crisis, which may in turn suggest new approaches to historical disturbances—the immediate lessons learned during the plague of Athens, according to Thucydides, were not the same as those of more general application.¹⁶ When plague victims lost their extremities (2.49.8), it is doubtful that they reflected on the fate of Thyestes’ children (although Lucretius’s reading of the Athenians’ fear of death might hint that he was making such a connection).¹⁷ Children’s roles are highly artificial, and constructed within a dramatic matrix with only occasional points of interaction between the real world of ¹⁴ Carter 2011: 50: ‘That children were in the audience is one of the least controversial points.’ Carter’s reading of Plato, Gorgias 502d, comparing remarks about ‘men and boys’ in the audience for comedy (Ar. Clouds 537 9, Ar. Peace 50 53, 765 6) is reasonable, but neither Plato nor Aristophanes provide socio historical evidence which is easily interpreted. See further discussion in Roselli (2011) passim. ¹⁵ Although Plato says that there is an ideal age progression from babies liking puppets, older children liking comedy, and young men liking tragedy (Laws 658c d), I think it is difficult to go as far as Carter to assume that children were involved in watching tragedy for kicks: ‘Although an account of a mother killing her own children is gruesome, it is also entertaining in a tragic way’ (2011: 60). ¹⁶ Thoukydides History of the Peloponnesian War 2. On the philosophical issues raised by this narrative, and its relation to the plague in Sophocles’ OT, see Gumpert 2012: 32 78. ¹⁷ Lucretius DRN 6.1208 13.

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the audience and the world of the play. This could suggest a model of tragedy which distanced the audience from the actions onstage, but the embodied status of child actors as child characters brings the two frames into a closer relationship. Thus, it may be that plays involving onstage children were more likely to speak directly to the audience in terms of their own immediate concerns than did other plays which allowed for a more mediated engagement. This provides no clear answer to the question of tragedy’s normative or subversive role in fifth-century Athens, but does perhaps suggest that plays with children were on the more subversive end of the spectrum. As discussed above, the children in Euripides’ Medeia have strong overtones of being ‘Athenian children’, such that their deaths, marked by their own voices, could not easily be rationalized as a reflection on Athenian superiority.¹⁸ Still less can they be seen in a divine/mortal framework as ‘innocent bystanders’.¹⁹ The close links between children and the physical earth evokes ideas of Athenian autochthony, so plays with child figures may reflect/strengthen/problematize ideas of national identity just as strongly as we see in Euripides’ Ion.²⁰ Questions about ethnic identity can be further explored in relation to the child as ‘empty sign’, for the discourse of exile and the foreign ‘other’ is often framed in similar terms.²¹ Medeia’s children may be seen to operate within multiple temporal and divine frames, but they exist in an even more abstract form as the ‘future children in exile’, echoing the vulnerability/danger posed by the exiled children of Eur. Herakleidai. Displacement and confusion over age categories heightens the tension in Eur. Hekabe where the ethnicity of Polymestor’s children may have been emphasized by costume or musical style, so that tone became substantive in assessing the moral compass of the play. Ethnicity may have been a stronger feature of tragic childhood than our current extant sample suggests, when we consider figures such as Tereus and Prokne, or

¹⁸ On the backlash against ‘subversive’ readings, and arguments to see tragedy less as disruptive and more as a stabilizing force, see Allan and Kelley 2013; Kelley 2015. Zeitlin (2008) discussed tragic children as part of a democratic discourse in relationship to Dionysiac worship, but see Scullion (2002; 2012) for further discussion of the problems in calling tragedy ‘Dionysiac’. ¹⁹ Swift 2017: 89: ‘Assimilating Medea’s vengeance to divine vengeance helps to illuminate how unusual this is, for while gods regularly involve innocent bystanders (such as children) in their attempts to punish the wicked, mortals cannot usually go to such lengths, for fear of retribution.’ ²⁰ On the importance of autochthony in Eur. Ion, see Bowlby 2007: 207 8; Zacharia 2003: 44 102. ²¹ For a modern perspective on exiles and the process of signification, see Meerzon 2012.


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Athamas and Ino who were popular subjects for tragedy where the roles of children crossed geographical boundaries.²² If we return to the idea that interest in children increased in the fifth century because of the uncertainties of war, we can play down the element of pathos and emphasize the reassessment of risk and danger in such scenarios.²³ Although we have limited evidence, the very fact that children are able to speak in tragedy should give us pause for thought. In a culture which valued speech so highly, and in a genre which made so much of this discourse, it is a striking fact that children are given any voice in such a range of contexts. They should not necessarily be treated as a ‘muted group’ in socio-historical analysis.²⁴

6.4 Old Age and Gender The idea that tragic children exist in a ‘superposition state’ has contributed to many of this book’s discussions, but quantum theory reveals a further line for development. With theories of quantum entanglement, any action/comment immediately affects related issues/particles, etc., whatever spatial or temporal distance involved. My discussion of pathos and its inextricable link with dangerous potential opens the way for discussion of other characters traditionally seen as ‘vulnerable’, even in plays which contain no child roles. Elderly figures may be weaker than we often assume.²⁵ Tragedy frequently compares the weakness of old age with that of childhood, but behind this is a different dynamic where the future of the child mitigates against his or her present-time weakness. For elderly characters, this source of dramatic power is absent. Instead, we see a more pathetic form of future projection when characters wonder who will bury them.²⁶ The interplay of age categories may further offer new avenues for interpretation in connection with female roles in tragedy, where the pathos/potential model may offer new insights into the ‘dangerous’ characters of women related to their different stages on the child–adult continuum, and the issue of embodiment when male actors play female roles. Simone de Beauvoir famously used the image of the ²² Athamas’ infanticide was a popular subject for tragedy, with at least twenty plays known from the classical period; see Soussan 2006; Stewart 2017: 29 31. ²³ On risk in Athenian culture, see Eidinow 2007; 2011. On the way children react to risk in relation to adult situations, see the modern assessment in Kelley, Mayall, and Hood 1997. ²⁴ On the use of ‘muted groups’ to describe ancient social divisions, see Häland 2017: 247 9. ²⁵ On old age in tragedy, see Byl 1975; Dhuga 2011. ²⁶ See Chapter 2.2.9.

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‘imagined but ever possible child’ as the fundamental point of connection between men and women, so we might imagine that the many imaginary children in tragedy are doing more than we might have thought in negotiating gender dynamics.²⁷ For example, Gregory’s insightful analysis of the female roles in Troades included the suggestion that the women ‘embody’ past values.²⁸ When we add in the perspective that women are hollow,²⁹ the links to the shield/Astyanax become more prominent, as the women see their transformed physiques as curved vessels bearing the children of Greeks (the role foreseen for them at 562–7), as well as projecting themselves back into their previous identities as a dancing chorus of girls.³⁰ Just as Andromakhe and Astyanax were described as objects, ‘spoils’ (600), Astyanax now evokes not only the horror of losing a child, but the horror of bearing a child to an enemy.³¹ This may in turn prompt further thought about the dramatic age of tragic choruses, old and young.³² The way we figure the chorus of old men in Aiskhylos’ Agamemnon, for example, is far from simple in relation to the children of Thyestes and the pathos/danger of the pregnant hare (as discussed in Chapter 5), and invites reconsideration of its relationship with the chorus in Aiskhylos’ Persai who speak of the ‘voiceless children of the unpolluted sea’.³³ I would also suggest that the chorus of Euripides’ Hiketides requires radical reassessment of the negotiation of pathos/potential in relation to chorality, an analysis beyond the scope of the current study.³⁴ By reframing the roles of children, and emphasizing their potential, we are invited to revisit our assumptions about weakness and strength in tragedy, and consider anew the interplay between age, gender, ethnicity, and other ²⁷ On de Beauvoir’s analysis, see Evans (2012: 25): ‘The female and male adult bodies existed in relationship to one another in terms of a crucial, imagined but ever possible other: the child that could be born from heterosexual intercourse.’ ²⁸ Gregory 1991: 157 60. ²⁹ Cf. Eur. Hekabe 1109 10, where Agamemnon describes the fall of Troy in terms of hollow sounding instruments. ³⁰ On the lyric music indicating this transition of status for the chorus, see Swift (2010: 191). Cf. Fanfani (2018: 252 3) on the ambiguity of the embodied status of the wooden Trojan Horse and (2018: 259) on the chorus’ time travel to the past. ³¹ Cf. Brillet Dubois 2015 on conflicts of leadership in the play. ³² The most recent work on the Sophoklean chorus does not give any clear perspective on this; see Reitze (2017) with review by Finglass 2018b. Cf. Mills (2014: 101 2) on the chorus in Eur. Medeia. Mastronarde (2010: 89 152). On choral creation of extra dramatic space, see Nikolaidou Arabatzí 2015. ³³ Aiskh. Persai 576 83. ³⁴ Work on the chorus in the play has examined several related aspects, but not the pathos/ potential dynamic; see in particular Kavoulaki (2011) on choral self awareness presented in the plays of Aeschylus and Euripides. Cf. Kournarou 2008.


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categories such as disability. So, for example, when considering the case of Oidipous, the incestuous Möbius strip which cancels out the future of his family can be seen to reflect a narrative response to socio-historical patterns, but it also asks us to consider once more the relationship between his disability and his actions, a factor which is downplayed despite its ubiquity in his life because of his name. In some versions of the myth, the child is saved because of his cries, so he is not a ‘muted actor’, a reminder that children’s voices have power in tragedy beyond their limited onstage roles.

6.5 Children in Greek Literature There are broader areas where we may already see child figures contributing more than we expect to tragedy, such as the issue of religion, the negotiation of power, and the question of temporality. This book has explored one element of the discourse of childhood, but could have wide-ranging effects in discussions about motherhood, fatherhood, and family dynamics both in tragedy and in fifth-century Athens more widely. Within the study of literature, I would suggest that the children of tragedy deserve their own category, so that any attempt to classify ‘children in ancient literature’ is a daunting task.³⁵ While there are undoubtedly areas of intertextual overlap (for example, with the figure of Astyanax from Iliad 6), the nature of the dramatic medium introduces so many new considerations that I consider tragic children to be very ‘un-epic’.³⁶ It may be that we should bring renewed attention to the role of children as part of epic’s attitude towards future time. Although the child’s double name Astyanax/Skamandrios suggests the possibility of two different identities on one child, his appearance with Andromakhe in the Iliad is very much as a frightened child, and Andromakhe’s fears involve a limited temporal shift to where he may be a slave or an orphan, then a blurring of focus in the lament for Hektor/Astyanax where he is no longer ‘on-screen’. She seems unaware of the logical ‘real’ future, in which the child will be killed to prevent a further future where he becomes just as frightening as his father. This may be a psychological motif in the epic ³⁵ Although I disagree with the emphasis given to the tragic material by Pratt (2013), I respect the ambition in attempting such a synthesis. ³⁶ Here I diverge most strongly from Menu (1992) who sees tragic children as developments of epic figures. Although Tsagalis (2012) notes similar dynamics with the role of Astyanax in the Iliad (see above on Astyanax in Eur. Troades), the issue of embodiment is very different in epic for example, with the strange backstory of Helen’s birth from an egg; see Sammons 2017: 45.

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depiction of Andromakhe, or it may be an example of Homer’s wish to pass over some of the more disturbing elements of myth, such as the version where Hektor is still alive when Akhilleus drags him round the walls of Troy.³⁷ This work may be able to help further as we broaden our focus across Greek literature, and return to comments about children in tragedy, such as the image in Aiskh. Agamemnon of man’s folly like ‘a child who chases a bird’.³⁸ Once we remove the frame of pathos, this becomes far more interesting, as the child is framed as a hunter, or seen in relation to the economic and status implications of keeping pets.³⁹

6.6 Comedy, Satyr Play, and Ritual Comparison with comedy and satyr play can now be made with greater precision. While Hall may be correct that tragedy inherited an interest in childbirth stories from satyr play, the construction of onstage child roles is not necessarily the same. Aristophanes’ interest in children may be a feature of the comic genre, or a reaction to a particularly recognizable Euripidean pattern. The relationship between comedy, education, and child’s play may yield new insights if approached through the filter of ‘potentiality’, and an increased awareness that pathos is not a simple matter to parody.⁴⁰ The same ambiguities can be found when considering the Dionysiac aspects of tragedy, which Zeitlin suggested were fundamental to the roles of children. While my discussions have highlighted the dangerous potential of children—a factor which would harmonize with some of Zeitlin’s ideas— the Dionysiac nature of tragedy and the link between Dionysos and children remain unclear.⁴¹ If the pathos of children is less prominent, then some arguments about the affective appeal of children in religious contexts become less persuasive, but by contrast the idea of a child embodying potential highlights the more dangerous aspects of Dionysos’s character. In Euripides’ Bakkhai, the baby Dionysos is a shadowy figure, but still in ³⁷ On the presentation of Andromakhe between epic and tragedy, see Muich 2010. See Garvie (1998: 221 n. on 1030 1) on the tradition in Soph. Aias that Hektor was still alive when Akhilleus dragged him round Troy. ³⁸ Aiskh. Ag. 394. ³⁹ See Bradley 1998. ⁴⁰ See Farmer (2016 passim), and in particular pp. 83 5 on the comic fragment of Anti phanes’ Poiesis (189) suggesting that the mere mention of Alkmaion for a tragic audience provoked knowledge of stories involving children. ⁴¹ See further articles on the origins of comedy in Henderson, Konstan, Rosen, and Slater 2011.


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some senses a ‘character’ as I suggested in Chapter 3. The role of Demeter deserves further consideration, following Kowalzig’s observations of the relationship between Sicily and tragedy, as do the Orphic connections.⁴² It may be no coincidence that Iphigeneia begs for her life by appeals to her childhood and the famous line, ‘If I had the voice of Orpheus.’⁴³ The potentiality of children manipulated in drama may be usefully situated in wider religious discourses where rebirth is an important metaphor, as well as linking to work on multiple personalities in comedy. It may be that the palimpsests of identity in comedy are highlighted by the use of child figures, not least when there is a tragic interplay involved, as with the parody of the baby Orestes in the Telephos myth.⁴⁴

6.7 Final Thoughts The opening chapter of this book explored a history of scholarship where personal opinion and received wisdom overruled academic considerations, and work on children expressed society’s preconceptions and anxieties. To close this discussion, a final personal perspective may provide a signpost for later scholars, viewing this as a product of work in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. It is my hope that literary children will increasingly receive the scholarly respect accorded to their socio-historical peers, and that scholars working in this field will find themselves taken more seriously.⁴⁵ Any serious scholarship must eventually find an answer to the question, ‘So what?’ If faced with a crying child, needing food and comfort, can we really argue that the child should be passed to another, in favour of contemplating the status of fictional characters in a context more than two and a half thousand years removed? Can scholarship such as this be justified, whether as intellectually stimulating or a necessary evil of academic career structures, when we live in a world full of suffering children? Many readers of this book may have solved this problem to their own satisfaction. My personal response to the ‘So what?’ of this book is twofold. ⁴² Kowalzig 2008. On the roles of children in relation to cult, see Englhofer 2008; Livieratou 1986; Pache 2004; Rekak 2007. ⁴³ Eur. IA. 1211. On the relationship between Orphic and Dionysiac rituals, and the child Dionysos, see Robertson 2003. Cf. Reber (2013) on the relationship between Dionysos and Demeter. ⁴⁴ On multiple personalities in comedy, see Fischer 1993. ⁴⁵ Cf. Niemann (2012) on the ongoing issues in academia related to race and gender and social status.

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First, previous studies of children in tragedy have been limited in perspective to such an extent that they misrepresent tragedy. There has been a fundamental confusion of category, blurring the distinction between ‘child’—young human—and ‘children’ (including ‘adult children’) as constructed in relationship with a parent. This confusion limits the impact of analyses such as Rochelle’s 2012 dissertation on children in tragedy. The positive role she ascribes to children and the family unit, standing strong against a divine indifference, may work on some levels, but does not account for the roles of small children per se. Given the importance of tragedy to modern ethical thought, any material which leads to a more nuanced reading may ultimately feed into more effective ethical responses in the modern world.⁴⁶ In exploring the mysteriousness of children in tragedy we may be inspired once more to the ‘examined life’ with all the ethical problems that contains. This engagement then offers the hope of more effective responses to human suffering. And secondly, quantum physics is as profoundly disturbing as Greek tragedy, and yet attempts to avoid uncertainty are of doubtful value, whether in the fifth-century theatre or the twenty-first-century lecture theatre. The ‘superposition’ of children in tragedy is a theatrical response, which hints at how ancient audiences grappled with the magnitude of human suffering. Although Rochelle (2012) may be correct that some aspects of the family dynamic offered hope in the face of divine indifference, even the most charmed life could not escape the suffering of loss, old age, and death. To parody Horace, ‘You may have had a glittering academic career, happy children, and a nice house, Torquatus, but what good is it now?’⁴⁷ The Nurse at the opening of Euripides’ Medeia laments the failure of song to ease human suffering, but maybe classical scholarship should be more bullish in its attempts to take up the baton. As Kennedy notes in his exploration of time and potential, ‘these moments of enlightenment that make us realise, if only temporarily, our human potential’.⁴⁸ If this book offers even the hope of one brief spark which could lead to one moment of relief from

⁴⁶ See Bernal (1994). The reception of ancient myth in modern storytelling for children is a growing field of research; see Maurice 2015. ⁴⁷ Horace Carmina 4.7.21: cum semel occideris et de te, splendida, Minos / fecerit arbitria, / non Torquate, genus, non te facundia, non te / restituet pietas, ‘When once you have fallen and Minos has passed sentence, your family, your mind, your piety cannot pull you back, Torquatus.’ ⁴⁸ Kennedy 2013: 202.


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suffering for one individual, past, present, or future, I will consider the labour worthwhile. We have moved a long way from the stereotype of ‘pathetic victims’ towards a more positive understanding of their complexity and dramatic power. In some ways, however, the idea of ‘pathos’ was a comforting intellectual shorthand, allowing us to turn away from the horrific detail of child death in tragedy. With a greater appreciation of how child figures manifested onstage, we may consider the old question of how original audience members of tragedy could go home and interact with their wives.⁴⁹ What do you say after viewing the extremes of female passion and family destruction? In raising the issue of childhood potential, I wonder whether the experience of watching tragedy modified the attitude of audience members in dealing with their children after such events. When they hugged their children during or after these plays, was their response a mixture of love, fear for the future, and physical warmth, or did they pause to reflect, to see the future in their children’s eyes? Did they feel an existential chill, a quantum anxiety as the fragility and impermanence of human life was forced to the front of their minds? Did the present-time weakness and future potential strength of their children make them reflect on their own present strength but future weakness? Were they frightened for them, or of them? Did they sense the inevitability of their own failing powers, and conclude with Dr. Seuss that ‘adults are just obsolete children’?⁵⁰

⁴⁹ Cf. Gerö 2001. ⁵⁰ Quoted by Eric Pace in his obituary. Dr. Seuss, Modern Mother Goose, Dies at 87 (New York Times September 26 1991) 0302.html.


Being an Orphan Arguments around child figures in court and tragedy often refer to the idea of being ‘orphaned’ (as in the ‘Parade of War Orphans’ at the City Dionysia), so some comment on the terminology is helpful to establish the context for such arguments. When referring to a particular historical category, the word in fifth century Athenian terminology refers to a fatherless child, in whom the state took an interest because the question of kureia was involved.¹ The loss of a mother had no immediate legal consequences, regardless of the distress evidenced in Eur. Alkestis where Admetos describes the whole house collapsing with Alkestis’ maternal role.² Although the worlds of tragedy seldom replicate the legal realities of fifth century Athens, specific vocabulary can evoke particular responses, so that, to the original audiences, the context in which they were most familiar with the word orphanos was that of a child who had lost a father. The word is not found in the work of Herodotos or Thoukydides, and the only example in Aristophanes describes a ‘bird’ that has lost its father.³ Contextual evidence is here drawn from Plato notwithstanding the prob lems of generic comparison which does at least provide a large corpus with a variety of uses of the term.⁴ The term orphanos in tragedy is used most frequently to describe children who have lost a parent.⁵ Of the remaining usages, most may take their significance from that wider context. The instances in extant tragedy are listed below in five categories: children who have lost a father; children who have lost a mother; the house deprived of loved ones; the elderly who have lost their children; women who have lost their husbands.

¹ The state’s most important involvement was through the duty of the eponymous archon in cases where no suitable kurios existed. The state’s care for the children of men killed in war was a further development of this protection, one which probably had ideological as well as practical motivations: the state not only undertook to provide for the well being of the children, but honoured their dead fathers by stepping into what was primarily a family relationship. The state of Athens, however, could be described in Greek as a father or a mother to its citizens; see Golden (1990) 40. ² There were, however, potential consequences through the introduction of a step family; see Watson (1995). ³ Aristophanes’ Ornithes 1361. ⁴ Although his work is not always descriptive of the classical Athenian experience, Plato does not specifically define the word orphanos as being any different from the common usage. The Scholia on the three tragedians contain no useful instances of the word, for they merely echo the usages of the words in the passages on which they are commenting, and naturally are most frequent on Euripides’ Alkestis and Sophocles’ Aias. ⁵ ‘Children’ can, in some cases, refer to adult children, although whether this indicates an infantilization of the adult involved is doubtful. See discussion of terminology in Chapter 1.


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A. Children Who Have Lost a Father Aiskhylos Khoephoroi 249 50; Sophokles’ Aias 510 13⁶ and 652 3; Euripides’ Alkestis 287 8 and 534 5; Elektra 914 15 and 1008 10; Hiketides 1132 3. Cf. Euripides’ Herakles 546, although in that case it is the absence, and possible death, of the father which is at issue. B. Children Who Have Lost a Mother Euripides’ Alkestis 163 5, 275 7, 295 7, and 396; Hippolytos 847. Phoenissai 986 9. C. The House Deprived of Loved Ones Sophokles’ Fragment 943.1⁷ Euripides’ Alkestis 654 7; Ion 790 2; Orestes 664. D. The Elderly Who Have Lost Their Children Sophokles’ Antigone 422 5; Euripides’ Medeia 1209 10; Andromakhe 307 8; Hekabe 147 52; Euripides’ Fragment 332.6.⁸ E. Women Who Have Lost Their Husbands Euripides’ Orestes 1134 6. There is also a possible reference in Sophokles’ Fragment 212, but there is insufficient context.⁹ The predominance of the references to the loss of a parent is reflected in the works of Plato where the majority of instances of the idea refer to children.¹⁰ However, the parity between the parents is not reflected in Plato. Since it is the loss of a father which has the greater practical consequences for a child, the stress on that parent would be expected. The parity between parents may be due to the dynastic elements of tragedy,¹¹ but may also reflect something of the problematization of prioritizing one parent over the other: if the mother’s role is given greater prominence in life, then the loss of the mother is correspondingly prioritized. However, I hesitate to pursue that argument, for four of the references to a mother ‘orphaning’ her children are in the Alkestis. Further to the difficulties created by its status as a fourth play is the fact that the work makes great play with the term orphanos. Euripides uses the word in this drama with an unparalleled frequency. If we are not to attribute this to unconscious repetition and once more accuse Euripides of artistic ineptitude I would suggest that the word may be deliberately primed in the play to emphasize the ironic structure. I have previously discussed (see Chapter 8) the child’s speech in the play as a masterful piece of ironic writing in which Euripides himself uses the term. If that interpretation is accepted, then the final two instances of the word can be seen as structurally prepared. At v. 535, Admetos describes how Alkestis was in his care after she had been ‘orphaned’ of her father. The word has by this point been used repeatedly of Alkestis’ children so that the audience may well make a further connection in the family histories. If the previous use of the word in the child’s speech had a humorous undertone, this repetition may well have been felt as a

⁶ See Garvie (1998) 172 n. on 510 13. ⁷ Radt (1977). ⁸ Kannicht (2004). ⁹ Radt (1977). ¹⁰ Crito 45 (2), Phaedo 116 a 7, Theaetetus 164 e 3, Menex 249 a 4, Republic 495 c 2, Laws 766 c 5, 877 c 5, 909 (2), 922 4 (2). ¹¹ See Maitland (1992).

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hackneyed expression.¹² Once again, at v. 657, the description of the house as potentially ‘orphaned’ may now appear as a risible exaggeration. The word has been so frequently used of children that the context is now fixed. In fact, in all cases where the word refers to the house the idea of children is present, however weakly; Kreousa in the Ion is beset by childlessness and Ion is short of parents, and Orestes v. 664 specifies that the house is lacking a father. The image of a story lacking a father is one also used by Plato.¹³ If the predominance of the maternal role in Alkestis is put to one side, the logical predominance of the father’s role reappears in tragedy. In the remaining two examples, where it is the loss of a mother which is referred to (in the Hippolytos and Phoenissai), the mother’s role is being celebrated and/or emphasized. Theseus in his grief for Phaidra dwells on the family without her maternal presence, and Menoikeus expresses the strength of his attachment to Iocasta as the person who cared for him after the death of his mother. It is likely, then, that in all examples where the word orphanos refers to the loss of a mother the term is being extended as a mark of respect for an exceptional woman, so that the predominant meaning ‘loss of father’ remains intact.¹⁴ It would seem to be a not unreasonable inference that the term orphanos in classical Athens referred mainly to children who had lost a father. The use of the term to describe those who have lost children in tragedy seems a likely development from this. The loss of a child is such a horrendous fate that the parent is reduced to a state similar to that of a child. A more general context for the word as simply ‘bereaved’ is shown in Orestes v. 1136, but as the parent child relationship has already been highlighted in the play with the same vocabulary (at v. 664) it is possible that this example, too, draws on the experience of a child losing a parent. There is no example in tragedy of the general context of the word which we find in Plato. In his works we find a number of examples of the term used to convey general lack or loss.¹⁵ Plato also provides a change of perspective about the importance of both parents, which is intriguing if not particularly helpful, for the passage in question is prescriptive rather than descriptive of any socio historical reality. In talking of the practicalities if a wife kills her husband, (Laws 877c) provides for the wife to be exiled and the children to be cared for ‘as if orphans’, implying that the term orphanos here describes a child who has lost both parents. If the term orphanos most frequently refers to the loss of a father, as being the circumstance which brings with it practical consequences, there appears to be no term equivalent to our word ‘orphan’, i.e. as referring to a child who has lost both parents, although there is a Greek word for a child who had both parents living.¹⁶ There was a well defined role for such children in marriage ceremonies.¹⁷ It may be that the only distinction implied by this term was that between a child who had both parents living and one who did not, but I think that the emphasis on both parents ¹² The term ‘running joke’ is perhaps too strong a term to describe this. ¹³ Theaetetus 164 e 3. ¹⁴ The dominant literary model for the fate of a child who lost a father is Andromakhe’s distressing picture of the child in Iliad 22.476 ff., as she contemplates the likely fate of Astyanax. ¹⁵ Laws 730 d 1, 741 a 2, Phaedrus 239 e 4, Alkibiades (2) 147 a 6. ¹⁶ E.g. Kallimakhos’ Iamb. 3.1.3. ¹⁷ See Golden (1990) 30.


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militates against any view of a child as solely connected to his father. The present study of the term orphanos in tragedy, therefore, does not substantially contribute to, yet equally does not contradict, the pattern of father/mother child relationships which we have seen developed with reference to future hopes and family continuity. Orphanhood was both an emotional condition and a practical problem requiring future orientated strategy, yet another element of the interwoven significance of pathos and potential surrounding child figures in tragedy.

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Index Abortion 89, 149 Acoustics 48, 50, 97 8 Admetos 15, 24, 80 2, 114, 117 8, 130, 242 3, 265 6 Adolescence 4, 16, 18 21 48, 78, 97, 158, 173 4, 224, 229, 249, 253 4 Adoption 149, 155 Agamemnon 2, 5, 15, 17, 19, 41, 95 6, 104, 120, 128 9, 143, 145, 173 4, 186 9, 203, 220, 226, 228, 248, 259 Age categories 19 21, 86, 112 3, 253, 258 Aias 55 59, 91, 123, 125 8, 145, 158, 165, 199 205, 210, 218, 228, 235, 240, 246, 254 Aigeus 16, 132, 143, 157, 195, 247 Aigisthos 52, 128, 145, 188, 190, 195, 239, 246 Aiskhines 49, 232 Agamemnon 5, 74, 104, 120, 123, 145, 166 68, 171, 184, 187, 245, 259 61 Diktyoulkoi 171 Erinyes 11, 159, 187 Hepta epi Thebas 83, 130, 171 Hiketides 238 Khoephoroi 28, 36, 51, 175, 187 9, 228, 266 Persai 8, 83 4, 189, 259 Akhilleus 125, 145, 158, 163 4, 189, 195, 261 Alexandros (Paris) 19, 64, 127, 148 9, 244, 254 Alkestis 12, 15, 79 82, 98, 114, 118, 130, 220, 242 3, 265 6 Alkmaion 261 Alkmene 186 Altar 9, 58, 71, 108, 171, 178, 183 4, 224 Amphidromia 87, 122 Amphithaleis 229 Amphitryon 69 73, 144, 150, 177 9, 216, 227 8, Andromakhe 18 19, 24, 38, 64 7, 78, 90, 105 11, 130 1, 144, 147 9, 151, 163,

174, 181, 186, 197, 214, 220, 225 6, 244 50, 259 61, 266 7 Anthesteria 15, 91, 228 Anxiety, social 30, 69, 99, 142, 146, 149, 157, 189, 196, 247, 250, 255 Apollodoros 121, 130 Apollonios Rhodios 55 Architecture 183 4 Archon, Eponymous 256 Aristophanes 12, 20, 49, 90, 92 3, 99 101, 169 71, 181, 231 2, 241 3, 248, 256, 261, 265 Aristotle 2 9, 13 18, 32, 47, 85, 91, 154, 159 161, 171, 186, 205 7, 213 3, 236, 251 Artemidoros 168 Artemis 167, 174, 228, 238 Astyanax 3 5, 15, 22 3, 27 32, 52, 58, 78 9, 90 3, 100, 110 12, 119 132, 139 43, 146, 148, 151, 158, 186, 203, 211, 219 20, 244 6, 254, 259 60, 267 Asylum 10, 247 Athamas 258 Athena 99, 164, 202 Athens 4, 9 31, 35 9, 48 52, 78, 86 7, 94, 100, 109, 114, 122, 125 7, 141 3, 147 9, 155, 159, 181, 195 6, 206 212, 217 220, 227 230, 234 6, 247 50, 256 60, 266 7 Autochthony 86 Babies 1 12, 16, 19, 23, 28, 30, 36, 41, 43, 46, 50, 52, 54, 82, 89, 92 96, 111, 121, 127 9, 137, 143 8, 167 70, 173 4, 189, 193 5, 217, 220, 225, 246, 256 Bastards 126, 146, 199 Bears at Brauron 228 9 Beauty 151, 211 2, 236 Blindness 61 2, 168, 196, 221 Breastfeeding 28, 155, 164 (see also Nursing, Nurses)



Brothers 2, 55, 62, 96, 102, 105, 126, 135, 147, 168, 173, 200, 203 Burial 70, 93, 135, 204 5, 211, 219, 242, 246 7 Cauldron 12, 230 Child actors (ancient) (See also Chapter 2 passim) 25, 38 41, 252 3, 257 Child actors (modern) 13, 39, 47 8 Children in audience 256 Choruses, child 15, 49, 69, 77 8, 98, 158, 164, 224, 235, 259 Christianity 229 Citizenship 40, 93, 114, 122, 155, 209, 265 City Dionysia 91, 126, 220, 225, 235 Clothing 36, 71, 90, 111, 174, 196 Colour 34, 46, 90, 174, 187, 196 Comic elements 15, 23, 101, 157 Control of children 34 5, 44, 47, 50 53, 62 4, 66 74, 77, 79 85, 222 Costume 46, 50, 90, 185, 196, 252, 257 Cult 12, 58, 91, 126 27, 155, 226 9, 247, 262 Curses 57, 154 6, 217, 255 Danaë 145 Deception 3, 65, 168, 193 Deikoon 130 Deipylus 131 Delphic Oracle 157, 163 4 Demeter 87, 262 Demosthenes 20, 232 3 Dionysos 8, 23, 51, 159, 175, 183, 193 4, 208, 249, 261 2 Disability 28, 39, 86, 254, 260 Dismemberment 190, 212, 246 Dithyramb 49 51, 77, 91, 97, 210 Divine Childhood 11, 23 4, 142, 153, 247 Divorce 165 Dolls 2, 30, 41, 43, 50, 82, 87, 92 6, 111, 137, 140 2, 174, 195, 229, 244 6 Doubling 3, 7, 36, 49, 139, 145 50, 179, 244 7, 250 Dreams 127, 168, 171, 175, 188 90, 219 Earth 63, 86, 95, 106, 184, 189, 194, 200, 346, 357 Education 3, 13 14, 39 40, 50 51, 92, 109, 160, 206, 250, 256, 261

Elektra 17, 52, 91, 96, 173 5, 228 9 Erigone 239 Ethnicity 38, 87, 131 33, 257 9 Eumelos 130 Euripides Aiolos 12, 195 Aigeus 19, 147 Alexandros 148 Alkestis 12, 14 15, 23 4, 28, 47, 79 82, 90, 97 100, 107, 114 18, 130, 174 5, 220, 241 4, 265 7 Alkmaion 248 9 Andromakhe 12, 15 18 19, 24, 28, 49, 64 7, 97 100, 105 15, 126, 128, 130 1, 144 51, 158, 163 64, 168, 175, 181, 214, 220, 224 6, 244 50, 254, 259, 266 7 Andromeda 243 Auge 16, 229, 243 Bakkhai 24, 164, 175, 193 4, 241, 248 9, 261 Bellerophon 12 Danaë 251 Electra 5, 8, 17, 52, 194 5, 239, 266 Hekabe 15 16, 23, 67 68, 76, 91, 93, 96, 130 34, 148, 158, 163 64, 189, 195, 206, 210, 214, 216, 221, 246, 251, 254, 257, 259, 266 Helene 3, 84, 123, 193 95, 241 Herakleidai 9 10, 15, 50, 68 9, 77 8, 130, 145, 150, 158, 164 5, 182, 185, 222 4, 227, 248, 251, 253, 257 Herakles 15, 24, 30 2, 53, 69 73, 83 5, 90, 100 101, 104 5, 108 9, 112, 130 2, 134, 144 5, 148 51, 165, 169, 177 84, 196, 202, 210, 216, 219, 223 4, 227 30, 235, 242 5, 247, 266 Hiketides 15, 69, 77 8, 97 98, 101, 130, 158, 164, 189, 225, 259, 266 Hippolytos 156, 266 7 Hypsiyple 16, 86, 228 Ino 14, 16, 90, 174, 196, 258 Ion 3, 22, 31, 40, 121, 157, 174, 246, 257, 266 7 Iphigeneia in Aulis 1 3, 15 19, 41, 55, 82, 94 6, 101, 113 4, 128 9, 135 6, 143, 146, 173, 183, 194, 210, 220, 229, 248, 253, 262 Iphigeneia in Tauris 184 Khrysippos 18

 Medeia 5, 12, 15 16, 29 31, 35, 40, 45, 47, 73 77, 97 8, 100 06, 109, 112 3, 130 35, 143, 151 3, 155 8, 165, 175 7, 184, 195, 200, 208, 210 15, 220, 224 30, 237, 246 7, 251, 257, 259, 263, 266 Melanippe Sophe 174, 196 Orestes 164 66, 168, 174, 241 3, 266 7 Phoinissai 16, 77, 104, 136, 195, 237 Rhesos 47, 164 Telephos 12, 16, 92, 225, 241, 243 Theseus 101 Troades 5, 15, 23, 27, 32, 40, 78 9, 90, 93, 100, 110 111, 119, 124, 127 8, 139 40, 144, 148, 151, 174, 189, 211, 219 220, 242, 245 6, 254, 259 60 Erikhthonios 86 Eupolis 170, 243 Eurysakes 12, 14, 54 60, 120 1, 124 28, 143, 145, 164 5, 199 205, 210, 218, 224 28, 235 239 Eurysakeion 228 Eyes 28, 62, 71, 75, 81, 110, 140, 167, 172, 179 82, 184, 210, 221, 264 Exposure 145, 149, 255 Fertility 16, 23, 157 9, 192, 220, 229 Fire 32, 62 3, 127, 174, 189, 194 Food 167, 262 Food, children as 187, 190, 246 Ganymede 174 Genealogy 122, 130 Gestures 12, 25, 37, 52, 56, 65 6, 69 70, 72, 90, 92, 103, 131, 173, 224, 226 7 Ghosts 8, 25, 52, 88, 97, 99, 134, 158, 185 196, 235, 238 39, 245 7, 252 Gifts 73, 133 Glaukon’s mirror 7, 177, 197 Gold 79, 251 2 Grandparents 17 18, 105, 110 12, 127, 224, 228, 242, 251 Hades 81, 184 Haimon 254 Hair 57, 110, 140, 212 Hands 55, 59 63, 66, 68, 70, 73 76, 80, 82, 102 04, 110 11, 140, 151, 156, 163, 180 188, 204, 211, 225, 231, 248


Hares 171, 175, 238, 259 Hekabe 19, 67 8, 100, 110 12, 124, 127, 132 4, 139 40, 148, 158, 163 64, 174 , 189, 212 214, 219 221, 242, 246, 251, 254 Hektor 11, 93, 111 12, 119, 124 5, 140, 225, 246, 260 1 Helen 123, 127, 165 68, 193, 195, 241 Helios 63, 105, 156, 251 2 Hera 69, 148, 150, 175, 193 4, 228, 230 Hera Akraia 228 Herakles 12, 23 24, 31, 69 72, 79, 105, 109, 112, 121, 144, 148 50, 151, 175, 178 84, 210, 219, 227, 230, 232, 241, 245 7 Hermes 99 Hermione 15, 24, 67, 144, 147, 165 6, 244 Herodotos 168 171, 207 08, 265 Hesiod 90, 130 Hippocrates 89 Homer Homeric Hymns 183, 267 Iliad 11, 19, 27, 58, 67, 111, 124 128, 130, 139, 169, 174, 192, 203, 208, 226, 244 5, 260, 267 Odyssey 18 19, 50, 99, 128, 145, 158, 183, 227, 245 Hope 56, 111, 122 26, 136, 146, 149, 153, 158, 165, 190, 200, 203, 219 20, 235, 244, 247 50, 263, 268 Hostages 12, 92 3, 243 Hypercorism 103 Iason 15, 73, 91, 103 05, 131 32, 147, 151 8, 176, 211, 225, 247 Illusion 6, 34, 37, 39 40, 41, 86 91, 135, 186, 194 5 Immortality 12, 156, 182 Incest 62, 135, 260 Infertility 149, 155 7, 220 Inheritance 4, 9, 12, 56, 93 95, 136, 143 46, 157, 165, 170, 177 179, 182 83, 185, 200 03, 216 18, 220, 230, 240, 261 Inititation 20, 79, 82, 229 Iocasta 14, 136, 267 Ion 121, 149, 267 Ismene 61, 64, 130, 134, 136 Isokrates 228 Itys 16, 148, 178, 189, 216, 230, 240 Iphigeneia 1 2, 16, 17, 41, 55, 94 6, 101, 113 14, 128 29, 136, 173 4, 210, 220, 229, 248, 253, 262



Joy 11, 202 3, 236, 251 Kallimakhos 27, 267 Klytaimestra 1 2, 8, 15 19, 28, 52, 55, 96, 128 29, 143, 171 5, 189 90, 195, 220, 239, 248 Krates’ Paidiai 23 Kreon (Korinth) 73, 105, 147, 152, 165, 211 5, 224 5, 247 Kreon (Thebes) 60 64, 84, 214, 254 Kreontiades 130 Kreousa (Ion) 40, 267 Laughter 210, 212 Lambs 163, 231 Leto 192 Light 7, 62 3, 71, 95, 117, 187, 189, 196, 251 Lions 54, 125, 135, 145, 164 8, 176, 182, 184 5, 249 Lionskin 184 Luck 9, 56 Lullabies 189 Lysias 232 3 Madness 71, 85, 104, 112, 147 50, 162, 178, 201 2, 227 9, 254 Magic 89, 157, 193, 229, 246 Marriage 1, 14 18, 81, 94, 104 5, 117 8, 144, 207, 225, 229 30, 239, 267 ‘Makaria’ 10, 69, 130, 248, 253 Masks 15, 28, 40, 45 6, 88 93, 103, 137, 153, 211, 256 Medeia 12, 15 16, 30 1, 73 7, 90, 101 109, 120 1, 130 5, 143, 147, 151 3, 156 8, 165, 176 8, 182, 184, 211 15, 220, 224 6, 228 30, 235, 245, 247, 257 Medicine 20, 37, 97, 201, 218 Melanippe 62, 145, 196 Memory 1, 27, 100 101, 112, 131 2, 139 40, 166, 210, 225 Menander 92, 122, 181 Menelaos 64 67, 96, 105 107, 113, 144 9, 158, 163, 203, 214, 224 6, 244 5 Menoikeus 16, 104, 237, 254, 267 Mermeros 130 Metre 45, 62, 101, 103, 105, 252 Miasma 229, 243, 259 Milk 28, 164, 167 Minotaur 63 ‘Molossos’ 67, 111, 131, 244

Monstrous birth 62 3 Music 49 50, 160, 257, 259 Narratology 38 Natal family 146 7, 194, 225 Nausikaa 18, 207 Neoptolemos 15 16, 19, 77, 111, 128, 131, 136, 146, 158, 163 4, 181, 220, 240 1, 244, 253 4 Neoptolemos (actor) 47 Nightingale 163, 189 Noh theatre 45 48, 84, 90 Nurses 11, 35 6, 73 75, 104, 153, 165, 200, 240 2, 263 Nursing 28, 155, 163 (see also Breastfeeding) Odysseus 144, 183, 200 03, 214, 218, 253 4 Off stage action 29, 54, 82, 97 8, 100 105, 112, 246 Oidipous 60 4, 91, 135 6, 145, 149, 168, 172 3, 195, 210, 214, 217, 223, 254, 260 Old Age 2, 10, 38, 44, 64, 69, 83, 87, 100 101, 104, 108, 110, 127, 140, 148, 155, 157, 167 8, 171 72, 201, 219, 229, 242, 244, 258 9, 263, 266 Opheltes 86, 229 Optative mood 141, 154 Oracles 154 157 Orestes 2 3, 12, 15 16, 41, 51 2, 55, 82, 91, 94 6, 113, 128 9, 143, 145, 158, 164 6, 173 5, 183, 187, 194, 220, 225 26, 228, 243, 248, 262 Orpheus 79, 82, 262 Paidagogos 73 77 Parody 12, 16, 101, 118, 179, 232, 240 4, 261 3 Pausanias 126, 130 1 Peleus 65 7, 111, 145 6, 163, 214, 224 6 Pelias 247 Pentheus 24, 194, 249 Persian customs 92, 207 8 Pets 206, 261 Phaidra 156, 267 Pherekydes 130 Pheres, son of Medeia 130 Pheres, father of Admetos 243 Pindar 12

 Plato 4, 9, 12, 51, 91, 121, 131, 154, 162, 209 210, 256, 265 8 Play, children’s 18 19, 23, 49 51, 91, 94, 160, 167, 185 Plutarch 89, 126, 151, 206 Polydoros 15, 67 8, 97, 131 34, 189, 195, 246, 251 Polykrates’ ring 208 Polymestor 15, 67 8, 76, 91, 97, 130 34, 148 9, 158, 195, 216, 221, 246, 257 Polyxene 16, 67, 97, 132 5, 163 4, 189, 214 Proverbs 40, 103, 149, 168, 170 Prokne 148, 178, 189, 230, 257 Psychoanalysis 4, 23, 31 33, 53, 75, 105, 110, 144, 149, 194, 206, 217, 241, 250 55, 260 Puberty 20 Puppets 256 Quantum physics 6 7, 14, 88, 154, 183, 185 93, 252, 258, 263 4 Rape 21, 156 Rain 63 Rebirth 188 9, 247, 262 Reciprocity 10, 18, 24, 157, 182, 214, 218 222, 224 7, 242, 248 Resemblance, family 90 1 Revenge 2, 8, 15, 78, 93, 128, 132 4, 144 6, 146 7, 153, 158, 162, 165, 189, 194, 211, 220, 236, 243, 247 Ritual 204, 223, 226 30, 254 6, 261 62 Roman childhood 23, 29, 206, 228 Royalty 11, 73, 147, 250 Sacrifice 1, 69, 94, 106, 129, 212, 230, 244 Satyr Play 241, 261 2 Scholia 121, 130, 265 Sculpture 20, 62, 91, 142 Second Childhood 64, 219 Self control 12, 36, 50 51, 212 Semele 19, 193 Sexuality 18, 29, 46, 96, 132, 174, 228 9, 232 Shakespeare 48, 159, 169 Shame 145, 218 Shield 93, 125 8, 143, 203, 246, 259 Sisters 117, 133, 210, 220 Simonides 19, 29 Simonides’ Danaë 19, 29


Size 6, 20, 46, 56 8, 64, 67, 86, 96 148, 161, 180 2, 202, 239 Slavery 18, 46, 52 4, 65, 79, 94, 99, 149, 155, 201, 214, 247, 260 Smell (of baby) 111 Snakes 12, 23, 151, 169 71, 175, 183, 189, 242 Spatial Dynamics 15, 50, 56 9, 63, 73, 85, 91, 183 4, 202, 258 Step mothers 51, 103, 147 Suicide 201 04 Sun 71 Sword 65, 102, 156, 204 Sophokles Aias 12, 14, 54 60, 91 3, 99, 120, 123 8, 143 5, 158, 164 5, 199 205, 210, 218, 224 28, 235, 237, 239 240, 246, 261, 265 66 Antigone 84, 135 6, 171, 219, 240, 252, 254, 266 Elektra 96 Eurysakes 127 Oidipus Koloneos 61 Oidipous Tyrannos 14, 27, 60 64, 91, 129 131, 134 6, 168, 171 3, 183, 210, 214, 223, 240 Philoktetes 16, 77, 83, 121, 136, 240 1, 253 4 Polyxene 189 Tereus 16, 216, 240 Teukros 127 Solon’s ‘Ages of Man’ 19 Sosipolis 175 Spartan folly 149 Superposition 6 8, 14, 21, 85, 88, 119, 132, 135, 154, 176, 187, 189, 195, 246, 251 52, 258, 263 Swaddling 36, 111 Talthybios 32, 78 9, 125, 144, 148 Tears 32, 71, 96, 113 4, 117, 128 Teeth 20 Telemakhos 125, 145, 214 Telephos 12, 225 6, 241, 243, 262 Tekmessa 14, 54 6, 125, 145, 165, 201 05, 227 Tereus 16, 168, 189, 216, 230, 257 Teukros 54 60, 125 7, 164, 200 5 Theatre of Dionysos 45, 51, 97 8, 159 Therimakhos 130



Theseus 17 82, 149, 194, 202, 248, 267 Thyestes 148, 168, 187 91, 230, 238 9, 246, 256 Thoukydides 140 42, 148 9, 208, 220, 256, 265 Tiresias 14, 171, 193 Toys 18, 92 4, 174, 181 Troy 11, 32, 54, 124 29, 143, 158, 193, 211, 219 20, 245, 259, 261 Tyro 146, 177, 247 Uncles 57, 122, 187, 247 Unborn figures 19, 127, 195, 238, 249 Untimely death 187, 246

Votive offerings 94, 181 Vulnerability 3, 9 10, 37, 65, 85, 88, 136, 146, 151, 171, 181 2, 199, 204 5, 218, 225, 228 9, 234, 246, 247, 257 Walking 44, 55, 79 Walls 72, 161 2, 184, 212, 261 Warfare 93, 126, 133, 148, 202, 235, 244, 258, 265 Wealth 27, 158, 170, 240, 251 Wolf cub 164 Womb 19, 89, 193 Xenophon 32, 151, 169, 173, 208 09

Vase Paintings 35, 46 7, 89 90 Virgil’s Aeneid 199

Zeus 11, 175, 208, 224, 227 8