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Fighting the future: Euripidean letters and Thucydides’ Athens

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores a different aspect of Euripidean letters, analysing their temporal status as instruments of political control. The argument is not about historical realities but about a dramatic device. The author suggests that there is a configuration of ideas, a discourse of letter writing, in which characters attempt to fight the future. The striking issue for this chapter’s examination of literacy is the emphasis which Euripides places on the idea of the future. The author argues that Euripides perceived a real danger in the political sphere that Athenians would come to rely too much on the power of the written word, and would act with too great a confidence in their own powers. Thucydides’ framing of the Sicilian Expedition suggests the same concern.

Keywords: Athenians; Euripidean letters; fight the future; political control; Sicilian Expedition; Thucydides



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