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The Persuasions Of Philoctetes

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Chapter Summary

There have been many political interpretations of Sophocles' Philoctetes. Critics generally agree that the play represents Odysseus as a contemporary politician/sophist. Some go farther, and take him as a representative of democracy, while Philoctetes represents a class antagonized by the democracy. Because Philoctetes is prominent in discussions of Greek values among classicists, specialists in ancient philosophy, and a broader intellectual public, its relevance to the political issues of its original moment are especially significant. A Philoctetes would almost inevitably have political resonances. Among its most striking innovations was a Trojan embassy. Already in the Little Iliad, the Achaeans learned from the captured Trojan prophet Helenus that they could not win without Philoctetes. This story presents an obvious question: Would Helenus not have shared this information with Trojans, and would not the Trojans have taken action? This chapter reads intertextually to define political themes that are conspicuously absent in Sophocles' Philoctetes.

Keywords: Achaeans; Helenus; Little Iliad; Odysseus; Philoctetes; political themes; Sophocles; Trojan embassy

10.1163/ej.9789004174733.i-580.13
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