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image of Mnemosyne

The argument of this paper is that the child figures in Euripides' Herakles provide important clues to the fundamental 'meaning' of the play. A sustained configuration of motifs linking Herakles' children to the figure of Kerberos is discussed as a central structural feature, augmented by detailed use of specific vocabulary. By removing the dog from Hades, Herakles provided Hera with an excuse to cloak her attack in the language of legal procedure, invoking ideas of immortality and divine order. This connection of ideas is shown to have particular relevance to contemporary 5th-century concerns about the rise of individualism and the threats to the traditional oikos structure. The thematic structure of the play is also discussed in the context of other mythological stories which link the death of one's own children to attempts to secure power over the processes of life and death.


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