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Is There a Polis in Euripides’ Medea?

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image of Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought

The polis is a dominant force in scholarship on Greek tragedy, including Euripides’ Medea. This paper addresses the question of whether there is, in fact, a polis (i.e. a Greek-style city-state) in the play.The polis proper does not often feature in tragedy. Euripides’ Corinth, like many urban centres in tragedy, is a generic palatial settlement ruled by a king. It is not a community of citizens. Creon is a non-constitutional absolute hereditary monarch, and it is a commonplace of tragedy that absolute sole role is antithetical to the idea of the polis.Medea is exiled, not ostracised; she is never a metic. Her relationships and actions are governed by elite xenia, not citizenship. Thus, though ‘political’ interpretations of Medea are all to the good, polis-centric interpretations become much less attractive once one observes the almost complete absence of the polis from the play.

Affiliations: 1: Victoria University of Wellington WellingtonNew Zealand


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