EURIPIDES was born at the island of Salamis, whither his parents had
fled for refuge at the time of the Persian invasion. He died in 406
B.C., the same year as his senior HYPERLINK
, just before the close of the Peloponnesian war. He lived the life of a
student and studied philosophy, as a youth, under Anaxagoras; and, in
later life, with HYPERLINK
"http://www.usefultrivia.com/biographies/socrates_001.html" Socrates .
He is the latest of the Greek tragedians, both the most Attic and the
most modern. He is saturated with the new skeptical spirit which was
beginning to question old faiths, old traditions, and old customs.
His intellectual activity, his subtle speculations, his wide democratic
sympathies give a special interest to his writings, though they have in
the past often diverted attention from the high artistic value of his
work. He has lately, in our own somewhat similar days, been restudied
with new results. He abandoned the principle of the older tragedians,
that all the interest and action should be concentrated in one character
and theme, as in the Prometheus, Agamemnon, or Oedipus; and in many
other respects he seems to break away from the canons of Greek tragic
art. He is carried away by political feeling against Sparta or Argos;
and he digresses into philosophical discussions. But the tenderness and
pathos of his best work, the overmastering passion in which the rules of
art are lost, the deep sympathy with every down-trodden or injured
thing, give him a title to Aristotle's description-- "the most tragic of
He is said to have been deserted by his wife, with whom he was deeply in
love. This, perhaps, explains the contrast between his frequent
invective against women on the one hand, and, on the other, the
marvellous beauty and strength of his female characters.
Medea was a devotee of the goddess HYPERLINK
"http://www.pantheon.org/articles/h/hecate.html" Hecate , and one of
the great sorceresses of the ancient world. She was the daughter of King
HYPERLINK "http://www.pantheon.org/articles/a/aeetes.html" Aeetes of
Colchis, and the granddaughter of HYPERLINK
"http://www.pantheon.org/articles/h/helios.html" Helios , the sun god.
King Aeetes' most valuable possession was a golden ram's fleece. When
HYPERLINK "http://www.pantheon.org/articles/j/jason.html" Jason and
the crew of the HYPERLINK
"http://www.pantheon.org/articles/a/argo.html" Argo arrived at Colchis
seeking the HYPERLINK
"http://www.pantheon.org/articles/g/golden_fleece.html" Golden Fleece ,
Aeetes was unwilling to relinquish it and set Jason a series of
seemingly impossible tasks as the price of obtaining it. Medea fell in
love with Jason and agreed to use her magic to help him, in return for
Jason's promise to marry her.
Jason fled in the Argo after obtaining the golden fleece, taking Medea
and her younger brother, Absyrtis, with him. King Aeetes pursued them.
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