April 18th, 2009 / 8:09 am
Behind the Scenes & Technology

The classical education I never had: Hippolytos

paris-exposedHippolytos, the insufferable son of Theseus, was a celebutard of antiquity. In Euripides’ play, the dandy loves only two things: himself and the goddess Artemis. He’s even got an entourage to follow him around and tell him how great and pure he is. Yes, pure. He is untouched by woman, devoting himself exclusively to his chosen deity. The problem is, his chastity and vomit-inducing self-regard has pissed off Aphrodite, who takes his piss-poor attitude as an affront. Theseus is out of town, and Aphro believes the time of her revenge is at hand. Did I mention that Hippolytos’ stepmother is in forbidden love with her stepson?

Hippolytos, though, isn’t ready to go all Jerry Springer and heavily pet his father’s wife:

Oh Zeus! Why have you settled on men this evil in daylight,

this counterfeit thing—woman?

If you wanted a human race

there was no need to get it from them:

men could pay down a sum of cash in your temple

and buy their offspring,

each according to his property value,

and dwell in houses free of females!

Phaidra isn’t going to wait around for her husband to return and give her a stern talking to: No, she decides to punch her own ticket and leave a note saying that it was actually Hippolytos who raped her! Check and mate.

Theseus, you can imagine, doesn’t take the news of his son raping his wife too well, and, despite the son’s protestations of innocence, banishes him from the family lands forthwith. Theseus also uses one of the three curses granted to him by Poseidon for some previous service rendered to make sure that Hippo’s doom will be assured. Promptly, a messenger comes to Theseus, and they have this exchange:

MESSENGER: Hippolytos is no more—or almost.

His eyes are still open but he is slipping away.

THESEUS: Who did it? Someone else whose

wife he raped?

MESSENGER: His own chariot killed him

and the curses out of your mouth.

Curses from your father the sea god,

sworn against your son.

Theseus eventually learns that his son was innocents (“OIMOI!” he shouts), but that doesn’t make his son and wife any less dead. Kids are such a bother.

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  1. michael j


  2. michael j