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Q: Medea ( Answered,   2 Comments )
Subject: Medea
Category: Reference, Education and News > Teaching and Research
Asked by: chiba-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 03 Mar 2004 06:52 PST
Expires: 02 Apr 2004 06:52 PST
Question ID: 312929
Can you compare and contrast the use of the symbol of light in Medea?

Clarification of Question by chiba-ga on 04 Mar 2004 05:38 PST
The symbols of light as noted in the play by Euripides. The version I
read was translated by Philip Vellacot.

Clarification of Question by chiba-ga on 04 Mar 2004 08:50 PST
As further clarification - In Medea the sun is commonly used symbol
for the light of reason.   Other references to the sunlight in the
play, suggest very different meanings.  In comparing and contrasting I
only see the sun as it relates to Medeas lineage and don't see any
lines where it may be reflected differenty.
Subject: Re: Medea
Answered By: hlabadie-ga on 07 Mar 2004 11:54 PST
First, there are two gods of the sun mentioned in the text: Phoebus
Apollo and Helios. Phoebus Apollo is invoked as the god of poetry and
prophecy, and by extension the god of the Athenians and Corinthians --
Greeks in general. Apollo is the god of order, of art, of moderation
and civilization. Helios, on the other hand, is the deity of the older
age of the world, the god of wild Nature and barbarism, the Titan who
was replaced when the new gods took command of the world, and it is
from Helios that Medea is descended (she is his granddaughter.)

Euripides refers to Apollo several times, for instance:

Chorus: For Phoebus, Prince of Music,
Never bestowed the lyric inspiration
Through female understanding -
Or we'd find themes for poems, 
We'd counter with our epics against man. (424ff.)


Medea:                       All happiness to you,
Aegeus, son of Pandion the wise! Where have you come

Aegeus: From Delphi, the ancient oracle of Apollo.

Medea: The centre of the earth, the home of prophecy. (ca. 660)

Helios is never mentioned by name, but he is referred to repeatedly indirectly:

Medea: (Speaking to herself) Your father was king,
His father was the Sun-god. (ca 400.)

The genealogy of Medea would have been known by the audience of the
play, to wit that Helios was her grandfather.

Second, Vellacott himself mentions one paradox in the introduction,
when he notes that the Sun, giver of life, personally intervenes to
save his granddaughter, and thereby validates her crimes. (The dragons
that are pulling her chariot are there to remind the audience of the
dragon that had guarded the Golden Fleece, and which Medea helped
Jason to kill.) The poisoned crown which shoots out flames and the
dress that melts flesh are heirlooms of Helios. This paradox is meant
to reinforce that of Medea herself, who has murdered her own children.

Thus, Euripides is contrasting Nature, personified by Helios, which is
both creative and destructive in its ungoverned energy, with the
civilizing force of the arts, law, and society, personified by Apollo.

A Tragic Poet and his Play


All references to the text are from the Penguin Classics edition,
Euripides, Medea and Other Plays, 1963.

Another translation of Medea:



Subject: Re: Medea
From: hlabadie-ga on 03 Mar 2004 07:20 PST
The Answer would depend upon the version of the story. The play by
Aeschylus? The play by Seneca? The opera by Cherubini? One of the

Subject: Re: Medea
From: chiba-ga on 04 Mar 2004 05:39 PST
Please see my clarification to my original question.

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