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Since Gilbert Murray's 1905 translation of Euripides' Trojan Women, a publication widely understood to be a critique of British imperialism, the tragedy has enjoyed increasing popularity among pacifist playwrights, who have each re-contextualized the tragedy in terms of contemporary politics:from fears of atomic warfare in Jean-Paul Sartre's adaptation, to post-9/11 concerns in more recent renditions. As these playwrights themselves note, the play's frequent use as a mode of political dissension rests upon an interpretation of Trojan Women as Euripides' response to the Athenian destruction of Melos. But this interpretation of the play has come under close scrutiny in the last forty years, especially since Maria van Erp Taalman Kipp dismissed the Melian connection on grounds of chronological unlikelihood, as the play's premiere in 415 was only months after the fall of Melos in416. Others have since further debated the relevance of Melos, but none so far have questioned the date of the play's premiere itself. There is, however, extant evidence supportive of an earlier date.The 415 dating of Trojan Women is found in the work of Aelian, a 3rd century AD Roman antiquarian. In his Varia Historia (2.8), Trojan Women is mentioned in an account of Euripides' loss to Xenocles “in the year of the 91st Olympiad” (κατá½° τá½´ν πρÏŽτην καὶ ἐνενηκοστá½´ν Ὀλυμπιάδα).Appealingly straightforward as this date may be, Aelian's testimony is demonstrably unstable. By the third century, historians and chronographers were long accustomed either to specify the years within the Olympiad, or provide an archon year. The fact that Aelian dates this annual event by Olympiad alone therefore poses questions of calendrical collation and source criticism. Also, Aelian's treatment of Aristophanes' Clouds demonstrates his uncritical sense of historical discrimination. Aelian describes this comedy, known to have lost at the 423 Lenaia, as an overwhelming success (VH, 2.13).Furthermore, the general reliability of Aelian's chronological information is difficult to evaluate, since his account of Trojan Women's premiere is the single instance in which the antiquarian offers a calendrical date— a date which itself happens to be corrupt in our earliest extant manuscripts.Aristophanes' Wasps, however, may provide an alternative means for dating Trojan Women.Here, an inebriated Philocleon attempts to pass off a kidnapped flute-girl as a torch, exclaiming ἄνεχεπάρεχε. κλαύσεταί τις τῶν ὄπισθεν ἐπακολουθούντων ἐμοί· οá¼·ον, εá¼° μá½´ ’ρρήσεθ’, ὑμᾶς ὦ πÏŒνηροιταυτῃὶ τῇ δá¾³δὶ φρυκτοὺς σκευάσω. “Lift it up, bring it forth! Whoever follows after me will regret it.Be gone, you wretches, or I will roast you with this torch (Vesp. 1326-31).” Although humorous in and of itself, the scene may also be a parody of Euripides' Kassandra, farcically reenacting her entrance inTrojan Women: ἄνεχε πάρεχε is the first line to her opening monologue, which she delivers with torch in hand (Tr. 308). In addition to the shared elements of the captive woman, the torch, and the rhyming imperatives, it is perhaps also significant that Aristophanes named this flute-girl Dardanis— or, 'Trojan Woman.' One scholiast, at least, thought he understood the joke, since he also identifies the scene as Euripidean parody: ἐκ Τρῳάδων Εὐριπίδου <οá½—> Κασάνδρα φησίν, "ἄνεχε, πάρεχε. φῶς φέρω, σέβω,φλέγω <λαμπάσι τÏŒδ' á¼±ερÏŒν> (Σ Ar. Vesp. 1326). Because the premiere performance of Wasps can be securely dated to 422, an acceptance of this scene as parody would backdate Trojan Women by at least seven years.But does Aristophanes provide a more reliable means of dating Trojan Women? At the very least, this paper seeks, through an examination of Aelian's testimony, the scholastic tradition, the employment of metrical resolution to date Euripides' plays, and Aristophanes' use of paratragedy, to question the security of the traditionally accepted date of 415 for the Trojan Women.


  • Christesen, Paul. Olympic Victor Lists and Ancient Greek History (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007).
  • Dilts,Mervin R. “The Manuscript Tradition of Aelian's Varia Historia and Heraclides' Politiae.” Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, 96 (1965): 57-72.
  • Erp Taalman Kip, A. Maria van. ""Euripides and Melos."" Mnemosyne, 40 (1987): 414-419. Kuch,Heinrich. “Euripides und Melos.” Mnemosyne, 51 (1998): 147-153.
  • Murray, Gilbert, trans. The Trojan Women of Euripides(New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1915).

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