Medea's Swerving Flight through Art and Literature

[MUSIC] Stanford University >> Right, well, good evening, I’m Walter Scheidel, the chair of the Classics Department And it’s a great pleasure to welcome you all to the what I believe is the tenth Lorenz Eitner lecture, on ancient art and culture A lecture series designed to promote and publicize classics, and the classical scholarship to our audience, so thank you all for showing up on a Friday evening The series has been made possible now for quite a number of years by the generosity of Peter and Lindsey Joost Who are great friends and benefactors of the classics department, here in the audience today Because it’s lecture number ten, they have earned a round of applause for their continuing support >> [APPLAUSE] >> The series has been named in honor of the late professor Lorenz Eitner, who was an art historian here at Stanford The director of the museum, that is now the Art Cantor Center, from the early 60s to 1989 He was the chair of what was then the Department of Art and Architecture, and a very renowned expert on French Romantic painting A lot of publications, successful students, and he was very instrumental in putting the art museum on the map, and make it more than a local attraction Our distinguished guest tonight is Oliver Taplin, who is Professor Emeritus of classics at Oxford, and he will be introduced by my colleague Professor Richard Martin >> Thank you Walter, some introducers play the bibliographer, reading a virtual card catalog of their subject books Some introducers act like Academy Award presenters, practicing their lifetime achievement speeches >> [LAUGH] >> Then there are the introducers who moonlight as obituary writers >> [LAUGH] >> I used to write obituaries, but I’m not one of them There are the satirists, there are even the matricians I once had a former male colleague, who shall remain nameless, wax lyrical about the mellifluous shape of the female speaker to be’s first and last names Which formed, so he claimed, the pleasingest combination of dactyl, and I am tripping off the tongue >> [LAUGH] >> Maybe I can say her name, Emily Vermule >> [LAUGH] >> The honored speaker on that occasion took the podium, and if you remember Emily, you’ll appreciate it And retorted laconically, thank you Professor X, you are a trochee >> [LAUGH] >> For what it’s worth, Oliver Taplin neatly, and most appropriately, I think, makes a perfect metrical shape right out of Sappho, the Adonic segment Just like old [FOREIGN], Oliver Taplin, where is this preamble of mine leading? Directly to my confession that rather than any of the above, I would play the role as introducer of sketch artist Like one of those guys who does your picture on Pier 39, only much faster and probably not as good The thing is, I want my bit to be over so I can hear Oliver Taplin talk, not myself And I want to do so because I could listen to him all day long, and so could you So here’s the sketch, emeritus professor of classical languages and literature at the University of Oxford, holds the DeVille from Oxford Fellow of the British Academy, former president of the Classical Association, and until his retirement for 35 years, fellow professor and devoted teacher at Magdalen College, Oxford Now, Magdalen has been graced by a diverse range of characters as undergraduates or fellows From Lord Alfred Douglas, friend of Oscar Wilde, to Erwin Schrodinger, of the famous cat King Edward VIII to Edward Gibbon, Nicholas Kristof, George Will, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, and Andrew Lloyd Webber It is not my intent to describe how this evening’s speaker is in any way similar to any of these characters To my knowledge, he never opposed a king’s annulment, nor did he co-author a musical history of the life of Evita Peron Although, I have no doubt that he would be totally up to either task >> [LAUGH] >> But it is worth noting in the very roll call of these maudlin men, a strain that is abundantly represented in the life and work of Oliver Taplin In a word, it is his total involvement in performance

Whether on the page or the stage or the screen, Oliver lives, breathes, and forcefully expounds the performance culture of Greece And all the performances that have rippled out of that in the last two millennia I believe that he personally has reached more persons and more diverse audiences, bringing the message of the power, beauty, and danger of Greek culture than any other living classicist Oliver does this by a profound empathy both for such audiences, but also for the lived experience that underlies his scholarly passions Most prominent among his fields of expertise are Greek epic, tragedy, and comedy Greek face painting, the material culture of theater, performance studies, the reception of ancient literature, and practice of translation One can spend a long time explaining in detail the importance of his contributions to each of these Let me intend instead to sketch briefly how Oliver has managed to fit them together So at the core of his work is a vast and difficult imaginative effort It involves nothing less than a total envisioning of Greek drama as it might have been performed The book which inaugurated his career, The Stagecraft of Aeschylus, The Dramatic Use of Exits and Entrances in Greek Tragedy has been called, quote The single most influential work of Anglophone scholarship and Greek drama in the three decades since its appearance That’s because it was the first to combine a meticulous text study with a dramatist’s insights for how tragedy was structured His followup book, Greek Tragedy in Action, made this fundamental scholarly insight even more accessible And it’s telling that a much-read, scuffed-up copy of the book is said to have resided permanently backstage When the famous director Peter Hall put on his amazing production of the Aristeia trilogy of Escalus at the National Theater in 1981 Oliver was a crucial consultant on that historic project, and by the way, you can see a series of his video recollections on the National’s website Which brings me to another prominent part of his profile, his involvement in major productions of tragedy and epic Some of you may recall Rush Rehm’s direction of the Odyssey at Stanford Summer Theater, a couple of years ago That brilliant adaptation of the Homeric epic as a stage production was done by Oliver, originally for the Getty Museum in Malibu On the topic of epic, I’d have to say as a Homerist, I personally owe a great debt to Oliver’s re-imagining of Homer’s Iliad in terms of a three-day festival performance As he demonstrated in Homeric Soundings,The Shaping of the Iliad He’s also worked on The Thebans with the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Oresteia, again at the The National Theater, in 1999 And there are few, if any, other scholars of ancient Greek literature with his real life experience By the way, the all-seeing eye of the Internet tells me that at least once, Oliver donned a pair of inflated balloons As part of a costume, when he himself appeared on stage, for a production of Aristophanes, something that we may want to ask him about later on >> [LAUGH] >> But more seriously, it’s worth quoting his own words on his crisscrossing scholarly text study to theatrical passion He wrote, what we scholars have to accept, whether we are writing in our study or participating in the rehearsal room, is that the aspects that most interest us are not necessarily those that are going to interest or inspire the theatrical interpreters It is nice to think that the current preoccupations of scholarship are going to be the very things in the air that are going to excite the practitioners But the match invariably proves to be far from complete, and the emphasis quite different And sometimes it’s aspects that are unfashionable, even academically unsustainable, that capture the creative interest, end quote The scholarly study of modern performance has become an established area of specialized study in classics over the last few decades, and in large part, Oliver made this flourish Along with Edith Hall, he founded at Oxford the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama in 1996, devoted to the international production and reception of ancient plays Performance, Iconography, Reception, Studies In Honor of Oliver Taplin is the title of the fast trip dedicated to him on his retirement I’ve mentioned now the two end terms, as for the middle term of that title, Iconography Oliver has achieved the remarkable feat of bringing together the study of ancient vase painting, itself a difficult, controversial field, with the study of the spread in ancient times of Athenian theater, in places like Sicily, where there’s a thriving theater culture And he does this in not one, but two books, Comic Angels and Other Approaches to Greek Drama Through Vase Painting, which came out in 1993 And in 2007 was followed by Pots and Plays, Interactions Between Tragedy and Greek Vase Painting of the 4th Century

As if mastery of these very distinct areas, text study, live theater reception, was not enough, Oliver is also a translator and in two important ways First, he translates for wide audiences the deep significance and importance of Greek culture, he’s forever doing this, it seems, in all forms of media Most conspicuously, he made the channel for a documentary series, Greek Fire, which centered on the influence of Greek culture in modern art, thought, and society The book accompanying the series has been, sorry, translated into five languages In the more narrow sense, Oliver is a translator of tragedy, and only last year, the University of Chicago Press, in its authoritative series, published his translation of Euripides’ terrifying play, Medea Which brings me to Oliver Taplin’s lecture this evening From the title, it promises to combine pretty much every one of the various fascinating interests that I’ve been cataloging and praising It’s called Medea’s Swerving Flight Through Art and Literature I want to shut up and hear it, okay, Oliver? >> [LAUGH] [APPLAUSE] >> Well, thank you very much, Richard, it’s gonna be rather difficult to live up to that It reminds me again of the support act, and then the support act turns out to be better than the main act >> [LAUGH] >> It’s a great pleasure to be invited here to Stanford, and particularly a pleasure to be able to pay this tribute to the memory of Lorenz Eitner And he was the world expert on early 19th century French art, and particularly Jericho, and this is his most famous painting, The Raft of the Medusa If I’d known this in time, I might have called this lecture, The Wrath of the Medea >> [LAUGH] >> But then I thought also maybe that’s a bit too much of an idea of what the audience might be feeling like towards the end of the lecture >> [LAUGH] >> It’s more apt, in fact, to turn to this painting by Jericho’s greatest disciple, Delacroix, a really, truly terrifying Medea This is, as you can see, a deeply unsettling painting, she is so strong, she’s so set on her intentions Set that against the pale, soft flesh of her little boys, who are so vulnerable Medea is, in this painting, the very denial of the mother instinct The mother instinct is a phrase that comes in a film or movie that you may have seen, which I would recommend very strongly, Before Midnight, that was released last year And it’s set in the most beautiful part of the Southern Peloponnese, particularly of the house of Patrick Leigh Fermor, the great travel writer And in one scene, I won’t go into the full details of the trilogy that it belongs to and everything, but in one scene, Celine, who is the character played by Julie Delpy, is complaining, is in vain against the first wife of Jesse, played by Ethan Hawke The first wife who has custody of his son, and the dialogue goes like this, so Julie Delpy first She has the mother instinct of Medea, and he says, Medea? And she says, it is a Greek myth after all And he says, well, actually, it’s a play by Euripides but, and then she interrupts and says she is using, she’s killing kids to punish her ex-husband So we have this quote, now, I say it’s a wonderful film, and I wish it had been nominated for some Oscars, we’ve already had some mention of the fallibility of those judges But they didn’t, and it’s interesting that in ancient times, too, judges of drama could be fallible Because each year at Ancient Athens, there was a competition between three tragedians, and they were ranked by a panel of judges And Medea was one of the tragedies entered by Euripides

in 431 BC, and it came last, it came third I’m going to put up a different slide, I find that one so upsetting that I don’t want to show it for the whole time And yet, Medea very soon became one of the most famous and most performed of all tragedies throughout the Ancient Greek world, and it’s been one of the most famous and performed tragedies ever since Now you might just say that, like the judges of the Oscars, they didn’t always spot a future winner And it’s true that Sophocles’ Oedipus did not come first in its year either But actually I suspect that Medea went down so badly at first in 431, and then was a box office hit later, very soon later, for one and the same reason That it is a deeply, deeply, unsettling play, and its shock and challenge is especially acute, was and is especially acute for men For men, it shatters the one thing that they believe that they can take totally on trust about their women That they will cherish and protect the kids The mother-child bond is so basic, it’s the mother instinct But Medea has the mother instinct of Medea Medea is the woman who killed her children That is a core myth And if we ask where that core myth came from, the answer is, as Jesse says in Before Midnight, Euripides’ play Euripides’ play of 431 It was tragedy that made her name, that made Medea into Medea And she does this, what is so challenging about this is in the Euripides’s version, that she doesn’t do this in a fit of madness Nor did she do it in a fit of unfeeling cold blood either She chooses her act with reasoned argumentation, and she determinedly overrules her own strong, maternal feelings And then, she triumphantly escapes to freedom at Athens in a magic flying chariot, leaving her husband Jason humiliated and crushed Now I wonder, at this point, if I could ask to have the house lights up I feel I have, after my jet lag of yesterday, a better chance of staying awake during this lecture >> [LAUGH] >> With the lights up and I’m not going to come to this slide for a while If we were to circulate a questionnaire asking what was Medea’s defining act, then most respondents would surely agree that it was that she killed her own children They might well add that she did it to get revenge on her unfaithful husband And they might add that she escaped through the air in a chariot drawn by dragons That Medea is the Medea, with minor variance, of Seneca, of Cornet, of Cherubini, Martha Graham, Pasolini, Christof Wolff, and it’s fundamentally Euripides’ Medea And it’s that role that has been played by many of the great divas of modern times Sarah Bernhardt, Margaret Anglin, Maria Callas In fact, the only film that Maria Callas ever made was the Pasolini Medea Diana Rigg, Isabelle Huppert, Fiona Shaw If our questionnaire then goes to ask about the other Medea stories, we might collect smaller returns But returns for quite a few, often involving her skills with potions and spells First she helped Jason to acquire the Golden Fleece from her home city of Colchis, which is in present-day Georgia She threw off the pursuit of her father by cutting up her little brother and leaving a trail of bits behind the boat That was off the coast of present-day Romania And then at Iolcus back at Thessaly in Greece, she tricked the daughters of King Pyerness into killing their father,and she eventually lived with Aegeus, the king of Athens, and nearly got him to kill his own lost son, Theseus So it’s quite a bloody history, really All of those stories that I’ve just mentioned, very probably predate Euripides, predate 431, and most of them are found in earlier art, and some figured in earlier tragedies Now, Euripides’ play is set in the prosperous city of Corinth, and there were also pre-Euripidean, stories from before Euripides, about Medea’s time there in Corinth with Jason, after Iolcus and before Athens And the stories were largely unhappy and mostly involved her unfortunate children Narratives told that either because of her ambitions for power or

because she had killed the king Creon, the Corinthians killed her children in revenge, the Corinthians killed her children in revenge More particularly, that Creon’s relatives killed him So how far did Euripides make innovations in the Medea myth? Above all, was he the first to make her kill her own children? There are a couple of ancient sources that say that Euripides adapted or even plagiarized the whole lot from another playwright called Neophron There’s a good discussion of this question by Donald Mastronarde of Berkeley in his commentary of 2002 And he shows that very probably, all of the following features were introduced into the story by either Euripides or by Neophron, that all of these were the innovations of one of these two tragedians The Corinthian princess and Jason’s proposed new marriage, the involvement of Aegeus of Athens, the killing of the princess and Creon by means of magic robes, the deliberate murder of the children by Medea herself, and her escape by use of the flying chariot In other words, all the important elements of the story are either introduced by Euripides or by Neophron All the most important elements of the story as told in our play, the Euripides play And Donald keeps a characteristically cautious open mind on which came first out of Euripides or Neophron Who is Neophron? Otherwise completely unknown except for his Medea and the three fragments of texts that we have from it, which have a great deal in common with Euripides Now, I’m not gonna spend a lot of time on this, was it first Euripides or first Neophron? Because two more recent discussions by James Diggle and by Judith Mossman, both say very much what I would say and they both seem to me to be conclusive What they demonstrate is there are things in the Neophron fragments that must be derivative from Euripides and not the other way around And I would add one interesting if slightly recherche little piece of evidence that turned up since the Mastronarde and indeed the Diggle and Mossman discussions There was a papyrus newly published in 2011 It’s obviously Oxyrhynchus’ papyrus 5093 And it shows that Euripides’s Medea and allegedly earlier versions of the Medea play were being exploited in a rhetorical debate, or rhetorical exercise from the 2nd century AD Where one of the two sides in this debate had to put forward the case Euripides always pandered to the public Was always changing things to suit public taste, and the other side had to say Euripides never compromised with the public Well the editor, Daniella Colomo of this Papyrus, rather charmingly puts it like this Declamators do not invent, rather, they manipulate by not paying any attention to any historical truth So slightly fine distinction This rhetorical debate simply makes up stuff about Euripides’ Medea and earlier versions And it emerges quite clearly from this document that Euripides’ classic was a plaything for the debating Allegations about its originality and its plagiarism was stock subject matter, regardless of the truth It may not be 100% certain, but is extremely likely that Euripides, in 431 BC, made major and lasting innovations in the Medea myth He was the first to make Medea, our Medea, the first to have her kill her children with her own hand, and along with that goes the murder of the Corinthian princess, and hence the invention of the entire motivation through sexual resentment Not to mention the escape in the dragon chariot As I’ve said, it may well have been these shocking moves that led the Athenian judges in 431 to give Medea third prize out of three This may, however, prove more of a boost than a setback for the play’s reputation, because it’s pretty clear that Medea became an instant hit, attracting notice and getting widely re-performed, and stimulating a lot of imitation and emulation And the most vivid evidence for this comes from vase paintings, or vase paintings, and I shall come to those in a moment But first, just a quick survey of the theatrical repercussions of Euripides’ Medea It’s directly quoted in Aristophanes, Frogs of 405, it’s directly quoted in two 4th century comedies and there were at least four comedies with the title Medea And Euripides’ play was the start of a whole line of tragedies

with the same title during the next 100 years or so And this is what I’m gonna concentrate on, the swerving flight through tragedies in the 100 years or so after Euripides’ first performance As well as Neophron, we hear of Medea’s by Melanthius, by Dicaeogenes, by Theodorides, by Diogenes, and by Carcinus, none of whom you’ve heard of, and not surprisingly, though you might like to know that Theodorides won second prize in 363 Carcinus I’m gonna come back to, she was hugely popular for tragedies in Latin, including plays by Ennius, the much admired Medea of Ovid, from which we have one line, as well as the Medea of Seneca, which survives And I said, there’s a new commentary on that by Tony Boyle, just come out, which looks extremely good Now most if not all of these tragedies will have explicitly followed in Euripides’ epoch making footsteps They will, that is, have followed his Medea in some ways while departing in others, have both paid homage and attempted to outbid to have both admired and challenged And we have explicit testimony to the great variety of tragic variations from Diodorus of Sicily who was writing the 1st century BC He covers a lot of myths in the first books of his history of everything and he comes to Medea’s stories in book four And among the variants, he discusses variant versions of other things including, who was it who killed her children and why did they kill her children, how many children were there, there are usually 2 but there’s 14 in one version >> [LAUGH] >> What happened to the children’s bodies? How one son escaped and had a future dynasty, and towards the end of all this, Diodorus says with a touch of exasperation, I quote, in general there are such varied and inconsistent accounts of Medea because of a desire of the tragedians for the weird and the wonderful [FOREIGN] Of the Terratean, the sensational So can we trace any of these other tragic versions? I believe that we have documentary evidence of three of them and we have artistic evidence of three of them, and that one of those three is the same Let’s say there are three literary versions apart from Euripides that we can trace, three artistic versions, and one of the literary and artistic are the same play So first on the literary side, the Neophron fragment show him following Euripides closely and trying to make minor improvements, for example, Euripides’ Medea predicts that Jason will be killed by a lump of the Argo falling on his head Neophron changed this to something a good deal more bitter In the Neophron, she predicts that he will hang himself but actually Euripides has more of a point The fallen hero, the great golden argonaut, is killed by the rotting hulk of his famous Argo, the vessel So Neophron is one of the three literary versions Secondly, there are some rather fascinating but frustratingly tattered papyrus fragments published in 1906, they’re in the British Museum, they’re a literary property of London, number 77 And there are bits of over 100 lines in which Aegeus is mentioned, Creon is mentioned, Jason is addressed, the Chorus are greeted as women of Corinth, so very nearly everything points to a post year Medea tragedy And yet, even classicist probably you have never heard of this and you won’t find it in the standard editions of the Tragic Fragments And the reason is there’s a speech in which Medea’s railing against Jason and she employs two rather explicit phrases about Jason’s arousal by his new bride And scholars have almost universally regarded this genital language as out of the question in tragedy, tragedy doesn’t talk dirty like that But Euripides’ Medea, actually herself, does more euphemistically imply the same sort of thing with words that are sexually suggestive, including for example, she says to Jason at one point, go and join your new wife, [FOREIGN], do the bride-groom thing Is it so inconceivable that a later tragedian from the fourth century would spell out Medea’s burning jealousy in more explicit language,

piling on the shock value? I don’t think it’s at all inconceivable, in fact, I’d rather like the idea, so that’s the second of my other literary versions Now, I’m gonna turn to the vase paintings Can people see this clearly with the lights? So if we could not have the lights off, I don’t mind having them dimmed a bit but I quite like to be able to see you people I’m gonna argue that with the help of vase paintings, we can reconstruct something about two of our Medeas, even though we can’t describe the named author And given what Diodorus says, I hope that you’ll agree that tragedy rather than any other source is the likely explanations of the variations in the story First, though, two paintings which can, I believe be plausibly claimed, to reflect Euripides’ play Especially when set beside the others, I’m gonna show, you’ll see how closely aligned this is to Euripides’ play and how different the other ones are by comparison Both these two were painted in Greek Southern Italy and both are painted to around 400 BC, plus or minus 10 years So one or even both of them might possibly have been painted within Euripides’ lifetime, and in any case, they come from less than 40 years after the first performance of his Medea Now, at first glance, they may seem very different from each other This plainer one was excavated at Policoro, in present day Basilicata, in 1963 Actually seems somehow symbolic, That in some ways, the most crucial bit of the picture is the triangle of ceramic that’s missing But at least we do have Medea’s name there by her and as you see she’s flying off in her dragon chariot and chasing, here below the son’s lying dead below and here’s Jason completely helpless trying to catch her And this other one, which may actually even be by the same painter, far more spectacular, as you see This spectacular sunburst and luminescent dragons was first published in 1983, it’s now in the Cleveland Museum of Art But as I say, in terms of attribution, they’re close in time and place of production, they’re even possibly by the same artist And their iconographic dynamic is the same, with Medea triumphantly above, Jason helpless below, again, here And that scene, and that whole spatial arrangement of power, with Medea triumphant in escaping, and the ex-hero, Jason, completely helpless to do anything about it, is the invention of the final scene of Euripides’ play So these are actually also the earliest representations of Medea’s chariot drawn by snakes or dragons So, nowhere in Greek art before these two vases I am showing you, do you get the chariot drawn by dragons or snakes And yet, from here on, they are always there, they’re inseparable from Medea’s escape, both in Greek art and literature, and even more in Roman art The odd thing is that there’s no trace whatsoever of any snakes or dragons in our text of Euripides’ Medea She has a chariot led by her grandfather, the Sun And there can be little doubt that Euripides made use of the flying machine that there was in the ancient Greek theater, known simply as the mechane, the device But there’s no mention of how the chariot was propelled in Euripides’ play, so where did the snakes come from? Actually, I’d love to go into that in detail, because I can think of at least five possible explanations But I will tell you what my own favorite is, which is that very early on, some touring actors added the snakes to their staging of the play as a spectacular embellishment So they had the flying machine, they put these dragons on the front, it was the most terrific, sensational hit And immediately, probably even before 400, they became a signature of the portrayal of Medea And audiences and the public of vast painters, and of other arts, were not happy without them [COUGH] So those two I regard as being very probably closely related to and formed by reflecting the Euripides,

the final scene of the Euripides play [COUGH] So now, here’s the first of my variant versions [COUGH] It’s the upper band from a huge funerary amphora, a whole meter high Painted around 340 BC, so we’ve jumped to 60 years later, it was excavated in 1851, it’s now in Naples, can you see that clearly? Could the lights be made slightly dimmer, or is that actually a problem, is that better? Okay, good, that’s fine, lovely, thank you Now some scholars claim that this scene is so similar to the Euripides ending that it too must be reflecting the ending of Euripides’ play, but hold on The differences are far greater, most importantly, the chariot is not flying up and away And Jason is not helpless below, cause that must be Jason, here, on the horse with the javelin On the contrary, Medea’s chariot wheels are stubbornly on the ground, and Jason is close behind her And actually, Even one of the snakes is looking quite anxious >> [LAUGH] >> Now assuming that this is following a play, and as I said, the diadora suggests that that’s where these various versions all come from It’s probable that it’s recalling a messenger speech, which told how Medea fled, and that Jason was on the very verge of catching her up and taking vengeance, he’s very nearly caught her And the crucial indication I suggest is one which measures itself against Euripides while also introducing a novel twist of terror, of the sensational, the weird and wonderful Medea has taken the two corpses of her sons with her in the chariot, and one lies at her feet with his arm dangling out, here, the other has fallen out on the ground Sorry about the light on this photograph, but that’s simply the way they do things in Naples >> [LAUGH] >> Now the dropped sword may also give a clue You remember how Medea chopped up her little brother and dropped pieces in the sea to delay pursuit What I’m suggesting is that what we have here is a kind of reprise, a kind of grisly repetition of that characteristic Medea action And in this play, Medea doesn’t only kill her sons, she actually uses their mangled bodies to help her own escape, leaving them behind her, so that Jason stops to look after their poor little bodies and doesn’t catch her up I think I am the first person since 1851, since this was excavated in 1851, to have made that suggestion, and I think it’s a pretty plausible one, I have to say So, secondly, so that’s one version, which is both indebted to Euripides, and different from Euripides It’s actually going one step crueler than Euripides, this, sorry it’s not a better photo As soon as it was excavated in 1814, it was purchased by King Ludwig of Bavaria to be a prized exhibit in his new museum in Munich, which is where it still is It was painted about 320 BC, it stands 1.17 meters high, it has no fewer than 19 figures on three levels, many of them with name labels Now, there’s only time for one or two highlights First is, you see that the composition of the whole thing is dominated down the central axis by the dying princess, who is dying from the affect of the flaming tiara, and of her father, her doomed father, beside her And then below is the emblematic snake chariot, but it’s not Medea who’s in the snake chariot It is the allegorical figure of Oistrus, whose name is written here above, Oistrus, meaning frenzy, it’s actually the word that estrogen comes from He separates Jason, here, from Medea, over here, where she is about to slaughter her son on an altar So again, it’s Euripidean in some features, to kind of homage to Euripides, but it’s a divergent rival in others I’ll just point to a couple of the several features that indicate

an ambitious Medea tragedy by one of those other fourth century playwrights Firstly, On our right over here is an oriental figure who’s explicitly labeled {FOREIGN} the ghost of Aeetes, that’s Medea’s father So that ghost most likely delivered either the prologue or the epilogue Secondly, found in this corner, where Medea is killing one of the two sons, the other is being hurried away by an unnamed young man armed with two spears Now among the many variants reported by Diadoris, there are two in which a son escapes from his mother, escapes from her murderous hands And this play surely included a son who escaped So now we’ve had two other literary versions, Nephron and the London papyrus with the slightly obscene phrases And they’re not drastically obscene, I felt they should observe the decency of not actually quoting them But anyone who wants to know afterwards, I’ll tell them what it says And then the two artistic versions, the one in which she’s in the chariot dropping the body of the son behind on the ground And this one in which, among other things, one of the two sons escapes So I’m gonna come lastly to the strangest variant of them all And I think, in fact I know, that I’m the first to suggest this verse that I’m gonna show you can also be related to a fragmented text So first I’m going to talk about the text, the play in question, we can put a name to it It is the Medea of carcinus now this carcinus was one of the most famous and successful fourth century dramatists And often won first prize at the Athenian Dionysia, so not like Nephron, who we’ve never heard of, carcinus was famous I thought you might like to decipher that while I’m talking Until recently we had only one piece of information about carcinus’ play A rather complicated passage in Aristotle’s rhetoric, and according to this passage, Medea’s children were nowhere to be found in this place Nobody could find the children, and she was accused of having murdered them But, in fact, this is what Aristotle says reports, she had made a mistake in the way she sent the children away [FOREIGN] She made a mistake in the way she sent them away And when she was accused, her refutation of the accusation was, she had made an absolutely stupid mistake if she’d killed the children and not killed Jason So in carcinus’ play, it seems Medea did not kill her children, but she packed them off Now, scholars have assumed she will have sent them to the sanctuary of Heraion near Corinth A cult site for the cult of the children, and which is actually figures in Euripides play So that was the situation until 2006 as far as carcinus Madea was concerned, that was all we knew about him Then this papyrus was published, it had in fact been in the Louvre since 1891 And I thought I might do a little bit of practical papyrology with you, is that something that perhaps doesn’t occur often in public lectures And show you the kind of thing that papyrologists have to struggle with, and as I say this one just came out published in 2006 So as you can see it’s a scrap, it’s got holes in it, unfortunately, but the actual writing, the actual ink is quite well preserved It’s not a very pretty hand, I mean some of the papyri are very, very beautiful calligraphy, but it is this is the best photo that exists And it’s not that great, but it’s more or less legible, and that, I’m not asking you to look at the detail of that I’m just saying that’s a transcript of the fragment, and this is, it’s not even focused very well, I’m afraid A modern edition of it, by Martin West, from 2007 And one thing that’s very interesting about this fragment, is it has musical notes added, above some of the lines That’s what these letters, in the transcript here are But that’s not my point for today, the crucial passage for us And the bit that ties it to Carcinus is the lines from the top here

And this, I’m hoping, is gonna be more legible In the first two lines, somebody, very probably Jason, says if, as you say, you have not killed the children, then show those you have not killed Which, you see how that corresponds with the carcinus If you’ve not killed them, then show them And Medea replies, I swear by, and then she swears by something I have not killed the children that I myself bore [FOREIGN] I thought you might like to hear a little bit of ancient Greek, pronounced with a rather modern accent Then so, I’d not killed the children that I myself bore, but I’ve sent them to a Pharoah Probably as West suggest, sent them to safe sanctuary to Asulian asylum Then, This is the crucial line, entrusting them, [FOREIGN], to a something [FOREIGN] to, entrusting them to a carer To a nurse or a pedagogue, or a carer And in between those two words, in between entrusting and entrust in to a carer, there is a word that I want to concentrate on Which, as you can see in the transcript, is mainly gaps, okay? Just a little papyrology lesson for you This is the, because I think it’s just such a nice illustration of the kind of things that papyrologists have to do So it’s not that legible is it? [FOREIGN] Can people see that? There’s [INAUDIBLE] You’re gonna have to take my word for this, then there’s definitely a G, a gamma The word begins with guh, and it definitely ends with omega, which you can see very clearly It begins with gamma, ends with omega And so Martin West had a guest at entrusting them to an old carer, to a The trouble is that actually, the trace here before the omega can’t possibly be an eye And an Italian scholar, Franco Ferrari, suggested in sound, instead these two [FOREIGN] Sending them beyond the borders of this land with a carer, with a nurse And that does fit their traces And it’s slightly odd wording but it’s, nobody can think of anything else that fits So what we have is sending them outside the land and trusting them to a carer So in this play, which is almost certainly Carcinus, Medea has not killed her children, on the contrary she’s sent them abroad to a safe place under supervision And it’s clear enough that this plot is a response to Euripides, but with the major countermove of having Medea do her best to rescue her children instead of killing them So she’s not done the very thing that Euripides had made into her hallmark So now the scene’s set for the last vase painting First published by the great AD Trendall in 1984, it’s in the University Museum of Princeton And there are in fact two inscribed labels on it, two inscriptions, one here, and one here But it’s worth asking what could we infer just from looking at it? It’s another of these from the same period of the height of the south Italian Greek vase paintings, the 340s, 330s, actually probably by the same painter as one of the earlier ones, the great Darius Painter And these are big, they stand this high If you go to the University Museum in Princeton, they’ve got it very nicely up on the wall at a height where you can see it and it’s in a great big case What could you infer just by looking at it? Well you might infer, up here from the top right we have Demeter and Kore, Demeter and her daughter And there’s a lot of these cross torches, now that tells people, tells us that this is Eleusis, the great Sanctuary of Demeter in Attica to the west of Athens,

and that location is actually confirmed by the highly unusual inscription There by the way, here is Athens, here is Corinth, here is the now, there is the [LAUGH] modern motorway In ancient times it was actually a rather difficult journey, it involved particularly nasty bits of cliff and coast here around Megara But there is Eleusis, so you see how Eleusis is on the coast in Attica where the old road goes over to Thebes And here is Corinth down here Can you see Eleusis [FOREIGN], this is Eleusis the shrine, the famous cult site of the mysteries It’s actually some 14 miles west of Athens, on the road towards Corinth, and Corinth is another 37 miles along that road [COUGH] Then, sorry I’m going to have to go back There’s also some kind of victory for Athena because there is Athena being crowned with victory, and Heracles at the bottom right is also involved Now this little old man in the shrine he’s a type who often crops up in vases of this period and usually, if not always, with tragic associations and he is a paidagogos, a pedagogue, a male carer Girls have their nurse, their female trophos, and boys have their male trophos, their paidagogos It’s pretty unusual though for him to have a traveling hat, there’s his hat, he’s been on a journey And I can’t recall any other vases where the little old man figure, the paidagogos figure, is as prominent as he is here So this central sacred building with Eleusis [FOREIGN] here, the Eleusis, the temple on this lintel, is occupied by conversation between him and a serious looking woman Now we surely could never in a month of Sundays have guessed who that woman is were it not that she is identified by an inscription beneath her feet And you will have guessed what the inscription says, it’s actually very difficult to read, but it says Medea And this was in the Getty exhibition in 2010 and at that I was able to look at it really closely And actually you can, even here you might be able to sort of see the E-I-A So here we have Medea in the shrine at Eleusis with a little old man [COUGH] There’s an excellent article about this vase in 2007 by Luca Giuliani and Glen Most, and they convincingly argue that the two boys at the altar, these two boys on an altar beneath the scene here, must be the sons of Medea And then what we have here is a version of the myth as told in a tragedy, where far from killing them Medea has rescued them from the vengeful Corinthians and got them away to Eleusis And there with the help of Heracles and the protection of Athena in her city, she succeeds in saving their lives and the old paidagogos evidently played an important role in this adventure Right now, Most and Giuliani write, I quote, we have no evidence about who the author is to whose play this vase seems to make reference But in saying that, they had overlooked the Aristotle passage that shows that in Carcinus’ Medea she saved, or at least tried to save her children by sending them away And now the Louvre papyrus adds that in Carcinus she entrusted them to a trophos, to a carer [COUGH] Now when this first clicked with me I thought carer, tropho, entrusting them to an old male carer, perfect, that fits beautifully But as one has to concede, it doesn’t fit the traces of the ink so it’s not carer, it’s not an old carer But I can now see that actually [FOREIGN], sending them outside the country, sending them beyond the borders of the land, is actually even better It means she didn’t send them to the local sanctuary of Hera as has been supposed, she sent them right away from Corinth [COUGH] Excuse me Now we already knew that Carcinus had changed the key event of Euripides’ story

by having Medea do her best to protect the sons from danger at Corinth If you’re persuaded by this combination of the Louvre papyrus with the Princeton vase, then we can now add that she got them safely to Eleusis, with the help of their loyal old carer, and that they were protected as suppliants by the city of Athens Well it’s a speculation, but I won’t deny that I’m pretty pleased with that idea which is, and it’s recent enough for me to know that nobody else has said it >> [LAUGH] >> If it’s wrong, well that’s not a disaster If it’s wrong, than we have two more variant Medeas instead of one more variant Medea, a third one on the vase and a third one in the literary sources If it’s right, then it may have crossed your mind that this Carcinus Medea would have involved a change of scene from Corinth to Eleusis, because the papyrus is clearly set in Corinth and the rescue of the boys is clearly set in Eleusis Now changes I’ve seen are very rare in 5th century tragedy, but I think in the 4th century when the course was less fixed and less integral, they may well have been more acceptable Well in conclusion Greek myths were not fixed, so don’t believe anyone who says they knew the story already it was totally fixed and immutable They were extremely flexible, they were extremely variable, and open to innovation And the Medea myth, as we’ve seen, was revolutionized by the great unsettling play of Euripides and that could produce in one direction a retelling which has made Medea protect her children instead of kill her children In the other direction, in the reception of Euripides’ play by Delacroix, it even takes her away from the domestic setting of the play Into this savage cave And it even bares her breasts, not as a symbol of motherhood and of nurture, but so that she has more freedom of movement to strike her little boys So as Celine says in Before Midnight it is a Greek myth, but as Jesse then says, he’s right to qualify her, actually a play by Euripides but, he’s then interrupted, I’d like to know what he was gonna say after that but Thank you >> [APPLAUSE] >> For more, please visit us at