1 III Euripides and the idea of the ἀγών 0. Introduction The topic of this chapter is Euripides treatment mainly, but not exclusively in his so-called agon scenes of what I call the idea of the ἀγών : the notion, associated in our sources especially with Protagoras, that sound policy should be based on a consideration of the two opposed λόγοι that arise from every πρᾶγµα. Like the ὄνοµαπρᾶγµα talk discussed in the preceding chapter, agonistic terminology is distinctly prominent in Euripidean drama: the poet is alone among the extant tragedians in consistently using such expressions as ἀγὼν λόγων or ἅµιλλα λόγων to refer to onstage verbal exchange. 1 Euripides also appears to go further than the other tragedians in underlining the formality of such exchanges by means of explicit headlines and interventions; 2 and accordingly, modern scholarship has come up with the term agon scene, to describe a generic template that typically consists of a pair of opposing speeches, balancing each other both in length and in content, separated by two or three lines from the Chorus, and frequently followed by a further stichomythic exchange between the antagonists. This agon template seems exclusively, or (depending on the strictness of your definition) predominantly, to have been favoured by Euripides. 3 1 A preliminary conspectus: Hcld (πρὸς τοῦτον ἁγὼν ἆρα τοῦδε τοῦ λόγου µάλιστ ἂν εἴη) and (µὴ γὰρ ὡς µεθήσοµεν δόξῃς ἀγῶνα τόνδ ἄτερ χαλυβδικοῦ); Med. 546 (ἅµιλλαν γὰρ σὺ προύθηκας λόγων), Hipp. 971 (τί ταῦτα σοὶ ἁµίλλωµαι λόγων;); Suppl. 427 (ἐπεὶ δ ἀγῶνα καὶ σὺ τόνδ ἠγωνίσω...) and 465 (τῶν µὲν ἠγωνισµένων σοὶ µὲν δοκείτω ταῦτ, ἐµοὶ δὲ τἀντία); Andr. 234 (τί σεµνοµυθεῖς κεἰς ἀγῶν ἔρχηι λόγων); Hec. 271 (τῶι µὲν δικαίωι τόνδ ἁµιλλῶµαι λόγον); Her (ἄκουε δή νυν, ὡς ἁµιλληθῶ λόγοις πρὸς νουθετήσεις σάς); Pho. 588 (οὐ λόγων ἔθ ἁγών); 930 (ὀρθῶς µ ἐρωτᾶις κεἰς ἀγῶν ἔρχηι λόγων); Or. 491 ( πρὸς τόνδ ἀγών τις σοφίας ἥκει πέρι ). 2 In this respect, it is instructive to compare E. El (Electra: µέµνησο, µῆτερ, οὓς ἔλεξας ὑστάτους λόγους, διδοῦσα πρὸς σέ µοι παρρησίαν [ Mind your last words, mother, in which you granted me the right of speaking freely to you ]) with its parallel passage in S. El.: while both plays thematise the restrictions imposed upon Electra s speech, Euripides precise marking of the speech turns and his use of quasi-technical language (παρρησία) contrasts with Sophocles more naturalistic way of introducing the discussion (554-5, ἀλλ ἢν ἐφῆις µοι, τοῦ τεθνηκότος θ ὕπερ λέξαιµ ὀρθῶς κασιγνήτου θ ὅµου [ If you let me, I would like to speak my mind about the dead man and my brother ]). For the difference between Euripidean and Sophoclean practice, cf. Lloyd, Agon Lloyd, Agon 3 lists thirteen generally recognized agon scenes in Euripides: more inclusive definitions than Lloyd s can be found in e.g. Duchemin, AGON 39-41; Collard, Formal Debates 60-1 (who, like Lloyd, differentiates Euripidean from Sophoclean conflict scenes); and Dubischar, Agonszenen 44-7 and 53-6.
2 90 Chapter III Why did Euripides foreground the idea of an ἀγὼν λόγων in his tragedies to this extent? It will presently appear that the agon in Euripides is a flexible device: the significance of any particular ἀγὼν in Euripides is determined by such variables as its position in the dramatic structure and its embedding in the thematic concerns of a given play, by the nature of the issue that is being debated, by the presence or absence of a third party to judge the proceedings, and by the characterisation of its participants whether they are good or bad characters, and (most crucially for present purposes) whether they are for or against the ἀγών itself. In what follows, it is not my intention to give a complete coverage of agonistic references in Euripides, or of every Euripidean agon scene; instead, as I explain in section 1.1 below, I focus on four plays, from various periods in the poet s career, whose agon scenes touch particularly upon the ἀγών as a model for socio-political deliberation. By the mid-420s, the idea of an ἀγὼν λόγων associated with Protagoras, and featured prominently in the political theory that Thucydides ascribes to Protagoras associate Pericles, had evidently become controversial enough for Aristophanes to stage, in his Clouds of 422, a parodic ἀγών between the stronger and the weaker λόγος; and what I hope to show in this chapter is that in the agon scenes of Children of Heracles (2), Suppliant Women (3), Hecuba (4) and Phoenician Women (5), Euripides can in various ways be seen to engage with this controversy. 1. agon scenes and the idea of the ἀγών 1.1 As was noted above, the term agon scene is a modern one, coined by Theodor Bergk with reference to the epirrhematic agon encountered in the plays of Aristophanes. Only in the early 20th cent. did it catch on as a label for the characteristic tragic construction described in the opening paragraph of this chapter; 4 and in spite of its present currency, its definition continues to be debated. 5 Indeed, even within the narrow range of what Michael Lloyd designates as the thirteen generally recognised agon scenes in Euripides (cf. n.3 above), diversity is great; and this flexibility of the agon form allows the poet to do very different things with these scenes, and with the conventions that determine their shape and purpose. One striking feature of Euripides agon scenes is the fact that most of them are inconclusive: what is debated in these scenes fails to affect the course of the dramatic action. 6 This can clearly be seen in a batch of dramas from the 430s-early 420s. In Hippolytus, the formal agon takes place after Theseus has irreversibly invoked a lethal curse upon his son: accordingly, nothing that Hippolytus can say or do in his 4 For the history of the term, cf. Nuchelmans, Agon. 5 Cf. esp. Dubischar, Agonszenen 48-52, a critique of Lloyd s restrictive definition (cf. n.3). 6 So e.g. Lloyd, Agon 15 ( the agon in Euripides rarely achieves anything ); Conacher, Rhetoric & Relevance 21; Mastronarde, Optimistic Rationalist See also Strohm, Interpretationen 45-6, who differentiates between early and late Euripides.
3 Chapter III 91 defence will have any substantial effect upon the subsequent action, and the main dramatic purpose of the debate (as Michael Lloyd notes) is to give the fullest exposure of the two contestants points of view, before the curtain definitively falls for one of them. 7 The agon scene of Alcestis, a debate between Admetus and Pheres about the latter s apparent dereliction of his parental duties, similarly takes place after Alcestis has sacrificed herself in Admetus stead: the scene puts Alcestis self-sacrifice in perspective, but does not change the course of events. 8 Finally, Medea s agon scene occurs, not only after Jason has already deserted Medea, but also after Medea has set in motion the train of events that will lead to Jason s downfall by negotiating a day s reprieve before leaving Corinth: anything she might yet have to ask of her husband is phrased in the counterfactual mood (e.g. Med ), and Jason s offers are emphatically rejected (e.g ). One important difference, then, between these Euripidean agon scenes on the one hand, and the real-life judicial and deliberative ἀγῶνες on which the poet may have modelled them on the other, 9 revolves around the fact that the tragic ἀγῶνες are situated more or less emphatically post eventum: they are set to clarify issues, not to create new action. Lloyd (as cited above, n.7) extends this conclusion to Euripides treatment of the agon in general; but in doing so, he appears to elide some notable differences between the early agon scenes discussed above and those of other Euripidean plays. For instance, it is notable that none of the three scenes highlighted above is explicitly introduced as a contest. To be sure, the contestants use agonistic terminology to refer to what they are doing (e.g. Hipp. 971, Med. 546, both cited in n.1 above); but no ἀγών has been called for: Hippolytus is gradually drawn into the altercation, without at first understanding what his father s abstract moralising is about (esp. Hipp ); and neither Pheres nor Jason, both of whom come with peaceful intentions, has bargained for the invective that their addresses provoke from their interlocutors. Things are different in, e.g., the first agon scene of Andromache, which has a quasi-judicial setting (being located at the altar where the persecuted Andromache has sought refuge), and opens with Hermione s assertion of her formal right, as a free Spartan, to speak her mind about the matter at hand (147-53): 10 here, it seems, a true ἀγών has been instituted. Yet as in Hippolytus, Alcestis and Medea, the debate evidently 7 Cf. Lloyd, Agon 43-4 (on Hipp.) and ibid. 132, where it is noted by way of a general conclusion that the main advantage of the agon form for Euripides was that it enabled him to give the fullest and subtlest possible account of a given point of view. 8 For the location of Alc. s agon scene in the play s dramatic structure, see esp. Lloyd, Alcestis (also idem, Agon 41; and Sicking, Admetus Case 52-3). 9 Cf. e.g. the general remark of Lloyd, Agon 13: the agon in Euripides evokes a variety of situations... in which conflicting logoi competed with each other. For the pervasive conception of judicial and deliberative procedure as an ἀγών, cf. below, section 1.2 with n On this passage and its use of formal rhetoric, see Lloyd, Agon Andromache in her turn replies: ὅµως δ ἐµαυτὴν οὐ προδοῦσ ἁλώσοµαι (Andr. 191: I will not let myself be taken without defending myself, a markedly judicial reply cf. Allan, Andromache 128).
4 92 Chapter III won by Andromache has no effect upon the dramatic action, since although the contest proceeds on the assumption that Andromache stands a good chance to escape with her life, the audience know that Menelaus is all the while plotting off-stage to murder Andromache and her child (e.g. Andr. 66-9). 11 This construction an agon scene set as a genuine contest, but prejudiced by stealthy plotting can be seen to serve a second purpose, besides offering the poet the opportunity to expose the competing issues at the outset of his play: like Andromache s second agon scene, which (again inconclusively) pits the play s eponymous heroine against the villainous Menelaus, it juxtaposes Andromache s exemplary role in the ἀγών against her Spartan opponents brazen abuse of that instution. 12 We see something similar happening in a later (but equally anti-spartan) drama: Trojan Women of This play s formal agon scene, involving Helen, Menelaus and Hecabe, is set up with the express purpose of deciding what is to be done with the captive Helen, who faced with an irate husband asks for an opportunity to argue her case (903-4). When Menelaus refuses, Hecabe steps in to say: ἄκουσον αὐτῆς, µὴ θάνηι τοῦδ ἐνδεής Μενέλαε, καὶ δὸς τοὺς ἐναντίους λόγους ἡµῖν κατ αὐτῆς τῶν γὰρ ἐν Τροίαι κακῶν οὐδὲν κάτοισθα, συντεθεὶς δ ὀ πᾶς λόγος κτενεῖ νιν οὕτως ὥστε µηδαµοῦ φυγεῖν. (Tro ) Listen to her, so she won t die deprived of her say, Menelaus, and let me have the opposing λόγοι against her: for you know nothing of her mischiefs in Troy, and when you put together the whole λόγος, you are bound to kill her so that there will be no escape. Hecabe s successful intervention has the paradoxical effect that this ἀγών takes place on the express understanding that it will not affect Menelaus s already made-up mind that Helen must die; 14 and as she predicts in the lines cited above, Hecabe scores a decisive rhetorical victory over her opponent: 15 Menelaus rejects his wife s apologia 11 This complicated situation is deployed to great dramatic effect: note esp. Andr , where Hermione apparently forgetting about her father s plotting envisages the humiliation that she would have to endure should Andromache be acquitted. 12 For the marked anti-spartan tenor of these exchanges, note esp. Andr. 437: ἦ ταῦτ ἐν ὑµῖν τοῖς παρ Εὐρώται σοφά ([Andr. to Men.:] Is that what counts as wise among you Eurotas-dwellers? ). 13 Anti-Spartan: cf. e.g. Tro , where the Chorus of captive Trojan women express their preference for being brought anywhere, but not to Sparta, most hated dwelling-place of Helen. 14 Cf. Tro :... τῶν σῶν δ οὕνεχ, ὡς µαθῆι, λόγων δώσω τόδ αὐτῆι τῆσδε δ οὐ δώσω χάριν ([Menelaus to Hecabe:] But know that it is because of your λόγοι that I will let her; I won t do it for her sake ). 15 Cf. e.g. Grube, Dramas of Euripides 293; Lee on Tro. p. xxiii ( [Hecabe s] arguments are more cogent than the feeble defence of her opponent ); Goldhill, Reading 237 (Helen is defeated by Hecuba s
5 Chapter III 93 and stands by his earlier decision to punish her for her misdemeanour. Another inconclusive agon scene, then, that ostensibly does not affect the course of the action but one with a curious sting in the tail, as the audience will find it difficult to forget that the epic tradition has Helen return home safe and sound; so that, by implication, Hecabe loses the ἀγών after all. 16 Thus, we can see Euripides put different kinds of spin on the apparent rule or convention that his agon scenes fail to affect the action: some are simply not positioned so as to be able to influence the course of events, since larger forces have already been set in motion their primary purpose seems to be expository, rather than genuinely dramatic. Others, like Andromache s first two ἀγῶνες, are set to make a difference, but, tragically, don t; and while Trojan Women s agon scene seems not to affect the dramatic action, it does so after all, in a dramatically effective way. Of the four plays that shall presently be discussed in detail, two have agon scenes that (despite the rule or convention) result in a meaningful course of action: in Children of Heracles, the Athenian king Demophon resolves a conflict between two contestants by heeding each side s λόγος, and pronouncing a verdict that all parties abide by; and in Hecuba, the eponymous heroine successfully negotiates her impunity after having avenged herself on the treacherous Polymestor. 17 The success of Children of Heracles agon scene can be fairly straightforwardly interpreted by seeing it as a paradigmatic depiction of Athenian-style, proto-democratic decision-making, designed to promote Athens as the place to go when in trouble; but that of Hecuba s will require a more sustained effort; as do the inconclusive ἀγῶνες of Suppliant Women and Phoenician Women. What distinguishes these plays from the ones that we have so far been looking at is that they feature characters who take issue, precisely with the idea that political or judicial deliberation should take the form of an ἀγών. The agon scenes in which these characters become enmeshed accordingly acquire a self-reflexive dimension: they are ἀγῶνες, not just about the issue at hand, but also about the ἀγὼν λόγων itself; and accordingly, whether these agon scenes succeed or not becomes a reflection on the feasibility of the idea of the ἀγών as a deliberative model. In what follows, I hope to show that this reflection does not just extend to the tragic ἀγών, but also to the ἀγών as a socio-political phenomenon. superior reason and superior rhetorical manipulation ); for the nature of Hecabe s victory, see esp. the analysis of Meridor, Creative Rhetoric. 16 Lloyd, Helen Scene and Agon argues that Euripides leaves open the possibility that Helen will be punished in spite of the tradition s weight (cf. e.g. Gregory, Education 174; Croally, Euripidean Polemic 158-9), so that Hecabe succeeds in destroying what she, rightly or wrongly, perceives to be the ultimate cause of her misfortune; but it is perhaps more likely that the poet intended Helen s trial to end in yet one more humiliation for Hecabe (so e.g. Scodel, Trojan Trilogy 98-9; Meridor, Creative Rhetoric 26-7). 17 Hcld. and Hec. are the two exceptions that Lloyd allows to the rule cited in n.6 above (Agon 15; cf. Collard, Formal Debates 66).
6 94 Chapter III 1.2 Towards the end of the 19th cent., Burckhardt and Nietzsche perceived that agonistic metaphors pervade Greek life and thought from the earliest times onwards; 18 and although their essentialist preconceptions are nowadays not widely shared, 19 contemporary scholarship is still apt to point out that competitiveness is a defining feature of Greek social behaviour in its various forms and manifestations. 20 Besides this general agonism ingrained in Greek culture, however, political conditions in 5thcent. Athens accommodated a more specific form of the ἀγών, as procedure both in the city s key political institutions and in the newly instituted or reformed lawcourts was modelled on an agonistic template, with competitors, judges, winners and losers : 21 it is at this period in time that the Greeks traditional agonism was channelled into a highly specific socio-political discourse. 22 Going by the ancient testimonies, a key figure in this process was Protagoras, who is credited in one source with being the first to expound that there are two opposed λόγοι that arise from every πρᾶγµα, 23 and in another with instituting a contest (ἀγών) of λόγοι. 24 At first sight, neither the rather trivial notion of opposed λόγοι 18 See Burckhardt, Kulturgeschichte ( Endlich war das ganze griechische Leben von derjenigen Kraft belebt, welche wir als agonale im weitesten Sinne des Wortes werden kennen lernen ), ibid ; Nietzsche, Homers Wettkampf passim. On the cultural climate that helped shape these interpretations, cf. e.g. Momigliano, L Agonale and Introduzzione ; O. Murray, Introduction. 19 Cf., on the reception of Burckhardt s ideas in the study of Greek athletics and politics, e.g. Brüggenbrock, Die Ehre 64-81; on their persistence in military studies, Dayton, Athletes of War See e.g. G.E.R. Lloyd s contrastive discussion of agonistic versus irenic cultures in Adversaries & Authorities For the extension of the word ἀγών contest, properly applicable to sports and/or warfare (cf. the instructive anecdote at Hdt ), to cover judicial deliberation, cf. e.g. A. Eum. 744 ([Orestes to Apollo:] πῶς ἁγὼν κριθήσεται; also Eum. 677), Lys (the speaker complains that his opponent involved him εἰς τοιοῦτον ἀγῶνα); Isoc (categorical distinction between ἀγῶνες and ἐπιδείξεις ) &c. Common though it was, however, this metaphor never quite died : cf. e.g. [Andoc.] 4.2 ὁ µὲν οὖν ἀγὼν ὁ πάρων οὐ στεφανήφορος ( this contest is not for the prize of a crown ). For the agonism of Athenian trials, cf. e.g. Osborne, Law in Action ; Cartledge, Fowl Play ; Todd, Shape 160-2; Cohen, Law, Violence For a suggestive discussion of the relationship between the 5th-cent. re-invention of agonism and classical-period athletic practice, cf. Hawhee, Bodily Arts (passim). Tannen, Argument Culture 3-26 discusses the prevalence of agonistic metaphors in present-day Western culture; the contingent nature of these metaphors is foregrounded by Lakoff & Johnson, Metaphors DL 9.51 = Protagoras 80B6a, πρῶτος ἔφη δύο λόγους εἶναι περὶ παντὸς πράγµατος ἀντικειµένους ἀλλήλοις. It seems likely that this summary had something to do with the two-book Ἀντιλογίαι or Ἀντιλογικοί ( Controversies?; cf. fr. 80B5) included in Diogenes catalogue of Protagoras works, but the connection is not made in our sources. 24 The Suda claims that Protagoras invented eristic arguments (τοὺς ἐριστικοὺς λόγους εὗρε) and esta-
7 Chapter III 95 nor that of an ἀγὼν λόγων seems sufficiently spectacular for them to be credited explicitly to such a purportedly avant-garde thinker as Protagoras, as our sources do; but both these notions gain in significance when we consider them, not in isolation, but in relation to such other, fragmentary testimonies to Protagoras thought as have made it through the ages. Thus, it seems likely that the notion that every πρᾶγµα gives rise to λόγοι ἀντικείµενοι ἀλλήλοις was connected with Protagoras celebrated thesis that man is the µέτρον of all things. 25 If it is so to be connected, then this notoriously underspecified claim can be taken to imply that there is no external measure for judging the issues from which the two opposing λόγοι arise; 26 and since as yet another isolated Protagorean fragment has it the realm of the divine is by definition inaccessible, 27 human accounts would then remain the only meaningful basis for all utterances involving the predicates ἐστί and οὔκ ἐστι. 28 This connection would make for a radical vision of the political process, according to which the community as a whole functions by virtue of a dual distribution of political responsibilities: for active politicians to construct and communicate sound λόγοι, 29 and for the passive majority to judge these λόγοι on their merits, without having recourse to absolute, god-given standards. blished the contest of λόγοι (ἀγῶνα λόγων ἐποιήσατο) (80B3); cf. Pl. Prot. 335a: ἐγὼ πολλοῖς ἥδη εἰς ἀγῶνα λόγων ἀφικόµην ἀνθρώποις ([ Protagoras speaking]: I have engaged with many a man in a contest of λόγοι ) evidently an allusion to Protagoras ipsissima verba. 25 Protagoras 80B1 (from various sources): πάντων χρηµάτων µέτρον ἐστὶν ἄνθρωπος, τῶν µὲν ὄντων ὡς ἐστίν, τῶν δὲ οὐκ ὄντων ὡς οὐκ ἐστίν ( Of all things man is the µέτρον, of the things that are that they are, of the things that are not that they are not ); cf. below, n For the connection between Protagoras rhetorical teachings and his relativism, cf. e.g. Guthrie, Sophists 182-3; Kerferd, Sophistic Movement 84-5; Classen, Study of language and Aletheia ; Rademaker, Most Correct Account Protagoras 80B3 (from various sources): περὶ µὲν θεῶν οὐκ ἔχω εἰδέναι, οὔθ ὡς εἰσὶν οὔθ ὡς οὐκ εἰσὶν οὔθ ὁποῖοί τινες ἰδέαν πολλὰ γὰρ τὰ κωλύοντα εἰδέναι ἥ τ ἀδηλότης καὶ βραχὺς ὢν ὁ βίος τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ( I cannot know about the gods, neither that they are nor that they are not, nor what kind of beings they are: many are the things that obstruct knowledge the uncertainty and man s life being brief ). DL 9.51 cites this fragment as another incipit (καὶ ἀλλαχοῦ δὲ τοῦτον ἤρξατο τὸν τρόπον ), and Eusebius cites it as being from a Περὶ θεῶν; but the fact that they come from different treatises need not imply that Protagoras saw no connection between his claim about the gods and his man is the µέτρον thesis. 28 This is not the place to discuss the uncertainties pertaining to the interpretation of just about every word in the man is the µέτρον thesis, and I hope the reader will excuse the non-committal paraphrase given above. Most of the problems are highlighted by Neumann, Problematik ; full doxography can be found in Huss, Homo-Mensura-Satz ; Rademaker, Most Correct Account This burden of responsibility seems to be addressed in part by the teaching of Protagoras and his colleagues on ὀρθοέπεια and/or ὀρθότης ὀνoµάτων: see e.g. Kerferd, Sophistic Movement 68-77; Classen, Study of Language 22-5; Sicking, Plato s Protagoras 191-2; Rademaker, Correct Account 12-3.
8 96 Chapter III As Cynthia Farrar has argued most extensively, such a vision makes for an eminently democratic line of thought; one that if we can trust the general tenor of our sources was epitomised in the political climate that prevailed in Athens in the heyday of Pericles. 30 In the Funeral oration, Thucydides makes Pericles stress the crucial, if unequal, involvement of the entire Athenian δῆµος in the decision-making process: according to the statesman, the δῆµος is involved as a whole in the correct judging, if not in the active consideration, of τὰ πράγµατα. 31 In his last speech to the Athenian Assembly, the Thucydidean Pericles expands on this thesis, arguing that sound government is predicated on a concern for the πόλις s general well-being, not on the interests of the private individual: 32 accordingly, Pericles says, the πόλις s survival as a whole relies on the readiness of the mass of the citizens to align themselves with those who are action-minded. 33 This distinction between a passive and an active part of the constitution makes for a division of labour, according to which the policies that the collective must ratify are ideally proposed by men like Pericles who have the ability to see what ought to be done and to mediate this vision to others. 34 The ability to see what must be done, and mediate this vision to others was, evidently, what Protagoras teaching aimed to instill in the would-be politicians who availed themselves of his services. In order for the active politician to serve his πόλις regardless of the interests of its individual citizens, he must, according to Protagoras, be able to construct either of the two competing λόγοι that arise from every πρᾶγµα: that, at any rate, seems to be the gist of the Protagorean slogan (τὸ Πρωταγόρου ἐπάγγελµα) reported by Aristotle, to the effect that the weaker λόγος can be made stronger. 35 Aristotle s reference is contained in a wide-ranging discussion of arguments intended to make what is improbable probable ; and this context suggests that Aristotle took the terms ἥττων and κρείττων in a morally neutral way, as referring to 30 See esp. Farrar, Origins on the political implications of Protagoras thought, and, for its relationship with Periclean democracy, ibid For the Protagorean basis of the Periclean constitution, see also Yunis, How do the People Decide? ; and Taming Democracy Thuc : οἱ αὐτοὶ ἤτοι κρίνοµέν γε ἢ ἐνθυµοῦµεθα ὀρθῶς τὰ πράγµατα. For the translation given above, cf. Edmunds, Thuc Thuc : ἐγὼ γὰρ ἡγοῦµαι πόλιν πλείω ξύµπασαν ὀρθουµένην ὠφελεῖν τοὺς ἰδιώτας ἢ καθ ἕκαστον τῶν πολιτῶν εὐπραγοῦσαν, ἁθρόαν δὲ σφαλλοµένην ( I believe that the city benefits its citizens more when, as a whole, it is doing well, than when the community fares badly, while its citizens prosper individually ). 33 Thuc : τὸ γὰρ ἄπραγµον οὐ σῶιζεται µὴ µετὰ τοῦ δραστηρίου τεταγµένον ( The passive part of the constituency can only survive by being combined with the active part ). 34 Thuc (Pericles, speaking of himself:) οὐδενὸς ἥσσων οἴοµαι εἶναι γνῶναι τὰ δέοντα καὶ ἑρµηνεῦσαι ταῦτα. 35 Arist. Rhet. 1402a24-6 (= Prot. 80B6b):... καὶ τὸ τὸν ἥττω δὲ λόγον κρείττω ποιεῖν τοῦτ ἔστιν καὶ ἐντεῦθεν δικαίως ἐδυσχέραινον οἱ ἄνθρωποι τὸ Πρωταγόρου ἐπάγγελµα κτλ. (... and that is making the weaker λόγος stronger : and accordingly, men are right to take issue with Protagoras slogan... ).
9 Chapter III 97 probability or persuasiveness as, presumably, Protagoras himself did. On this reading of the ἐπάγγελµα that Aristotle associates with Protagoras name, the successful politician must be equipped with the technical skills to construct their λόγοι so that they transcend their lack of immediate popular appeal. 36 It is this aspect of the great sophist s programme, however, that would soon prove to become quite controversial. In Aristophanes 423 play Clouds, we first encounter the tendentious substitution of ἄδικος unjust for ἥττων weak, by means of which Strepsiades contrives to impose a moral interpretation on the Protagorean slogan. 37 This moral interpretation is elaborately worked out in the same play s agon scene, 38 as well as by later interpreters, who tend to take it for granted that Protagoras and other sophists taught speakers to make the unjust case prevail over the just. 39 This controversy over the legacy associated with Protagoras and his scandalous ἐπάγγελµα has its pendant in the controversy over the political legacy that Pericles left at his death in 429. Thucydides, for one, observes that whereas his hero effectively and successfully ruled Athens as its πρῶτος ἀνήρ, his successors, who were more on a level with each other and who were each of them aspiring to become preeminent, began to neglect τὰ πράγµατα in order to please the δῆµος. 40 While modern scholars are justifiably sceptical about Thucydides all-but-wholesale condemnation of Peri- 36 On the early sophists interest in arguments from probability, cf. Gagarin, Probability & Persuasion ; see also Gagarin, Antiphon 25-6 and Woodruff, Euboulia on the embedding of the technical distinction between a ἥττων and a κρείττων λόγος in Protagoras political theory. 37 Ar. Nub : εἶναι παρ αὐτοῖς φασιν ἄµφω τὼ λόγω, τὸν κρείττον ὅστις ἐστὶ καὶ τὸν ἥττονα. τούτοιν τὸν ἕτερον τοῖν λόγοιν, τὸν ἥττονα, νικᾶν λέγοντά φασι τἀδικώτερα. ἢν οὖν µάθῃς µοι τὸν ἄδικον τοῦτον λόγον κτλ. ( I am told they have both λόγοι here, the stronger, no matter what it is, and the weaker; and one of these λόγοι, the weaker, I am told, can plead the unjust case and win: now, if you teach me this unjust λόγος... ); cf. Nub. 657 τὸν ἀδικώτατον λόγον and 885 τὸ γοῦν ἄδικον (sc. λόγον). On the substitution, cf. e.g. Newiger, Metapher u. Allegorie 136n.1 ( Damit wird der wertfreie Logos des Protagoras wertend festgelegt ); Pucci, Nuvole 8-10; De Carli, Aristofane 62; O Regan, Rhetoric In the agon, the two λόγοι consistently refer to themselves as ὁ ἥττων and ὁ κρείττων λόγος (Nub , 1038; cf. also , and ), and it is in these terms that Socrates refers to the Aristophanic scene at Pl. Ap. 18b; but the actual debate starkly juxtaposes Weak s immoralism with Strong s reactionary position. On the resulting tension between the neutral and the moral overtones of ἥττων and κρείττων, cf. Dover on Nub. lvii-lviii; MacDowell, Aristophanes & Athens On Plato s reframing of sophistic thought in absolute moral terms, cf. Gagarin, Antiphon 24-7 with references. Plato s absolutist critique is continued in the Aristotelian Soph. Elench., where it is established early on that there exists a class of fallacious arguments, and the so-called sophists have perfected their use (165a33). 40 Thuc : οἰ δὲ ὕστερον ἴσοι µᾶλλον αὐτοὶ πρὸς ἀλλήλους ὄντες καὶ ὀρεγόµενοι τοῦ πρῶτος ἕκαστος γίγνεσθαι ἐτράποντο καθ ἡδονὰς τῶι δήµωι καὶ τὰ πράγµατα ἐνδιδόναι. Pericles as πρῶτος ἀνήρ: Thuc : καὶ οὐκ ἤγετο µᾶλλον ὑπ αὐτοῦ [sc. τοῦ πλήθους] ἢ αὐτὸς ἦγε ( It was he who led the people, not the other way round ).
10 98 Chapter III cles successors, 41 writers in the 4th cent. readily concurred with him in thinking that after Pericles, the Athenian political climate rapidly deteriorated; 42 and such contemporary texts as Aristophanes Knights (produced in 424) suggest that in the popular perception, if not in verifiable reality, after Pericles death, politics were not what they had once been. 43 Thus, by the time Euripides came to produce most of his surviving dramas, the idea of the ἀγών as it was theorised by Protagoras and implemented if we can trust Thucydides on this during Pericles heyday, was a matter of controversy. Still effectively dominating the goings-on in Athens law-courts and deliberative institutions, the notion that for every πρᾶγµα, there are two λόγοι to be weighed could be regarded as a relativist aberration that obfuscated rather than clarified issues, and gave free rein to moral laxity and deterioration. In order to get a grip on this controversy, we shall presently examine 5th-cent. literature s most direct challenge to the idea of the ἀγών, viz. Thucydides Mytilenaean debate ; but first, we turn to the relatively unproblematic world of Euripides Children of Heracles, a play that was most likely produced in the late 430s, when Pericles was still alive See e.g. Hornblower on Thuc (p ): In retrospect it is hard to see what was so new or different about Pericles successors, especially if they are compared... with Pericles the pushing politician of the 460s and 450s. Finley, Athenian Demagogues and Connor, New Politicians had already observed that the traditional dividing line may be unfairly drawn, pointing out that Pericles rhetorical skill, professionalism and rejection of traditional family alliances made him the first of a new generation of politicians rather than the last of an old one. For detailed discussion, cf. Mann, Demagogen u.d. Volk E.g. Lys (present-day legislators unfavourably compared to Solon, Themistocles and Pericles); Pl. Gorg. 503b-c (pressed for the names of commendable politicians, Callicles can only come up with Themistocles, Cimon, Miltiades and Pericles: cf. ibid. 517a, and for Socrates perversely negative view of Periclean Athens see Dodds on Gorg. pp. 30-1); Isoc (unlike later politicians, Pericles rated the πόλις s interests over his private concerns); (Pericles was the last in a line of politicians who used their prominence for the good); cf. [Arist.] Ath. Pol. 28 with Rhodes ad loc. (p. 344) and Σ Ar. Pax 681 (citing the 4th-cent. historian Theopompus). 43 For comedy s sustained criticism of e.g. Cleon and Hyperbolus cf. Ar. Nub (alluding to his own Eq. as satirising Cleon, as well as to Eupolis Marikas and Hermippus Breadsellers as satirising Hyperbolus), and see e.g. Lind, Gerber Kleon ; Mann, Aristophanes, Kleon ; McGlew, Everybody ; Sommerstein, Demagogue Comedy. For the nostalgia for Pericles and his predecessors expressed in post-429 comedy, cf. e.g. Eupolis fr. 102 (from Dēmoi [produced in 417 or 412]: Pericles, returned from the dead, is favourably compared to living politicians cf. Braun, Dead Politicians ; Storey, Eupolis 131-4); and see Schwarze, Beurteilung des Perikles 132-5, who points to comedy s generically determined tendency towards nostalgia and the passing of time as the factors responsible for the progressive softening of comic poets view of the great statesman. 44 Hcld. s stylistic and metrical features align the play with Med. (431) and Hipp. (428): see Cropp & Fick, Resolutions & Chronology 5, 23. Historical arguments (first advanced by Zuntz, Political Plays 84-6 and endorsed most recently by Allan on Hcld. pp.55-6) suggest a terminus ante quem in the sum-
11 Chapter III The ἀγὼν λόγων λ in Children of Heracles and beyond Right after the play s prologue and parodos, which establish the presence of Heracles fugitive offspring on Athenian territory, the play stages a debate that, as Michael Lloyd observes, is clear-cut in its issues and regular in its form (Agon 72); and its regularity will help us hold our bearings when we come to discuss the poet s more complicated later agon scenes. It consitutes, as it were, a textbook ἀγών, that illustrates not only Euripides use of the agon form, but also the political values associated with this form. The speakers are Iolaus, guardian of Heracles children, and an Argive Herald who acts as the spokesman of their persecutors. The issue that the two contestants put before the Athenian king Demophon is simple: should Athens take in the fugitives and make war with Argos, or not? The Herald is accorded the opening speech, in which he blandly states a number of reasons why Athens should turn the fugitives away. His speech contains a mixture of appeals to justice and appeals to expedience: the Argives have a right to try and condemn their own subjects (Hcld ); there is no gain and considerable risk for the Athenians in protecting these aliens (144-61); there are many better reasons to go to war (162-8); and friendship with the Argives is more precious than friendship with the hapless suppliants (169-78). Iolaus in his turn observes that Argos right to try its citizens does not extend beyond its borders (184-91), points out that Athens has a reputation for protecting aliens to keep up ( ), stresses the mutual obligations pertaining between Athens and Heracles family (202-22), and then directly appeals for Demophon s pity (223-31). The agonistic principles on which this debate takes place are explicitly established, both beforehand and as the scene progresses. Having learned from the Athenian Chorus who the ruler of the country is, the Herald affirms that it is to Demophon that the contest over this case (ἁγὼν τοῦδε τοῦ λόγου 117-8) is to be addressed. Then, in the lines that separate the contestants speeches from one another, the Chorus ask rhetorically: τίς ἂν δίκην κρίνειεν ἢ γνοίη λόγον, πρὶν ἂν παρ ἀµφοῖν µῦθον ἐκµάθηι σαφῶς; (179-80) Who can judge a case or know a λόγος before having taken clear cognisance of both sides story? And Iolaus, before beginning his counter-speech, thanks his host for allowing him the unaccustomed privilege to hear the prosecution and react: ἄναξ, ὑπάρχει µὲν τόδ ἐν τῆι σῆι χθονί εἰπεῖν ἀκοῦσαί τ ἐν µέρει πάρεστί µοι, κοὐδείς µ ἀπώσει πρόσθεν, ὥσπερ ἄλλοθεν. (181-3) mer of 430, after which the Spartan invasions would have put the play s various references to Attica s future inviolability in a bizarre light.
12 100 Chapter III Lord, this is how things are in your country: I can speak and listen in turn, and nobody shall kick me out before I have done so, as happened elsewhere. This exchange situates the mythical debate squarely (and somewhat anachronistically) within the institutionalised argument culture of classical-period Athens, 45 and the Chorus give a clear statement of the rules of procedure that were no doubt supposed to guide actual Athenian decision-making, as the play s audience knows it to take place in the ἐκκλησία and the law-courts: there is a λόγος to be tried, that consists of two opposing stories (µῦθοι), each of which deserves to be heard before judgment is passed. The first episodes of Children of Heracles have been characterised as displaying an unproblematic attitude towards Athenian political identity an attitude that resembles Aeschylus depiction, in Eumenides, of Athens as the place to go in case of trouble. 46 This essentially positive outlook seems to be reflected in the behaviour of the participants in its formal agon, who refrain from attempting to prejudge the issue or contesting each other s right to speak: whereas Iolaus and the Argive Herald compete with one another for Demophon s approval, neither of them does so with a view to excluding the other s case totally from reasonable consideration. The Herald s arguments from expediency (τί κερδανεῖς; 154) and Iolaus appeal to the χάρις that Athens owes to Heracles family (220, 241) arguments that make up by far the greatest part of their performances neatly complement one another, enabling Demophon to balance the issue s pros and cons. True, both speakers also file opposing claims in presenting their cases: the Herald claims that Argos has a right (δίκαιοι ἐσµέν 142) to try its citizens according to its own νόµοι, and Iolaus counters by questioning that right (187; 190); but these claims concern only a sub-issue one, moreover, that Demophon refrains from taking into account at all when he delivers his judgment. What counts most for Demophon is Athens obligation to protect ξένοι, and this is the right to which, upon being asked by the losing party, he claims to have given prevalence (253-4). 47 As Michael Lloyd and others have observed, the verbal ἀγών at the beginning of Children of Heracles is that rare thing, a Euripidean agon scene that successfully accomplishes the goals it has set for itself; 48 but there is more to it than that. As the audience witness a deliberative process that, for all its being displaced into a predemocratic past, can nonetheless be associated with Athenian deliberative mores, the 45 Cf. Lloyd, Agon For Hcld. s prima facie positive take on Athenian political identity, see e.g. Zuntz, Political Plays Other references to δίκη concern the Herald s general claim that he has come πολλά... δίκαι ὁµαρτῆι δρᾶν τε καὶ λέγειν ἔχων (137-8), and Iolaus specific claim that if Demophon should expel the fugitives, it would not be on grounds of justice, but in fear of Argos (τῆι δίκηι µὲν οὐ τὸ δ Ἄργος ὀκνῶν, 194-5). 48 Cf. above, nn. 6 & 15.
13 Chapter III 101 Protagorean/Periclean model of deliberation a model consisting of λόγοι pro and contra, weighed equitably on their merits alone is upheld as a successful means of attaining sound policy; and Athens is explicitly commended as the place, perhaps the only place in all of Greece, where you can get a fair hearing of your case along these lines. As the play progresses towards its darker final episodes, this positive image of goings-on in Athens is counterbalanced by the unrestrained revenge that Alcmene exacts from the former suppliants pursuers: the tragic idea that Children of Heracles dramatises is that, even in an exquisitely well-ordered world, things may go spectacularly wrong. But in the early scenes, a bright idealism about Athenian political identity prevails. 49 Euripides depiction of an unproblematical, conclusive ἀγὼν λόγων in the opening episode of his Children of Heracles proved to be, as far as we can tell by the surviving plays, a one-off: his subsequent dramas problematise on-stage deliberation, not only by situating the ἀγών outside or beyond the dramatic action as we have seen in section 1.1 above but also by including contrary voices within the ἀγών, and thereby questioning its validity as a model for deliberative procedure. As we have already seen, the 420s produced various challenges to Protagorean/Periclean practice, not only in Aristophanic comedy but also, going by Thucydides account, in sociopolitical reality. Thucydides, writing in the final decade of the 5th cent., provides a paradigmatic example of such a challenge in his account of the Mytilenaean debate ; and although this set-piece, situated in 427, cannot simply be taken as the historical document that it purports to be, it is the closest thing to a contemporary analysis of the prevailing political climate of the 420s that we have; and the stark contrast between a Periclean and a Cleonic perspective that it construes will prove to be a helpful key in our reading of Euripides Suppliant Women, Hecuba and Phoenician Women. The Mytilenaean debate pits the prominent politician Cleon tendentiously labelled by the narrator as the most violent-minded of citizens, and the one who held at the time by far the greatest sway over the δῆµος 50 against the otherwise unknown Diodotus, with Cleon starting off the day s proceedings by protesting against the reopening of a debate that in his opinion was settled decisively the day before. 51 In the course of this protest, Cleon takes issue with the extent to which the idea of the ἀγών dominates discursive practice: commending citizens who are judges acting on a basis of equality (κριταὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ ἴσου) over those who engage in competitions (ἀγωνισταί), 52 Cleon enjoins speakers in the Assembly not to have recourse to impos- 49 For this line of interpretation, see e.g. Burian, Heraclidae 3-6; Albini, Falsa convenzionalità ; Allan, Euripides & the Sophists Thuc : ἐς τὰ ἄλλα βιαιότατος τῶν πολιτῶν τῶι τε δήµωι παρὰ πολὺ ἐν τῶι τότε πιθανώτατος. 51 On the general problem addressed by Cleon, see e.g. Saxonhouse, Free Speech 72-9; Yunis, Taming Democracy ( the problem of reconsideration ) and Balot, Free Speech ( revisability ). For the aptness and consistency of Thucydides treatment of Cleon, cf. Andrews, Cleon s ethopoetics and Spence, Thucydides (contra Woodhead, Portrait of Cleon ). 52 Thuc Andrews, Hidden Appeals 55 glosses the difficult κριταὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ ἴσου as equal part-
14 102 Chapter III ing speech and contests of cleverness (δεινότητι καὶ ξυνέσεως ἀγῶνι), in which they strive to advise the δῆµος contrary to the opinion of the majority (ἀπαιροµένους παρὰ δόξαν τῶι ὑµετέρωι πλήθει παραινεῖν); 53 and he proceeds to berate the πόλις for according the prizes to others while carrying all the risk itself (3.38.3), and the Assembly-goers for organising these harmful ἀγῶνες (αἴτιοι δ ὑµεῖς κακῶς ἀγωνοθετοῦντες). 54 In these contests, the δῆµος assume the role of spectators and listeners who content themselves with judging the performances of able speakers, rather than forming their own opinion of the issue at hand, 55 behaving themselves in the ἐκκλησία as they would in the theatre or gymnasium. 56 By consistently and critically foregrounding the agonistic metaphors that lie under the surface of what the Assembly-goers are actually doing, Thucydides Cleon takes issue, not just with the ἐκκλησία s failure to stick with the specific results that they attained the day before on Cleon s own initiative, but also, and more importantly, with the way it implicitly construes its own functioning. The Assembly routinely operates on the unspoken assumption that the basis for communally approved action is to be attained through the δῆµος s judging of the experts arguments pro and contra; but in order for Athenian democracy to achieve its full potential, this assumption ners in the joint task of reaching sound judgment. Hornblower ad loc. (p.1.425) interprets the phrase as being impartial judges, but as Andrews observes, this does not make a contrast with ἀγωνισταί. 53 Thuc : cf. Andrews, Hidden Appeals 54, who points out that the omission of the article in παρὰ δόξαν is significant: Cleon does not accuse the Assembly s regular speakers of going against what has been decided ( τὴν δόξαν τὴν ὑµετέρην), but against public opinion tout court. 54 Thuc , once again difficult to translate. The verb ἀγωνοτίθεσθαι refers to the organisation of ἀγῶνες, as opposed to taking part in them (ἀγωνίζεσθαι): cf. e.g. Hdt , where the two activities are explicitly contrasted. The adverb κακῶς disqualifies the activity expressed by the verb per se (... for wrongly organising ), not the way this activity is conducted (... for badly organising ): Cleon does not want well-organised ἀγῶνες, he wants to do away with ἀγῶνες altogether. For a similar disjunctive use of the adverb, cf. e.g. E. Tro. 904 οὐ δικαίως θανούµεθα it is unjust for me to die (not I shall die in an unjust way ). 55 Thuc :... οἵτινες εἰώθατε θεαταὶ µὲν τῶν λόγων γίγνεσθαι, ἀκροαταὶ δὲ τῶν ἔργων τὰ µὲν µέλλοντα ἔργα ἀπὸ τῶν εὖ εἰπόντων σκοποῦντες ὡς δυνατὰ γίγνεσθαι, τὰ δὲ πεπραγµένα ἥδη, οὐ τὸ δρασθὲν πιστότερον ὄψει λαβόντες ἢ τὸ ἀκουσθέν, ἀπὸ τῶν λόγων καλῶς ἐπιτιµησάντων ( You have become habitual speech-goers, and mere listeners to action: of future actions you estimate the possibilities by listening to able speakers; and as for the past, you rely on what you have heard in clever verbal criticisms rather than on what you have seen being done with your own eyes ). 56 Thuc :... καὶ µάλιστα µὲν αὐτὸς εἰπεῖν ἕκαστος βουλόµενος δύνασθαι, εἰ δὲ µή, ἀνταγωνιζόµενοι τοῖς τοιαῦτα λέγουσι µὴ ὕστεροι ἀκολουθῆσαι δοκεῖν τῆι γνώµηι, ὀξέως δέ τι λέγοντος προεπαινέσαι, καὶ προαισθέσθαι τε πρόθυµοι εἶναι τὰ λεγόµενα καὶ προνοῆσαι βραδεῖς τὰ ἐξ αὐτῶν ἀποβησόµενα ( And the chief wish of each of you is to be able to speak himself, and if you cannot do that, to compete with those who can in order not to seem out of your depth when you listen to what is being proposed, by sharply applauding a good point before it is made and by being as quick to anticipate what is said as you are slow to foresee its consequences ).
15 Chapter III 103 should be abandoned. 57 While Pericles had already argued that Athens imperialist aspirations force the Athenians to adopt a quasi- tyrannical foreign policy, 58 Cleon now goes one step further, arguing that since Athens is de facto a tyranny, 59 the city should act like a τύραννος with regard to its internal as well as its external policy: viz., they should respond directly to the issue at hand, without having recourse to advisers who aspire to empower themselves rather than attend to the δῆµος wishes. 60 It is the δόξα of the masses that should guide the attainment of correct decisions for while the ἀµαθία of the lower classes (φαυλοί) goes hand in hand with σωφροσύνη ( moderation ), so the cleverness (δεξιότης) of the ξυνετοί ( experts ) comes with excess (ἀκολασία). 61 As Cleon has it, the majority s δόξα should be regarded as νόµος ( law ); 62 and the attempts of the Assembly s regular speakers to argue παρὰ δόξαν as Pericles, on the Thucydidean narrator s account, was wont to do (cf ) should be suppressed in order to ensure sound government. 63 Thus, Thucydides Cleon both challenges the agonistic principles according to which the ἐκκλησία purportedly functions, and offers the Assembly-goers an alternative model that would have them base their decisions upon their gut feeling of the issue at hand, rather than on the polished λόγοι of the usual ἀγωνισταί. Since Cleon is implicated in the very deliberative process whose construction as an ἀγών he here challenges, it could be and has been argued that his whole argument is itself a 57 Cf. Andrews, Hidden Appeals 46-7: Cleon s general objective is to remove for his audience the ideological impediment to the realization of their unspoken desire for greater power. 58 Thuc : ὡς τυραννίδα γὰρ ἥδη ἔχετε αὐτήν... ( since your dominion is like a tyranny ). The πόλις τυραννίς metaphor has been extensively discussed: see most recently Raaflaub, Stick & Glue with references. 59 Thuc :... οὐ σκοποῦντες ὅτι τυραννίδα ἔχετε τὴν ἄρχην ( you don t realise that you have a tyranny on your hands ): note that, in reiterating Pericles τυραννίς metaphor, Cleon tellingly omits the qualifying ὡς. 60 Cf. e.g. Andrews, Cleon s Hidden Appeals 55 ( ordinary people, if simply left to their own conclusions, can be depended on to reach a wise collective decision [author s emphasis]); Ober, Dissent 97-8 ( Cleon wants the Assembly-goers to act according to a mimetically restored emotional state... relying on their visceral emotions when making decisions ). 61 Thuc : ἀµαθία τε µετὰ σωφροσύνης ὠφελιµώτερον ἢ δεξιότης µετὰ ἀκολασίας, οἵ τε φαυλότεροι τῶν ἀνθρώπων πρὸς τοὺς ξυνετωτέρους ὡς ἐπὶ τὸ πλέον ἄµεινον οἰκοῦσι τὰς πόλεις ( Ignorance combined with moderation is more useful than cleverness combined with excess, and as a rule, the lower classes are better governors than the experts ). 62 Thuc : οἱ δ ἀπιστοῦντες τῆι ἐξ αὑτῶν ξυνέσει ἀµαθεστέροι µὲν τῶν νόµων ἀξιοῦσιν εἶναι ( Those who do not rely on their own wits value themselves as being less intelligent than the laws ). As Hornblower ad loc. ( ) observes, Cleon s suggestion that the Assembly regard their own opinion in terms of νόµος, though tendentious, is technically correct. 63 Ober, Mass & Elite observes that in constructing this argument, Cleon is proposing an extreme form of an idea that would become common in 4th-cent. oratory: the capacity of the many for wise decision (cf. e.g. Dem and ; Arist. Pol. 1281a40-5 and see Balot, Free Speech ).
16 104 Chapter III mere rhetorical gesture, a move designed to win over the Assembly for Cleon s own point of view; and that all this makes his performance painfully paradoxical. 64 The significance of this argument can be seen, however, to extend beyond merely putting on record the controversial politician s hypocrisy: in combination with Diodotus equally paradoxical counter-speech, Cleon s contribution to the Mytilenaean debate also serves the more important function of demonstrating to the reader of Thucydides narrative that, with Pericles gone, the political climate is changing for the worse. As Cleon asks the Assembly to adopt a tyrannical internal procedure, and Diodotus nominally upholds the ideal of the ἀγών while acknowledging implicitly that the prevailing political climate makes it impossible for politicians to speak their minds honestly, 65 it transpires that, unlike Pericles himself, his successors are no longer wholeheartedly committed to the principles that used to govern Athenian institutional decision-making. As we have seen above, few scholars would nowadays accept at face value the stark contrast between a Periclean and a post-periclean phase in real-life Athenian politics that Thucydides projects onto Athens political history: it is too clearly informed both by the historian s possession of hindsight, and by his political preferences. 66 It is notable, however, as we shall now proceed to see, that the two contrasting positions that Thucydides juxtaposes in the Funeral Oration, in Pericles final address and in the Mytilenaean Debate viz., the contrast between a Periclean and a Cleonic perspective on political decision-making inform Euripides treatment of the idea of the ἀγών in plays ranging from the mid-420s to the century s final decade. 3. ἀγών and πόλις λις: Euripides Suppliant Women 64 Paradoxical: cf. e.g. Macleod, Reason & Necessity ; Ober, Dissent 98; and the extended discussion of Cleon s rhetoric of anti-rhetoric in Hesk, Deception & Democracy As Andrews, Cleon s ethopoetics notes, however, Cleon consistently disavows the role of adviser and claims to represent the voice of the people rather than the voice talking to the people: the paradox is wholly in the eye of the beholder. 65 Cf. Thuc (esp καθέστηκε δὲ τἀγαθὰ ἀπὸ εὐθέος λεγόµενα µηδὲν ἀνυποπτότερα εἶναι τῶν κακῶν, ὥστε δεῖν ὁµοίως τόν τε τὰ δεινότατα βουλόµενον πεῖσαι ἀπάτηι προσάγεσθαι τὸ πλῆθος καὶ τὸν τὰ ἀµείνω λέγοντα ψευσάµενον πιστὸν γενέσθαι [ A state of affairs has been reached where a good proposal honestly put forward is just as suspect as a bad one, so that not only a speaker who advocates dreadful measures has to win over the people by deceiving them, but a man with good advice to give also has to tell lies to be believed ]); and see e.g. Andrewes, Mytilene Debate ; Ober, Dissent ; Debnar, Diodotus Paradox, all of whom concur in describing Diodotus performance as an exemplification of the Cretan Liar paradox. 66 As many scholars have pointed out, Thucydides pessimism about post-periclean politics is not borne out by the facts: significant victories continued to be scored after Pericles death (see Mann, Demagogen u.d. Volk 78-81). The historian s programmatic remarks at , moreover, are lost sight of in the subsequent narration of the Sicilian expedition: see e.g. Westlake, Thuc ; Romilly, Optimisme 566; Andrewes on Thuc. 8 (p ); Rusten on Thuc (p ).
17 Chapter III 105 Euripides Suppliant Women is commonly dated to the second half of the 420s. 67 The drama resembles Children of Heracles as well as such earlier plays as Aeschylus Eumenides and Suppliant Women in dramatising the resolution of a Greek state (Athens in the Euripidean plays and Eumenides, Argos in Aeschylus Suppliant Women) to interfere in foreign affairs by offering protection to victims of persecution. All these plays highlight the role of democratic deliberation in achieving this resolve: speaking of the gathering of the local λαοί, Aeschylus Suppliant Women obliquely alludes to an Argive Assembly that must ratify Pelasgus decision to aid the suppliants; 68 and Children of Heracles, as we have seen, stages a formal agon scene in which the interested parties submit their case before the Athenian king Demophon. Euripides Suppliant Women goes beyond its predecessors in explicitly thematising the way in which democratic decisions are attained. Recycling mythological material previously treated in Aeschylus Eleusinians, the Euripidean play provides our first attestation of Theseus as a democratic (as opposed to merely Athenian) leader; 69 its anachronistic references to contemporary political institutions are remarkably overt; 70 and the play s subject matter the recovery of the bodies of the Seven who fought against Thebes is likely to have had an urgent topical relevance for its audience. 71 Moreover, many scholars have observed that in characterising his hero Theseus, Euripides appears to draw on the memory of Pericles, recently de- 67 See Collard on Suppl. p.3-4 for a review of the metrical, stylistical and historical arguments. 68 Cf. A. Suppl : ἐγὼ δὲ λαοὺς συγκαλῶν ἐγχωρίους σπεύσω, τὸ κοινὸν ὡς ἂν εὐµενὲς τιθῶ (Pelasgus: I shall hurry to convene the local hosts, so that I may make the public favour you ), and ibid : εὖ τὰ τῶν ἐγχωρίων δήµου δέδοκται παντελῆ ψηφίσµατα ( The decisive vote of the local δῆµος is favourable! ). On A. Suppl. s reflection of Athenian democracy, see e.g. Burian, Pelasgus & Politics ; Raaflaub, Breakthrough On Aeschylus Eleusinians, see Mills, Theseus : as far as the scanty fragments allow us to say, this play s Theseus seems to have attained the decision to aid the Suppliants without recourse to the Athenian δῆµος. Pre-Euripidean sources (Hdt ; Hellan. FGrH 323a fr ; Philochor. 328 fr. 19) know nothing about a democratic Theseus, and the notion is ignored by Thuc ; it is possible that the local historians of Attica ascribed democratic policies to Athens first king, but we find no mention of them before the late-4th-cent. Marmor Parium (329 fr. A20). Unless we are to assume that the idea of Theseus democratic leadership is simply hidden from our view, it must have entered the historiographic mainstream only by the later half of the 4th cent., with Euripides as a precursor: see Walker, Theseus and Mills, Theseus Cf. e.g. the brief assessments of Mills, Theseus 107; Burian, Logos & Pathos 130 and see below. 71 It has often been observed that the play s dramatic action parallels a series of events that took place in the aftermath of the battle of Delium in winter 423, when Athens had to negotiate the recovery of its fallen soldiers from Theban territory (see Thuc : according to Bowie, Tragic Filters 47, it would attest to a remarkable prescience on the part of the dramatist if he had written the play without knowledge of these events; Zuntz, Political Plays and Mills, Theseus 91-3 are sceptical about considering the battle of Delium as a reliable terminus post quem for the play s production, but do not deny that its dramatic action reflects concerns current in the present phase of the Peloponnesian war).
18 106 Chapter III ceased; 72 and the first half of the play s dramatic action can be read as a reflection on the validity of Pericles political legacy and thus on the idea of the ἀγών as it dominated Athenian political practice. Suppliant Women further distinguishes itself from its predecessors in prominently displaying anti-democratic view-points; and it is in this respect that the play deserves pride of place in the present discussion. How do these anti-democratic voices contribute to the meaning of a drama that, according to an ancient commentator, constituted an encomium of Athens? 73 The play s first episodes take in many of the themes addressed in Thucydides account of the Mytilenaean debate, as discussed above: the feasibility of renegotiating previously attained decisions; the δῆµος s capacity to implement sound government, the ambivalent role of expert advisers; and the ideal constitution of a healthy political system. Like Thucydides narrative, Suppliant Women uses tyrannical one-man rule as a foil for discussing democratic ideology; and, like Thucydides Cleon, Euripides explicitly signposts the agonistic nature of Athenian-style deliberation, not just by repeatedly using agonistic terminology and moulding the dramatic action in the standard agon form, but also by likening the proceedings at the outset to a game of draughts (see below, section 3.3). Suppliant Women s tragic reflection on Athens argument culture is, however, more complex and, ultimately, more intractable than Thucydides account, which as we have seen neatly separates out a Periclean and a Cleonic perspective on the deliberative process and incorporates them in a diachronic narrative of decline. Moreover, while Thucydides politicians strike the reader as remarkably consistent in their views, the political ἦθος of Suppliant Women s Theseus is more volatile: as the Athenian king s resolution shifts between rejection and acceptance of the Suppliants cause, so he appears now as a champion of absolute, god-given standards of behaviour, then as a thorough-going pragmatician who wholeheartedly embraces the idea of the ἀγών. In what follows, I shall argue that this complexity and intractability of the deliberative process is, precisely, the point Euripides wants to put across: rather than just a straightforward eulogy of Athenian practice (as epitomised in a democratic Theseus), or, conversely, a denunciation of democracy s shortcomings (broadcasted through the play s Theban Herald), Suppliant Women offers its audience a demonstration of the ἀγών s capacity to accommodate and harmonise conflicting points of view. I shall first describe the interaction between the three successive, spatially defined paradigms of political deliberation that occupy Suppliant Women s opening episodes: 72 E.g. Di Benedetto, Teatro e società ; Podlecki, Pericles prosopon ; Shaw, Ethos of Theseus ; also Mills, Theseus (sceptical). Michelini, Political Themes does not press the Pericles connection, but tellingly describes Theseus as a conservative democrat with some considerable suspicions of the masses ; Mastronarde, Optimistic Rationalist 208 and Walker, Theseus further document the advanced or sophistical aspects of Theseus ἦθος. 73 So Suppl. s ancient hypothesis, commonly ascribed to Aristophanes of Byzantium (τὸ δὲ δρᾶµα ἐγκώµιον Ἀθηναίων).
19 Chapter III 107 Argos (3.1), Athens (3.2) and Thebes (3.3). 74 With these three localities, Euripides manages to articulate multiple oppositions bad ἀγών (Argos) versus good ἀγών (Athens), ἀγών (Argos, Athens) versus no ἀγών (Thebes), bad decisions (Argos, Thebes) versus good decisions (Athens) each of which is relevant for the audience s understanding of what is at stake. Secondly, considering the remarkably complex figure of Theseus, who bridges all these oppositions, I shall conclude that Suppliant Women problematises the idea of the ἀγών without rejecting its validity as a guiding metaphor for Athenian politics (3.4). 3.1 Doing politics in Argos After Theseus has cross-examined Adrastus, the spokesman of the Suppliants, as to the causes of his present misfortune, he initially rejects the Suppliants request: his main objection is that Adrastus should have paid closer attention to divine ordinance than he did, when he decided to help his son-in-law Polynices and attack Thebes. While this objection in itself is pretty straightforward, Theseus chooses to embed it in a general evaluation of Argos functioning as a πόλις, and it is in its generality that his argument is of interest to us. Theseus begins his speech by recalling a debate he once had, 75 where he argued that man is endowed with intelligence, language, riches, protection and trade (203-10); that any matters that are unclear and of which we have no reliable knowledge must be referred to the competent religious authorities (211-3); and that man s misery is due to the presumption that leads him to think that he can outsmart the gods. 76 That said, Theseus returns to the here and now, observing that Adrastus was evidently guilty of such presumption, 77 since he ignored the advice of his µάντεις when he set out to wage a disastrous war, 78 and allowed himself to be side-tracked by ambitious young war-mongers. 79 These observations lead back into a general re- 74 For tragedy s tendency to employ spatial metaphrases for socio-political ideas, cf. the classic discussion of Zeitlin, Theater on the structural opposition between Thebes and Athens. 75 Suppl : ἄλλοισι δὴ πόνησ ἁµιλληθεὶς λόγωι τοιῶιδ ἔλεξε γάρ τις... ἐγὼ δὲ τούτοις ἀντίαν γνώµην ἔχω κτλ. ( In a debate I once had with other men, I submitted the following case: a man said... and I proffered the opposite opinion to them... ); the significance of this curious way of introducing his present argument will be discussed below, in section Suppl : ἀλλ ἡ φρόνησις τοῦ θεοῦ µεῖζον σθένειν ζητεῖ, τὸ γαῦρον δ ἐν φρεσὶν κεκτηµένοι δοκοῦµεν εἶναι δαιµόνων σοφώτεροι ( φρόνησις seeks to know better than the god: having our minds full of boasts, we think we are smarter than godly beings ). 77 Suppl. 219: ἧς καὶ σὺ φαίνηι δεκάδος οὐ σοφῆς γεγώς ( It is clear that you belonged to this unwise crew ). 78 Suppl : ἐς δὲ στρατείαν πάντας Ἀργείους ἄγων, µάντεων λεγόντων θέσφατ εἶτ ἀτιµάσας, βίαι παρελθὼν θεοὺς ἀπώλεσας πόλιν ( In leading all of Argos into battle, you rejected the inspired words of the µάντεις and violently destroyed your city contrary to the gods will ). 79 Suppl : νέοις παραχθεὶς οἵτινες τιµώµενοι χαίρουσι πολέµους τ αὐξάνουσ ἄνευ δίκης φθεί-
20 108 Chapter III flection on the constitution of a sound political system (238-45); and Theseus concludes on the statement that, given Adrastus faux pas, it would be folly for Athens to ally itself with the Argives cause (246-9). The Athenian king s disregard for Adrastus plight activates widely shared notions of proper behaviour, and is in line with the traditional perspective on the Seven s hybristic expedition. 80 As he rejects the argument culture that, allegedly, led Argos on its disastrous course of action, what gradually comes into view against this traditional negative foil is the positive vision of a fully egalitarian democracy in which the greedy rich and the envious poor participate on equal footing in decision-making, with the middle class preserving a precarious balance. 81 None of this follows necessarily from the situation at hand: the Athenian king s supposition that Adrastus was put on the fatal course of action by ambitious advisors seems at best an inspired guess, and his subsequent reference to the three classes is, if anything, associative; 82 but while Theseus diagnosis of what is wrong with Argos is hardly warranted by the mythical situation, it is quite relevant to the political positioning of Athens itself, as a place where, purportedly, the danger posed by private ambition is moderated through the principle of mass participation. 3.2 The ἀγών in Athens The episode continues by developing Theseus positive vision of a policy based on respect for the gods superior wisdom on the one hand, and on the involvement of what ροντες ἀστούς κτλ. ( You were led astray by young men who enjoy being honoured and who multiply wars without justice, to the hurt of the citizens... ). 80 The hybristic nature of the Seven s expedition is likely to have been a feature of the story as told in the epic Thebaid (cf. Davies, Epic Cycle 26-7), and features prominently in A. Sept. (see e.g. De Vito, Amphiaraus & Necessity ). All the same, to many scholars, Theseus attitude has seemed wrongheaded or perverse: thus Gamble, Decision & Ambivalence 388 observes that Theseus seems to be devoid of the notion of a common humanity shared by suppliant and supplicated ; and notes that the entire play works towards the nullification of Theseus view of the world (ibid. 389n.: similarly negative takes on Theseus can be found in e.g. Greenwood, Aspects ; Fitton, Suppliant Women ). Even those more sympathetic to Theseus have commented on his detached and legalistic response to a situation that should or so one would expect evoke pity and empathy: see e.g. Burian, Logos & Pathos 132-3; Mastronarde, Optimistic Rationalist Suppl : There are three classes of citizens: the rich are useless and always lusting for more; the poor who lack their daily bread are dangerous, for they pursue in envy and hurl their stings against the rich, being deceived by the tongues of wicked leaders. Of the three classes, only the middle preserves πόλεις by keeping the order that the πόλις establishes. On this passage, cf. Michelini, Political Themes with references. 82 Accordingly, the larger part of Theseus speech has incurred some modern editors suspicion: the dramatic action requires no more than Theseus observation that the Seven s expedition lacked divine sanction. Collard on Suppl discusses the numerous excisions proposed by earlier editors, to which may be added the proposal of Kovacs, Tyrants & Demagogues 34-5.