Euripides, The Trojan Women, 415 BCE
The city of Troy has been laid desolate by the Greek army after a siege that lasted ten years. Troy's men are dead, and the surviving women wait to be sent into slavery to the men who killed their husbands, brothers, and sons. So begins The Trojan Women, one of the most harrowing dramas written by the ancient tragedian Euripides, for an audience of Athenians who themselves had been at war for over a decade with the Spartans. Over the drama's course, three Trojan women (Hecuba, Cassandra, Andromache) who were royalty merely days ago must now contemplate strategies for survival as slaves in a foreign land. At the same time, their anger explodes against Helen, the Spartan woman whose adulterous presence in Troy caused the war. Most devastating of all, the Greeks kill Andromache's son Astyanax, the sole heir to the throne of Troy, allowing his grandmother Hecuba only minutes to prepare his body for a makeshift burial before the women are led into captivity.
The story of the fall of Troy was a well-known myth among the ancient Greeks, but Euripides deliberately tells it through the perspective of female survivors. This masterclass will unravel the complexity of Euripides' approach. For an audience composed largely of Greek men, his play encourages sympathy for foreign women who are themselves the victims of legendary Greeks. Rather than painting all women as the same, he creates individualised women who each strategise their own survival in unique ways. And the ultimate question raised by this complexity remains: can the play be read as anti-war, dramatising the injustices of wartime practices (including the murder of children), or is it a warning to Euripides' own audience that this will happen to them if they do not win the next war?
Associate Professor James "K.O." Chong-Gossard
K.O. Chong-Gossard is an Associate Professor of Classics in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies in the Faculty of Arts. In addition to teaching ancient Greek and Latin to undergraduates at all levels, he publishes research on the representation of gender in Greek literature, especially in the plays of Euripides. He has also received Australian Research Council funding for research projects on such topics as medieval commentaries on the Roman tragedies of Seneca, renaissance commentaries on the Roman comedies of Terence, and sex scandals in imperial Rome.
K.O. is the Honorary Treasurer of the Classical Association of Victoria, and a Vice President of the Australasian Society for Classical Studies. He also collects teddy bears and has over 200 of them in his office in the Arts West Building