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All of the plays in this text follow the traditional cycles of heroic legend. While a large part of their purpose was that of dramatic entertainment, each of them bears ready comparison with the political climate of Athens, and the final three are in particular overshadowed by the prospect of imminent defeat. In a society where dramatists were extremely influential, but could be swiftly destroyed if their messages were considered unacceptable, Euripides writes with deliberate irony of the ethics of war as he illustrates its destructive effects on both the public and private lives of those involved. Expressed in some of his finest poetic and dramatic writing, his theme that revenge is wrong is as forceful and relevant today as it was in ancient Greece.
Written during the long battles with Sparta that were to ultimately destroy ancient Athens, these six plays by Euripides brilliantly utilize traditional legends to illustrate the futility of war. The Children of Heracles holds a mirror up to contemporary Athens, while Andromache considers the position of women in Greek wartime society. In The Suppliant Women, the difference between just and unjust battle is explored, while Phoenician Women describes the brutal rivalry of the sons of King Oedipus, and the compelling Orestes depicts guilt caused by vengeful murder. Finally, Iphigenia in Aulis, Euripides' last play, contemplates religious sacrifice and the insanity of war. Together, the plays offer a moral and political statement that is at once unique to the ancient world, and prophetically relevant to our own.
pides (c.485-406 BC) is thought to have written 92 plays, only 18 of which survive.