Democratic Paideia in Aeschylus’ Suppliants

In: Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek and Roman Political Thought
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  • 1 Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milano, Italy


The analysis of political language in Aeschylus’ Suppliants confirms the hypothesis that the form of government here represented is strongly influenced by contemporary Athens: prehistoric Argos turns out to be a sort of mirror of democratic Athens. It is no coincidence that the sequence running from the entrance of Pelasgus at l. 234 to the Danaids’ song of benediction (ll. 625-709) presents a dramatic pattern similar in several respects to that underlying in Eumenides 397-1002 (the scenes between the entrance of Athena and the Chorus’ prayer of blessing). Pelasgus (likewise Athena in Eumenides) imparts a sort of lesson on ‘democratic paideia’ to the Danaids, in view of their integration as metoikoi in the institutional structures of the polis.


The analysis of political language in Aeschylus’ Suppliants confirms the hypothesis that the form of government here represented is strongly influenced by contemporary Athens: prehistoric Argos turns out to be a sort of mirror of democratic Athens. It is no coincidence that the sequence running from the entrance of Pelasgus at l. 234 to the Danaids’ song of benediction (ll. 625-709) presents a dramatic pattern similar in several respects to that underlying in Eumenides 397-1002 (the scenes between the entrance of Athena and the Chorus’ prayer of blessing). Pelasgus (likewise Athena in Eumenides) imparts a sort of lesson on ‘democratic paideia’ to the Danaids, in view of their integration as metoikoi in the institutional structures of the polis.

It is a conviction shared by some scholars, and I am among them, that the aim of Aeschylus in Suppliant Women is to offer his public a representation of Argos as a democratic city, a sort of mirror image of contemporary Athens, projected in the legendary past.1 To achieve this end, Aeschylus uses all the means that a tragedian has at his disposal: rearrangement of the myth, dramatic plot, and scenic components. This last feature, concerned with opsis, was definitely the first signal that ancient spectators received, as the political spokesman of Argos, Pelasgos,2 comes on stage.

I Opsis and Ideology

Despite the fact that Pelasgos is a king, Aeschylus adopts various solutions in order to blur his image of regality at the level of visual perception. First of all, the scene is located not in front of Pelasgos’s palace, but on a pagos, a little hill devoted to the cult of the gods, outside the space of the city.3 The absence of a skene portraying the facade of the royal building has another important effect: it reduces the king’s individual freedom of choice. Pelasgos remarks to the Danaids that they are not sitting at the altars of his house, in his private property, but in a public space, and therefore the entire city, which would pay the consequences of a possible contamination, must find the necessary remedies: he cannot make any promise to the suppliants without the deliberation of all the citizens (ll. 365-369). In this way Pelasgos appears more similar to the political spokesman of the contemporary demos than to the absolute monarch of a legendary past. The limits of his power are indirectly confirmed by the obsessive recurrence of the word polis in his speeches throughout the play (ll. 273, 357-358, 366, 401, 410, 942, 955).

It is also possible, though not verifiable, that the scenic dress of Pelasgos did not clearly mark his regality. It is unusual that he is not recognized as the king by the Danaids as he comes on stage: when Pelasgos invites the Danaids to introduce themselves and to clarify their origin, they seem to ignore the identity of their interlocutor. Instead of answering, as is the norm in similar contexts, they relaunch the question, asking him to explain his role within the city: whether he is a private citizen, a temple guardian, or a magistrate of the city (ἐγὼ δὲ πρὸς σὲ πότερον ὡς ἔτην λέγω, / ἢ τηρὸν ἱερόραβδον, ἢ πόλεως ἀγόν, ll. 247-248). It is true, of course, that the Danaids could not realize recognize Pelasgos’ royalty because of the obvious fact that they are accustomed to an image of oriental kingship, very different from the Greek one. Nevertheless, in view of the function of the Chorus to guide the spectator’s reaction at the appearance of a new character, it is significant that the Danaids, looking at Pelasgos’ mask, do not recognize his royal attributes within the group with which he makes his appearance on stage.

II The Self-presentation of Pelasgos

II.1 Name and Origin

In his answer to the Danaids Pelasgos reveals his identity and his dynasty (ll. 250-253):

τοῦ γηγενοῦς γάρ εἰµ’ ἐγὼ Παλαίχθονος
ἶνις Πελασγός, τῆσδε γῆς ἀρχηγέτης.
ἐµοῦ δ’ ἄνακτος εὐλόγως ἐπώνυµον
γένος Πελασγῶν τήνδε καρποῦται χθόνα.
I am Pelasgus, ruler of this city, son
of earth-born Palaechthon; and this land
is cultivated by the race of the Pelasgians,
appropriately named after me their king.4

For the Greeks, the mythological figure of Pelasgos was closely connected with the beginnings of their history, regardless of its geographical location (highly variable in our sources): the epic poet Asius of Samos considered him as the first man (ἀντίθεον δὲ Πελασγὸν ἐν ὑψικόµοισιν ὄρεσσι / γαῖα µέλαιν’ ἀνέδωκεν, ἵνα θνητῶν γένος εἴη [‘and godlike Pelasgos the dark earth put forth in the wooded mountains, so that there might be a mortal race’], fr. 8 West).5 Describing Argos as inhabited by Pelasgians and ruled by a king named Pelasgos, Aeschylus aims precisely at evoking that mythical time, as if, since its origin, that city had been ruled by a democratic, open-minded king: according to this portrayal, Argos has in its genetic composition the vocation to recognize the sovereignty of the demos, and to avoid autocratic and totalitarian attitudes.

Not surprisingly, the poet adopts several words in the play to refer to the leading role of Pelasgos, some technical (such as πρύτανις l. 371), some typical of epic poetry (ἄναξ [‘lord’]: ll. 251, 328 et al.), while he never makes use of the term τύραννος [‘absolute monarch’], which would remind too much of the recent political history of Athens; by contrast, he makes recourse to archaic compounds such as ἀρχηγέτης (l. 184 and l. 251), which seem to project a form of constitutional monarchy into a distant mythical time before the historical experiences of tyrannies in the Greek world.

Furthermore, Aeschylus makes of Pelasgos the son of Palaichthon, a man generated from the earth: τοῦ γηγενοῦς γάρ εἰµ’ ἐγὼ Παλαίχθονος / ἶνις (ll. 250-251). The rare term Παλαίχθων is not attested elsewhere as a personal name: it appears as an epithet of Ares in Aesch. Sept. 105-106 (with allusion to the fact that the god is the ancestor of the Thebans),6 and, again in an attributive function, in an epigram quoted by Aeschines, with reference to the δῆµος ̓Αθηναίων ([‘Athenian people’] in Ctesiph. 190), where it appears in all respects synonymous with αὐτόχθων [‘indigenous’, literally ‘sprung from the land itself’], as the ancient commentator explained: παλαίχθων · ὡς αὐτόχθων (Schol. Aeschin. iii 190).

In Suppliants, the term παλαίχθων turns from epithet to personal name, and in this way the adjective γηγενοῦς sounds like an interpretation (indeed an authentic ‘gloss’) of the name: Παλαίχθονος scilicet αὐτόχθων, as in the scholium to Aeschines. Aeschylus gives importance to the autochthony theme with the purpose of establishing a parallel between Athens and Argos, which are both autochthonous. Not by chance is the sequence τοῦ γηγενοῦς … Παλαίχθονος perfectly comparable to the lexical string τοῦ τε γηγενοῦς / ̓Εριχθονίου [‘of earthborn Erichthonius’], which in Ion 20-21 Euripides applies to the mythical king of Athens: Palaichthon is the Argive counterpart of Erichthonius, the symbol of Athenian autochthony.7 This genealogy of Pelasgos, not elsewhere attested, is plausibly an invention of Aeschylus,8 whose purpose – already in the presentation of the character through the reference to his ancestors – is to strengthen the parallel with Athens.

But there is another aspect worth mentioning. According to the ancient mythical traditions (see, e.g., ps.-Apoll. 2. 1. 1-35), the heroine Io, whose offspring the Danaids are, descends in a direct line from the founder of Argive progeny, variously identified in our sources, and Pelasgos, when mentioned in the genealogy, is among their ancestors.9 The Aeschylean Pelasgos, conversely, is not only a contemporary of the Danaids, as required by the dramatic fiction,10 but he also seems a stranger to the genealogical line that leads from the heroin Io to the Danaids. In other words: the genealogy Pelasgos solemnly declares is the one that connects him to Palaichthon – so as to introduce the autochthony theme, functional to the equivalence with Athens – and not the one that connects him, through Io, to the Danaids. Consequently, although the Chorus often underlines the issue of γένος11 and expects hospitality in Argos mainly because of dynastic reasons, Aeschylus did not want that their acceptance into the city was made dependent on family ties involving the king himself. On the contrary, he wanted to turn the issue of hospitality into a political question: only the city government has the power to decide upon it. This is a different development of the theme that will be dramatized on a larger scale in the Oresteia: the priority of political and social pact over blood relationships within the γένος.

II.2 The Dimensions of the Kingdom

In the second part of his speech (ll. 254-259), Pelasgos tries to define the boundaries of his kingdom, which are very broad and quite vague.12 The northern border starts approximately from the Western bank of the Strymon in Thrace, touches the lands of the Perrhaebians, a people which at Il. 2. 749-751 is located on the banks of Titaressus and appears allied to Agamemnon; then Pelasgos mentions the Paeonians, also included among Agamemnon’s allies at Il. 2. 848-849, where they are said to have settled along the river Axius (Herodotus also refers to them as allies of the Athenians against the Persians at 5.12-15, 8.185, etc.); he then goes on to mention the region beyond the Mount Pindus (maybe to the North, or to the West), and the mountainous district of Dodona in Southern Epirus, the oracle of which was traditionally considered of Pelasgian origin. The entire territory that from the Northreaches to the South, along the East-West axis, and includes the Peloponnese, is the kingdom of Pelasgos: its sphere of influence thus embraces much of ancient Greece properly said.

According to Podlecki, these words want to mark a distancing from Sparta and its expansionist aspirations, utterly disregarded by the statements of Pelasgos.13 Others noted that the relief granted by the Argive king to Thessalian lands within his possessions fits in well with the historical moment of the Triple Alliance, signed in the 462/461 between Athens and Argos and almost immediately extended to Thessaly.14 According to Gülke,15 Pelasgos’ words overshadow the territorial aspirations of Athens; Luppino16 thought more specifically of the expansionist aims of the Periclean policy: which, if true, would constitute a further link between contemporary Athens and Aeschylus’ representation of mythical Argos. However, I agree with those who believe that the reference to Greece as a whole does not involve specific elements of territorial or political controversy: more simply, Aeschylus is evoking here an indistinct and ancestral past, precisely Pelasgic: a sort of still undifferentiated magma from which, as the audience would know well, contemporary Athens and Argos arose together with their allies, that is all the states with a democratic system of government, as opposed to Sparta.17

II.3 A Local Myth of Civilization

In the third and final part of his speech (ll. 260-270), Pelasgos narrates the local legend of Apis, son of Apollo and, like his father, a healer and a seer (ἰατρόµαντις, l. 263), who purified (ἐκκαθαίρει, l. 264) Argos’ territories from the monsters that the earth – contaminated by horrendous crimes – had produced: this is therefore a myth of civilization (Theseus too, the Attic civilizing hero, was regarded as a liberator from monsters).

This topic marks a significant point of contact with Eumenides, and precisely with the Pythia’s speech in the prologue (ll. 9-14), where we find the first mention of Athens in the trilogy: the context is Apollo’s journey from Delos to Delphi, for which Aeschylus follows a version of the myth manifestly favorable to Athens. In contrast with the traditional version, according to which the god reached the Boeotian cost by-passing Attica, Aeschylus tells that Apollo landed in Attica and was accompanied from there to Delphi by the Athenians, who opened the way for him through a still wild and bumpy land, ‘turning an untamed land into a tamed one’ (χθόνα ἀνήµερον τιθέντες ἡµερωµένην, l. 14). The passage of Apollo, escorted by the Athenians, has therefore caused the civilization of the country, as it happened in Argos through the intervention of Apis – a son of Apollo, according to Aeschylus.18 There is a perfect correspondence, even in rhythm and syntax, between the trimeter which mentions Apis, son of Apollo, and the trimeter in which the Athenians are called sons of Hephaestus:19

Supp. 263 ἰατρόµαντις παῖς ̓Απόλλωνος χθόνα […] (‘healer and seer son of Apollo, the land […]’).

Eum. 13 κελευθοποιοὶ παῖδες ̔Ηφαίστου χθόνα […] (‘road-making sons of Hephaestus, the land […]’).

In Eumenides, this mythical detail, apparently a digression from within the context of the Pythia’s prayer, actually preludes to the resolution of the dramatic plot. The audience will see later in the play that the civilizing function of the Athenian polis will be reconfirmed: thanks to it, the inhuman and savage Furies lose their wild and feral nature to join the civil community. In Suppliants the mythical insert has a similar function: in the past Apis freed his land with drastic remedies (ἄκη τοµαῖα καὶ λυτήρια, l. 268), and the same will be done by Pelasgos during the dramatic action. First of all, he will have to avoid the contamination that the Danaids, if not welcomed, are threatening to throw on the city by hanging themselves to the statues of the gods; then, he will strive to protect the Argive territory from the attack of the Egyptians. The correspondence between this mythical digression and the dramatic plot is underlined, as Aeschylus often does in such contexts, by the iteration of similar phrases:

  1. Pelasgos, as Apis, must devise drastic remedies: the ἄκος-Motiv, solemnly attributed to Apis (τούτων ἄκη τοµαῖα καὶ λυτήρια [‘a decisive, liberating cure’], l. 268), will be mentioned by Pelasgos with reference to the current situation, which requires an effective action by him and by the whole Argive people (ἐκπονεῖν ἄκη [‘to work out a cure’] l. 367; πηµονῆς ἄκης [‘a cure for evil’], l. 451).
  2. Apis must repair the µίασµα (‘pollution’) caused by αἷµα (‘blood’) (l. 265); Pelasgos too must avoid the µίασµα threatened by the Danaids (ll. 366 and 473) and the αἷµα which will be shed in a battle against the Egyptians (ll. 449 and 477).
  3. The snakes from which Apis freed the land find their symbolic equivalent in the Egyptians: see l. 267: δρακονθόµιλον δυσµενῆ ξυνοικίαν, ‘a hostile horde of serpents’, and l. 511: δρακόντων δυσφρόνων, ‘hostile serpents’ (the compound words δυσµενῆ and δυσφρόνων are equivalent in meaning and sound).

This dense network of references seems to confirm that the purpose of Aeschylus here was to establish a parallel between the mythical past and the mythical present of Argos, as it will be the case with Athens in the Eumenides.

II.4 Pelasgos as a Democratic Leader

The ideological intent emerges more clearly in the following scenes. Even if the plot is transferred to the dawn of Argive history, at the time of the legendary Pelasgians, Aeschylus, in contrast with the expectations of his audience, presents to his citizens a State very similar to an ideal contemporary Athens,20 where the people, gathered in assembly, makes decisions by voting, and the king, far from ruling autocratically, appears as a sort of primus inter pares, confident in public κοινωνία and sensitive to popular consensus, because, as he states at l. 485, ‘the people love to blame their rulers’ (κατ̓ ἀρχῆς γὰρ φιλαίτιος λεώς). As Pelasgos seems a democratic leader rather than a monarch, so the inhabitants of Argos look more like the δῆµος of a democratic polis such as Athens – backbiter and intimately averse to power – than real subjects.21

One of the most ideologically charged passages is the well-known rhesis of Danaus at ll. 600-624, which explains the working of an ideal democratic assembly in the late fifth century.22 It is hard to avoid the impression that the aim of Aeschylus in these scenes is to arouse admiration for the democratic spirit of Argos, which he shows as already present at the time of the mythical Pelasgos, almost as if it were inherent in the dna of this city.

The most simple explanation for all this can be found by ascribing the tragedy to the years just before the treaty of alliance between the two cities, to which Aeschylus alludes in three passages of the Eumenides through the characters of the argive Orestes and Apollo (ll. 287-291, 667-673, 762-774), each time giving emphasis to the topics of the loyalty between the allies (cf. πιστός at ll. 291, 670, 673; σύµµαχος at ll. 291, 671, 773) and the eternity of the agreement (ἐς τὸ πᾶν [‘for ever’] at ll. 291 and 670, αἰανῶς [‘everlastingly’] at l. 672, τὸ λοιπὸν εἰς ἅπαντα πλειστήρη χρόνον [‘for the fullness of all time to come’] at l. 763, αἰεί [‘always’] at l. 773). As in Suppliants the democratic spirit of Argos is traced back to its mythical past, so in Eumenides the political agreement between Argos and Athens, which in the historical reality dates back to only a few years earlier, is presented as an agreement lasting continuously from the heroic era. This provides the Athenians with full guarantee that they can unconditionally rely on the alliance with Argos. The close chronological position of Suppliants and Eumenides seems confirmed by a series of parallels which allows to reconstruct a common dramaturgical and ideological pattern underlying the arrangement of both tragedies.

III Comparing Two Dramaturgical Patterns: Suppliants and Eumenides

The analogy is already clear in the main plot: both the Danaids, pursued by the Egyptians who want to snatch them from the altars of the gods, and Orestes, haunted by the Furies who would tear him from Athena’s bretas,23 seek hospitality in the two cities, Argos and Athens, represented by their respective kings. In Eumenides, actually, Athena takes the role that in hikesía-dramas set in Athens (such as Aeschylus’ Eleusinians, Euripides’ Suppliants and Sophocles’ Oedipus Coloneus) properly belongs to Theseus:24 she is not only a goddes, but also – in all respects – the sovereign of Athens, since she gathers in herself political and religious power, according to a characterization in many respects similar to the role of Pelasgos in Argos. On this analogy a network of systematic parallels is based, which are summarized below.

III.1 The Appearance of Pelasgos and Athena on the Scene

The entrance speeches of both sovereigns follow the same scheme, starting from their first reaction of deep amazement:

Supp. 240 τοῦτο θαυµαστὸν πέλει (‘this is amazing’).

Eum. 407 θαῦµα δ᾽ ὄµµασιν πάρα (‘my eyes are full of amazement’).25

This θαῦµα (‘amazement’) is due to the unusual ὁµιλία (‘company’) that Pelasgos and Athena have before their eyes:

Supp. 234 ὅµιλον τόνδ’ ἀνελληνόστολον … προσφωνοῦµεν (‘I am addressing this company in un-Greek garb’).

Eum. 406 καινήν δ’ ὁρῶσα τήνδ’ ὁµιλίαν χθονὸς (‘seeing this new company in my land’).

This strange crowd is in both cases the Chorus itself, which, unlike the conventional nature of tragic Choruses (usually local citizens or house servants), is here composed by foreign women, dressed in an odd way. In describing their appearance,26 Pelasgos and Athena make use of similar stylistic proceedings, mostly an anaphoric use of denial, to emphasize a reality so remote from everyday experience that it is defined by contrast:27

Supp. 236-237 (the strangers do not dress like Argolic or Greek women):

[…] Οὐ γὰρ ̓Αργολὶς / ἐσθὴς γυναικῶν οὐδ’ ἀφ᾽ ̔Ελλάδος τόπων, κτλ. (‘the dress of these women is not from Argos, not from any place in Greece’).

Eum. 410-412 (the strange creatures are unlike any generated being, either god or man):

[…] ὑµᾶς δ᾽ ὁµοίας οὐδενὶ σπαρτῶν γένει,
οὔτ᾽ ἐν θεαῖσι πρὸς θεῶν ὁρωµένας
οὔτ᾽ οὖν βροτείοις ἐµφερεῖς µορφώµασι.
You resemble no race of begotten beings,
neither among the goddesses who are benheld by gods,
nor is your appearance similar to that of mortals.28

The only feature the sovereigns recognize as belonging to the Greek cultural code (and therefore as an intelligible and ultimately reassuring gesture) is the ἱκεσία-act of the suppliants near the divine images: the Danaids have deposed branches alongside the statues of the gods; Orestes is sitting and hugging the bretas of the goddess.

III.2 The Dialogue with the Suppliants and the Sovereign’s Decision

In the following dialogue Pelasgos and Athena ask the suppliants for elucidation and become aware of their plea: being accepted and judged (Orestes); being accepted and kept safe from their Egyptian cousins (Danaids). In their behalf, the ἱκέται urge the king to judge with justice: the request of the Danaids (ξύµµαχον δ ̓ἑλόµενος Δίκαν / κρῖνε [‘choose Justice as your ally, and make the judgement!’] Supp. 395-396) corresponds exactly to the exhortation directed to Athena: κρῖνον δίκην ([‘judge the issue!’] Eum. 468; at l. 433 the Furies themselves had first invited Athena to judge righteously: ἀλλ᾽ ‘ἐξέλεγχε, κρῖνε δ’ εὐθεῖαν δίκην [‘question him, and give un upright judgement!’]).

Pelasgos and Athena react in the same way to the request of intervention: they cannot judge by themselves such a complex issue:29

Supp. 397 οὐκ εὔκριτον τὸ κρῖµα · µή µ ̓ αἱροῦ κριτήν (‘the judgement is not easy to judge: don’t choose me to judge’).

452 ἦ κάρτα νείκους τοῦδ ̓ ἐγὼ παροίχοµαι (‘I have completely stepped out from this dispute’).

468 καὶ πολλαχῇ γε δυσπάλαιστα πράγµατα (‘truly this situation is difficult to wrestle with’).

Eum. 470 ss. τὸ πρᾶγµα µεῖζον ἤ τις οἴεται τόδε
βροτοῖς δικάζειν · οὐδὲ µὴν ἐµοὶ θέµις
φόνου διαιρεῖν ὀξυµηνίτου δίκας.
The matter is too great for any mortal who may think
he can decide it; but neither it is proper for me to judge
a case of murder which can give rise to fierce wrath.30

Pelasgos and Athena explain the reasons why they cannot intervene autonomously: every decision involves the risk of seriously damaging the city. If Pelasgos did not grant asylum to the suppliants, he would attract ‘an unavoidable contamination’ on the town (µίασµα οὐχ ὑπερτοξεύσιµον, l. 473); but if he hosted them, the city would be involved in a bloody war (Supp. 472-479); Athena cannot refuse to protect a suppliant in her temple, but welcoming him would cause the hostile reaction of the Furies, and consequently an ‘intolerable, endless curse’ to her town (ἄφερτος αἰανὴς νόσος, l. 479).

In this context the solution is unique too:

  1. ‘the situation has reached an impasse’: the words of Pelasgos δεῦρο δ’ ἐξοκέλλεται (‘we have run aground here’, l. 438) correspond to Athena’s remark πρᾶγµα δεῦρ’ ἐπέσκηψεν τόδε (‘this matter has fallen here’, l. 482);
  2. ‘whichever decision is made, either to grant or to reject the pleading, in both cases the consequences will be heavy for the city’ (ἀµφότερα, Eum. 480, is the semantic equivalent of ἢ τοῖσιν ἢ τοῖς, Supp. 439):
[Pelasgos] […] δεῦρο δ᾽ ἐξοκέλλεται ·
ἢ τοῖσιν ἢ τοῖς πόλεµον αἴρεσθαι µέγαν
πᾶσ᾽ ἔστ᾽ ἀνάγκη, καὶ γεγόµφωται σκάφος.
[…] This is where my thoughts have run aground.
There is absolutely no way to avoid provoking
a great war, either against this or aganist those.31
(Supp. 438-440)
[Athena] τοιαῦτα µὲν τάδ᾽ ἐστίν · ἀµφότερα, µένειν
πέµπειν τε, δυσπήµατ᾽ ἀµηχάνως ἐµοί.
ἐπεὶ δὲ πρᾶγµα δεῦρ᾽ ἐπέσκηψεν τόδε, κτλ.
That is how it is: both solutions, to let you remain
or to send you away, are very hard for me to take.
Nevertheless, since this matter has fallen upon us […].32
(Eum. 480-482)

In both cases, the ruler’s solution is to gather the citizens to make a decision about the difficult situation. In Suppliants, where the issue is of a political-religious nature, the Assembly (a kind of βουλή) is the deliberative authority of the city, formed by all the Argives:

[Pelasgos] ἐγὼ δ’ ἂν οὐ κραίνοιµ’ ὑπόσχεσιν πάρος,
ἀστοῖς δὲ πᾶσι τῶνδε κοινώσας πέρι.
I cannot make a binding promise beforehand,
but only after making this matter known to the whole citizen body.33
εἶπον δὲ καὶ πρίν, οὐκ ἄνευ δήµου τάδε
πράξαιµ’ ἄν, οὐδέ περ κρατῶν, µὴ καί ποτε
εἴπῃ λεώς …
I have already said: I am not prepared to this
without the people’s approval, though I have the power.34
(Supp. 368-369; cf. also 398-400)

In Eumenides, where the matter is purely legal, it is the Areopagite court, expressly established by Athena in order to judge Orestes:

[Athena] φόνων δικαστὰς ὁρκίων αἱρουµένη
θεσµὸν τὸν εἰς ἅπαντ’ ἐγὼ θήσω χρόνον.
I shall choose iudges of homicide, respecting
the ordinance of an oath which I shall estabilish for all time.35
(Eum. 483-484)

Pelasgos and Athena finally leave the scene with similar words which conclude the respective episodes, giving operative instructions to the Chorus. In Suppliants (ll. 524-599), where the context is eminently religious, the invitation is to pray to the gods (and therefore the following stasimon has the movement of a hymnos kletikos). In Eumenides (ll. 490-565), it is necessary to organize arguments and effective evidence for the purposes of the trial (and therefore the following stasimon contains the reflections of the Furies on the pending case and on their role as Dike’s ministers):

[Pelasgos] In the meanwhile, you (addressing the Chorus) stay here and appeal in prayer to the gods of the country […]; I’m going to do what has to be done (ἐγὼ δὲ ταῦτα πορσυνῶν ἐλεύσοµαι, Supp. 517-522).

[Athena] In the meantime, will you please collect (addressing both the Chorus and Orestes) testimonies and proofs, aids to justice, by oath consecrated. I will return once I have chosen the best among my citizens to decide this issue well and truly (ἥξω διαιρεῖν τοῦτο πρᾶγµ’ ἐτητύµως, Eum. 485-489).36

III.3 The Decision of the Assembly and its Consequences

A further analogy between the two dramatic situations is the fact that the sovereign’s intervention in the citizen’s assembly is decisive and permits to settle the dispute in favour of ἱκέται. Pelasgos’s opening peroration gets unanimous agreement (ll. 615-624); Athena determines the acquittal in the trial with her direct intervention in favour of Orestes (the so-called vote of Athena: ll. 734-743). In both cases, the suppliants see their requests fulfilled.

A metabolè occurs at this point in Eumenides: the Furies, who were at first hostile, are persuaded by Athena to make peace with the city and to dwell in Athens, where they will have a place of worship. As a result of this change of sign, from the moment in which Orestes leaves the scene onwards, the Furies end up appropriating the role that in Suppliants belonged to the Danaids and that in Eumenides had been until then of the suppliant Orestes: the system of relations between the two dramatic situations is reconstitued, in a different way from before, but with an even more transparent symmetry.

A first correspondence is to be found in the significant role assigned in both tragedies to peitho, an ally of the sovereign. The wish Pelasgos addresses to himself, ‘may persuasion go with me’ (πειθὼ δ’ ἕποιτο, Supp. 523), will be confirmed by Danaus in his rhesis: in summarizing the king’s speech at the assembly, Danaus underlines his ‘persuasive and eloquent turns of phrase’ (δηµηγόρους … εὐπιθεῖς στροφάς, l. 623). The same pattern also returns in Eumenides, similarly duplicated: first, at ll. 885-886, Athena calls upon the σέβας of Πειθώ (here personified) with the purpose of convincing the Furies; then, after her success, she proclaims with satisfaction her gratitude to the goddess, who has graciously protected her words (στέργω δ’ ὄµµατα Πειθοῦς, / ὅτι µοι γλῶσσαν καὶ στόµ’ ἐπώπα, [‘I am happy that the eyes of Persuasion watched over my tongue and my lips’] ll. 970-971).

The system of analogies continues in the subsequent choral interventions, the Segenslied of the Danaids for Argos in the second stasimon (ll. 625-709), and the blessings that the Furies send to the Athenian people at ll. 916-1020, according to Athena’s advice at ll. 903-915.

Both these hymns,37 which combine εὐχαί with τιµαί (the prayers of the Chorus with the homages to their respective town), are built on two complementary themes: economic prosperity (they bless the fertility of the region according to the traditional tripartite pattern with reference to the soil, the herds and the women) and the political situation of the community in which they find hospitality. In this respect, in both tragedies the Chorus mostly wishes peace and harmony, and it deprecates the wars that cause bloodshed and deaths (cf. ἀνδροκµὴς Supp. 678 with ἀνδροκµῆτας Eum. 956, and αἱµατίσαι πέδον γᾶς Supp. 662 with πιοῦσα κόνις µέλαν αἷµα πολιτᾶν Eum. 679).

In the most ‘political’ section of their Segenslied, the Danaids make the wish that the city may be well governed (τὼς πόλις εὖ νέµοιτο, Supp. 670), and that new guides may always arise for the country (Supp. 674-677). The topic of eunomia also appears in Eumenides, where it is adapted to the specific dramatic context: Athena herself states this theme, not in a blessing formula but in a parenetic exhortation, in the speech with which she founds the Areopagus (τὸ µήτ’ἅναρχον µήτε δεσποτούµενον / ἀστοῖς περιστέλλουσι βουλεύω σέβειν κτλ., [‘I counsel my citizens to maintain, and practise reverently, a system which is neither anarchic nor despotic’] Eum. 696-706). The political theme is recalled,38 with a typical ring pattern, at the end of the stasimon, where the Danaids express the desire that the people which rules the city may firmly retain its entitlement, ‘a government acting with craft and foresight for the common good’:

φυλάσσοι τ’ ἀτρεµαῖα τιµὰς
τὸ δάµιον, τὸ πτόλιν κρατύνει,
προµαθὶς εὐκοινόµητις ἀρχά.
May the people, which rules the city,
protect well the citizens’ privileges,
a government acting with craft and foresight for the common good.39
(Supp. 698-700)

This wish for a lasting democracy in Argos as vital for the good of the polis has a parallel, in Eumenides, in the words with which Athena, founding the Areopagus, insists on the respect for this venerable institution (σέβας, 700), ‘a bulwark in defense of the inhabitants’:

κερδῶν ἄθικτον τοῦτο βουλευτήριον,
αἰδοῖον, ὀξύθυµον, εὑδόντων ὕπερ
ἐγρηγορὸς φρούρηµα γῆς καθίσταµαι.
This council, untouched by thought of gain,
reverend, quick to anger, a wakeful sentinel
for the land to protect those who sleep.40
(Eum. 704-706)

The Danaides conclude their song with the fervent hope that, before taking arms, the Argives will make judicious diplomatic agreements:

ξένοισί τ’ εὐξυµβόλους,
πρὶν ἐξοπλίζειν ῎Αρη,
δίκας ἄτερ πηµάτων διδοῖεν.
To foreigners may they offer
painless justice under fair agreements
before arming the god of war.41
(Supp. 701-703)

In the reference to the ‘judgements’ hopefully ‘judicious and unanimous’ at the same time (εὐξυµβόλους) and ‘not involving damage’ (ἄτερ πηµάτων), a hint to the foedera system can be perceived, and since the nineteenth century some scholars have seen a relationship between these lines and the passages of Eumenides where an alliance treaty between Athens and Argos is explicitly evoked.42 It is difficult indeed to disregard this suggestion, not so much for an autonomous evocative power of the Suppliants’ passage, which looks quite generic in its formulation,43 as for the complex web of relations between the two tragedies: in this light, the passage above, not so decisive in itself, could acquire a more evident meaning.

As regards the other issue the two plays have in common, that is the plea for asylum of the two Choruses, the language becomes essentially political, with clear references to the contemporary institution of metoikìa.44 The term métoikos occurs twice in the exode of Eumenides, at l. 1011 (ταῖσδε µετοίκοις) and l. 1018 (µετοικίαν τ’ ἐµὴν), and the red cloaks that the Furies wear over their black costumes (φοινικοβάπτοις ἐνδυτοῖς ἐσθήµασι, l. 1028) clearly call to mind, in the form of an aition, the typical dress of Athenian metics in Panathenaic processions.

In Suppliants the status of metoikoi is not a spontaneous gift from the king of the city, as it happens at the end of Eumenides, but the result of a long and gradual process running through the whole dramatic action.45 At the beginning of the play the Danaids are ξένοι (‘stranger’) – as their father reminds them, adding the further qualification φυγάς (‘fugitive’): µέµνησο δ ‘εἴκειν · χρεῖος εἶ ξένη φυγάς ([‘remember to be yielding: you are a needy foreigner refugee’], l. 202). Pelasgos himself, who does not believe that the maidens are Greek, confirms their status of strangers (ἄπιστα µυθεῖσθ’, ὦ ξέναι, κλύειν ἐµοί [‘what you say, strangers, is unbelievable for me to hear’], l. 277), and he also notes that they lack a proxenus (ἀπρόξενοι, l. 239).46 As their πρόξενος the Danaids will choose Pelasgus, so designated at l. 419 (γενοῦ πανδίκως εὐσεβὴς πρόξενος· τὰν φυγάδα µὴ προδῷς [‘become our pious patron: do not betray the fugitive’]) and l. 491 (αἰδοῖον … πρόξενον, [‘respectful patron’]). But when it turns out that their ancestor is the Argive Io, the maidens from ξέναι become ἀστόξενοι (l. 356), a compound word whose meaning has been so explained by the scholium: τῶν νῦν µὲν ξένων, πρώην δὲ συνηµµένων τῷ ἄστει (‘foreigner at present, but tied to the city in the past’).

The Danaides are called µέτοικοι for the first time in the decree issued by the popular assembly, ll. 609-610 (ἡµᾶς µετοικεῖν τῆσδε γῆς ἐλευθέρους / κτλ., ‘we shall have the right of residence in this land in freedom’). As they are about to go to their new home in Argos, Danaus urges them to behave well, with the modesty and discretion proper to their young age, because everyone is ready to slander immigrants (πᾶς δ’ ἐν µετοίκῳ γλῶσσαν εὔτυκον φέρει / κακήν [‘in regard to immigrants, everyone has an evil tongue ready to use’], l. 994), an opinion expressing a view of this social class which must have been rather common among Athenian citizens. A political terminology can be seen as well in Pelasgus’s use of the term προστάτης, with which he defines himself and his citizens: ‘I am your patron, as are all the citizens (προστάτης δ’ ἐγὼ / ἀστοί τε πάντες) whose vote now finds fulfillment. Why need you wait for anyone more authoritative than these?’ (ll. 963-965). Also in this use of the technical terminology concerning the right of asylum of ξένοι φυγάδες, Argos becomes a speculum of the political and social life of Athens.

III.4 The Exode

Finally, both plays end in a similar way, with a solemn procession attended by several representatives of the host city, in addition to the Chorus. The Danaids, accompanied by their maidservants (ll. 975-979), by Danaus, and by armed guards assigned to him by the city (ll. 985-988), leave the scene, heading to the new accommodations that Pelasgos gave them as a dwelling place in the city. The Eumenides ends with the parade of the Furies who, accompanied by ministers of the cult of Athena, by a retinue of maidens and local women, and by the Areopagites, proceed toward the new abode Athena has offered them. In both tragedies, therefore, the main Choruses, consisting of metics, and the secondary ones, consisting of citizens, come together in the final procession. The dramatic pattern already exploited in the exode of Suppliants is repeated and emphasized in Eumenides, with a larger crowd on stage.

In fact, in Suppliants, after the ἴτε addressed to the Danaides, ll. 1018-1019, so that they arrange themselves for the procession, Danaus gives orders only once to the ‘servants’ (δ’ ὑποδείξασθε <δ’> ὀπαδοί κτλ.: ll. 1022-1023, where the term ὀπαδοί has been understood as the bodyguards assigned to Danaus or the handmaidens of the Danaids).47 In Eumenides the invitation to join the procession is repeatedly emphasized by Athena: after urging the Furies to do so (ἴτε καὶ σφαγίων τῶνδ’ ὑπὸ σεµνῶν κατὰ γῆς σύµεναι κτλ. [‘go, and passing under the earth to the accompaniment of these solemn sacrifices, etc.’], ll. 1006-1007), at ll. 1010-1011 Athena also addresses her invitation to the Areopagites (ὑµεῖς δ’ ἡγεῖσθε, πολισσοῦχοι / παῖδες Κραναοῦ [‘you, children of Cranaus who dwell in this city’]), then, at ll. 1022-1024, to herself and to her priestesses (πέµψω … ἐς τοὺς ἔνερθε καὶ κατὰ χθονὸς τόπους / ξὺν προσπόλοισιν αἵτε φρουροῦσιν βρέτας / τοὐµόν),48 and again at ll. 1025-1027 to maidens, women and elderly women of the city, who should probably be identified with the servants of the goddess (ὄµµα γὰρ πάσης χθονὸς / Θησῇδος ἐξίκοιτ’ ἄν, εὐκλεὴς λόχος / παίδων, γυναικῶν, καὶ στόλος πρεσβυτίδων).49 The aim of Aeschylus, as is well known, is to remind the theatre audience about the Panathenaic processions. The presence of sacrificial offerings (σφαγίων τῶνδ’ ὑπὸ σεµνῶν κατὰ γῆς σύµεναι, l. 1007) and of the red cloaks worn by the Furies heightens the involvement of the spectators in that dramatic event.50 Furthermore, the epilogues of both plays, showing a parade to which men and women take part together, seem to suggest the overcoming of the male / female dichotomy, which has been strongly emphasized in the previous dramatic action, both in Suppliants and in the Oresteia trilogy.

IV Dramaturgy and Ideology

In a dramatic production like the Aeschylean one, highly motivated by political, ethical, and didactic reasons, such a dense network of relationships cannot be accidental. This leads us to suspect a deeper design, typical in fact of this tragedian, who likes to interweave ideological dimension and dramatic structure. Dealing with a different and chronologically later episode of the Argive myth, the saga of Orestes, Aeschylus applies to Athens the same dramaturgical and ideological pattern used for Argos a few years before. Making Athens protect Argos royal family, Aeschylus links the two cities stronger than in Suppliants, where the relationship arose, more indirectly, from their reciprocal mirroring. Moreover, thanks to the Delphian protome of Eumenides, where Apollo solemnly orders Orestes to go to Athens to be saved there (ll. 79-83), as well as to Apollo’s testimony (ll. 667-673: he sent Orestes to Athens, because he wanted the alliance between Athens and Argos), such a συµµαχία is placed under the aegis of the highest religious authorities, Athena and Apollo, whose common birth from Zeus is repeatedly mentioned in the play.

If one accepts for The Suppliants a dating close to the alliance treat, mentioned and even exalted in the Oresteia, the philo-Argive spirit and the significant structural analogies with The Eumenides could find a more comprehensive explanation.

If so, the macroscopic archaism of The Suppliants – which is, in my opinion, deliberately sought – is the expressive and stylistic result of the setting of the play at the origins of Argos:51 by proclaiming the ‘Pelasgian’ antiquity of its democracy, Aeschylus meant to confirm Argos as a worthy ally of Athens.


The critical approach which connects the composition of the play to the years immediately before the Argive-Athenian alliance (which Aeschylus is here clearly supporting) began with isolated insights of A. Boeckh, Graecae Tragoediae principum (Heidelbergae: Mohrii et Zimmeri, 1808), p. 54, followed by K. O. Müller, Dissertations on the Eumenides of Aeschylus (Cambridge-London: Pitt Press, 1835), pp. 116-117; it received further support after the publication, in 1952, of the P.Oxy. 2256, 3, which confirmed the date of the play in the late sixties of the 5th century bc. See. E. Degani, Democrazia ateniese e sviluppo del dramma antico I. La tragedia, in Storia e civiltà dei Greci, ii 3 (Milano: Bompiani, 1979), pp. 267-268; A. J. Podlecki, The Political Background of Aeschylean Tragedy (London: Briston Classical Press, 19992), pp. 42-62; M. P. Pattoni, ‘Presenze politiche di Argo nella tragedia attica del V secolo’, in C. Bearzot and F. Landucci (eds.), Argo. Una democrazia diversa (Milano: Vita e Pensiero, 2006), pp. 147-208; J. Heinrichs, ‘Athen und Argos in der Mitte des 5. Jh. Ein Reflex des argivischen Münzbilds bei Aischylos’, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, 177 (2011), pp. 23-25; Th. Papadopoulou, Aeschylus’ Suppliant Women (London: Bristol Classical Press, 2011), pp. 67-72.


On Pelasgos as a specifically ‘tragic’ character see G. F. Else, The Origin and Early Form of Greek Tragedy (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965), p. 95; P. Burian, ‘Pelasgos and Politics in Aeschylus’ Danaid Trilogy’, Wiener Studies, 8 (1974), pp. 5-6; F. Ferrari, ‘Il dilemma di Pelasgo’, Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, 4 (1974), pp. 375-385.


Cf. ll. 188-189. On the setting of the drama see V. Di Benedetto, E. Medda, La tragedia greca sulla scena. La tragedia greca in quanto spettacolo teatrale (Torino: Einaudi, 1997), p. 83; G. Avezzù, ‘Mappe di Argo, nella tragedia’, in P. Angeli Bernardini (ed.), La città di Argo. Mito, storia, tradizioni poetiche (Roma: Edizioni dell’Ateneo, 2004), pp. 151-157.


The translations – here and thereafter – are mostly taken from A. H. Sommerstein (ed.), Aeschylus, voll. i-iii (Cambridge, Mass. - London: Harvard University Press 2008).


On the different genealogies of Pelasgos, see U. Bultrighini, Pausania e le tradizioni democratiche. Argo ed Elide (Padova: Ed. Programma, 1990), pp. 88-89.


Cf. Schol. Aesch. Sept. 104-105 παλαίχθων ῎Αρης· ἐκ πολλοῦ κληρωσάµενος τήνδε τὴν γῆν, ibid. 104g παλαίχθων· ὁ πάλαι τὴν γῆν κατέχων.


On the hidden meanings of the autochthony proclaimed by the Athenians, see. J. M. Hall, Ethnic Identity in Greek Antiquity (Cambridge: University Press, 1997), p. 54. On the ideological meaning of the statements of Pelasgos, as well as on its implicit connections to Athens, see also V. J. Rosivach, ‘Autochthony and the Athenians’, Classical Quarterly, 37 (1987), p. 298, n. 15, E. Hall, Inventing the Barbarian. Greek Self-Definition Through Tragedy (Oxford University Press, 1989), pp. 170-171; R. Bernek, Dramaturgie und Ideologies. Der politische Mythos in den Hikesiedramen des Aischylos, Sophokles und Euripides (München-Leipzig: De Gruyter, 2004), p. 48, n. 13. Aeschylus seems here to follow local traditions, transposed and re-elaborated by the Argive historian Acusilaus, who talks about an ancient vocation by Argos for equality and autonomy (see, also, Paus. 2.19.2: Αργεῖοι … ἰσηγορίαν καὶ τὸ αὐτόνοµον ἀγαπῶντες ἐκ παλαιοτάτου).


As Bultrighini said (Pausania, pp. 81 and 86).


On the Io-theme and the genealogy of the Danaids, see S. Follinger, Genosdependenzen. Studien zur Arbeit am Mythos bei Aischylos (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2003), pp. 216-234; A. H. Sommerstein, Aeschylean Tragedy (London: Bristol Classical Press, 20102), pp. 114-118; V. Vitali, ‘Esempi tragici di buon governo e mal governo ad Argo: Pelasgo ed Euristeo a confronto’, in Bernardini, La città di Argo, pp. 177-178 and n. 4. Acusilaus, for instance, makes Pelasgos and his brother Argos the sons of Zeus and Niobe, who was the daughter of Phoroneus, the first man. On the elements of propaganda in this genealogy see Bultrighini, Pausania, pp. 84-85.


No source before Aeschylus mentions an appeal to Pelasgos by the Danaids (after Aeschylus the only references are Schol. Eur. Or. 857 and 932, and Ov. Her. 14. 23, which may depend on the version of Aeschylus). This led some scholars to believe that this is an Aeschylean innovation to the myth: cf. Burian, ‘Pelasgos and politcs’, p. 13, n. 23, which refers to M. L. Cunningham, ‘A Fragment of Aeschylus’ Aigyptioi?’, Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, Geschichte und griechische Philosophie, 96 (1953), p. 228.


Cf. esp. Supp. 15-22, 206-207, 527-528.


With regard to the numerous problems of interpretation posed by these verses (esp. the meaning of the verb ὁρίζοµαι at l. 256, either ‘I include within my boundaries’, or ‘I have as external borders’, as well as the transposition suggested by Friis Johansen between Περραιβῶν and Παιόνων at ll. 256-257), a useful summary is contained in P. Sandin, Aeschylus’ Supplices. Introduction and Commentary on vv. 1-523, (Lund: Symmachus, 20052), pp. 148-149.


Cf. Podlecki, The Political Background, p. 60. A. Diamantopoulos, ‘The Danaid Tetralogy of Aeschylus’, The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 77 (1957), p. 228, also thought of an implied dispute with Sparta, in order to assert the priority of the Argive territorial claims, but he placed the representation of the drama in the period after the Battle of Sepia.


On the relief granted by Pelasgos to Thessaly, and its political connections, see. esp. L. Braccesi, ‘Implicazioni politiche in Eschilo (Prom. 829-841)’, Rendiconti dell’Istituto Lombardo di Scienze e Lettere, 106 (1972), pp. 4-6 and n. 5.


Cf. C. Gülke, Mythos und Zeitgeschichte bei Aischylos. Das Verhältnis von Mythos und Historie in Eumeniden und Hiketiden (Meisenheim am Glan: Hain, 1969), p. 69.


Cf. E. Luppino, ‘L’intervento ateniese in Egitto nelle tragedie eschilee’, Aegyptus, 47 (1972), pp. 71-77.


Cf. esp. Bultrighini, Pausania, pp. 68-69. In making Argos a Panhellenic kingdom, Aeschylus recalled the authority of Homerus, who used the term ̓Αργεῖοι to indicate all Greeks (Homer, Il. 2. 681 had spoken of those who live in the ‘Pelasgian Argos’ at the beginning of the list of Achaean peoples): epic-archaic nuances and references to contemporary events are here in close connection, as often elsewhere in Suppliants.


Cf. H. Friis Johansen, E. W. Whittle (eds.), Aeschylus: The Suppliants, i-iii (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1980), ii, pp. 211 and 214-215, C. Rohweder, Macht und Gedeihen. Eine politische Interpretation der Hiketiden des Aischylos (Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 1998), pp. 142-143, n. 48; Bernek, Dramaturgie und Ideologie, p. 49.


Aeschylus calls the Athenians παῖδες ̔Ηφαίστου, highlighting not only their obvious divine origin, but also their building (that is ‘civilizing’) skills. It is remarkable, as well, that the scholium to Eum. 13 (κελευθοποιοὶ παῖδες · Θησεὺς τὴν ὁδὸν ἐκάθηρε τῶν λῃστῶν [‘road-making sons: Theseus freed the road from the brigands’]), links the civilizing function of the Athenians with the purifying action (ἐκάθηρε) of Theseus, which is parallel to the ‘cathartic’ action (ἐκκαθαίρει) of the argive Apis in Supp. 264.


In Aeschylus’ Suppliants we encounter the closest approximation between dramatic and actual practices of supplication as they were practiced in Athens: see A. Tzanetou, City of Suppliants. Tragedy and the Athenian Empire (Austin: University of Texas, 2012), p. 13. According to V. Farenga, Citizen and Self in Ancient Greece: Individuals Performing Justice and the Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 351, the cross-examination of the Danaids by Pelasgus in the first episode resembles the ritual scrutiny (dokimasia) young Athenian men underwent at the age of eighteen to make sure they were qualified for membership in the citizen body.


For a possible echo of the annual accountability proceedings known as euthunai cf. G. W. Bakewell, Aeschylus’s Suppliant Women. The Tragedy of Immigration (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2013), pp. 47-48 and nn. 109-111.


In Danaos’ rhesis, a great emphasis is put on procedural aspects which resemble those at Athens, particularly the vote by show of hands (ll. 604, 607, 621), the formal language of decrees (ll. 609-614), and the typically Athenian punishment of atimia or loss of citizen rights (ἄτιµον εἶναι, l. 614); even the ancestor of the word ‘democracy’ itself appears twice in the play (ll. 604 and 699), for the first time in any surviving Greek text. See Friis Johansen-Whittle, Aeschylus. The Suppliants, ii, pp. 487-450; V. Ehrenberg, ‘Origins of Democracy’, Historia, 1 (1950), p. 522; D. Musti, Demokratìa. Origini di un’idea (Roma-Bari: Laterza, 1995), p. 25: ‘Eschilo, consapevole del fatto che non si può parlare nell’età di Pelasgo di “democrazia”, scioglie la parola abilmente in démou kratoûsa cheír, che è la “mano dominante del popolo”, ma che in ultima analisi potrebbe anche suonare, per chi ascolta, come il participio presente femminile di demokrateîn’. See, also, Lauriola in this volume (pp. 338-353).


The condition of ἱκέτης of Orestes, who from l. 235 to l. 489 is hugging the bretas of Athena, though visually obvious, is repeatedly underlined by the words of Athena: cfr. esp. Eum. 441 σεµνὸς προσίκτωρ (‘a suppliant deserving respect’) and 474 ἱκέτης προσῆλθες (‘you have come here as a suppliant’).


Or to his son Demophon, as in Children of Heracles.


See also the similar reaction of the Pythia at ll. 46-47 πρόσθεν δὲ τἀνδρὸς τοῦδε θαυµαστὸς λόχος / εὕδει γυναικῶν ἐν θρόνοισιν ἥµενος (‘in front of this man there is an astonishing band of women, asleep, sitting on chairs’).


The Furies had already been described by the Pythia at ll. 46-59 (see also the words of Apollo at ll. 179-197).


At ll. 279-290, Pelasgos tries to guess the origin of the maidens (they are similar to Libyan, or Egyptian, or Cypriot, or Indian women, or to mythological figures as the Amazons). This matches the advanced and immediately denied assumptions of the Pythia about the Furies in Eum. 48-59 (they look like Gorgons, or Harpies).


Sommerstein, Aeschylus, ii, p. 407.


A difference between the two situations is that Athena, after listening to both parties, comes resolutely to the decision, which she sets out in a single, linear discourse (ll. 470-489); on the contrary Pelasgos is inwardly troubled and his decision is elaborated with difficulty during the dialogue with the Chorus (for an analysis of these verses, see Ferrari, ‘Il dilemma di Pelasgo’). Therefore, although the reasons for his answer are basically the same as those in the rhesis of Athena, Pelasgos returns repeatedly to some of them. Of course, for Aeschylus this inner dilemma performs the function of presenting Pelasgos as the leader of an ideal democracy, who does not act driven by self-interest or recklessly, but shapes his own ideas after carefully weighing all the pros and cons, and only afterwards submits them to the people for approval.


Sommerstein, Aeschylus, ii, p. 415.


Sommerstein, Aeschylus, i, p. 347.


Sommerstein, Aeschylus, ii, p. 417.


Sommerstein, Aeschylus, i, p. 339.


Sommerstein, Aeschylus, i, p. 343.


Sommerstein, Aeschylus, ii, p. 417.


The difference in the direction of the movement (‘go’ in Suppliants, ‘come back’ in Eumenides) is to be explained by the obvious fact that in Suppliants the assembly is extra scaenam, whereas in Eumenides the trial takes place on the stage, and therefore Athena highlights the coming back even more than the act of going out of the scene.


Cf. Supp. 625-626: λέξωµεν ἐπ’ ᾿Αργείοις / εὐχὰς ἀγαθάς, ξενίου στόµατος τιµὰς (‘let us utter prayers of blessings for the Argives, in return for their good deed’); l. 658: φιλότιµος εὐχά (‘words of prayer with love and honor’), and Eum. 917: οὐδ’ ἀτιµάσω πόλιν (‘I will not dishonour the city’); l. 921: ἐγὼ κατεύχοµαι and l. 978: ἐπεύχοµαι (‘I pray’).


In line with the main themes of the whole trilogy, the plea to good government is thus developed according to the principle of µηδὲν ἄγαν, and it is also related to the element of phobos, the reverence towards institutions, which is necessary to preserve the social order: the Furies themselves had largely developed these themes during the play, especially at ll. 517-530, which Athena recalls here, with precise verbal parallels (cf. esp. 526-530: µήτ’ ἄναρκτον βίον µήτε δεσποτούµενον κτλ. [‘not a life of anarchy nor a life under despotism’] with ll. 696-697: τὸ µήτ’ ἄναρχον µήτε δεσποτούµενον … βουλεύω σέβειν [‘I counsel to maintain … a system which is neither anarchic nor despotic’], and ll. 517-521: ἔσθ’ ὅπου τὸ δεινὸν εὖ κτλ. [‘there is a proper place for the fear-inspiring’] with ll. 698-699: µὴ τὸ δεινὸν πᾶν πόλεως ἔξω βαλεῖν [‘not to cast fear completely out of the city’], and l. 525: σέβοι δίκαν [‘to revere justice’], with l. 700: ἐνδίκως σέβας [‘rigthteously object of reverence’]).


Sommerstein, Aeschylus, i, p. 379.


Sommerstein, Aeschylus, ii, p. 443.


Sommerstein, Aeschylus, i, p. 379.


See above, n. 1.


On the other hand, Aeschylus could have referred to diplomatic agreements between the two cities only by means of vague allusions, given that Athens was completely irrelevant to the Danaids myth.


On this point see esp. Bakewell, Aeschylus’s Suppliant Women.


According to F. Zetlin, ‘The Politics of Eros in the Danaid Trilogy of Aeschylus’, in R. Hexter and D. Selten (eds.), Innovations of Antiquity (New York: Routledge, 1992), p. 211, not only Suppliant Women but the whole trilogy depicts progressive stages in the integration of Danaids into the polis.


Pelasgos addresses a similar comment to the Egyptian herald as well: ποίοισιν εἰπὼν προξένοις ἐγχωρίοις; (919; see the note ad loc. in Friis Johansen, Whittle (iii, p. 235).


See Friis Johansen, Whittle (iii, pp. 306-307) for the pros and cons of each hypothesis.


‘I will escort you, by the light of blazing torches, to your place below and beneath the earth, together with my servants who guard my image’ (Sommerstein, Aeschylus, ii, p. 481).


‘I invite you to come, jewel of the whole land of Theseus, honoured band of girls, of women, and procession of old women’. For different interpretations of this passage see A. H. Sommerstein, Aeschylus. Eumenides (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 276-277, and Aeschylus, ii, p. 481, n. 195.


Another element that unites the ends of the two tragedies is also the fact that the identity of the secondary Chorus singing the processional song in Eum. 1032-1047 and in Supp. 1034-1051 (here alternating with the main Chorus) remains uncertain. For a synoptic view see A. J. Bowen, Aeschylus: Suppliant Women (Oxford: Aris & Phillips, 2013).


It is not a coincidence that the archaic features of this drama (on which see S. Scullion, ‘Tragic Dates’, Classical Quarterly, 52 [2002], pp. 81-101) are bound precisely to the most striking and intentionally reproducible aspects, as in particular the extraordinary prominence of the chorus and of lyric, the absence of the prologue, the frequency of the ring pattern, applied with a kind of geometric rigor and, more in general, the tendency (on which see Friis Johansen, 1954) to make rather mechanical parallels. On the other hand, the examination of the unconscious stylistic features (such as those regarding, in the spoken parts, the three word trimeters, the solutions, the caesuras, the various types of enjambement, etc.) does not offer evidence against the dating to the late sixties, that is in a position between Seven and Oresteia. For these statistical surveys, with reference to Aeschylus’ theater, see in part. A. F. Garvie, Aeschylus’ Supplices: Play and Trilogy (Bristol: Phoenix Press, 20062), pp. 32-34.

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