Sunday, June 25, 2017
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The rational spirit of Greek philosophy and Euripides

 

Firstly, with an excess of wealth it is required For us to buy a husband and take for our bodies

A master; for not to take one is even worse. And now the question is serious whether we take

A good or bad one; for there is no easy escape For a woman, nor can she say no to her marriage.

She arrives among new modes of behaviour and manners,

And needs prophetic power, unless she has learnt at home,

How best to manage him who shares the bed with her.

And if we work out all this well and carefully, And the husband lives with us and lightly bears his yoke,

Then life is enviable. If not, I’d rather die.

A man, when he's tired of the company in his home,

Goes out of the house and puts an end to his boredom

And turns to a friend or companion of his own age.

But we are forced to keep our eyes on one alone.

What they say of us is that we have a peaceful time

Living at home, while they do the fighting in war.

How wrong they arel I would very much rather stand Three times in the front of battle than bear one child.

Euripides recognized the power of irrational, demonic forces that seethe within people—what he called “the bloody Fury raised by fiends of Hell.”22 A scorned Medea, seeking revenge against her husband by murdering their children, says:

I know indeed what evil I intend to do,

But stronger than all my afterthoughts is my fury

Fury that brings upon mortals the greatest evils.

In his plays, Euripides showed that the great tragedy of human existence is that reason can offer only feeble resistance against these com­pelling, relentless, and consuming passions. The forces that destroy erupt from the volcanic nature of human beings.

A second distinctive feature of Euripidean tragedy is its humanitarianism. No other Greek thinker expressed such concern for a fellow human being, such compassion for human suffer­ing. In The Trojan Women, Euripides depicted war as agony and not glory, and the warrior as brutish and not noble. He described the torments of women, for whom war meant the loss of homes, husbands, children, and freedom. In 416 B.C., Athens massacred the men of the small is­land of Melos, sold its women and children into slavery, and sacked the city. The Trojan Women, performed a year later, warned Athenians:

How are ye blind,

Ye treaders down of cities, ye that cast

Temples to desolation, and lay waste

Tombs, the untrodden sanctuaries where lie The ancient dead; yourselves so soon to diefi*

By exposing war as barbaric, Euripides was ex­pressing his hostility to the Athenian leaders, who persisted in continuing the disastrous Pelo­ponnesian War.

Visit Ninh Ninh, a place a philosophy in Vietnam: Ninh Binh homestay.

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