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A Chorus of One Danaid*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 May 2015

D.A. Hester*
University of Adelaide


At the end of the Suppliant Women of Aeschylus, a lyrical argument develops which is without any exact parallel in Greek tragedy. Our single, badly corrupted, manuscript does not name the combatants; at the most crucial section it does not even indicate change of singer by the customary dash; it has no list of dramatis personae. The chorus of Danaids has long been arguing against a forced marriage, and it is generally accepted that they are one of the participants in the argument. But who are their antagonists? On the older view, the chorus is divided against itself; on the more recent one, another group of singers is disputing with them. Who these singers are is not generally agreed, though the majority vote is for a chorus of handmaidens. It will be my concern in this paper to argue that the antagonist is one person and that person is Hypermnestra, who, in the sequel, alone of the Danaids spared her husband, Lynceus, and thus founded the royal line of Argos, where the play is set. The exact way in which Aeschylus portrayed her action, and the fate of her sisters, are quite uncertain.

Research Article
Copyright © Australasian Society for Classical Studies 1987

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1 Versions of the legend vary: the best discussion is in Garvie, A.F. (ed.), Aeschylus’ Supplices (Cambridge 1969), 163233Google Scholar with references; see also Beck, R.H., Aeschylus: Playwright Educator (The Hague 1975), 143–67 (especially bold);Google ScholarBogner, H., Der tragische Gegensatz (Heidelberg 1947), 104–28;Google ScholarCantarella, R., Eschile (Firenze 1941), 140–50;Google ScholarGagarin, M., Aeschylean Drama (Berkeley 1976), 127–32;Google ScholarJäkel, S., ‘The 14th Heroic Letter of Ovid & the Danaid Trilogy of A.,‘ Mnemosyne 26 (1973), 239–48;CrossRefGoogle ScholarJohansen, H.F. and Whittle, E.W., Die Hiketiden des Aeschylos (Wien 1979), 5768;Google ScholarWinnington-Ingram, R.P., Studies in Aeschylus (Cambridge 1983), 5572 (from JHS 81 [1961], 141-52).Google Scholar

2 See Garvie op.cit. 211-25 with references; also Benveniste, E., ‘La legende des Danaids’, RHR 136(1949), 129–38;CrossRefGoogle ScholarBurian, P.(l), Suppliant Drama(diss. Princeton 1971), 3478;Google ScholarBurian, P.,(2), ‘Pelasgus and politics in A.’ Danaid triology,’ WS N.F. 8 (1974), 514;Google ScholarBuxton, R.G.A., Persuasion in Greek Tragedy (Cambridge 1982), 6790;Google ScholarCaldwell, R.(1), The Psychoanalytical Criticism of Aeschylean Tragedy (diss. Minneapolis 1972), 88129;Google ScholarCaldwell, R.(2), ‘The psychology of A.’ S.,’ Arethusa 1 (1977), 4570;Google ScholarColeman, W.M., The role of fear in the social order of the extant plays of A. (diss. Tallahassee 1973), 115–54;Google ScholarFerrari, E., ‘La misandriadelleDanaideASNP 7 (1977), 1303–21;Google ScholarGantz, T., ‘Love and death in the S. of A.,’ Phoenix 32 (1978), 279–87;CrossRefGoogle ScholarIreland, S., ‘The problem of motivation in the S. of A.,’ RhM 117 (1974), 429;Google ScholarJarkho, V.N., ‘Zeus nelle S. di E.‘, Studi E. Volterra (Milano 1971), 3.785-800;Google Scholar Johansen/Whittle, op.cit.; Lesby, A., Die tragische Dichtung derHellenen (Göttingen 1972), 98108;Google ScholarLivingstone, R., ‘The rights of the weak’, Hibbert Journal 39 (1940–1), 6573;Google ScholarMacKinnon, J.K., ‘The reason for the Danaids’ flight’, CQ 28 (1978), 7482;CrossRefGoogle ScholarNeuhausen, K.A., ‘Tereus und die Danaiden bei Aischylos’, Hermes 97 (1969), 167–86;Google ScholarSpier, H., ‘The motive for the Suppliants’ Flight’, CJ 57 (1962), 315–7;Google ScholarThomson, G., ‘The S. of A.’, Eirene 9 (1971), 2530;Google ScholarUntersteiner, M., Le S. di E.’, Dioniso 6 (1937), 2450;Google ScholarWolf, E., Griechisches Rechtsdenken 1 (Frankfurt 1950), 340–56.Google Scholar

3 For the fragments of the tetralogy see Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta ed. Radt, S. III (Gottingen 1985), 125 fr.5 (a single word!) for Egyptians, 15761 fr. 43–6 for Danaids, 131–3 fr. 13–15 (2½ lines) for the satyr-play Amymone.Google Scholar

4 See especially Garvie, , op.cit. 111–2, 191-5 with refs.;Google Scholar also Burian, , op.cit(l) 6970;Google ScholarBuxton, , op.cit. 84–5;Google ScholarFerguson, J., Companion to Greek Tragedy (Austin 1972), 6273;Google ScholarFerrari, , op.cit. 1316-21 and Maia 24 (1972), 353–6;Google Scholarvan der Graaf, C., ‘Les suivantes dans la choeur finale’, Mnemosyne 10 (1942), 281–5;Google Scholar Johansen/Whittle op.cit. 271-2,306-9; Lesky, , op.cit. 4951;Google ScholarMcCall, M., ‘The secondary choruses in A.’ S.’ CSCA 9 (1976), 117131;Google ScholarOwen, E.T., The Harmony of Aeschylus (Toronto 1952), 1718;Google ScholarRash, J.N., Meter and Language (diss. Princeton 1975), 251–7;Google Scholar Stoessl, op.cit. 27-47; Taplin, O., The Stagecraft of Aeschylus (Oxford 1977), 222–38;Google ScholarWebster, T.B.L., The Greek Chorus (London 1970), 124–5; Winnington-Ingram, op.cit. 144.Google Scholar

5 Garvie op.cit. 1-87 and 141-62 with refs. This is now almost universallyaccepted; to the contrary only: Earp, F.R., ‘The date of the S. of A.’, G & R 22 (1953), 118123;Google ScholarDiamantopoulos, A., ‘The Danaid Tetralogy of A.’, JHS 77 (1957), 220–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

6 Oxford Classical Text, 1937; cf. his translation (London 1930) and Aeschylus (Oxford 1948), 49–56. This goes back to U. von Wilamowitz (refs. in Garvie, op.cit. 207-8).

7 See, for example, the more recent Oxford Classical Text of Page, D.L. (Oxford 1972), 123.Google Scholar

8 Kaimio, M., The Chorus in Greek Drama Within the Light of the Person and Number Used (Helsinki 1970), especially 105.Google Scholar

9 An alternative emendation is Ferrari’s ‘display your might’

10 Reading Κwith Murray, etc.; Page has Κ ‘may that contest be hateful to Aphrodite’.

11 So I do not believe in the chorus of Argive women introduced by Lembke, J. (translation: Oxford 1975), even though I agree with her that the tone of the remarks would suit them.Google Scholar

12 E.g. 215 ‘this fate‘ = ‘our fate’.

13 Keeping ms. in 1051; the conjecture would give ‘the destiny of marriage is ours’. The ms. is uncertain in these forms, reading in 1032-3.

14 E.g. Smyth, H.W. (London 1922 [Loeb]): ‘a Danaid’, ‘a handmaiden’. I follow his line division. D.L. Page defends the line-division of his text in CQ 31 (1937), 97.Google Scholar

15 I was both pleased and sorry to find that this idea, though absent from the standard discussions, had been to some extent anticipated by Ferguson and Buxton (though it is not Buxton’s preferred alternative).

16 See Ferguson, op.cit.

17 See especially Murray, R.D., The motif of Io in A.’ S. (Princeton 1958).Google Scholar

18 A selection of recent views:

  • (a)

    (a) Both the final dialogue and the introduction of Antigone and Ismene into the lamentations are non-Aeschylean: Dawe, R.D., C.Q. n.s. 17 (1967), 1628,CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Dionysiaca: Nine Studies Page, D. (Cambridge 1978), 87103;Google ScholarFraenkel, E., Museum Helveticum 21 (1964), 5864;Google ScholarNicolaus, P., DieFragenach derEchtheit (diss. Tübingen 1967);Google ScholarPetersmann, H., Z. Ant. 22 (1972), 2534.Google Scholar

  • (b)

    (b) Part of the disputed passages is genuine, part spurious; Brown, A.L., C.Q. n.s. 26 (1976), 206–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar (genuine 1009-1025, 1054-78; the debate about burial is between the herald and the chorus, Antigone and Ismene not existing); Potscher, W., Eranos 56 (1958), 140154 (genuine 861-74 and the participation of the sisters in the lamentations; the final debate is spurious).Google Scholar

19 The attribution of the play to Aeschylus is unanimous in the ancient sources, and I find modern arguments to the contrary unconvincing, e.g. Griffith, M., The authenticity of the ‘P.B.’ (Cambridge 1977) with references. The issue is far too complex for discussion here.Google Scholar

20 Hester, D.A., ‘Very much the safest plan’, Antichthon 7 (1973), 813.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

21 See Pool, E.H., ‘Clytemnestra’s first entrance in AeschylusAgamemnon’, Mnemosyne 36 (1983), 71116, and of course Taplin, op.cit.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

22 Aristophanes, , Frogs 1028–9, 911-26.Google Scholar

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