Euripidean euboulia and the problem of 'tragic politics'

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The tragedians’ frequent citation of euboulia (‘deliberative virtue’) helped audiences to connect the deliberations of tragic characters to the discourses and politics of their own cities in their own time. Euripides’ Suppliant Women draws on, and problematizes, contemporary Athenian debates about the extent and nature of the city's euboulia. The important role of pity and sungnome (‘sympathy’) in affecting deliberation is also highlighted by this play. The Rhesus is less Atheno-centric but shows Greeks that euboulia, while valuable, is often thwarted by bad luck or divine intervention. Hector's character and actions valorize group consultation. But the plan he agrees upon does not avert disaster. Meanwhile, Odysseus shows that individual leaders sometimes need to be eubouloi without recourse to the advice of others. Both plays model better and worse ways of deliberating whilst at the same time reminding Greeks (especially Athenians) that there are always unknowns which can’t be planned for.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWhy Athens? A Reappraisal of Tragic Politics
EditorsDavid Carter
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)978-0-19-956232-9
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


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