By Fabian Meinel
Toxins is ubiquitous in Greek tragedy: matricidal Orestes seeks purification at Apollo's shrine in Delphi; carrion from Polyneices' unburied corpse fills the altars of Thebes; delirious Phaedra suffers from a 'pollution of the mind'. This booklet undertakes the 1st distinctive research of the $64000 position which toxins and its opposite numbers - purity and purification - play in tragedy. It argues that pollutants is principal within the negotiation of tragic crises, pleasant a various array of capabilities by means of advantage of its characteristics and institutions, from making experience of adversity to configuring civic id within the come across of self and different. whereas basically a literary examine supplying shut readings of numerous key performs, the booklet additionally presents vital new views on pollutants. it is going to attract a huge diversity of students and scholars not just in classics and literary reports, but additionally within the examine of religions and anthropology.
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Extra info for Pollution and Crisis in Greek Tragedy
To understand ‘human nature’ is to understand the patterns behind history. 16 17 18 19 20 21 It is notoriously difficult to draw a line between ‘religion’ and ‘magic’ in ancient Greece. The category of ‘magic’ is controversial. g. Graf (1997). Holmes (2010) 9 n. 28 points out that the medical writers never present the gods as causes of disease. The Hippocratic doctors’ self-distancing from healer-priests may be considered ‘a rhetorical stratagem in an agonistic “medical marketplace”’ (ibid. 10) in view of the continuities that have been shown to exist between Greek medicine and traditional beliefs: see esp.
Although the idea of an inherited evil is not a straightforward ritual pollution and is elsewhere often referred to in language which, although adumbrating pollution, remains decidedly vague,34 here in Hippolytus the protagonists, with the exception of Theseus, draw inherited evil and the terminology of pollution closely together. Theseus’ words are characterised precisely by the vague adumbration of pollution which often crops up when the idea of inherited evil is at stake. Confronted with Phaedra’s death, his thoughts immediately turn to ‘an unperceived stain from some avenging spirit’ (κηλὶς ἄφραστος ἐξ ἀλαστόρων τινός, 820).
13–5 (both quoting Semonides fr. 7 and Ar. Equ. 1284–5; von Staden also draws attention to the fact that birth is considered polluting); more widely: Carson (1999). Euripides’ Hippolytus 35 Word about Phaedra’s ‘pollution’ (her illicit desire) impairs Hippolytus’ hagneia. To see the point here and indeed realise that the notion of actual transmission of pollution is arguably toyed with here, we need to take this formulation literally. It is, very concretely, words, originating from Phaedra’s polluted mind and transmitted by the nurse, that attack the youth’s purity.