Playwright, Composer. One of the three giants of Ancient Greek tragedy, along with Aeschylus and Sophocles. He lived from 484 BC to 406 BC. Euripides is admired today for his remarkably modern sensibilities and insights into psychology. He used traditional legends to question the social, political and religious views of his time; his mythological characters are presented as ordinary people, rocked by external forces and internal passions beyond their control. There is no rational order in Euripides' universe, which appears to be ruled by chance. Among the themes he explored were the unequal status of women ("Alcestis", 438 BC, "Medea", 431 BC), slavery ("Andromache", 425 BC), the innocent victims of war ("The Trojan Women", 415 BC), and the destructive amoral power of the gods ("Hippolytus", 428 BC, "The Bacchae", 405 BC). Besides writing pure tragedy, he also pioneered in what became the genres of melodrama, tragicomedy, and romantic drama (the lost "Andromeda", 412 BC). For much of antiquity Euripides was hailed as "the philosopher of the stage" and his impact on subsequent Western literature was vast. Of his estimated 92 plays, 18 tragedies and one satyr play survive complete. The son of affluent parents, Euripides was raised in Phyla, near Athens. As a child he participated in religious functions associated with the aristocracy, and evidently received a liberal education. Aeschylus, the philosopher Anaxagoras, and later Socrates and the sophists all influenced his creative development. His debut with a tetralogy of plays including "Peliades" in 455 BC came in last place at Athens' annual City Dionysia festival. In his time Euripides was too controversial to be accorded much official honor. He won only five first prizes, one of them posthumously. But his preeminence as a dramatist was recognized. He was chosen to compete at the City Dionysia 22 times, roughly every other year of his career, producing four plays for each event. Athenian democratic theatre wasn't just for entertainment, it was expected to make people think and stimulate public discourse. Euripides supplied this to a provocative degree that made him enemies among politicians and other writers. Aristophanes lampooned him in several of his comedies. The consistent gadfly quality of his work suggests that opinion and awards meant less to him than the opportunities of confronting his fellow citizens with his ideas. Of his life outside the theatre we know almost nothing that is not invention or satire passed down over the millenia. [For a look at these Euripidean legends, please click on the top portrait photo]. He married a woman named Melito and had three sons, one of whom, Euripides the Younger, became a playwright. He kept aloof from politics but maintained a vigorous interest in his city's cultural scene. His private library was said to have been one of the largest in Greece. The ruinous effects of Athens' doomed war against Sparta darkened Euripides' later life. In 408 BC he accepted an invitation to visit the court of Archelaus I at Pella in Macedonia. He died there in 406 BC and was buried near an Athenian settlement in the valley of Arethousa. When news of Euripides' death reached Athens, his aged rival Sophocles led a chorus in mourning at the Theatre of Dionysus. The last three dramas he wrote in Pella, "The Bacchae", "Iphigenia in Aulis" and the now lost "Alcmaeon in Corinth", were presented posthumously at the 405 BC City Dionysia and took top honors. A cenotaph was erected for him outside the gates of Piraeus, along the walled road linking that city with Athens; its famous epitaph, "All Greece is the monument of Euripides", was probably written by Timotheus of Miletus. Pausanias the travel writer reported that the cenotaph was still standing in the 2nd Century AD. When he died Euripides was already famous throughout the Greek world, and during the 4th Century BC his popularity far surpassed that of Aeschylus and Sophocles (and remains so today). Aristotle criticized his innovations but conceded he was "the most tragic of poets" in his ability to stir "fear and pity" into spectators. His realism influenced the authors of Greek New Comedy (especially Menander) and Roman drama, and much later the French classicists Racine and Molière. In Dante's "The Divine Comedy" Euripides is named among the great Greek pagans in Limbo. His extant plays were transmitted through two different manuscript collections. Ten "Select Plays" served as required reading in Greek and Byzantine schools: "Rhesus" (date unknown), "Alcestis", "Medea", "Hippolytus", "Andromache", "Hecuba" (c. 424 BC), "The Trojan Women", "The Phoenician Women" (c. 410 BC), "Orestes" (408 BC), and "The Bacchae". The authorship of "Rhesus" has been disputed since the 17th Century and opinion remains divided on the matter. The "Alphabetic Plays" probably came from the sole surviving book of a multi-volume alphabetical codex of Euripides' dramas. They are "Heracleidae" (c. 430 BC), "The Suppliants" (c. 423 BC), "Electra" (c. 420 BC), "Heracles" (c. 416 BC), "Iphigeneia in Tauris" (c. 414 BC), "Ion" (c. 414 BC), "Helen" (412 BC), "Cyclops" (c. 408 BC), and "Iphigeneia at Aulis". "Cyclops" stands out as the only Ancient Greek satyr play that has come down to us complete. 18 plays from both sources appeared in the first printed edition of Euripides (1503); "Electra" did not surface for publication until 1545. The earliest edition of all the existing plays dates from 1551. Euripides was not only in the vanguard of Athenian drama. He composed the music for his plays and was linked with the "New Music" movement of the late 5th Century BC. Traditional Ancient Greek music had strict rules that were observed for centuries. It was monophonic and syllabic (melodies sung and played in unison, one note per syllable), dignified in tone, and wedded to a strong spiritual and educational ethos. "New Music" practitioners like Melanippides, Philoxenus, and especially Timotheus of Miletus broke these boundaries by writing kithara songs and choral odes that were sensual, deliberately virtuosic and experimental, and from the 420s BC the audience response amounted to a popular revolution. Euripides recognized the dramatic potential of the new style and employed it in his mature theatre scores; he was also a friend and early champion of Timotheus and may have been influenced by him. Cultural conservatives denounced the trend and it gave the comic poets more ammunition against Euripides. The only contemporary description of his music - in effect one of the earliest known pieces of music criticism - is in Aristophanes' "The Frogs" (405 BC). In it the god Dionysus travels to Hades to bring the recently-deceased Euripides back to Athens, only to discover he must judge a bitter contest of supremacy between his favorite playwright and Aeschylus. After tearing apart each other's characterizations and verse, the two dramatists move on to their melodies. Aeschylus mocks Euripides for using melisma (two or more sung notes per syllable) and kitharistic lyric solos, and for adapting "impure" music into his tragedies. "This fellow here gets his songs from anywhere" Aeschylus huffs, citing drinking songs, depressing foreign flute strains, lamentations and sordid dance tunes. Aristophanes drives the point home with a spoof of a Euripidean ode to the clattering of castanets, an instrument used by Greek prostitutes to attract customers. Rudely funny as it is, and missing the crucial element of music, this scene is still informative because Euripides' composing style had to have been recognizable enough for the parodies to work. (And we know they did - "The Frogs" was Aristophanes' greatest success). Otherwise all we have are two musical fragments, dating from 3rd Century BC copies, that are commonly attributed to Euripides: seven lines of a choral stasimon from his play "Orestes", and part of a choral ode from "Iphigeneia in Aulis". It is uncertain if the music is actually by Euripides, and reconstructing performing versions involves a lot of conjecture. But the "Stasimon from Orestes", at least, has an eerie grandeur well matched to the text. It has been recorded several times since the late 1970s. (bio by: Bobb Edwards)
"All Greece is the monument of Euripides. The Macedonian earth covers only his bones, for it was there that his life reached its end. His homeland is Athens, the Greece of all Greece. He gave much delight through his muse and is greatly esteemed".
Burial: Non-Cemetery Burial Specifically: Cenotaph on the road from Piraeus to Athens, Greece. Last documented around 150 AD, now lost *Cenotaph [?]
Maintained by: Find A Grave Originally Created by: Bobb Edwards Record added: Mar 04, 2012
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