Exile - Exile in Drama, Literature, and The Arts - in Greek Tragedy

In Greek Tragedy

To wander away from the city-state (the home) is to be exposed without the protection of government (laws), friends and family. In the ancient Greek world, this was seen as a fate worse than death. Euripedes’ Medea–because of her actions (both in Iolcus and Corinth)-made herself and her family (including Jason) exiles in Corinth. She talks of her exiled state in Corinth: 'I, a desolate woman without a city... no relative at all'. Jason justifies his marriage, to a Corinth royal family member, as an attempt to better this situation: 'When I moved here from the land of Iolkos... what happier godsend could I have found than to marry the king's daughter, poor exile that I was... that I should bring up our children in a manner worthy of my house, and producing brothers to my children by you, I should place them all on level footing'.

Euripides likens all women's position to exile; in their having to leave home to serve their husbands. So Medea was doubly in exile, both in the ordinary sense, as a non-Greek foreigner, and as a woman. In the same speech, Medea talks of her status as 'a foreigner in the city' and, on being married, 'we come to new behaviour, new customs'.

The theme of exile also appears in Euripedes The Bacchae when Dionysus sends Agave and her sisters into exile. Dionysus: 'With your sisters you shall live in exile' and later Agave laments: 'Farewell my city...show us the way Asian women, show us the way to bitter exile'.

From the Bacchae:

Dionysus: All foreign lands now dance to his drum.
Pentheus: That is why they are foreign and we're not.

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