Many Greek Texts are a Foundation in Learning about Ancient Times

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Many Greek texts have many themes and are a foundation in learning about ancient times and interpreting them in the modern world. Many individuals read and decipher Greek Mythology in order to explain certain phenomena or beginnings of the world in addition to describing and telling stories about the social interactions, fate, power, family and many significant themes in life. A major topic that is depicted in many of the texts is how the ancient societies created a sense of duty or obligation, which can serve as an asset but in the same way can also be a major flaw. For instance, Medea by Euripides and Oedipus by Sophocles were plays taken place in ancient Greece but written by Athens depicting the stubbornness and determinization of ancient Greek civilians. Both texts depict that the mythical gods and creature of ancient times had no morals or values. Which allowed them to finish any duty no matter the consequences. Many of the characters express great deals of pain and obstacles which all end in homicide or suicide, tragic. The main characters of both texts destroy everything they love around them.

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Medea was determined to kill her children and make Jason, her husband, experience the worst life as a way to seek revenge for her exile and betrayal. However, she was bringing a new life to her savior. Similarly, Oedipus was determined to find the culprit and when he finds out it is himself, he must continue to carry out the duty of banishing the culprit and eventually gouges out his own eyes. The loss and exile of Medea and the gouging of Oedipus eyes exemplifying that anger and determination blinds a person and can lead into more chaos than planned. If some obligations or duties were eased or forgotten, death and tragedy could have been avoided for both protagonists. In the end both are dramatic tragedies, in which the authors purposely included intense imagery, vivid descriptions, soliloquies and many more rhetoric devices in order to projects and enhance the tragedy.

Medea’s duty to gain revenge only sparked after her husband’s infidelity. Therefore, the deepest and most brutal revenge was through the children she bore him. Although this seems like a horrific action, Medea did not want her children to be killed by the new kin of the King of Corith. She had an instinct to protect her children as a mother, but also carried anger and resentment because Jason married another woman. Therefore, her plan was to kill all her remaining family on her own and leave for Athens. She kills everyone but Jason, in order for him to feel the pain and betrayal she did and live a lonely life. In the poem, Medea prays and schemes “O Zeus, and Zeus’s Justice, and the light of Helios, I now shall be victor over my enemies… He’ll never see them alive again, the children that I bore him. Nor will he ever father another child: his new bride, evil woman, she must die an evil death, extinguished by my drugs… (ll. 785ff)”. Medea shows her anger to the Gods and expresses her most truthful emotions. This leads her to poisons the new princess and kill the king, then lastly kills her own children. Medea’s emotions took a hold of her and lead her to ultimately breaking everything she had with Jason. Medea states and reveals her feelings toward Jason after he betrays her, “You dishonored my bed. There was no way you could go on to lead a pleasant life, to laugh at me… So, go ahead, call me a lion, call me a Scylla, skulking in her Etruscan cave. I’ve done what I had to do. I’ve jabbed your heart” (ll. 785ff) Medea is aware of her actions and the extent she has to go to see Jason suffer and feel as much wrath and emotion as she does. She claims that she “jabbed [his] heart”, but that is implicitly how she truly feels, her own heart is damaged. She hurts everyone even herself. Through her actions, Medea displays heroic characteristics by demonstrating that she is eager and will go through any extremity for revenge. She calls herself a “lion” and compares herself to Scylla, the lesser forces of evil between the sea monsters. This implies that her actions are caused by betrayal and wrath, her emotions, not because of sole satisfaction for evil. At first revenge was only toward Jason, however her poor decisions and the power of wrath outweighed the desire to keep the children. Rather than utilizing brut power to achieve her goal, Medea utilizes her psyche. Physical qualities are noteworthy, but Medea uses her intelligence and manipulations. Her creative villain idea leads her to giving poisonous gifts to her kids and sending them to the King of Corinth. She molded and took a hold of her fate. She experienced the most betrayal and loss, however in order to gain revenge she had to lose everything herself as well. Jason was left with nothing as Medea was too. In the end they were even.

On the other hand, Oedipus’ defeat is due to his yearn and desire to always seek the truth. He felt it was his duty to seek the truth which that made him counsel the oracle and find out about the prophecy. Alike Medea, he did not stop until he attained his goals. He was very sure and prideful of himself, which was the true cause of his own death and tragic. He let pride supersede good judgement. In the beginning Oedipus tells Creon “I have my own reasons for driving out this infection. The killer, whoever it may be, could kill again and lay those deadly hands on me. As I serve this cause, so I serve myself. So I stand side by side with the god, Fighting for the rights of the murdered man. I damn the killer, whoever he may be, An unknown man, or one of many. May he suffer and die, pain beyond pain. I damn myself, if I should come to know That he shares my hearth and home — Then I call this curse to fall on me.” (ll. 244-51) This entire dialogue from Oedipus shows the irony that later develops in the play. This is very interesting because in the end he is the killer himself and has been cursed for life. Oedipus unknowingly continues the prophecy and discovers that he killed his father, married his mother, and had many incest children. In the beginning of the play, the Prophet is blind but knows, while Oedipus can see however does not know. In the end, he finally learns the truth and pulls his eyes out, clearly emphasizing his blindness. He unsees the evil actions he has committed however he will always know. His mother and wife also heard a similar prophecy told to Lias, but both were too blind to see that it was him all along. They did not put the pieces together. When she learns the truth, she hangs herself in order to end the agony. The truth hurts.

To add on, immense hubris was also expressed throughout both characters. Medea was prideful and was not going to remain silent. Her anger and emotions overcame her silence and she expressed her anger which caused her to kill her beloved children. The pride and victory over Jason brought her a restful feeling back. Oedipus was pressed on the idea to continue seeking the truth. And through his pride and boasting self-confidence, eventually turned out that he feed his ego so much he ended himself. Both characters caused of their own downfall.

Ultimately, both texts have tragic endings however, Oedipus earns a higher reputation from Medea’s revengeful actions because of their gender differences and the reputation of each. Medea did not reflect ideas and follow norms as the “normal’ women of ancient Greece. She determined her own fate. Medea was a woman’s perspective, and expressed the emotions that women hold. Only Medea fully projected them and depicts to what extent and the power women also have. While Oedipus determination is praised, his actions are because of his own poor decision-making skills, we notice the masculinity and privilege of men thought out the plot. Medea is not seen a such a tragedy as Oedipus Rex because ancient times as modern times, condemn women and place them inferior to men. Therefore, Oedipus Rex seems like the most compelling tragedy. Oedipus story has a beginning, middle, and an end while Medea’s story is predicted at an early stage of the story not allowing the plots further to develop. The gods however did not interfere with Medea’s actions and let her power as a mortal thrive, while Oedipus believed that one who leads without purpose shall be brought down by the gods, which is what happen to him. He interfered with the prophecy and fate of his life. He ended up taking his own life anyway to fulfill his promise.

Overall, both texts have many foundational ideas and themes that are projected in the world today. Pop culture and modern art has exhibited modern versions of Medea and Oedipus in movies, plays and shows. They are representation of ancient Greek civilization and societies. Through Medea, we learn the extremities of emotions. It also exhibited how duty and obligation go a long way, no matter the consequences that may aspire from the actions. Medea gained revenge but lost everything she loved and lived for. Oedipus was determined to seek the truth and change his fate; however, such determination blinded the truth, which was in front of him…well was him the entire time.

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Many Greek Texts Are a Foundation in Learning About Ancient Times. (2021, Mar 23). Retrieved January 28, 2023 , from
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