Mythological Allusions in Medea

Rachana Mallavarapu

The Main Gods of Greek Mythology

The Four Mythological Allusions

Throughout the play, there are many references to multiple mythological characters. For this cultural connection, we will focus on 4 of them: Sisyphus, Apollo, Zeus, and Hera.

Sisyphus

-founder of the city of Corinth (received by Medea)

-married Tyro. Oracle of offspring killing Tyro's father (who is also Sisyphus's brother), Salmoneus. Sisyphus tries to kill Salmoneus and take the throne, while Tyro tries to get her children killed by Sisyphus. In the end, Zeus strikes Salmoneus with a lightning bolt for his disrespect to Zeus.

-seduced his niece

-believed that he could outwit the great god of all gods (Zeus)

-got in trouble a lot for revealing Zeus's secrets.

-One example in which Zeus ordered Thanatos to chain up Sisyphus in Tartarus. However, Sisyphus cheated death by imprisoning Thanatos when Sisyphus asked how the chains worked. The Judges told him to roll back the stone up a hill and that was his punishment for rest of eternity.







In Medea, Medea refers to Sisyphus through mentioning the city of Corinth, which she gave to Sisyphus:


"You must not let Jason's marriage make you a laughing stock among Corinthians, compatriots of Sisyphus, for you trace your family from a noble father and from Helios, the sun".


"And in this place, this land of Sisyphus, I'll initiate a solemn celebration...".



Apollo

-son of Zeus and Leta

-twin brother of Artemis (power over plague)

-god of music, prophesy, colonization, medicine, archery, poetry, dance, light, and intellectual inquiry

- carer of herds and flocks (Asclepius raises people from the dead; death of Cyclops)

-director of the choir of Muses

-destroyer of rats and locusts

-god of religious healing (would give those guilty of murder and other immoral deeds a ritual purification)

-cannot speak a lie

-Trojan War (helped Paris kill Achilles)

-job: harness his chariot with four horses and drive the Sun across the sky



Popular Myths

-Trouble with Eros (Daphne)

-Music Contest (Marsyas the pan pipe player)

-Niobe's Jealousy (Leto)

-Erymanthian Bear (Aphrodite and Adonis)






In Medea, Apollo is used as a reference to one who reveals prophesies to Aegeus.


" I've just left Apollo's ancient oracle."

"So what did Apollo say about it?"



Zeus

-God of sky and weather, law, order and fate

-overthrew Cronus

-drew lots with Poseidon and Hades

-supreme ruler of all gods

-weapon: thunderbolt

-married to Hera but had many other affairs

-represented as the god of justice and mercy, the protector of the weak, and the punisher of the wicked



Popular Myths

-his birth and upbringing

-The Titan War (overthrow Titans and throw them into Tartarus)

-The Great Deluge (flood the earth to destroy mankind and begin the world anew)

-Herakles (birth and life; favored son; transfer to Olympus at death)

-Trojan War




In Medea...


Oh Zeus and Earth and Sun—
do you hear how this young wife
sings out her misery?


Zeus will plead for you in this.


Do you hear what's she's saying, how she calls
to Themis, who hears our prayers, and Zeus,
who guards, they say, the promises men swear.


Suffering such injustice, she cries out,
calling the gods—calling Themis,
Zeus' daughter, goddess of those promises
which carried her across the ocean


O Zeus, don't overlook who bears the blame

for all this evil.


O Zeus, why did you give men certain ways
to recognize false gold, when there's no mark,
no token on the human body,
to indicate which men are worthless.


Oh Zeus, and Justice, child of Zeus,
and flaming Helios—now, my friends,
we'll triumph over all my enemies.


O light which comes from Zeus,


when Hera, Zeus' wife,


I would reply to your words at length,
if father Zeus did not already know
what I did for you and what you did to me.


O Zeus,
do you hear how I'm being driven off,


Zeus on Olympus,



Hera

-wife and sister of Zeus

-supreme goddess

-goddess of marriage and childbirth

-takes special care of married women

-married Zeus to cover her shame after Zeus raped her

-revolt against Zeus (Briareus)

-aided Jason during his journey to find the Golden Fleece




Popular Myths

-competition for golden apple against Aphrodite and Athena

-Trojan War (assisted the Greeks)



In Medea...


when Hera, Zeus' wife,
sent her wandering in a fit


I'll take them to Hera's sacred lands
in Acraia, so no enemy of mine
will commit sacrilege against them
by tearing up their graves.

Bibliography

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