Ancient Athenian Drama
5th century BC, Ancient Greek.
In order that Hippolytus might be protected from Zeus, the goddess Artemis changed his features and his age, and gave him a new name.
This has been a powerful and compelling drama. As a final act of godly intervention, Hippolytus has been dragged over rocks by frightened horses with his arms entangled in the reins and brought back with dreadful injuries and broken limbs to his father. And as I watch the youthful Hippolytus dying in his father’s arms – his father Theseus, and they are now touchingly reconciled with one another – I am conscious that the playwright Euripides is playing a game with us.
The goddess Artemis has said that in revenge for Aphrodite’s spite – a spite that has been the principal cause of all this heartbreak and tragedy – she will take from Aphrodite and kill
whatever man she loves most on earth. This is Adonis. But those of us who know the myth anticipate what must come next, although even now the chorus is moving towards the edge of the floor to receive a wholly justified applause at the end of a marvellous performance. The story has not finished, the conclusion is missing. And its very omission seems to me to amplify its importance.
Hippolytus, as many should know and others will learn when I tell them, was resurrected from the dead by Asclepius, a son of Apollo, and set upon the Earth again. Zeus, driven into a fury by this, drove a thunderbolt into Asclepius. The goddess Artemis, however, protected Hippolytus in a mist and wafted him away, some say to Crete, others to Delos or even to southern Italy, and so that he might be protected from Zeus, she changed his features and his age, and gave him a new name.