Psst, What’s the Password? Reading Euripides’ “Rhesus” Online

Euripides’ Rhesus 34-34

“Some news you announce is frightening to hear
Some of it gives me hope. Nothing is clear at all!”

τὰ μὲν ἀγγέλλεις δείματ᾿ ἀκούειν,
τὰ δὲ θαρσύνεις, κοὐδὲν καθαρῶς.

The Center for Hellenic Studies , the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre has been presenting scenes from Greek tragedy on the ‘small screen’ since the beginning of the US lockdown in March. As our director Paul O’Mahony has put it, since we are “unable to explore the outside world, we have no option but to explore further the inner one.

Last week, we turned to the most tragic of epics (according to Aristotle, at least), Homer’s Iliad.

This week we remain in Trojan War material but return to tragedy with the Rhesus, traditionally attributed to Euripides. This play covers the same basic events of Iliad 10 where Diomedes and Odysseus go out to spy on the Trojans at night and end up slaughtering the Thracian king Rhesus and his men to steal his horses. Euripides’ play give us a little more from both sides: we see a somewhat more monstrous Hektor, get to hear from Rhesus himself and are invited to see the slaughter as a calamity worthy of attention on its own.

In performing the play. we are less interested in whether or not it is genuinely Euripides–and its authenticity has been doubted for some time because of its contents and its style–than we are in how and why this play may have appealed to ancient audiences and what it has to tell us about the reception of Trojan War figures on the Athenian stage. We see Odysseus in many different plays, but having Hektor and his allies in a performance is a rare thing indeed. This play also invites us to think about the fixity of scenes from the Iliad we possess and the complex relationship between performative genres and audience expectations.

Euripides’ Rhesus 182

“It is right to cast your life in the dice game of fate
For things that are worthy.”

χρὴ δ᾿ ἐπ᾿ ἀξίοις πονεῖν
ψυχὴν προβάλλοντ᾿ ἐν κύβοισι δαίμονος.

Scenes (from George Theodoridis’ translation)

Section 1, Lines 1-223: Chorus, Hektor, Aeneas, Dolon 

Section 2, Lines 344-526: Chorus, Hektor, Rhesus  

Section 3, Lines 565-674: Odysseus, Diomedes, Athena, Paris 

Section 4, Lines 808-996: Hektor, Chariot Driver, Muse, Chorus 

Euripides’ Rhesus 394-397

“…I love to speak the truth
All the time and I am never a duplicitous man.
Long, long ago it would have been right for you to come
And share our pain…”

φιλῶ λέγειν
τἀληθὲς αἰεὶ κοὐ διπλοῦς πέφυκ᾿ ἀνήρ.
πάλαι πάλαι χρῆν τῇδε συγκάμνειν χθονὶ


Hector/Odysseus – Tim Delap
Aeneas/Rhesus/Athena/Chariot driver – Tabatha Gayle
Dolon/Diomedes/Muse – Evelyn Miller
Chorus/Paris – Paul O’Mahony
Special Guest, Mary Ebbott

Euripides, Rhesus 497-500

“Ajax doesn’t seem to me to be any lesser than him
Nor does Tydeus’ son. But that Odysseus,
He is the most twisted crook, a man bold enough to be arrogant,
One who has outraged this land most of all.”

Αἴας ἐμοὶ μὲν οὐδὲν ἡσσᾶσθαι δοκεῖ
χὠ Τυδέως παῖς· ἔστι δ᾿ αἱμυλώτατον
κρότημ᾿ Ὀδυσσεὺς λῆμά τ᾿ ἀρκούντως θρασὺς
καὶ πλεῖστα χώραν τήνδ᾿ ἀνὴρ καθυβρίσας·

Producers and Crew

Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Associate Director: Liz Fisher
Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University)
Dramaturg: Emma Pauly
Executive Producer: Lanah Koelle (Center for Hellenic Studies)
Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society)
Poster Artist: John Koelle
Poster Designer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies)

Euripides, Rhesus 756-57

“In addition to our suffering, this has been handled
With the greatest shame. This doubles the pain.”

κακῶς πέπρακται κἀπὶ τοῖς κακοῖσι πρὸς
αἴσχιστα· καίτοι δὶς τόσον κακὸν τόδε·

Upcoming Episodes (Go to CHS Project Page for more information)

Saturday, October 17 Assemblywomen, Aristophanes
with Francisco Barrenechea (University of Maryland, College Park)

October 21 Agamemnon, Aeschylus
with Fiona Macintosh (University of Oxford); translation by O. Taplin

October 28 Libation Bearers, Aeschylus; translation by O. Taplin

November 4 Eumenides, Aeschylus
with Ellen McLaughlin (Barnard College) and Andrew Simpson (Catholic Univeristy of America); translation by O. Taplin

Euripides, Rhesus 938-942

“Athena, you deserve the blame for this.
Odysseus and the son of Tydeus didn’t do it
Don’t imagine you sneaked by me.
Still, my sister Muses and I honor your city
Most of all….”

καὶ τοῦτ᾿, Ἀθάνα, παντὸς αἰτία μόρου—οὐδὲν
δ᾿ Ὀδυσσεὺς οὐδ᾿ ὁ Τυδέως τόκος
ἔδρασ᾿—ἔδρασας· μὴ δόκει λεληθέναι.
καίτοι πόλιν σὴν σύγγονοι πρεσβεύομεν
Μοῦσαι μάλιστα

Euripides, Rhesus 866

“I don’t know these Odysseuses you keep mentioning”

οὐκ οἶδα τοὺς σοὺς οὓς λέγεις Ὀδυσσέας·

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