Fragmentary Friday: Euripides Confuses (Himself?) On Women

Euripides is sometimes held up to be among Athens’ greatest misogynists. Close readings of his full plays can contradict this (sometimes). A handful of fragments can confound

Euripides, fr. 320 (Danae)

“There is neither fortress nor fortune
Nor anything else as hard to guard as a woman.”

οὐκ ἔστιν οὔτε τεῖχος οὔτε χρήματα
οὔτ’ ἄλλο δυσφύλακτον οὐδὲν ὡς γυνή.

Euripides, fr. 276 (Auge)

“We are women: in some things, we hesitate.
But in others, no one can surpass our courage.”

γυναῖκές ἐσμεν• τὰ μὲν ὄκνῳ νικώμεθα,
τὰ δ’ οὐκ ἂν ἡμῶν θράσος ὑπερβάλοιτό τις.

Euripides, fr. 358 (Erechtheus)

“Children have nothing sweeter than their mother.
Love your mother children, there is no kind of love anywhere
Sweeter than this one to love.”

οὐκ ἔστι μητρὸς οὐδὲν ἥδιον τέκνοις•
ἐρᾶτε μητρός, παῖδες, ὡς οὐκ ἔστ’ ἔρως
τοιοῦτος ἄλλος ὅστις ἡδίων ἐρᾶν.

Euripides, fr. 137 (Andromeda)

“Best of all riches is to find a noble spouse.”

τῶν γὰρ πλούτων ὅδ’ ἄριστος
γενναῖον λέχος εὑρεῖν.

Perhaps this is at the root of the problem:

Euripides, fr. 26 (Aeolus)

“Aphrodite has many shades:
She can please or aggrieve men completely.”

τῇ δ’ ᾿Αφροδίτῃ πόλλ’ ἔνεστι ποικίλα•
τέρπει τε γὰρ μάλιστα καὶ λυπεῖ βροτούς.

 

(And, yes, these are just some fragments from his lost plays A-E!)

Euripides, fr. 25 (Aeolus): On old Men, Lurking and Thinking

 

“Alas, the ancient proverb holds well:

We old men are nothing other than a sound

and an image, lurking imitations of dreams.

We have no mind and but we think we know how to think well.”

 

φεῦ φεῦ, παλαιὸς αἶνος ὡς καλῶς ἔχει·

γέροντες οὐδέν ἐσμεν ἄλλο πλὴν ψόφος

καὶ σχῆμ’, ὀνείρων δ’ ἕρπομεν μιμήματα·

νοῦς δ’ οὐκ ἔνεστιν, οἰόμεσθα δ’ εὖ φρονεῖν.

 

This is certainly uplifting. Not sure if I prefer to age with Euripides in mind or this:

 

Democritus, fr. 296

 

“Old age is the perfect handicap: it has everything and lacks everything.”

 

γῆρας ὁλόκληρός ἐστι πήρωσις·

πάντ’ ἔχει καὶ πᾶσιν ἐνδεῖ.

 

If not, maybe we can take some solace in Pindar:

 

Pindar, Olympian 4.25-27

“Sometimes even young men grow grey hair before the right time of life”

 

φύονται δὲ καὶ νέοις

ἐν ἀνδράσιν πολιαί

θαμάκι παρὰ τὸν ἁλικίας ἐοικότα χρόνον

 

But if we get too high on that, we can always rely on Cicero to bring us back to earth:

 

Cicero, On Old Age 24

“No one is so old that he thinks he could not live another year”

nemo enim est tam senex qui se annum non putet posse vivere