The Suppliants (Aeschylus)
The Suppliants (Greek Ικέτιδες "Hiketides", also translated as The Suppliant Maidens) is a play by Aeschylus. It was probably first performed sometime after 470 BC as the first play in a trilogy which included the lost plays The Egyptians and The Daughters of Danaus. It was once thought to be the earliest surviving play by Aeschylus due to the relatively anachronistic function of the chorus as the protagonist of the drama. However, recent evidence places it after The Persians as Aeschylus's second extant play.
The Danaids form the chorus and serve as the protagonists. They flee a forced marriage to their Egyptian cousins. When the Danaides reach Argos, they entreat King Pelasgus to protect them. He refuses pending the decision of the Argive people, who decide in the favor of the Danaids. Danaus rejoices the outcome, and the Danaids praise the Greek gods. Almost immediately, a herald of the Egyptians comes to attempt to force the Danaids to return to their cousins for marriage. Pelasgus arrives, threatens the herald, and urges the Danaids to remain within the walls of Argos. The play ends with the Danaids retreating into the Argive walls, protected. In the other two-thirds of the trilogy as it is generally reconstructed, following a war with the Aegyptids in which Pelasgus has been killed, Danaus becomes tyrant of Argos. The marriage is forced upon his daughters, but Danaus instructs them to murder their husbands on their wedding night. All do except for Hypermnestra, whose husband, Lynceus, flees. Danaus imprisons or threatens to kill Hypermnestra for her disobedience, but Lynceus reappears and kills Danaus; Lynceus becomes the new king of Argos, with Hypermnestra as his queen. Lynceus now must decide how to punish the forty-nine homicidal Danaids, when Aphrodite appears in deus ex machina fashion. She absolves them of the murders, as they were obeying their father; she then persuades them to abandon their chaste ways, and the trilogy closes with their marriage to forty-nine local Argive men. The trilogy was followed by the satyr-play Amymone, which comically portrayed one of the Danaids' seduction by Poseidon.
- The 1952 publication of Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 2256 fr. 3 confirmed the existence of a trilogy, probably produced in 463. See Garvie 163-97 Johansen/Whittle 1.23-25 Sommerstein 141-52 for discussions of the trilogy's date, constituent plays and a hypothetical reconstruction of the plot.
- Garvie, A.F. Aeschylus' Supplices, Play and Trilogy. Cambridge, 1969.
- Johansen, H.F. and Whittle, E.W. Aeschylus: The Suppliants. 3 vols. Copenhagen, 1980.
- Sommerstein, Alan. Aeschylean Tragedy. Bari, 1996.
- E. D. A. Morshead, 1908 - verse: full text
- Walter Headlam and C. E. S. Headlam, 1909 - prose
- Herbert Weir Smyth, 1922 - prose: full text
- G. M. Cookson, 1922 - verse
- S. G. Benardete, 1956 - verse
- Philip Vellacott, 1961 - verse