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Reconstructing Revenge: Thyestes Tragedies from Sophocles to Seneca

Haley, Maria Louise (2018) Reconstructing Revenge: Thyestes Tragedies from Sophocles to Seneca. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

This thesis reconstructs the Attic and Republican fragments of lost Thyestes tragedies, in order to track the development of the revenge theme through the tragic tradition. Here I reconstruct Sophocles’ and Euripides’ Thyestean plays by analogy with each tragedian’s extant corpus by comparing extracts that resemble the fragments in language and content. To develop an understanding of Thyestes’ myth in Attic tragedy, I consider references to Thyestes and his ancestors in the tragedies featuring his descendants, providing points of contrast with Seneca’s extant Thyestes. When reconstructing the Republican fragments of Ennius’ Thyestes and Accius’ Atreus, I consider the quotation context of the fragment, be it in Cicero, the grammarians or later scholia, in order to examine the themes in the surviving lines and their reception. This allows me to explore how the use of Thyestes’ myth in the political texts of the Roman Republic shaped Ennius’ Thyestes, Accius’ Atreus and, in turn, Seneca’s Imperial Thyestes. Though I contextualise these fragments in the trend of Thyestes tragedies written by minor Roman tragedians, often politicians, the few fragments of these tragedies and the political careers of the tragedians prevent me from reconstructing them here, since they are not indicative of changing presentations of revenge in tragedy more broadly. Similarly, I have not included sections on the fourth-century Greek fragments of Thyestes tragedies here, given that little in the surviving fragments pertains to the revenge theme. Though my complete monograph would include these ‘minor’ tragedians, for the purposes of the comparative methodology set out in this thesis I have included the best known playwrights of Thyestes tragedies. This has allowed me to incorporate fragmenta incerta, fragments from mythically relevant tragedies and a discussion of the texts in which the fragments are quoted to provide a more detailed understanding of Thyestes’ myth before Seneca. Ultimately, by reconstructing Atreus’ motives, supernatural influences and the presentation of Thyestes’ feast in Sophocles’, Euripides’ Ennius’ and Accius’ works, this thesis argues that Seneca’s Thyestes is not a uniquely violent revenge play.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Revenge, Revenge Tragedy, Thyestes, Atreus, Republican, Imperial, tragedy, Seneca, Euripides, Sophocles, Ennius, Accius, Aeschylus, fragments, drama, cannibalism, myth, Greek, Roman, Latin.
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Humanities (Leeds) > Classics (Leeds)
Depositing User: Dr Maria Louise Haley
Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2019 10:50
Last Modified: 21 Feb 2019 10:50
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/22862

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