previous next

[19] Theseus believed her and prayed to Poseidon that Hippolytus might perish. So, when Hippolytus was riding in his chariot and driving beside the sea, Poseidon sent up a bull from the surf, and the horses were frightened, the chariot dashed in pieces, and Hippolytus, entangled in the reins, was dragged to death. And when her passion was made public, Phaedra hanged herself.1


1 The guilty passion of Phaedra for her stepson Hippolytus and the tragic end of the innocent youth, done to death by the curses of his father Theseus, are the subject of two extant tragedies, the Hippolytus of Euripides, and the Hippolytus or Phaedra of Seneca. Compare also Diod. 4.62; Paus. 1.22, Paus. 1.22.1ff., Paus. 2.32.1-4; Scholiast on Hom. Od. xi.321, citing Asclepiades as his authority; Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 1329; Tzetzes, Chiliades vi.504ff.; Scholiast on Plat. Laws 9, 931b; Ov. Met. 15.497ff.; Ovid, Her. iv; Hyginus, Fab. 47; Serv. Verg. A. 6.445 and vii.761; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode, i. pp. 17, 117ff. (First Vatican Mythographer 46; Second Vatican Mythographer 128). Sophocles composed a tragedy Phaedra, of which some fragments remain, but little or nothing is known of the plot. See The Fragments of Sophocles, ed. A. C. Pearson, vol. ii. pp. 294ff. Euripides wrote two tragedies on the same subject, both under the title of Hippolytus: it is the second which has come down to us. In the first Hippolytus the poet, incensed at the misconduct of his wife, painted the character and behaviour of Phaedra in much darker colours than in the second, where he has softened the portrait, representing the unhappy woman as instigated by the revengeful Aphrodite, but resisting the impulse of her fatal passion to the last, refusing to tell her love to Hippolytus, and dying by her own hand rather than endure the shame of its betrayal by a blabbing nurse. This version of the story is evidently not the one here followed by Apollodorus, according to whom Phaedra made criminal advances to her stepson. On the other hand the version of Apollodorus agrees in this respect with that of the Scholiast on Hom. Od. xi.321: both writers may have followed the first Hippolytus of Euripides. As to that lost play, of which some fragments have come down to us, see the Life of Euripides in Westermann's Vitarum Scriptores Graeci Minores, p. 137; the Greek Argument to the extant Hippolytus of Euripides vol. i.163, ed. Paley; TGF (Nauck 2nd ed.), pp. 491ff. Apollodorus says nothing as to the scene of the tragedy. Euripides in his extant play lays it at Troezen, whither Theseus had gone with Phaedra to be purified for the slaughter of the sons of Pallas (Eur. Hipp. 34ff.). Pausanias agrees with this account, and tells us that the graves of the unhappy pair were to be seen beside each other at Troezen, near a myrtle-tree, of which the pierced leaves still bore the print of Phaedra's brooch. The natural beauty of the spot is in keeping with the charm which the genius of Euripides has thrown over the romantic story of unhappy love and death. Of Troezen itself only a few insignificant ruins remain, overgrown with weeds and dispersed amid a wilderness of bushes. But hard by are luxuriant groves of lemon and orange with here and there tall cypresses towering like dark spires above them, while behind this belt of verdure rise wooded hills, and across the blue waters of the nearly landlocked bay lies Calauria, the sacred island of Poseidon, its peaks veiled in the sombre green of the pines. A different place and time were assigned by Seneca to the tragedy. According to him, the events took place at Athens, and Phaedra conceived her passion for Hippolytus and made advances to him during the absence of her husband, who had gone down to the nether world with Pirithous and was there detained for four years (Eur. Hipp.835ff.). Diodorus Siculus agrees with Euripides in laying the scene of the tragedy at Troezen, and he agrees with Apollodorus in saying that at the time when Phaedra fell in love with Hippolytus she was the mother of two sons, Acamas and Demophon, by Theseus. In his usual rationalistic vein Diodorus omits all mention of Poseidon and the sea-bull, and ascribes the accident which befell Hippolytus to the mental agitation he felt at his stepmother's calumny.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (Sir James George Frazer)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Troezen (Greece) (3)
Athens (Greece) (1)

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references in notes to this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: