Translation copyright 1999 Celia Luschnig; all rights reserved.

The Anonymous Hypothesis to Euripides’ Medea

As found in several of the manuscripts. For the text in Greek see among others: 

  • Denys Page (ed.), Euripides, Medea, Oxford, 1938 (1967).
  • E. Schwartz, Scholia in Euripidem, vol. 2, Berlin, 1891 (reprinted 1966):137-9.

Jason came to Corinth with Medea and then betrothed himself to Glauke, the daughter of Creon king of Corinth. When Medea was about to be exiled from Corinth by Creon, she begged him to let her remain one day; upon gaining her request, as a reward for the favor she sent her children with gifts for Glauke, a dress and golden head band. She tried them on and was consumed and Creon, embracing his daughter, died too. Medea, after killing her own children, riding in a chariot with winged serpents, escaped to Athens where she married Aigeus, the son of Pandion. Pherekydes and Simonides say that Medea made Jason young again by boiling him. Concerning his father Aison, the poet of the Nostoi says the following:

At once she made Aison a lad in his prime
stripping off his old age with her knowing heart
boiling quantities of herbs in golden cauldrons.

Aeschylus in the Nurses of Dionysos relates that she rejuvenated Dionysos’ nurses and their husbands by boiling them. Staphylos, however, claims that Jason was, in a manner of speaking, killed by Medea. For she urged him to go to sleep under the stern of the Argo when the ship was on the verge of falling apart from age. When, at any rate, the stern fell on him he died.

With some rearrangement of the parts, Euripides seems to have appropriated the drama from Neophron, according to Dikaiarchos … in The Life of Greece and Aristotle in the Commentaries. They fault him that Medea has not maintained her role, but fell into tears when she plotted against Jason and his wife. But the opening is praised for being very moving and the elaboration as well, “nor in the groves [of Pelion]” et seqq. Which Timachidas misidentifies as a use of hysteron- proteron, as for example, Homer [Odyssey 5. 264], “Putting on him the fragrant garments and bathing him.”

The Hypothesis of Aristophanes

For his edition of the Greek tragedies, Aristophanes of Byzantium, the great Alexandrian scholar of the 3rd to 2nd c. BCE, wrote a short blurb for each play. For a clear and helpful description of them see Denys Page (ed.), Euripides, Medea, Oxford, 1938 (1967):liii-lv.

Medea, on account of her hatred toward Jason for marrying the daughter of Creon, killed her and Creon and her own sons, and then she was divorced from Jason to live with Aigeus. The story was not treated by either of the others [sc. Aeschylus or Sophocles].

The drama is set in Corinth and the chorus is composed of women of citizen stock. Medea’s Nurse speaks the prologue.

It premiered [lit. “was taught”] in the archonship of Pythodoros in the first year of the 87th Olympiad [431 BCE]. Euphorion won first prize, Sophocles second, and Euripides third with Medea, Philoktetes, Diktys, and the satyr play Harvesters which is not extant.

Medea and her Children in the Scholia in Euripidem (Ancient commentaries found in some of the manuscripts)

From E. Schwartz, Scholia in Euripidem, vol. 2, Berlin, 1891 (reprinted 1966).

ad 9 (the scholion to line 9 of the text of Medea)

A story is prevalent [? or widespread*; literally much-flitting] among scholars, which Parmeniskos also sets forth, that Euripides, upon receipt of five talents from the Corinthians, transferred to Medea the charge of murdering the children. For, in fact, Medea’s children were murdered by the Corinthians, incensed over her wanting to be queen because Corinth was her father’s allotment, which he transferred to Medea. Hippys and Hellanikos are our sources for her life in Corinth. That she was queen of Corinth Eumelus and Simonides narrate. Mousaios in the Isthmia relates that she was immortal and in the same work expounds upon the rites of Hera Akraia.

* See Denys Page (ed.), Euripides, Medea, Oxford, 1938 (1967):xxv and Emily A. McDermott, Euripides’ Medea: The Incarnation of Disorder, University Park, PA, 1989:13. 

ad 264 (the scholia to line 264 of the text of Medea)

Parmeniskos writes word for word the following: 

The Corinthian women, not wishing to be ruled by a foreign woman and sorceress, plotted against her and killed her children, seven boys and seven girls. (But Euripides says she only had two.) They were being pursued and fled into the temple of Hera Akraia and sat as suppliants at the altar. Even so the Corinthians did not keep their hands off them but slit all their throats right on the altar. A plague fell upon the city and many people perished of the disease. When they consulted the oracle the god told them to expiate their guilt for Medea’s children. And so up to our own times every year seven boys and seven girls of the most notable citizen families among the Corinthians spend a year in the goddess’ precinct and with sacrifices appease the wrath of Medea’s children and the goddess’ anger on their behalf.

Didymus, however, disagrees, citing the evidence of Kreophylus:

For it is said that Medea during her stay in Corinth killed Creon, the ruler of the city-state at that time, with poisons; that in fear of his friends and relatives she emigrated to Athens; but her sons — since they were too young to travel with her — she placed upon the altar of Hera Akraia, believing that their father would look after their safety. But Creon’s relatives killed them and spread the story that Medea had killed not only Creon, but her own children as well.


  • Didymus — the famous and prolific 1st c. BCE to 1st c. CE scholar, known as “bronze gut.”
  • Dikaiarchos (Dicaearchus) — historian of the 4th c. BCE.
  • Eumelus — a Corinthian epic poet of the 8th century (?) whose works on Corinth were a major source for the Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes.
  • Euphorion — tragedian. He was Aeschylus’ son who put on his father’s plays after his father’s death, either as revivals or first performances of late plays that were not produced in his lifetime. 
  • Hellanikos — a 5th century BCE historian from Lesbos who wrote on the Persians and the Trojans.
  • Hippys — a 5th c. BCE (?) historian.
  • hysteron-proteron — a figure of speech in which the natural order is reversed (as “put on your shoes and socks”).
  • Kreophylus (Creophylus) — an epic poet from Samos who may have composed the Sack of Oichalia (part of the Heracles saga).
  • Mousaios (Musaeus) — early poet of questionable existence to whose name many hymns and oracular verses are attributed.
  • Neophron — a tragic poet of uncertain date. Fragments of his Medea survive.
  • Nostoi — an epic poem on the returns of the heroes from Troy.
  • Parmeniskos (Parmeniscus) — a grammarian of the 2nd to 1st c. BCE. 
  • Pherekydes (Pherecydes) — of Syros, a prose writer of the 6th c. BCE who wrote on the Argonauts.
  • Simonides — lyric poet of Ceos (Keos) of 6th to 5th c. BCE.
  • Staphylos (Staphylus) — historian of unknown date who wrote on Arcadia, Aeolia, Athens, and Thessaly.

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