Algernon Swinburne: The Critical Heritage

By Clyde K. Hyder | Go to book overview
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ERECHTHEUS

1876


21.

John Addington Symonds, review, Academy

8 January 1876, ix, 23-4

Erechtheus was the first and indeed the only book by Swinburne that was almost unanimously praised. The review by John Addington Symonds is more knowledgeable than others, the work of a poet and man of letters who had been a special student of Greek literature, though he is now remembered chiefly for his studies in the Renaissance.

Lycurgus the orator gives the following argument of the lost tragedy of Erechtheus by Euripides:—

They say that Eumolpus, the son of Poseidon and Chione, came with the Thracians to conquer Attica; and that at that time Erechtheus, who had for wife Praxithea, the daughter of Cephisus, reigned in Athens. When, therefore, a great army was about to assault the land, the king sent to Delphi, and enquired how he might obtain a victory over his enemies. The god answered that he would win, if he slew his daughter before such time as the forces engaged in battle. This, in obedience to the oracle, he did, and drove the foemen forth from Attica.

From other sources we learn that the name of the daughter, thus sacrificed for the welfare of Athens, was Chthonia, and that two of her sisters having vowed not to survive her, slew themselves. It also appears that in the decisive battle Erechtheus killed Eumolpus with his own hand, and was himself destroyed by a thunderbolt from Zeus. Erechtheus was reputed to have been autochthonous, or sprung from the

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