Aidos: The Psychology and Ethics of Honour and Shame in Ancient Greek Literature

By Douglas L. Cairns | Go to book overview

5
Euripides

Euripides offers the student of aidōs a range of occurrences which can only be paralleled by the Homeric poems. This is not simply a consequence of the fact that he survives in greater bulk than do the other tragedians, for even within individual plays aidōs and its relatives often occur with considerable frequency. The relative domesticity of setting in many of his plays means that Euripides is often as useful a source of sociological data on aidōs as is Homer, but in general the data which emerge regarding the contexts in which aidōs is at home rarely make a significant difference to the conclusions we have been able to glean from Homer and others. In the following, then, I have attempted to concentrate on that which is new, significant, or of great thematic importance in the interpretation of individual plays. Thus while I begin by discussing, in turn, self- and other-regarding uses of aidōs (and the ways in which these are inextricably linked) and conclude with a survey of passages which extol the value of aidōs, the most important sections of this chapter focus on new, retrospective usages of the verbs aideomai and aischunomai and their relationship to concepts of conscience (5.3), and on the place of aidōs in attitudes towards sex and sexuality (5.4), in which connection many interesting questions are raised by the Hippolytus in particular.


5.1. PERSONAL HONOUR AND STATUS

5.1.1. Aidōs in Battle

Concern for one's personal honour is a basic and pervasive motivating force in Euripidean drama, and is naturally prominent in the martial context. The competitive values of the Homeric poems remain in the forefront; victory is kalon, defeat aichron,1 and aidōs may still cause one

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1
Supp.529-30; cf. the Iliadic exhortation to avoid aichunē (disgrace) at Hcld839-40.

The reference to the polis here indicates that the community which gives rise to sentiments of collective honour is different from that in Homer, but otherwise the ideas

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