Tragic Apollo in Fifth-Century Athens : Text and Contexts

Peake, Jacqueline (2011). Tragic Apollo in Fifth-Century Athens : Text and Contexts. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis investigates the presentation of Apollo in Greek tragedy. Apollo is chosen as a particularly important tragic god because of his uniquely high profile in extant plays, and because of the continuing critical debate over his characterisation.

Existing approaches to studying the god figure will be challenged. Traditionally these often found a 'negative' god but gave limited consideration to the fifth-century context and were often judgemental in terms of twentieth-century morality. Recent studies have been more nuanced and against a wider contextual base but have generally been limited to studying Apollo in a single play.

There will be new emphases in the questions asked, focusing on how the Apollo figures are created in the texts, how these figures are experienced by an Athenian audience, and how and why Apollo's presentation changes through the fifth century. The methodology is new in examining Apollo across all extant tragedies in which he has significant textual presence; also in showing how we can relate Apollo's tragic presentation to a wide range of aspects of the socio-cultural and religious contexts. The figure of Apollo is thus seen as being constructed within both the dynamics of tragedy and the social and religious contexts of Athens, bringing internal and external together in the experience of the spectators.

Apollo is found to have potential for certain kinds of problematic tragic treatment. His morality and effectiveness are questioned in the earliest extant plays, but representations of the god in tragedy continue to shift and develop through the fifth century, in the distinctive approaches of new tragedians, and in engagement with new aspects of the Athenian context. The approach in this thesis aims to add to our understanding of how Apollo, and religion, function in tragedy for the fifth-century Athenians for whom the plays were produced

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