Places: The Suppliants

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First produced: Hiketides, 463 b.c.e.? (English translation, 1777)

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Tragedy

Time of work: Antiquity

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Argos

*Argos. Suppliants, TheAncient Greek town in the eastern Peloponnese, three miles inland from the sea. Historically hostile to Sparta, Argos is allied with the great Greek city of Athens at the time this play is set. In Homeric times, Argos was the home of Diomedes and the center of Agamemnon’s kingdom. In this play, it is ruled by King Pelasgus, whose name has maritime connections. The action takes place in the central business area, the agora, or in front of the royal palace, the traditional stage settings in Greek tragedies.

Argos functions in The Suppliants as a place of asylum, and, as such, represents Athens, where the concept of asylum was a cherished value of the radical democracy. Like all dramas by Athenian poets, this play transposes subjects of topical concern to suitable locations in mythical sources.


*Egypt. Although a distant land across the Mediterranean, Egypt had long featured in Greek trade and history. Here, it is the strange “other” realm, where the bizarre story of the daughters of Danaus begins. The fifty suitors whom they are fleeing are the sons of Aegyptus, the hero after whom Egypt is named. In the play, Egypt embodies non-Greek customs and behavior, especially in the matter of marriage between sets of cousins.

BibliographyAeschylus. The Suppliants. Translated by Peter Burian. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991. The best modern translation of the play. Also provides a sound introduction to the themes and imagery of the play and includes brief notes explaining references in the translation.Beck, Robert Holmes. Aeschylus: Playwright Educator. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1975. Chapter 7 examines The Suppliants and its themes in the context of the supposed trilogy to which it belonged. Beck places particular emphasis on the moral message that the playwright may have intended with the drama.Garvie, A. F. Aeschylus’ “Supplices”: Play and Trilogy. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1969. The standard work on the style, structure, and meaning of the play. Garvie tends to be cautious in his speculation about the content of the lost plays and their possible relevance for interpretation of The Suppliants.Spatz, Lois. Aeschylus. Boston: Twayne, 1982. An excellent and accessible general work on the art of Aeschylus. Chapter 4 on The Suppliants is especially rewarding for discussion of possible political ideas in the drama and of various themes in the choral odes.Winnington-Ingram, R. P. Studies in Aeschylus. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1983. A sober and intelligent survey of Aeschylean drama that repays consultation. Chapter 4 on “The Danaid Trilogy” is concerned mainly with the speculative reconstruction of the trilogy and its value for interpreting the drama. This work updates earlier work on the Danaid trilogy.
Categories: Places