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Medea on a 1st century Roman mural from Herculaneum in the National Archaeological Museum, Naples

Medea ( ancient Greek Μήδεια Mḗdeia , the one who knows the advice) is a female figure in Greek mythology . The Medeasage has been one of the most famous materials in world literature since ancient times . It also had a strong impact in the fine arts and music.

Medea is the magic daughter of King Aietes of Colchis on the east coast of the Black Sea . The Argonauts , a band of heroes led by Pelias' nephew Jason, go there on behalf of King Pelias of Iolkos . They are supposed to capture the Golden Fleece , which is kept by Aietes, and bring it to Iolkos. Out of love, Medea helps Jason to get the fleece and flees with the Argonauts. She marries Jason. In Iolkos she devises a ruse for his sake, by which King Pelias dies, whereupon the two leave Iolkos and settle in Corinth . They live there with their two sons for a while. Then Jason rejects Medea to marry the daughter of King Creon of Corinth . In revenge, Medea murders Kreon, his daughter, and her own children. She flees to Athens and marries King Aigeus there . With this she becomes the stepmother of the hero Theseus . In a conflict with Theseus, however, she cannot prevail. Therefore she has to leave the country and turn to Asia. Various information is available about her further fate.

In ancient times, the material was used in both epic and drama. The best-known arrangements are the Medea tragedies by Euripides and Seneca , the Argonaut epic by Apollonios of Rhodes and the version of Ovid in his Metamorphoses . Since the High Middle Ages , numerous poets, writers, visual artists and composers have taken up the Medea saga and often redesigned it in the process. In modern research, an abundance of interpretations aims to make complex events understandable.

Medea in ancient times

Overview of the antique fabric

The myth has been shaped and developed over centuries. It consists of elements of various origins that have been linked to the figure of Medea. Details have been handed down in different versions. Usually the ancient authors only picked out parts of the legendary material and worked on excerpts from Medea's life story that were suitable for their respective literary purposes. Nevertheless, in the consciousness of posterity, the individual components of the tradition came together to form a whole, the chronologically structured Medea myth. As the central figure of all events associated with her name, Medea lived on in European literature and art.

An overview of the main elements of the most common versions results in the following sequence:

Cretheus , the founder and king of the city of Iolkos in Thessaly , had step-sons, including Pelias, and sons of his own, among whom Aison was the eldest. After the death of Kretheus, Pelias, the eldest of all sons, took control of Iolkos. There was a rivalry between him and his younger half-brother Aison, as Aison and his son Jason, being the biological descendants of the dynasty's founder, endangered his rule. Pelias was also threatened by the wrath of the goddess Hera , whose enmity he had drawn.

An oracle had warned Pelias against the "shoeing" that would kill him. One day when Jason appeared with only one shoe because he had lost the other, Pelias realized that the oracle was referring to his nephew Jason. To get him out of the way, he gave him the job of getting the Golden Fleece. The fleece was the fur of the flying ram, on whose back the king's son Phrixus and his sister Helle had once fled Greece from their stepmother's pursuits. Helle had died on the way, Phrixus had sacrificed the ram to Zeus after his arrival in the realm of Aia . Aia, originally a mythical wonderland, was later identified with Colchis on the east coast of the Black Sea. Phrixus left the ram skin to King Aietes ("Man of Aia"), who ruled in this area. Aietes was a son of the sun god Helios . In both Colchis and Iolkos, fleece was considered a precious commodity, the possession of which brought salvation or averted disaster. Therefore, it was assumed in Iolkos that his recovery could not take place without a fight. Jason gathered a strong band of heroes, the Argonauts, who, under his leadership, set out on the dangerous voyage to Colchis on the ship Argo . They enjoyed the active support of the goddess Hera.

King Aietes, Medea's father, was still in power in Colchis. He negotiated with the Argonauts. Although he had no intention of giving up the fleece, he pretended to leave it to the strangers if Jason managed to overcome the dragon that guarded the ram's skin. In addition, before giving him the prospect of handing the fleece, Jason had two other heroic deeds to perform: he was supposed to tame two wild, fire-breathing bulls and plow with them. Then he should sow dragon teeth and kill a warband that had sprung from the dragon seed. Since these challenges exceeded human strength, Aietes, who wanted to destroy the Argonauts, assumed that the stranger would fail and be killed in the process. But Jason mastered all dangers thanks to the magic of the king's daughter Medea, who had kindled in a passionate love for him. Medea owed her knowledge of magic to the goddess Hecate , whose priestess she was. Since Aietes did not keep the agreement, Jason stole the fleece with Medea's help, and the Argonauts fled on their ship with Medea and her prey.

The Colchian fleet took up the pursuit of the Argo. The fleeing people could only save themselves because Medea caused the death of her brother Apsyrtus . According to one popular version, the Argonauts had taken Apsyrtus, who was still a small child, with them. Medea killed and dismembered him and threw his limbs before the pursuers. They collected the body parts and lost time as a result; so the Argonauts could escape them. According to another version of the legend, Apsyrtus was already an adult and commanded part of the Colchian fleet. Medea lured him into an ambush, allowing Jason to kill him.

As the journey home continued, the heroes experienced new adventures before they finally reached home. Jason and Medea married either in Colchis before they left or, according to other versions, on the way or only after their arrival in Iolkos.

King Pelias received the fleece in Iolkos, but now he had to atone for his arrogance and cunning. Medea persuaded the king's daughters, the Peliads, to put a rejuvenating charm on him. She showed that she was able to rejuvenate an old ram by cutting it up and boiling the pieces in a cauldron, whereupon a lamb jumped out of the vessel. The king's daughters then chopped up and boiled their father, but to no avail. Akastos , the son of Pelias, took over the rule in Iolkos. Medea and Jason left the city; According to one version they were driven out by Akastos, according to another they voluntarily gave power to him and then emigrated. They moved to Corinth, where Medea's grandfather, the sun god Helios, was traditionally especially venerated.

King Creon ruled Corinth and had a daughter named Glauke or Krëusa. Jason now wanted to connect with this king's daughter. Creon agreed to make him his son-in-law. Medea was cast out and Creon ordered her to leave his country. For this Medea decided to take revenge on Jason. She murdered his bride, and the king also fell victim to her attack. Eventually she killed her own children - two sons - to make Jason, whom she left alive, childless. Then she drove to Athens in a cart that Helios made available to her.

In Athens, Medea married King Aigeus , who ruled Attica . With him she had a son named Medos . However, Aigeus already had a son, the hero Theseus , who could claim the line of succession for himself. Theseus got into conflict with his stepmother Medea. She couldn't get rid of him. So she had to leave the country with her son. The traditions differ widely about their further fate.

The oldest components of the myth

One can only speculate about the prehistoric origin of the myth. The fact that the name Medeia is derived from the verb mḗdomai ("to devise", "to think", "to consult") is significant. The meaning of the name is probably "the advice-wise".

Even in the oldest tangible versions of the story, Medea was a king's daughter of divine descent. In contrast to the later versions of the myth, she was initially portrayed positively, like Jason; there was no mention of crime. In the oldest tradition, two separate narratives can be distinguished: the original form of the Argonauts legend and the original form of the legend of Medea's work in Corinth.

The archetype of the Argonauts legend

In its oldest recognizable form, the Medea saga is woven into the story of Jason’s capture of the Golden Fleece. This is about a hero who performs great deeds abroad and wins a king's daughter as a bride.

A brief summary of this legend, in which nothing tragic occurs, can be found in the late 8th century BC. By the poet Hesiod . He cites the wife of Aeetes and Medea's mother the Oceanid Idyia. As the granddaughter of Helios, Hesiods Medeia is one of the immortals, but she connects with a mortal husband. Hesiod reports about this in his theogony :

κούρην δ 'Αἰήταο διοτρεφέος βασιλῆος
Αἰσονίδης βουλῇσι θεῶν αἰειγενετάων
ἦγε παρ 'Αἰήτεω, τελέσας στονόεντας ἀέθλους,
τοὺς πολλοὺς ἐπέτελλε μέγας βασιλεὺς ὑπερήνωρ,
ὑβριστὴς Πελίης καὶ ἀτάσθαλος ὀβριμοεργός.
And the daughter of the blessed king Aeetes
led Aison's son according to the will of the eternal gods
away from Aietes after he had fought hard,
many of which the great, arrogant king had given him,
the defiant, savage criminal Pelias.

As the poet then reports, the couple got married after the return of the Argonauts and Medea gave her husband, the “shepherd of the peoples”, a son named Medeius. With Hesiod, Jason’s conduct is still impeccable; he is a hero who masters his tasks, winning the king's daughter is the reward for his work. Aietes is also a good king here, who has apparently come to an amicable agreement with Jason and accepted him as his son-in-law. Only Pelias is shown unfavorably. He plays the role of the wicked, haughty relative, often seen in sagas, who perceives the hero as a threat and therefore entrusts him with a dangerous, seemingly unsolvable task and sends him abroad to get rid of him. However, Hesiod lacks the hero's revenge after his homecoming, the violent death of Pelias. This element was not part of the oldest layer of sagas on which Hesiod's depiction is based. In the oldest form of the legend, the Argonauts take part in the celebrations for Pelias' funeral after their return. Thus there is an understanding between them and Pelias' son and successor Akastus, Pelias died of natural causes.

One of the very old figures of the saga is the crucial role of Medea, which Hesiod kept silent, in accomplishing Jason’s tasks. It is already mentioned in the fourth Pythian Ode by the poet Pindar , which was written on the occasion of a year 462 BC. Won competition victory emerged, honored in detail. Even in this old layer of tradition, Jason appears as a hero, but his bravery is not enough, he cannot achieve his goal on his own. Success is made possible with the help of the king's daughter, who loves him and to whom he promises marriage. His connection with her is brought about by a divine authority; at Pindar it is Kypris ( Aphrodite ). Medea's magic turns out to be crucial. The Colchian princess takes on the role of the helping virgin ("helper-maiden"), known from numerous legends, who assists the hero in critical situations.

The basic idea of ​​the original Argonauts saga is that a combination of heroic bravery and superhuman power is necessary in order for the seemingly impossible to succeed. The gods reward Jason’s heroism by giving him a woman of divine descent. After returning home, the two live as a happy married couple and enjoy their offspring.

Another motive of the origins was Medea's ability to rejuvenate through magic. Jason is said to have enjoyed such a rejuvenation. In Iolkos, Jason’s old father Aison benefited from the rejuvenation charm; this is the version that the author of the Nostoi , which has only survived in fragments, told. The motif was later modified so that Medea's rejuvenation ability was put in the service of revenge on Pelias. The elimination of the malevolent, outrageous ruler could appear legitimate from the point of view of the Greek audience, but Medea thus found herself in the role of not only a helpful, but also a sinister sorceress.

Medea in Corinth

Medea's deeds in Corinth on a Roman sarcophagus from the 2nd century, Altes Museum , Berlin

Probably independently of the development of the narratives of Medea's deeds in Colchis and Iolkos, a continuation of her life story emerged, the scene of which was Corinth. This embodiment of the Medea saga is already tangible in the 8th century BC. In the only fragmentarily preserved epic Corinthiaka by Eumelos of Corinth . At Eumelos the sun god Helios had given the city of Corinth to his son Aietes, the father of Medeas. Aietes initially had the city ruled by governors, but when no suitable governor could be found, the Corinthians summoned Medea from Iolkos and asked her to take over as queen. With that, Jason became King of Corinth. Here, too, the original version of the legend has a strikingly harmonious effect: apparently there was unity between Aietes and his son-in-law; Medea and Jason were not induced to leave Iolkos after an insidious murder, but received an honorable appointment to the Corinthian throne.

This is followed by a motif that became extremely important for the further development of the saga: the death of the children of Medea and Jason. According to the version handed down by Eumelos and in a Pindar Scholion , Medea brought the children to the Temple of Hera after their birth and hid them there in order to make them immortal through a magic. This was necessary because the children were mortal because of their father's mortality, even though Medea, as the granddaughter of the sun god, was one of the immortals. However, the project failed and the children were killed. Jason caught Medea and refused to forgive her the death of the children. Thereupon the couple separated, Jason returned to Iolkos. Apparently he was still respected there, so he was not held responsible for the death of King Pelias. Medea also left Corinth.

In this version, the Medea saga takes on a tragic, fateful aspect: Medea brought about the death of her children - albeit with the best of intentions - and her marriage falls apart as a result. Here, as in the Pelias episode, the dark, sinister side of sorcery shows up, even if Medea doesn't appear to be really guilty.

In two different, more recent versions, a new element entered the narrative: a serious conflict that Medea got into in Corinth and that led to the death of the children. Here the motive of child murder is tangible for the first time, although Medea does not play the role of the murderer. One of these versions has come down to us in a fragment of the grammarist Parmeniskos , the other has been traced back to a historian named Kreophylos.

According to the version communicated by Parmeniskos, the Corinthians opposed the rule of Medea because they did not want to be ruled by a sorceress from abroad. They chased the queen's fourteen children. The children were murdered even though they had sought refuge at the Hera altar. As a punishment, Hera sent an epidemic that claimed many lives. Corinth needed to be cleansed of blood guilt and the defilement of the sanctuary. According to Parmeniskus, this happened when every year seven boys and seven girls from the most distinguished families took over the service in the Hera temple and there offered atonings. This custom is only supposed to occur after the devastation of Corinth by the Romans in 146 BC. Be gone. In fact, there was a cult of the children of Medea in the temple - meaning the temple of Hera Akraia in Perachora . This cult must be related to an ancient myth that was much older than the versions in which Medea appears as the one responsible for the death of the children.

The story traced back to Kreophylos is a further development of the Corinthian material, which must be younger than the version communicated by Eumelos. According to her, Medea killed Creon, the king of Corinth, whereupon she had to flee to Athens. She could not take her little sons with her on the run. So she left them in the Temple of Hera, because she expected that Jason would take care of his descendants. However, Creon's relatives killed the children. They tried to cover up this outrage by spreading the rumor that Medea had killed her children herself. In this tradition, Medea is not Queen of Corinth, but a stranger living there who commits regicide and then has to flee. Your relationship with Jason does not seem to be completely broken. Two motifs emerge here that are groundbreaking for the further development of the saga: Medea kills Creon and is - even if only on a false accusation - described as the murderer of her own children. This accusation assumes that there was already a version in which Medea herself was responsible.

The conclusion of Medea's work

Medea's stay in Athens was no later than the second half of the 5th century BC. An integral part of tradition. The last phase of her life after the separation from King Aigeus was also built into the legend. The historian Herodotus reported that after leaving Athens, she went to the Aryans , who then changed their name and have since called themselves Medes . This information comes from medical tradition. The Medes were a western Iranian tribal association that existed in the 7th and 6th centuries BC. BC ruled a large territory in western Asia. In later sources, the etymological derivation of the name of the Medes from Medea's son, who bears the name Medos in more recent tradition, is common. Hesiod already said that Medea had a son named Medeius. For Hesiod, Medeius was a son of Jason, as the separation of the couple and child murder did not yet appear in the legends of his time. Only later tradition, dependent on Euripides, based on the death of the children of Jason, made Aigeus the father of Medea's son, with whom she went to the Medes when she had to leave Athens because of the assassination attempt on Theseus.

The story belongs to an early layer of tradition that Medea was last in the heroes' paradise Elysion or on the "Islands of the Blessed". In this mythical realm she is said to have married the hero Achilles , who lived there after his death in the Trojan War . The lyric poets Ibykos and Simonides von Keos are said to have referred to the marriage to Achilles. This highly honorable conclusion to Medea's work must come from an old context of legends in which she is not yet a criminal.

The general tendency of the saga to develop

The development of the various early branches of the saga shows that the originally pure form of Medea, or at least not tainted by any serious crime, is increasingly darkened. With her magic, which is actually supposed to serve constructive goals - the protection in danger, the rejuvenation or the achievement of immortality - she gets astray. She blames people for death and turns into a murderer. Eventually a stage is reached in which you can even trust her to murder your own children.

Even more than the regicide in Corinth, the fratricide on the Argonaut voyage arouses horror among the Greeks. It does not belong to the oldest layer of legends free from misdeeds, but it was part of the tradition even before Euripides.

The tragedies of Euripides

Elisabetta Pozzi as Medea in a performance of the tragedy of Euripides in Syracuse (2009)

The tragedy Medeia des Euripides took place in 431 BC. In Athens. According to an ancient tradition, it was the reworking of an older play written by an otherwise unknown tragedy poet named Neophron. The relationship between the two works is controversial in research. In the competition of the tragedy poets, Euripides achieved no victory with the Medeia ; the audience even placed the piece in third and last place.

Plot of the medeia

The action takes place on the day of the child murder in Corinth in front of the house of Medea. Jason broke up with her in order to marry Creon's daughter. In the pre-scene, Medeas wet nurse laments this betrayal and the fate of her mistress, who once left her home for the traitor's sake and now regrets it. The nurse learns from the educator of the two children that Creon wants to expel Medea and the children from the country and that Jason is abandoning his sons. The nurse already suspects that the outcast will do something to the children.

In the first main scene, Medea steps out of the house to present her point of view to the choir , which consists of Corinthian women. She vividly depicts the misery into which she has fallen and, in general, the sad fate of women who are helpless at the mercy of their husbands. In her case, there is also the fact that she is a foreigner in Corinth and has no blood relatives to protect her. Creon appears and announces his expulsion order, which must be carried out immediately, because he fears that Medea's magical power will be directed against him and his daughter - his only child. Medea begs him in vain to withdraw the decision; she hated Jason, but she was not up to the royal family. Finally, against his better judgment, as he says himself, Creon can be persuaded to grant her respite until the end of the day; but if she exceeds this deadline, she and the children must die. Creon resigns. Medea confides in the choir her intention to kill the king, his daughter and Jason. She considers her options for revenge and chooses poison.

In the second main scene there is an exchange between Jason and Medea. He accuses her of having provoked her own expulsion through her curses and abuse against the king. She blames him for his ingratitude. For his sake she made herself hated in her homeland as in Iolkos; therefore she no longer has any refuge, but will have to live with the children as a beggar abroad. Jason replies that she did not help him out of her own free will, but under the compulsion of erotic bondage; therefore the success of the Argonauts' voyage is actually not due to her but to the goddess of love. She herself profited a lot, because through him she got from the barbarism of Colchis to civilized Greece. His marriage to the Corinthian king's daughter meant a social advancement for him as a refugee. He did not accept it out of love, but so that his connection with the royal family would ultimately benefit his and Medea's children. But she has now thwarted this through her behavior. It shows him the contrast between his dishonesty and her conjugal fidelity. He offers her travel money, which she contemptuously refuses.

King Aigeus of Athens appears in the third main scene. He is passing through Corinth. Medea tells him what happened to her. He then assures her asylum in Athens and confirms this with an oath; he would never drive them out of his country. Now she decides not only to kill her rival, but also the children in order to inflict the greatest possible suffering on Jason. The choir objects in vain.

In the fourth main scene, Medea Jason feigns a desire for reconciliation and asks his forgiveness. She wanted to submit to the exile, but he should work with the king with the support of his bride to ensure that the children could stay. Jason is delighted and will do his best to get it. Then she has a sumptuous silk dress and gold jewelry secretly prepared as a murderous instrument brought. She instructs the children to bring these gifts to the king's daughter, supposedly to please them.

The fifth main scene shows Medea swaying after she learned that the banishment sentence against the children has been lifted. At the sight of the children, she considers going into exile with them or leaving them behind in Corinth. But it is now too late, because she has already given Creon's daughter the poisoned dress that will kill the recipient as soon as she puts it on. Then the relatives of the murdered will take revenge on Medea's children. She decides to kill the children herself rather than let them fall into the hands of enemies. The chorus points out the sad fate of all parents who grieve and worry about their children. Whoever had to see the death of his children would suffer the worst.

The disaster comes to an end in the sixth main scene. Medea learns that her rival suffered the painful death intended for her. The poisonous dress destroyed the princess's skin and a stream of fire emanated from the corresponding golden crown, which melted her flesh. Creon, who was hugging his dying daughter, was also poisoned by touching her dress. The servant, who gives Medea the details, closes his report with the words that it has now been shown once again that everything mortal is only a shadow, that no mortal ever attains happiness. Medea goes into the house and kills her children while the choir expresses horror.

Fragment of a late antique manuscript of the Medeia des Euripides

In the final scene, Jason, who learned of the murder in the palace, rushed over to save his children from the vengeance of the royal family. He learns from the choir leader that the boys are no longer alive. Now he wants to kill the murderer with his sword. The gate of the house is opened, Medea stands next to the corpses of the children on a dragon-drawn cart that Helios sent her. Through the intervention of God, it is withdrawn from human power and protected from all vengeance. There is a final exchange with Jason. He curses Medea and now accuses her of betraying her father and her fatherland and killing her brother in order to become his wife. She did this as a barbarian, no Greek woman was capable of such shameful behavior. She blames him for the death of the children because he has committed marriage and announces a miserable death for him. She rises into the air on the dragon chariot to fly to Aigeus. She takes the children's corpses with her.

Interpretation and criticism of the Medeia

In his poetics, Aristotle rebuked the end of the Medeia , because it did not result from the plot, but was brought about by a violent intervention - with the dragon chariot (the later so-called “ Deus ex machina ” means). Aristotle mentioned the appearance of Aigeus as an example of inconsistencies in the course of action which the poet had to avoid.

Modern interpreters emphasize the contrast between the passion and consistency of Medea and the subtle-looking considerations and arguments of Jason. For Medea, the erotic bond has absolute priority. In their order of values, the demand for unconditional loyalty between the spouses is combined with the willingness to put all other duties aside. In particular, she disregards the ties and obligations that result from consanguinity and social norms without scruples. Jason also acts unscrupulously, but not out of passion, but out of considerations of expediency. He is honest about his opportunism, he does not pretend. He has internalized aspects of hero morale, because for him fame and the possession of royal dignity are the highest-ranking values; on the other hand, however, he follows a bourgeois morality, in that he openly states the pursuit of material supplies as the reason for his marriage to the Corinthian king's daughter. In the dispute with Medea, his continuous, sometimes grotesque misunderstanding of her way of thinking and feeling comes to light. Because of his lack of understanding he incites her to ever more violent anger and bitterness, although he actually wants to appease her and bring her to reason in his own way. In doing so, he makes a significant contribution to making the catastrophe inevitable. In his naivete he hopes in all seriousness that she will come to terms with her repudiation and comfort herself with the fact that his rise to the Corinthian heir to the throne could also open up good prospects for her children due to the proximity to the royal family. Because of his blindness to her mentality, she can easily fake him for a sudden, radical change of heart; He immediately believes her alleged spontaneous conversion to his point of view.

The Medea des Euripides is not at the mercy of her passion, but consciously surrenders herself to it. It does not act in the affect in the sense that it loses control of itself, but it controls and directs its emotions. Her statement was already much discussed in antiquity: "And I recognize what evil deeds I want to commit, but stronger than my insights is passion (thymós) , which is the cause of the greatest evil for mortals." Here says Medea, she is acting against her better judgment. Ancient philosophers cited this passage in their discussions of free will and akrasia , the weak will that leads to acting against better judgment.

In order to understand the plot it is essential that Jason is initially willing to do without the children, i.e. not very attached to them, but in the end is deeply affected by their death, as Medea intended. This is due to the fact that for an ancient Greek male descendants represented a high social value. Jason started from the expectation that he would have sons with his bride in the future, so renouncing the children from his marriage to Medea was relatively easy for him. But this hope was destroyed by the murder of the king's daughter. This would have made his existing sons far more important to him than before. However, her death left him to the fate of childlessness.

More tragedies

The first tetralogy with which Euripides took part in the tragedy contest in Athens included those in 455 BC. Listed Peliaden ("Peliastöchter"). In this work, of which only short fragments have survived, the poet allowed Medea to enter the royal palace in Iolkos after the return of the Argonauts, while the Argonauts hid themselves and their ship. Medea, who appeared as the priestess of Artemis , convinced the daughters of Pelias of the need to rejuvenate their father by pointing out the old age of the king and the lack of male offspring. Pelias' son Akastos, who had taken part in the Argonaut voyage, was apparently missing in Iolkos and probably dead.

Euripides also wrote the tragedy Aigeus , of which only fragments have survived. In this play he portrayed the conflict in Athens. The action takes place in front of the palace of Aegeus. After the child murder, Medea found refuge in Athens, and King Aigeus made her his wife. Theseus, the son of Aigeus and Aithra , grew up far from his homeland and has now returned home as an adult. At first he doesn't want to reveal his identity to his father. Aigeus, who has never seen him before, does not recognize him, but Medea notices who she is dealing with. She sees Theseus as an opponent, probably because she assumes that he, as the older king's son, will dispute the succession to the throne for her son. Therefore she persuades the king that the stranger wants to rob him of his rule and advises him to kill the alleged enemy with a cup of poison at dinner. Their intrigue fails at the last moment when Aigeus recognizes his son by his sword. Aigeus then casts his wife away and Medea has to leave the country.

The Argonaut epic of Apollonios Rhodios

In the 3rd century BC The poet Apollonios Rhodios (Apollonios von Rhodos) wrote the four-book epic Argonautika . His portrayal of the Argonaut voyage shaped the image of Medea's fate until her arrival in Iolkos.


The part of the epic in which Medea plays a role begins at the beginning of the third book after the arrival of the Argonauts in Colchis. Medea, who has fallen in love with the stranger Jason, expects his death while trying to cope with the tasks that Aietes insidiously set him. One of the most impressive parts of the Argonautika is the description of her vacillating between the fear of the consequences of betraying her family and her overwhelming desire to save her beloved stranger. Thanks to their help, Jason copes with the tasks. Aietes realizes that his daughter had a hand in it, and Medea realizes that her role cannot remain hidden from him. Fearing the terrible wrath of her merciless father, she joins the fleeing Argonauts, but even before she leaves she regrets her rash decision for Jason.

On the way home, the fleeing Argonauts have to deal with the numerically superior persecutors from Colchis. Here, Jason’s weakness is even more evident than with the capture of the fleece. Now it is no longer about coping with unknown dangers or solving tasks that are beyond human strength, but about ordinary struggle between men. Part of the Colchian fleet under the command of Medea's brother Apsyrtus has caught up with the Argonauts and demands the surrender of the traitor and the return of the fleece. The Argonauts refuse to give up the fleece, as they are entitled to it according to the agreement with Aietes, but they are willing to negotiate with regard to Medeas. An agreement is reached: Medea is to be brought to a nearby temple of Artemis and will remain there until a local king has passed an arbitration judgment on whether she is to be surrendered to the Kolchians or allowed to continue the journey to Greece. Jason agrees to this agreement, leaving his bride in the lurch. Only when she reminds him of his oaths, accuses him of his treachery and implores him either to protect her or to kill her immediately with his sword, does he startle and try to appease her. He tells her that he doesn't like the deal; at first he just wanted to gain time. A way out is possible, if the enemy can be robbed of their leader by a ruse, then they can be overcome. Desperate Medea is forced to accept this idea. She agrees to lure her brother into a trap. By lying, she causes him to meet her for a meeting on an island. There Jason ambushes the unsuspecting Apsyrtus and kills him while Medea covers her face. The murder is carried out in the area of ​​the Temple of Artemis, which makes it appear particularly hideous. Then Medea notifies the Argonauts of the success with a light signal, whereupon they rush over and slaughter the entire crew of Apsyrtos' ship. Then the Argonauts flee.

Jason and Medea join hands as a sign of their marriage bond. Relief of a Roman sarcophagus from the 2nd century in the Palazzo Altemps , Rome

In the further course of the journey the Argonauts arrive at the island of the sorceress Kirke , one of Medea's aunt. The couple, tainted by the fratricide, visit Kirke to seek atonement. Kirke performs an atonement ritual in which she slaughters a newborn piglet, but then shows Medea out of the house because she does not approve of her behavior. On the further journey the Argo reaches the island of the Phaiacs , where King Alcinous rules. There the Argonauts encounter another part of the Colchian fleet pursuing them. Alcinous wants to avoid a fight in his country, he tries to resolve the dispute through an arbitration award. Medea is now in great danger as she is threatened with extradition. So she turns to Queen Arete , the wife of Alcinous, and begs her for help. Arete asks her husband not to put Jason in a position in which he would break the oath, because he had sworn to Medea to marry her. Alcinous makes his decision dependent on whether Medea is still a virgin or whether her marriage has already been consummated. If she is already a wife and possibly pregnant, she should not be separated from her husband, because she is then subject to his power and no longer that of her father. Arete informs the Argonauts of this, whereupon the couple immediately celebrates an improvised wedding; they spend their wedding night in a grotto. With that, Medea is saved. The journey continues. On the island of Crete , Medea succeeds in rendering the dangerous giant Talos harmless by magic . The epic ends with the happy return of the Argonauts.


The dubiousness of Jason’s character that already emerged in Euripides is emphasized here even more. With Apollonios, Medea's lover is from the start not an adventurous hero who fearlessly faces challenges. The poet portrays a brooding, in some situations despairing or losing sight of his goal Jason. His Medea is at first an innocent girl who succumbs to the power of love, later, as Jason's companion, she is tough and capable of ruthless action. This ambivalence is seen by some critics as one of the main weaknesses of the epic, but it can also be interpreted as a shift in Medea's character from the outset.

From the plot it becomes clear that this version of the legend is very far from the glorification of heroism in the original myth. Heroism turns out to be fragile. The heroic courage of the protagonist does not enforce the success of the Argonauts' voyage, but rather favorable fortunes bring it about and prevent the company from failing due to the many human inadequacies. In Colchis, where Jason is confronted with superhuman violence, he asserts himself because Medea's magical power makes him insurmountable in such conflicts. On the drive home, however, where he has to deal with human opponents, Medea is no longer the superior sorceress, but only the woman in need of protection who is in mortal danger because of him. The couple's love has already died out, already with the argument with Apsyrtus and then with Alcinous, both of them are only concerned with saving themselves. After a short fall in love, Medea regrets that she betrayed her family and left her home for the sake of an ungrateful man. On the escape from Colchis, Jason's lack of heroism becomes apparent. Nowhere does he face the enemy in open combat, but he evades their grasp with cunning and cunning. In critical situations he is basically ready to sacrifice his bride in order to save his skin. His insincere tactics contrasts sharply with Medea's unconditional devotion, who always goes to extremes and loads more and more guilt. This fits in with the future continuation of the mythical plot in Corinth, which the poet of the Argonautica does not mention, but which he assumes that his audience knows.

Ovid's seals

The Roman poet Ovid studied the myth in depth several times. In his Metamorphoses he described striking events in the life of the sorceress from her first meeting with Jason to her departure from Athens. He also dedicated his only tragedy, Medea , to the myth ; it was famous in ancient times, but has been lost except for two small fragments. In his Heroides - fictional letters from mythical figures - Medea is one of the letter writers. In the Tristia , letters from Tomi , Ovid's place of exile , the poet located Medea's murder of Apsyrtus on the coast of Tomi.


At the sight of Jason, Medea was seized by the “mighty fire” of mad love. In a longer monologue, she expresses her inner conflict between reason, which demands loyalty to the father and home, and “what is called love”. She wants to save the stranger her father intended to doom and hopes that he will always be grateful to her, marry her and remain loyal to her. In addition, she already - without knowing any alternative - perceives her homeland as barbaric and states: “The greatest God is within me!” On the other hand, she evaluates her project as an outrage and a crime; “The right” - the family bond - fights with the desire for love. The sense of duty almost triumphed, but when she meets Jason at the altar of Hecate, he seems like a god to her, and when he asks her for help, promises her marriage and confirms it on oath, she chooses him. Using her magic, Jason overcomes the dangers, and he returns home with his wife as the victor. Ovid's Medea emphasizes that, overwhelmed by love, she consciously acts against her better knowledge: “I see and know the better, but I follow the worse”; "It is not ignorance of the truth that will seduce me, but love".

In Iolkos, Medea rejuvenates Iason's father Aison. Ovid describes in detail the preparation and implementation of the rejuvenation spell, in which Medea has to open Aison's throat with the sword to replace his old blood with prepared juice. The old man becomes the youth he once was. This is followed by the killing of Pelias, which Medea carries out together with his daughters, whereupon she escapes on the dragon chariot. Ovid only deals very briefly with the events in Corinth, setting the whole palace up in flames during the murder of the king's daughter, and then turns to Medea's role in Athens. There she almost succeeded in poisoning Theseus; when the attack is discovered, she flees "by magic, spreading fog".

Ovid assumed that the myth was known. He picked out individual events and painted them broadly, with others he contented himself with brief hints. He was extremely cautious about the elements of the saga that were most offensive to his audience: he ignored the murder of Medea's brother, and only hinted at and concealed the child murder.


Ovids Heroides are a collection of twenty-one letter poems in elegiac distiches . Usually the poet lets famous mythical women speak. They turn to their lost husbands or loved ones in complaint. Medea is the fictional author of the twelfth letter. Jason has left his wife in favor of the Corinthian king's daughter. In the letter, the outcast Medea implores him to return to her. Since her first meeting with Jason she has felt her life as sheer torment. The only pleasure she has left is to blame the ungrateful for his guilt. She reminds him of everything she has done and sacrificed for him and of his oath of loyalty. From her merits she derives a claim to him: "I want you, whom I deserve". Finally, she threatens terrible revenge on him and his new wife.

In the sixth letter, also addressed to Jason, his former lover Hypsipyle describes her fate. He had promised her loyalty before he arrived in Colchis and met Medea. From Hypsipyle's point of view, Medea appears as a witch-like monster, she is cursed by her rival.

The tragedy of Seneca

The Roman philosopher, writer and poet Seneca wrote a tragedy Medea in Latin in the first century . For this he chose the same short excerpt from the mythical event as Euripides: Medea's reaction to her repudiation in Corinth. Although Seneca was largely based on the sequence in Euripides, he also made changes that make the main characters appear in a different light than in the work of the Greek tragedian.


As with Euripides, the action takes place in front of Medea's house. It begins with a prologue in which the abandoned wife invokes the gods to destroy the Corinthian royal house and to plunge her faithless husband into misery. Young men and girls sing happily, Corinth celebrates Jason’s new wedding. In conversation with the wet nurse, who advises careful action, Medea confesses her hatred, which she surrenders openly and unrestrainedly. Creon appears, he demands her departure. He commands her as king, but at the same time does not hide his fear of her. Finally he granted her the respite she asked for. Jason arrives, before confronting his abandoned wife, he gives a short monologue in which he describes his situation and reveals his thoughts and feelings. In Corinth he is a refugee; a foreign enemy, Acastus, demands his extradition and wants to destroy him and his whole family. Only if he marries Creon's daughter will the king stand up for him and protect his children. Therefore he has to break the allegiance he swore to Medea. He decided to take this step not out of cowardice, but out of concern for the survival of the children. Although he knows Medea's ferocity, he hopes that for the sake of the children she will show her understanding.

Medea asks him to flee with her, just as she once fled her home because of him. She tells him what she has done and given up for him. He was the real author of the murders of Apsyrtus and Pelias, because they were committed for his sake. He rejects the responsibility, to which she replies that he should not have accepted the salvation of his life if he disapproved of the deeds required for it. Finally she asks him to at least let her have the children. Jason assures that he would sooner give up his life than the children. From this she sees that the children are above everything to him. This is his most vulnerable place. So she got the idea to take revenge on him by killing the children.

As with Euripides, this is followed by the preparation and execution of Medea's murder of her rival, and the king also falls victim to the attack. The whole royal palace burns down, water cannot extinguish these flames. Jason then wants to seize the murderess, he appears with armed men in front of her house. She has already killed one of the children, and she shows up with the other on the roof. She confesses: “Against my will, a tremendous pleasure seizes me, and look there, it grows!” She murders his other son in front of Iason's eyes, then she throws the two corpses down and escapes up on the dragon wagon. Jason calls after her to testify that there are no gods in the sky where she is going. These ambiguous verses can be interpreted in different ways: atheistically - that there can be no gods when such misdeeds are possible - or in the sense that, wherever Medea appears, even the gods run away in horror.


As a playwright, Seneca was also a philosopher and used the drama material to illustrate his philosophical beliefs shaped by the Stoa . In particular, he was concerned with demonstrating the disastrous consequences of unrestrained affect-driven action; for him the irrational was at the same time the inhuman. In this drama, Medea shows more awareness of the criminal nature of her actions than in Euripides. Jason is largely relieved from the start, as he does not act willfully, but under the compulsion of a terrible emergency and takes responsibility for his children. In contrast to the portrayal in Euripides, he does not want the children to move away with their mother, but it is clear from the outset that they should stay with him. With Medea this triggers bitterness, it is an additional motive for her murderous acts. With this change in conception, the behavior of both protagonists appears easier to understand than with Euripides.

Seneca wanted to arouse horror with dramatic effects; In contrast to Euripides, he let the child murder take place on the open stage. However, his drama was probably not intended for performance, but only for reading and recitation. Horace chose child murder as an example of the ancient taboo of portraying the killing of a person on stage.

The epic of Valerius Flaccus

In the second half of the 1st century, the Roman poet Gaius Valerius Flaccus wrote the Argonautica , a Latin epic that describes the Argonauts' voyage up to the persecution of the Argonauts by the Kolchians. The work has remained unfinished, it breaks off before the murder of Medea's brother, who is called Absyrtus in Latin. In the fifth book of the epic, Jason arrives in Colchis and supports Aietes in the fight against his brother Perses . In the sixth and seventh books the acquisition of the fleece with Medea's help is described, in the eighth, unfinished book the flight of the Argonauts, who are pursued by the Kolchians under Absyrtus.

Medea hands the dragon an anesthetic, Jason steals the fleece. Relief by Christian Daniel Rauch , begun in 1818, unfinished

Valerius Flaccus was based on Apollonios Rhodios, but introduced a number of substantive innovations. For example, with him the dragon that Jason has to overcome is Medea's fosterling, whom she feeds regularly and to whom she takes a touching farewell before she escapes. The contrast between the girlish and the monstrous aspect of Medea's nature is even more pronounced than in Apollonios Rhodios. The blindness of her passion is horrific, but it was brought about by divine providence, whereby Medea is relieved; basically the responsibility rests with the gods. With Valerius, the gods, who are at the same time allegories for mental processes, induce people to make decisions which, although they correspond to the will of the gods, are detrimental to people or oppose them. Medea's decision in favor of Jason in Colchis is a lengthy process in which the goddess Iuno (Hera), with the support of Venus (Aphrodite), has to repeatedly intervene massively in order to bring about the outcome she wants. Medea's misgivings can only be overcome with great effort and deception, and her common sense offers bitter resistance.

The epic of Dracontius

In the late 5th century, the Christian poet Dracontius wrote the Latin collection of poems Romulea . The tenth book of Romulea is a short Medea epic of 601 hexameters . Dracontius moved the Corinthian part of the plot to Thebes and added elements of the myth of Iphigenia to the Medea saga . In his version, Medea is the priestess of Diana (Artemis) in Colchis and is supposed to sacrifice Jason, who is captured by the Colchians, to the goddess. The goddess Juno, Jason's protector, wants to prevent this. She causes the love goddess Venus to give Medea the passion for love. Seized by the power of eros, Medea spares the prisoner and marries him. With this she leaves the service of Diana, which requires virginity. This arouses the anger of Diana, who takes terrible revenge: She curses the couple's marriage and condemns Medea to be abandoned by her husband in the future and then to become a murderer. Doom takes place in Thebes, where the couple fled to. Not only the local King Creon, his daughter and Medea's children perish in the process, but Jason also falls victim to the retribution of his rejected wife. The children do not die until after Jason, their two bodies are pierced by the mad mother with a sword at once.

With Dracontius, Medea got into a situation characterized by tragic hopelessness through the rule of the deities: by fulfilling the will of one goddess, she has drawn the inexorable vengeance of the other. The Christian poet uses this to criticize the pagan religion.

Other versions and edits

A number of other Greek and Roman authors also took up the Medea saga. The material was in some cases significantly modified and enriched with a variety of decorations, with material from other legends also flowing into it. Most of the works by these authors have not been preserved, and some have had a relatively low impact.

Greek literature

Pindar dealt with the Argonauts saga in detail in his fourth Pythian Ode. He had Medea deliver a prophetic speech to the Argonauts, in which she predicts the future founding of the city of Cyrene in Libya and discusses events that will occur when the Argonauts are in this country on their way home. At Pindar, Jason is the rightful heir to the royal throne of Iolkos, Pelias is a usurper who has ousted Jason’s father. Both Jason and Medea are portrayed positively without reservation, there is no question of discord between them, the only briefly mentioned murder of the usurper Pelias appears to be justified.

Sophocles dealt with the kidnapping of Medea in his tragedy Kolchides ("The Colchians"). Only a few short fragments have survived. In this play, Medea killed her brother, who was still a child, in the royal palace of Colchis. Two further tragedies of Sophocles, which are now lost, also addressed Medea's role in the Argonauts saga: The Skythai ("The Scythians") and the Rhizotomoi ("The Root Gatherers"). In the Skythai , the poet made Apsyrtus Medea's half-brother. Which part of the legend he brought to the stage in the Rhizotomoi is unclear; at least it was about Medea as a sorceress.

In the 4th century, the poet Karkinos wrote a fragmentary Medea tragedy in which he - apparently in deliberate contrast to Euripides - resorted to an older version of the myth. Medea murdered Creon's daughter Glauke with him, but the king survived. Medea is interrogated by Creon and Jason. She admits Glauke's murder, but asserts that she did not kill the children, but rather brought them to safety.

The mythographer Dionysios Skytobrachion wrote around the middle of the 3rd century BC. A work with the title Argonautika or Argonautai , which is lost today, but whose content is known from the retelling of Diodor and from scholia and papyrus fragments. Dionysius was one of the authors who viewed myths "rationalistically" by tracing miracle narratives back to normal processes that were imaginatively transformed by the myth-tellers. His Medea is originally of noble character and humane disposition, but is then driven to its bloody deeds by fatal circumstances. She resists the cruelty of her barbaric father who performs human sacrifices. She joins the Argonauts not out of love for Jason, who swears her lifelong loyalty, but to escape from her father. She arranges the assassination of Pelias because he had previously exterminated all of Jason’s relatives. When Jason leaves her in Corinth, breaking his oath of allegiance, she sets the royal palace on fire and commits child murder, whereupon she fled to Heracles in Thebes . Thanks to her knowledge of remedies, she can heal the maddened Heracles.

In the library of Apollodorus , a mythographic handbook whose unknown author was found in the 1st century BC at the earliest. BC, there is a valuable source overview of the Medea saga.

Latin literature

Medea on a 1st century Roman mural from Stabiae in the National Archaeological Museum, Naples

Quintus Ennius († 169 BC) introduced the figure of Medea into the Roman tragedy . He wrote two dramas dedicated to her fate: Medea exul (“Medea in a foreign land”), a Latin adaptation of Euripides ' Medeia , and Medea , a representation of the role of Kolchin as Queen of Athens, probably based on the model of Euripides' Aigeus . Cicero said that Ennius only translated the work of Euripides. Ennius' younger contemporary, Marcus Pacuvius, dealt with the fate of Medea and her son Medus after their exile from Athens in his tragedy Medus . She returns to Colchis, where she finds Medus again after a separation and makes up with her father Aietes. Lucius Accius wrote in the 2nd century BC A tragedy Medea sive Argonautae ("Medea or The Argonauts"); his piece dealt with the flight of the Argonauts and the conflict between Jason and Medeas and Apsyrtus. Among the other Roman poets who took up the Medea subject, besides Ovid and Seneca, was Lukan , whose tragedy Medea remained unfinished. Except for Seneca's tragedy, none of the Latin dramas has survived. Get however is probably dating from the late 2nd century Medea of Hosidius Geta , it is in a yellowing - Cento is a composite of steepen Virgil "Flick poem" in tragic form.

The first Roman Argonaut epic created after the middle of the 1st century BC. BC Varro Atacinus . This work, lost except for brief fragments, was more than a translation of Apollonios' epic into Latin; it was valued as a remarkable poetic achievement.

Hygin , a mythographer of the Roman Empire, whose identity is unclear, provided an overview of the material in his Genealogiae . His version differs in some details from the usual representations. At Hygin, King Aegeus (Aigeus) is the father of Medea's son Medus. Medea is separated from her son when she is exiled from Athens, but Medus sets out to find her. Both get to Colchis and give themselves a false identity in order not to be recognized by the ruling king Perses, a brother of Aietes. Medea poses as the priestess of Diana. Medus, who is captured by Perses, is freed by Medea. He kills Perses and takes power.

In a variant of this version of the myth, which the historian Pompeius Trogus reported in his only partially preserved work Historiae Philippicae , there is a reconciliation between Jason and Medea. The couple return to Colchis together, where Jason reinstates the power of King Aeetes (Aietes), his father-in-law, who has since been disempowered. Medea's son Medus later founds the city of Media, which he names after his mother, and the Mederreich named after him.


Medea kills one of her sons. Campanian - red-figure knitted amphora by the Ixion painter from the 4th century BC Chr .; found in Cumae , now in the Louvre , Paris

Scenes from the Medea saga were depicted by Greek and Roman artists on vases, wall paintings, gems , sarcophagi ("Medea sarcophagi"), urns and mirrors. Round sculptural stone monuments and terracotta figures have also been preserved. Medea's special position and the resulting isolation among people is expressed in visual art, just as in literary works. Distance - also to their children - can be felt. In some pictures she wears a Phrygian cap , which marks her as a barbarian; in oriental costume she only appears after the performance of the tragedy of Euripides, apparently under their influence. She often holds a box that contains her magic drugs.

The early representations from the time before Euripides often have the rejuvenation charm and pelia massage as their subject. The oldest come from Etruria , where there was obviously a particular interest in the mythical material: one around 660/640 BC. An amphora dated to BC , depicting Medea with a three-headed snake - apparently the dragon in Colchis - and an amphora from around 630 BC. Chr. Arising Bucchero with relief and incised decoration from a grave in Cerveteri . The Bucchero, on which the Kolch woman's name is carved in the form Metaia , shows her with a magic cauldron from which a naked young man, apparently rejuvenated by her, rises. Black-figure Attic vases from the 6th century BC BC show the sorceress with two snakes. On the "Ark of Kypselos ", known only through literary evidence , a Corinthian consecration gift in Heraion at Olympia from the first half of the 6th century BC. BC, Medea was depicted on a throne between Jason and Aphrodite; the inscription said that Jason had taken Medea as his wife according to Aphrodite's will. The ark was a cedar box decorated with gold and ivory, which showed numerous figures in relief. In late Archaic vase pictures Medea can be seen with the daughters of Pelias, sometimes also with Pelias himself at the magic cauldron. The preparation of the murder of the elderly Pelias remained a common motif in classical vase painting as well. From the second half of the 5th century, Medea's role in Athens was also a subject of painters.

Medea before the child murder. Wall painting ( fresco ) of the 1st century from Pompeii in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples

Particularly popular motifs in the Italian - but not the Greek - visual arts were the scene before the child murder, the murder itself and the subsequent escape in the dragon car. A famous painting by Timomachus of Byzantium, which Medea showed in the conflict of her feelings before the killing of the children, is not preserved or only preserved in replicas. This picture was acquired from Caesar . Murals from Pompeii and Herculaneum offer depictions of this scene, which are presumably at least partially influenced by the painting of Timomachus. One of them shows Medea with the children and their tutors; she holds a sword in her left hand, her thoughtful expression showing her hesitation. The other figures do not see the weapon, they have no idea. The contrast between the impending disaster and the impartiality of the children playing at the house altar is impressive. On a famous painting from Herculaneum, Medea stands before the deed with clasped hands and a gloomy look inwardly torn.

A late 4th century BC crater . BC from Apulia shows Medea with the children and their educators in Eleusis . It is evidently a scene from a non-literary version of the myth.

Medea with Jason seizing the fleece on a 2nd century sarcophagus, Palazzo Altemps , Rome

Greek painters in Italy and later also Roman artists demonstrated the extraction of the fleece. Medea puts the dragon painted as a snake to sleep. On Roman sarcophagi, to which the “Basler Medeia-Sarcophagus” belongs, the sequence of the tragedy of Euripides was designed in a fixed sequence of relief images in the 2nd century.

Middle Ages and Early Renaissance

The Medea material was primarily imparted to the Middle Ages through Ovid. The saga of the Argonauts was often mixed up with the sagas of the Trojan War . Authors who represented the ideal of courtly love ( Minne , fin 'amor ) valued Medea's devotion and loyalty in accordance with their value system.

The first French-speaking author to incorporate the story of the robbery of the Golden Fleece into a depiction of the Trojan War was Benoît de Sainte-Maure . In his Troy novel, written around 1165 in old French verse, he also dealt with Medea's role on the Argonauts voyage, hiding the murder of Apsyrtus. His Medea has no siblings. She is the clever and faithful helper of Jason, her love is fin 'amor . A love affair of this kind results in the requirement of absolute loyalty for both parties. A number of later adaptations of the Medea material were based on Benoîts work, including the Liet by Troye Herborts von Fritzlar .

In the 13th century, Konrad von Würzburg also described the Argonauts in his extensive verse novel Trojan War. He told the story of Jason and Medea in detail, including the events in Corinth. He condemned Jason’s ingratitude and disloyalty, let him and Creusa fall victim to Medea’s vengeance, and ignored child murder. His Medea is not a demonic barbarian, but an educated courtly lady, who is connected to Jason by a widely described mutual love of love and marries him with the approval of her father. As long as her husband remains loyal to her, she is an exemplary loyal wife. Your actions against Pelias and Jason appear as understandable revenge. In contrast to the gender roles customary in court literature, Medea takes the initiative in critical situations.

Jason and Medea. Illumination in a manuscript of the Historia destructionis Troiae des Guido de Columnis in German translation. Vienna, Austrian National Library , Codex 2773, fol. 18r (15th century)

A contemporary of Conrad, Guido de Columnis, completed his Latin prose adaptation of the work of Benoît de Sainte-Maure, the Historia destructionis Troiae (“History of the Destruction of Troy”), which was widely used. The misogynist Guido presented Medea as the embodiment of the vices considered typically female.

In the Rosenroman , an extremely influential late 13th century Old French verse novel, Jean de Meung led Medea among women who had acted foolishly by relying on empty promises and oaths of loyalty from unreliable men. In the opinion of this poet, women should wisely learn from this that they should not commit themselves and sacrifice themselves in this way.

In the 14th century, Pierre Bersuire offered in the 15th book of his Reductorium morale , the Ovidius moralizatus , a Christian interpretation of Ovid's Metamorphoses . He presented different interpretations of the figure of Medea. From a positive point of view, she symbolizes the Virgin Mary or the wisdom that helps to overcome the devil - the dragon - among other things as the helper of Jason . Seen negatively, it stands for the sinful soul or the devil, among other things.

Medea has been portrayed very negatively in British Middle Latin literature; for Walter Map and Geoffrey von Vinsauf it was a model of depravity. Geoffrey Chaucer conveyed a different impression in his Central English work Legend of Good Women from around 1385 , a collection of verse novels about the tragic fates of famous women. He stressed the seducer Jason’s guilt for the misfortune of the women who got involved with him, and ignored acts of Medea that might arouse horror in the audience. With what intention Chaucer Medea ranked among the "good" women, is disputed in the research. Chaucer's friend John Gower dealt with Medea in his Middle English poem Confessio amantis . For him too, Jason’s faithlessness was the main issue. He kept silent about the murders of Apsyrtus and Pelias, but not the murders of Creusa and the children, for whom his readers were able to show a certain understanding in view of the emotional state of the exiled wife after Iason's oath was broken. Gower valued Medea's love and loyalty so much that he ended up taking her to Heaven despite the murder.

Giovanni Boccaccio drew a very unfavorable picture of Medea in his collection of biographies De claris mulieribus (“About famous women”), written in 1361/1362 , in which he presented not only historical but also literary figures. For him she was the most terrible example of treason in ancient times. The beautiful princess, who is unsurpassed in magic, triggered a war against her royal father when there was unrest in Colchis. For the sake of Jason, she caused the downfall of Aietes and stole his royal treasure. A mighty king was ruined by falling in love. Then she fled with Jason and became a murderer. All of this happened because she was shameless. Such shamelessness arises when you don't have your eyes under control and therefore fall victim to an unrestrained erotic desire. From this one can learn that the judgment of the eyes cannot be trusted.

Christine de Pizan dealt with Medea's fate in her work Le livre de la cité des dames , created in 1404/1405 , in which she turned against the ideas of the then influential misogynist literature. In doing so, she emphasized the Kolch woman's extensive knowledge and her loyalty to her husband and used this example as an argument against the charge of a general instability of women. Around 1460 Raoul Lefèvre wrote a Histoire de Jason , in which he undertook an honorary rescue of Jason; the latter had succumbed to the magic of Medea, and Medea, for her part, had fallen for her husband erotically. By marrying the Corinthian king's daughter, Jason wanted to free himself from his erotic bondage.

Medea with Jason and Aietes. 15th century book illumination in the Paris manuscript, Bibliothèque nationale de France , Français 22553, fol. 7r

In late medieval book illumination , Medea was usually idealized. The painters presented her as a desirable, elegant court lady; Negative things were mostly hidden. The wedding night was one of the painted scenes. Occasionally, however, child murder was also depicted, and Medea's murderous acts were depicted realistically in illustrations for Boccaccio's and Lefèvre's works.

Early modern age


In the early modern period , the Medea image was primarily influenced by the tragedies of Euripides and Senecas. This was followed by the new dramatic adaptations of the material. The first dramatic reception began in France and Italy. Performances of ancient tragedies were unusual apart from school theater ; the material came to the stage through performances of modern dramas as well as opera and ballet.

Pierre Corneille

The famous French playwright Pierre Corneille followed in his Médée , a youth work premiered in 1635 , partly the storyline in Euripides, partly the model of the tragedy of Seneca. He attached great importance to plausibility. Therefore, in parts it deviated considerably from the representation in Euripides, because individual connections in the ancient work seemed inconsistent to him. He later presented his thoughts on this in an explanation, the examen . As is customary in ancient theater, everything in Corneille's five-act act takes place on a single day (unit of time). It is child murder day. The ancient unity of the place is not preserved, but the scenes change.

With Corneille, Medea does not ask Kreon for a respite, but he spontaneously offers her this in order to soften the severity of his sentence of banishment a little. Jason's behavior does not seem as irresponsible as with Euripides, but as with Seneca he presents a comprehensible justification. Although he is in love with Creusa, this is not the most important motive for him. Rather, he is primarily concerned with the survival of his children, whom Creon, as his father-in-law, is supposed to protect from his bitter enemies. He even saves Medea by dissuading Creon from trying to hand her over to Pelias' son. However, he is not capable of deep love, but confesses to his friend Pollux that he only uses women to achieve his goals.

Corneille assigns a greatly expanded role to King Aigeus. The meeting of the king of Athens with Medea is not accidental as with Euripides, but has an important prehistory for the entire constellation. The aged Aigeus has fallen madly in love with Creusa and wants to win her as a wife. So he appears as a competitor of Jason's, depicting his rival as a murderer. The Corinthian princess refuses his request, not only because she loves Jason, but also because she wants to stay in her home country. Aigeus is deeply offended by the rejection. He tries to kidnap Creusa by force, which he almost succeeds, because his ships are in port. Jason's courageous intervention, however, thwarted the coup. Aigeus is captured but is freed by Medea's magic. With this Medea acquires a claim to his gratitude, he promises her marriage.

In contrast to the ancient tradition, with Corneille the fateful robe is not offered by Medea to the rival as a gift, but requested by her. With her greed for the robe, the king's daughter prepares her own downfall. After the deaths of Creon and Kreusa, Jason is so desperate that he wants to kill his children because they have delivered the deadly robe, but Medea predates him with the child murder, whereupon he gives himself up to death.

Corneille commented on his play that he had brought the “Triumph of Vice” onto the stage, as Medea escaped with impunity at the end, as with Euripides. His Medea is an extremely sinister figure. The drama had a considerable aftereffect, but it also met with criticism, particularly from Voltaire , who thought it had failed. A lack of consistency in the character drawing and in the credibility of the plot was criticized. The criticism was sparked precisely by the aspect of plausibility ( vraisemblence , "probability"), to which Corneille had attached particular importance.

Other processing

The actress Claire Clairon as Medea in the tragedy Médée von Longepierre, painted by Carle van Loo, 1759

In 1553, Jean Bastier de La Péruse wrote the five-act tragedy La Médée in rhymed alexandrines , based on the dramas by Euripides and Senecas . In 1557 the humanist Lodovico Dolce published an Italian adaptation of the tragedy of Euripides.

Pedro Calderón de la Barca wrote the mythological festival Los tres mayores prodigios ("The Three Greatest Miracles"), which premiered in 1636. The first of the three acts is about the first miracle, Jason's successful search for the fleece and his escape with Medea. Francisco de Rojas Zorrilla published his piece Los encantos de Medea ("Medea's Magic") in 1645 . His Medea does not hesitate to kill children, which reinforces the impression of inhumanity.

The Amsterdam theater director Jan Vos wrote the tragedy Medea in Dutch; it premiered in 1665 and achieved great public success.

Mary Ann Yates as Medea in Richard Glover's tragedy

Hilaire Bernard de Requeleyne, Baron von Longepierre wrote the tragedy Médée , which premiered in 1694 . Her stage success was lasting; at the time of Voltaire, who thought it was very mediocre, it was the only adaptation of the subject that was performed in Paris. For Longepierre, Corneille's drama was too rationally constructed and not in harmony with the sensibilité , the unmistakable judgment of the heart. His own tragedy matched the expectations of the dawning age of sensitivity . Here Jason has been overwhelmed by a real love for Creusa, so he ignores all warnings of Medea's revenge. As with Euripides, he completely misunderstands Medea's nature, he considers her kind-hearted and believes in her extraordinary tenderness (tendresse extremême) , so she can easily deceive him. Despite her savagery, Medea has better external self-control in Longepierre than in the earlier tragedies.

The first English Medea drama, Charles Johnson's Tragedy of Medæa , premiered in 1730 , was a failure because it was out of fashion . On the other hand, the tragedy Medea by Richard Glover , published in 1761 and premiered in 1767, met with approval . Glover modified the traditional material considerably. For him, it was not the soft, swaying Jason, but the tyrannical Creon who was the real opponent of the positively drawn Medea. Glover let Medea commit child murder in a fit of madness in order to make the crime understandable to the audience. Following the ancient model, he set up a choir. The performance of the famous actress Mary Ann Yates in the lead role contributed significantly to its success.

Julius Graf von Soden created the blank tragedy Medea in five acts, which revolves around the intricacies of a love triangle between Jason, Medea and Creusa. Friedrich Maximilian Klinger wrote two Medea dramas in prose: Medea in Corinth (published in 1787) and Medea in the Caucasus (published in 1791). In the first piece, Medea is a demonic and at the same time heroic, inwardly lonely figure, far removed from normal human existence. Therefore, her distance is great not only from her husband, but also from her children. Jason can't stand his dependency and inferiority, and even the children turn to the gentle Creusa who offers an alternative to Medea's terrifying nature. With the child murder, the demigoddess Medea returns to the world beyond the human, from which she comes. In Klinger's second drama, Medea is also outwardly lonely after her escape from Corinth and is plagued by remorse. She tries in vain to dissuade the Caucasian barbarians, among whom she now lives, from the human sacrifices customary there. After all, she inflicts death on herself.

Visual arts

Medea on the dragon carriage, drawn by Andrea Schiavone

By Andrea Schiavone a drawing Medea comes on the dragon wagon. Girolamo Macchietti created a painting around 1572 that shows Aison's rejuvenation through Medea's magic. 1583–1584 Annibale Carracci and Lodovico Carracci painted frescoes in the Palazzo Ghisilardi Fava in Bologna with scenes from the myth, including Medea's encounter with Jason, the outwitting of the Peliads and Aison's rejuvenation. Peter Paul Rubens drew Medea's escape on the dragon chariot. Nicolas Poussin made two pen drawings of the child murder. In 1715, Charles-Antoine Coypel depicted the triumph of Medea, unassailable on the dragon's chariot, over the angry Jason in the pastel painting Jason et Médée . In 1746, Jean-François de Troy completed the picture cycle Histoire de Jason , which contains various scenes with Medea. Edmé Bouchardon drew the deception of the daughters of Pelias.

The Rejuvenation of Aison. Painting by Girolamo Macchietti, around 1572, in the Palazzo Vecchio , Florence

An oil painting by Carle van Loo from 1759 shows the celebrated actress Claire Clairon as Medea on the dragon chariot with her dagger in her left hand and a torch in her right; the dead children lie on the stone steps, Jason draws his sword in vain. Van Loo's painting established its fame, but Denis Diderot criticized it as overloaded and pathetic. A pen drawing, Medea Contemplating the Murder of Her Children, from around 1778 by George Romney . In 1779 Anton Hickel painted the actress Johanna Sacco as Medea. Jean Honoré Fragonard made a chalk drawing of the child murder.


Medea's fate was a popular subject in opera in the 17th and 18th centuries. She first appeared as the protagonist on the opera stage in 1649; it was only about her role as Jason's lover, who beguiled the hero. It was not until 1693 that she was also shown as a child murderer. In the 18th century the dramatic events in Corinth were mostly discussed.

The composers who have brought operas to the stage with her as the main character or important figure include - the dates refer to the world premiere - Francesco Cavalli ( Giasone , libretto by Giacinto Andrea Cicognini , 1649), Jean-Baptiste Lully ( Thésée , Libretto by Philippe Quinault , 1675), Antonio Giannettini ( Medea in Atene , libretto by Aurelio Aureli , 1675), Marc-Antoine Charpentier ( Médée , libretto by Thomas Corneille , 1693), Johann Christian Schieferdecker ( Medea , 1700, music lost today) , Georg Friedrich Händel ( Teseo , libretto by Nicola Francesco Haym , 1713), Joseph François Salomon ( Médée et Jason , libretto by Simon-Joseph Pellegrin, 1713), Giovanni Francesco Brusa ( Medea e Giasone , libretto by Giovanni Palazzi, 1726), Davide Perez ( Medea , 1744), Georg Gebel the Younger ( Medea , 1752), Josef Mysliveček ( Medea , 1764), Bengt Lidner ( Medea , 1774), Johann Christoph Vogel ( La toison d'or , libretto by Philippe Desriaux, 1786 ) , Johann Gottlieb Naumann ( Medea in Colchide ; two versions, the first premiered in 1788, the second in 1805), Gaetano Marinelli ( La vendetta di Medea , 1792), Gaetano Andreozzi ( Giasone e Medea , 1793), Luigi Cherubini ( Médée , libretto by François-Benoît Hoffman , 1797 ) and Francesco Piticchio ( La vendetta di Medea , 1798).

Cavalli and Cherubini achieved a particularly strong aftereffect. Cavallis Giasone became one of the most successful operas of the 17th century. It is a cheerful love story that ends in a conciliatory manner after various complications. Cherubini's Médée is one of his most famous works; especially the performances with Maria Callas in the title role (1953–1962) contributed to the popularity of this opera. Here Medea is the betrayed wife, who initially tries with all possible means to win back her husband and finally takes devastating revenge.

Daniel Chodowiecki : Title vignette for the Medea by Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter

In 1688 the ballet opera L'enchantement de Médée ("Medea's Magic") was premiered by Wolfgang Carl Briegel . In 1775 Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter wrote the text of a melodrama Medea in nine scenes; Georg Benda composed the music for it. A large monologue by Medea, interrupted several times, in which she presents her thoughts, feelings and fantasies, makes up by far the largest part of the Singspiel. In the end she stabs the children in the royal palace, Jason kills himself with the sword. This melodrama achieved success on stage for decades. Jean-Georges Noverre choreographed his ballet Médée et Jason in 1763 , which sparked international enthusiasm and was part of the repertoire in various versions until the 19th century.


Classical Studies

Various hypotheses have been discussed in ancient scholarship, according to which Medea was originally a goddess and only later descended into a heroine - a semi-divine figure. This assumption is considered plausible, but it is not unanimously accepted. In the Corinthian complex of legends there are references to the presumed initial divinity of Medea. However, attempts to identify the original deity more precisely have not led to any satisfactory result. The often discussed question of the original relationship between the Argonauts and the Corinthian Medea sagas, which originated in Thessaly, remains open. It is unclear whether two independently developed sagas are merged or one of them can be interpreted as an extension of the other. Furthermore, it has long been controversial whether Euripides invented Medeas to kill children intentionally or found it in older legends. The former hypothesis is supported by numerous researchers and has been supported in particular by Denys Lionel Page ; Walter Burkert in particular pleaded for the contrary opinion .


Franz Grillparzer

Klara Ziegler as Medea in Grillparzer's tragedy

Franz Grillparzer created the trilogy Das Goldene Vlies , which premiered in Vienna in 1821. The first two parts, the tragedy The Guest Friend and The Argonauts , are performed on one evening, the third part, the tragedy Medea , on the following evening. The first evening is devoted to the events in Colchis and on the flight, the second is about the marriage drama in Corinth. Thus, at the beginning of the Medea , the audience is already familiar with the history.

An atrocity forms the starting point of the linkages: King Aietes of Colchis murders his guest Phryxus, who brought the Golden Fleece to Colchis, and thus appropriates the fleece. This crime brings mischief to him and his home. Medea is appalled by the murder of the defenseless guest Phryxus; the crime alienates her from her father, whose barbaric attitude she detests. Jason, who is a real hero at Grillparzer, woos her and wins her love. In vain does she plead with him to forego the fleece, since it would only bring harm; he is determined to accomplish his mission and achieves his goal. Medea's brother Absyrtus, a brave warrior, is defeated by Jason in battle and is captured by the Argonauts, whereupon he takes his own life.

The tragic consequences of these acts are shown in the third part of the trilogy. King Creon takes the couple in Corinth after they fled Iolkos because they were wrongly accused of murdering Pelias there. Creon's daughter Creusa is also well-disposed towards the refugees. Medea buries the fleece in order to free herself from the associated disaster. At first Jason honestly admits to his wife, but an alienation occurs between them, the reasons being the unresolved past and the ethnic incompatibility of their mentalities. Jason and Medea may have committed no crimes, but both are entangled in guilt. For Jason, Medea embodies his troubled past, from which he wants to distance himself. She, however, still resents him that the fleece he took against her advice and his fame were more important to him than her. In addition, she is not accepted as a foreigner in Corinth. Creon wants to separate Medea from Jason, who is to become his son-in-law. She is ready to go into exile, but wants to take the children with her. A quarrel ensues about the children who, frightened, flee from their wild mother and seek refuge with the gentle Creusa. Medea, who feels rejected by everyone and even abandoned by her own children, now considers Creusa to be a seductress who has stolen her husband and children. She then decides on her murderous acts and carries them out. In the end, she decides to bring the fleece back to the temple of Delphi , where it was originally kept, and to submit to the judgment of the local priests.

Medea on the Grillparzerdenkmal in the Volksgarten , Vienna. Relief by Rudolf Weyr , 1889

Grillparzer takes up a thought that was already expressed in Euripides: Medea believes that it is for the best of the children that she kills them. With Euripides, the point was that if the children had no chance of survival anyway, they should not be exposed to hostile vengeance. In Grillparzer's Medea there is also a general devaluation of life; the children are to be redeemed from life through death.

Hans Henny Jahnn

Hans Henny Jahnn wrote the tragedy Medea , which premiered in Berlin in 1926 with Agnes Straub in the leading role. A revised version appeared in 1959. The piece, kept in blank verse, has no nudes. Like the ancient playwrights, Jahnn had the whole story set in a single day and place - Jason's house in Corinth - but he made numerous important innovations. With him Medea is a "negress", which he introduces a racial antagonism, but also ties in with an ancient tradition: Pindar called the Kolchians "black-faced" or "dark-skinned". Jason is the most beautiful man in Corinth, because his wife rejuvenated him with her magic, but Medea is powerless against her own aging. Jason lives out his sexuality unrestrainedly, but his wife's body, which has become old and ugly, disgusts him. When he turns to the young Creusa, Medea lets her jealousy and hatred run free. She commits child murder with affect. With this she manages to free herself from her inner dependence on Jason. Both Jason's and Medea's behavior is largely determined by sexual needs, which are the focus of attention. The brutality of the events is impressively demonstrated to the audience, the corresponding attitude is also expressed uninhibitedly in the verbal utterances of the main characters.

Jean Anouilh

The French playwright Jean Anouilh wrote the piece Médée in 1946 , which he counted among his “pièces noires” (black pieces).

Anouilh's Medea, unlike Grillparzer's figure, has actually committed crimes, so she is persecuted by her enemies everywhere. While fleeing, she has arrived in the kingdom of the Corinthian king with her husband, her children and her wet nurse and is hoping for asylum. The cart on which the refugees fled is their home. Jason went to the king in order to obtain his protection for himself and his family. A messenger tells Medea what the result is. Kreon investigated the case and found that Jason was innocent, but Medea was guilty. He then offered his daughter to Jason and sentenced Medea to death. At least Jason managed to get him to convert the death sentence into an exile. Medea reacts to the news with hatred of her husband, who has saved himself and leaves her to her fate. She welcomes the hatred because now she believes she can get away from it inside. But this hope turns out to be an illusion; she is unable to free herself from her erotic addiction. Creon appears and announces her expulsion. She asks him to either leave Jason or kill her, but he refuses to do either. Nothing changes in that when she mocks his softness.

This is followed by Jason's argument with his abandoned wife. Again she expresses her wish either to remain his wife or to be killed. Again she meets with rejection, because he wants to forget her completely and fears that her death would continue to bind him to her. He confesses that he loved her, her black world, her daring, even her destructiveness and her crime. With her he believed that you always have to take and fight and that everything is allowed. Now he wants to shed this past and live a different life. Reluctantly, she suggests a new start with her, but he resolutely refuses and leaves. The result is catastrophe: Medea kills Creusa, Creon and the children, and finally she stabs herself. Her body burns in the cart she set alight. Jason stays behind. He decides to forget Medea and the whole bloody past and to turn to his new task: "Now it is time to live, to secure order, to give Corinth laws and to rebuild a world according to our measure without illusions in order to await death in it." The play ends with the appearance of small people - Medea's nurse and a guard - who talk about everyday things: The day is beautiful, the harvest will be good. There is life beyond the tragic.

A central topic for Anouilh was the question of whether a new beginning with forgetting the past is a possible option in human life or whether - as his Medea thinks - what happened and what has become has become part of the human being. As for fate, Jason and Medea agree with Anouilh that they deny the existence of benevolent gods. Medea believes that the gods play a dirty game with certain people they are interested in, which is pointless from the point of view of the people concerned. Jason believes that the gods are indifferent to humans.

Robinson Jeffers

Robinson Jeffers wrote the two-act drama Medea , a adaptation of the tragedy of Euripides, in free verse. It premiered in 1947 with Judith Anderson in the title role. Jeffers' Medea represents "inhumanism" with her elementary passion, her will to revenge and her urge to destroy, the stepping out of the restriction to the norms of common, subjective human values ​​and standards. Like nature, which creates and destroys, the near-natural Medea is morally indifferent. The intimidating, superhuman-looking figure of the title hero is contrasted by cowardice, hypocrisy and opportunism in her opponents. The motive for the child murder is that for Medea the children are the bond that still binds her to Jason.

Christa Wolf

Christa Wolf found the subject in her 1996 novel Medea. Voices radically reshaped from a feminist perspective. In doing so, it ties in with the tradition from the time before Euripides, which conveys a positive image of Medea. For Christa Wolf, this original Medea is the authentic one.

In the novel, six people, including Medea, Jason and Creon's daughter Glauke, comment on the disaster and its history in eleven monologues. Medea has committed no crimes but is slandered and attacked by malicious enemies who represent a violent patriarchal society. She serves as a scapegoat; she is blamed for the outrage of others as well as a plague raging in Corinth. She did not join the Argonauts out of blind love for Jason, but out of opposition to her father's criminal regime. In Corinth she finds out that King Creon, like Aietes, murdered one of his children. It is perceived as a threat by the rulers, and the people believe the slanderous rumors. Medea is also an outsider in Corinth because of her ethnic origin. These circumstances lead to their eviction from the city. On the day she leaves, the mentally ill Glauke kills herself. Medea is also blamed for her death. The anger of the Corinthians is directed against the children of the hated foreign woman who remained in the Temple of Hera. You are being stoned. Medea, who remains perplexed, curses the Corinthians in the end and especially the main culprits: “A horrible life and a miserable death come upon you. Your howls should rise to heaven and should not move it. I, Medea, curse you. ”In the end, the heroine of the novel, who is otherwise depicted as a noble figure, receives a dark facet.

The novel was translated into many languages ​​and sparked an intense debate. The main criticism was that Medea was drawn in static one-dimensionality and that the character representation was characterized by black and white painting. It was argued that Wolf's Medea had become “a figure of light and saint” who “is exclusively good and only wants to work good”. Therefore she is suitable for the innocent victim and scapegoat. The novel is "a classic scapegoat story".

More modern edits

Sarah Bernhardt as Medea on a theater poster by Alfons Mucha, 1898

The modern playwrights who have taken on the subject include Grillparzer, Anouilh, Jeffers and Jahnn, Giovanni Battista Niccolini (Tragedy Medea , premiered in 1825) and Ernest Legouvé (Tragedy Médée , in the Italian version with Adelaide Ristori in the title role great stage success, first performed in Paris in 1856), Gotthard Oswald Marbach (Tragedy Medeia , published in 1858), Prince Georg von Prussia (Tragedy Medea , published in 1870), Catulle Mendès (Tragedy Médée , premiered in 1898 with Sarah Bernhardt in the title role), Maurice Baring (Drama Jason and Medea , published 1911), Corrado Alvaro (tragedy Lunga notte di Medea , premiered 1949), Alfonso Sastre (drama Medea , premiered 1958), Jean-Claude van Itallie (drama Medea , premiered 1979), Reinaldo Montero (tragedy Medea , first performance 1997), Tom Lanoye (drama Mamma Medea , first performance 2001) and Nino Harativili (drama Mein und dein Herz. Medeia , first performance 2007).

Heiner Müller used the material very freely in his play Vermutes Ufer. Media material. Landscape with Argonauts (three scenes, published 1982). His Medea is a monstrous murderer, but the real guilt for her crimes lies with Jason, who came to Colchis as an aggressor and committed atrocities there.

Per Lysander and Suzanne Osten wrote the Swedish children 's play Medeas barn ("Medea's Children"), which premiered in 1975. In it, the conflict in Corinth is presented from the perspective of the children concerned and the children's suffering from the parents' quarrel is discussed. Dario Fo and his wife Franca Rame wrote the scene Medea in 1977 , which was successful on many stages in Europe. Here the Corinthian choir, based on the ancient model, plays an important role as a dialogue partner for the heroine. The child murder takes place only in Medea's imagination.

The material has also been received intensively in modern narrative literature. William Morris published the extensive poem The Life and Death of Jason in 1867 , in which he described the Argonautical voyage and the events in Iolkos and Corinth. In 1954, Friederike Mayröcker described the meeting of Jason and Medea in Colchis in the short text Medea and Iason : Medea is in love, Jason is only interested in her magic box. John Gardner published the epic poem Jason and Medeia in 1973 . In the feminist novel Acquittal for Medea by Ursula Haas , which appeared in 1987, the child murder is omitted; instead, Medea aborts a child from Jason because she does not want him to have an offspring who could be similar to him. After painful years at Jason's side, who has taken advantage of her for his striving for power and property, she returns to her homeland. Despite the novel's title, however, she is not "innocent"; among other things she murdered Creusa and later tried to poison Theseus in Athens. She is only “acquitted” of responsibility for her actions, since she acted under the compulsion of overpowering impulses.

The tragic events are also portrayed in modern works from the perspective of the aged Jason, who looked back on his life before his death: in the radio play Jason's Last Night by Marie Luise Kaschnitz (first broadcast in 1965) and in the story Das Argonautenschiff by Anna Seghers, published in 1949 . Kaschnitz already dealt with the subject in her work Greek Myths , published in 1943 (The Night of the Argo) . There she interpreted the robe that Medea gave Creon's daughter as an expression of the life experience of a woman who for her husband was “an eternal stranger”: “Everything that she had suffered during this time was worked into its fine tissue: pain and Disappointment, jealousy, and bitterness. It was heavy with the gold embroidery that adorned it, heavier with hatred and futile hope, and when the bride put it on she sank into a grief that stifled her joy and succumbed to her young life. ”At Seghers, Jason looks back at Medea as a "black witch" who had become unfaithful to her own gods out of love for him, but remained "disgustingly loyal to him".

There are also works in which the ancient legend as such is not thematized, but elements of the myth are transferred to comparable constellations in other, more contemporary times. Authors who have updated the material in this way include Paul Heyse (Novelle Medea , written in 1896, published in 1897), Bertolt Brecht (poem Die Medea von Lodz , 1934), Maxwell Anderson (drama The Wingless Victory , first performed in 1936) , Franz Theodor Csokor (Drama Medea postbellica , first performance 1950), Max Zweig (Drama Medea in Prague , written in 1949), Dea Loher (Drama Manhattan Medea , first performance 1999), Neil LaBute (stage monologue Medea redux , first performance 1999) and Werner Fritsch ( "Traumspiel" Hydra Krieg , first performance 2003). Lyudmila Evgenjewna Ulitskaja in her novel Medea and her children (1996) ties in with the ancient material only with the name of the heroine and not with the plot.

Visual arts

In 1828 William Turner created the oil painting Vision of Medea . It shows Medea in two scenes: doing magic and fleeing Corinth. The oil painting Médée furieuse by Eugène Delacroix, completed in 1838, was highly valued by contemporary art critics . Medea can be seen in a cave with a dagger in hand shortly before the child murder; she looks at the exit of the cave and hugs the children as if to defend them with a dagger. Inspired by Delacroix's picture, Paul Cézanne designed the subject in his watercolor Médée . Gustave Moreau presented in the oil painting Jason et Médée in 1865 a beautiful couple in a paradisiacal setting; on the ground there lies a daggered eagle instead of the dragon who guarded the fleece. Medea appears as a possessive femme fatale . 1866–1868 Frederick Sandys painted Medea while preparing the poisoned garment.

Anselm Feuerbach depicted scenes from the myth in three paintings : Medea (1870), Medea with the dagger (1871) and Medea at the urn (1873). In the first picture you can see Medea with the two children on the coast; the peacefulness of the scene contrasts with the terrible future known to the viewer. The second picture shows Medea larger than life, a monumental figure in brooding thoughtfulness and melancholy. In the third picture, Medea is sitting dreamily with her eyes closed; the murder that she has in mind is reflected on the urn on which the child murder scene is depicted. For the premiere of Catulle Mendès' tragedy Médée , Alfons Mucha designed the poster in 1898, a lithograph that is considered an important work of Art Nouveau ; The actress Sarah Bernhardt is shown as Medea with the blood-stained dagger and the dead children. The 1907 painting Jason and Medea by John William Waterhouse shows Medea making a magic potion, Jason watches her. Medea can be seen with the children in a watercolor by Werner Gilles from 1923 . Francis Picabia presented Medea in a surrealist watercolor in 1929 , using different motifs to express the diversity of her myth. In 1947 Gerhard Marcks made a woodcut showing a simple Medea with a rigid, desperate facial expression. Even in recent times, numerous artists have created paintings and drawings depicting Medea.

William Wetmore Story created a marble statue of Medea with the dagger in 1865–1868, Auguste Rodin a plaster figure from 1865–1870, Eduardo Paolozzi in 1964 an abstract aluminum sculpture, Leonard Baskin 1980–1981 several bronze sculptures.

In the Georgian city ​​of Batumi , which is located in the area of ​​the ancient Colchis landscape, a Medea monument was inaugurated in 2007 , which shows Medea with the fleece.


Opera, ballet, modern dance

The subject's popularity in opera continued into modern times. The composers who brought him to the stage include - the dates refer to the world premiere - Johann Simon Mayr ( Medea in Corinto , libretto by Felice Romani , 1813), Giovanni Pacini ( Medea , 1843), Saverio Mercadante ( Medea , Libretto by Salvadore Cammarano , 1851), Otto Bach ( Medea , 1874), Vincenzo Tommasini ( Medea , 1906), Slavko Osterc ( Medea , 1932), Darius Milhaud ( Médée , libretto by Madeleine Milhaud , 1939), Pietro Canonica ( Medea , 1953), Harold Farberman (Chamber Opera Medea , 1961), Theodore Antoniou ( Medea , 1976), Ray Edward Luke ( Medea , 1979), Gavin Bryars ( Medea , 1984), Friedhelm Döhl ( Medea , 1990), Mikis Theodorakis ( Medea , 1991), Pascal Dusapin ( Medeamaterial , setting of the work of the same name by Heiner Müller, 1992), Gordon Kerry (Chamber opera Medea , libretto by Justin Macdonnell, 1993), Rolf Liebermann ( acquittal for Medea , libretto based on the novel of the same name by Ursula Haas, 1995), Volker Blumenthaler (Chamber Op he Jason and Medea / Schwarz überölbt Rot , 1996), Johanna Doderer ( Die Fremde , 2001), Adriano Guarnieri (Film-Oper Medea , 2002) and Aribert Reimann ( Medea , 2010).

The choreography of ballets and works of modern dance created - the dates refer to the world premiere - Charles-Louis Didelot (Ballet Médée et Jason , 1807), Martha Graham (Modern Dance Cave of the Heart , music by Samuel Barber , 1946; Ballet La hija de Cólquide or Dark Meadow , music by Carlos Chávez , 1946), Birgit Cullberg (ballet Medea , music by Béla Bartók , 1950), Michael Smuin (ballet Medea , music by Samuel Barber, 1977), Anton Kalinov (ballet Medea , Music by Teresa Procaccini, 1983) and John Neumeier (Ballet Medea , 1990).

Other musical works

Samuel Barber reworked his ballet music for Cave of the Heart later into the orchestral suite Opus 23 (first performance 1947) and named a new version, Opus 23a, Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance (first performance 1956). Dimitri Terzakis created Medea , a composition for soprano, violin, violoncello and percussion (sung text by Euripides, first performed in 1966). Georg Katzer set to music a libretto created by Christa Wolf based on her Medea novel in his work Medea in Corinth, which premiered in 2002 . Oratorical scenes . The Corsican music group A Filetta released the album Medea in 2005 , which contains four choral songs by Jean-Claude Acquaviva in Corsican.


In 1969 Pier Paolo Pasolini produced his film Medea, which is critical of civilization, with Maria Callas in the title role. The theme is the tragic conflict between the irreconcilable mentalities of two people that erotic attraction has brought together. The religious world of the Colchian priestess Medea is shaped by archaic customs and norms and knows no humanity. The “modern”, “technical” world of the Greek adventurer Jason, in which pragmatic calculations determine action and only visible success counts, is also inhuman - albeit in a completely different way. At the same time there is a sharp contrast between Medea's passion and Jason's sobriety. After separating from her homeland, Medea loses contact with the forces of nature and with it her identity. In Greece she remains an unaccepted foreigner. She kills the children in order to save them from a life that, in her opinion, is not worth living. With this step she separates from the Greek civilization and finds her way back to her ancestral world. Under the given circumstances, however, this is the way to her own death: she burns in a fire that she herself started.

Pasolini is very critical of the banal expediency that his Jason embodies. On the other hand, he also directs attention urgently to aspects of the archaic way of life that are particularly foreign and offensive to the modern audience: a ritual human sacrifice in Colchis, in which Medea acts as a priestess, and the murder and dismemberment of Medea's brother.

Like Pasolini, Lars von Trier largely adheres to ancient tradition in the plot of his Medea film, produced in 1988. The film, for which von Trier used a script by director Carl Theodor Dreyer, who died in 1968 , is about the power struggle between Medea and Glauke. The cynical Jason who only thinks of his own advantage wants to win the king's daughter as well as keep his children. It turns out, however, that in reality he is not the master of his fate, but that the two rival women bring about developments, and he becomes the plaything of them. Glauke enforces the banishment of Medea, but with which she prepares her own downfall. So in the end Jason loses everything.


In psychoanalysis , the Medea saga is regarded as the mythical expression of a death wish by mothers against their children - especially sons - which arises from the mother's need to take revenge on the children's father. The term “Medea complex” has been used for this since the middle of the 20th century. Joseph C. Rheingold assumed that an impulse to kill the children was probably present in every mother and that only the intensity varied greatly. At least the impulse is very common. If this is combined with the need to punish the child's father, then it is a Medea complex. More recently there is also talk of “Medea fantasy”, which is used to describe “limit states of female destructiveness”. The affected patients fear their destructive impulses, which are directed against their partner and their own children as products of the relationship with them.

natural Science

An asteroid discovered in 1880 was named after Medea : (212) Medea .

Some flour beetles have what is known as a Medea gene. Its gene product blocks the toxic effects of a microRNA produced by the mother , which is fatal for all offspring if they do not have the Medea gene.

The Medea hypothesis , coined by the paleontologist Peter Ward , is named after Medea , according to which the earth is a self-destructive system that, like Medea, kills its children and ultimately falls back into a state in which only microbial life can exist.

Text collections

  • Ludger Lütkehaus (Ed.): Myth Medea. Texts from Euripides to Christa Wolf. Reclam, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-15-020006-3 (compilation of literary texts)
  • Joachim Schondorff (Ed.): Medea. Euripides, Seneca, Corneille, Cherubini, Grillparzer, Jahnn, Anouilh, Jeffers, Braun . Langen Müller, Munich 1963 (translations)


Overview and overall representations

  • Angelika Corbineau-Hoffmann: Medeia. In: Maria Moog-Grünewald (Ed.): Mythenrezeption. The ancient mythology in literature, music and art from the beginnings to the present (= Der Neue Pauly . Supplements. Volume 5). Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2008, ISBN 978-3-476-02032-1 , pp. 418-428.
  • Lillian Corti: The Myth of Medea and the Murder of Children . Greenwood Press, Westport 1998, ISBN 0-313-30536-6 .
  • Sabine Eichelmann: The Myth of Medea. His way to us through cultural memory . Tectum, Marburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-8288-2369-3 .
  • Wolf-Hartmut Friedrich : Medea's revenge . In: Ernst-Richard Schwinge (Ed.): Euripides . Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1968, pp. 177-237 (compares the dramas from Euripides to Anouilh).
  • Kurt von Fritz : The development of the Iason Medeasage and the Medea of ​​Euripides . In: Kurt von Fritz: Ancient and modern tragedy. Nine treatises . De Gruyter, Berlin 1962, pp. 322–429 (deals with the literary processing of legends from the beginnings to the modern age).
  • Duarte Mimoso-Ruiz: Médée antique et modern. Aspects rituels et socio-politiques d'un mythe . Édition Ophrys, Paris 1982, ISBN 2-7080-0505-7 .
  • Stefan Munaretto: Medea. A myth and its adaptations . C. Bange, Hollfeld 2009, ISBN 978-3-8044-3043-3 (covers the versions by Euripides, Grillparzer, Wolf and the feature film by Pasolini).
  • Britta Schmierer: Motivation in media tragedies of antiquity and modern times . Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2005, ISBN 3-8260-3203-9 .


  • André Arcellaschi: Médée dans le théâtre latin d'Ennius à Sénèque . École française de Rome, Rome 1990, ISBN 2-7283-0210-X .
  • Paul Dräger : Argo pasimelousa. The Argonaut myth in Greek and Roman literature. Part 1: Theos aitios. Stuttgart 1993, ISBN 3-515-05974-1 .
  • Alain Moreau: Le mythe de Jason et Médée. Le va-nu-pied et la sorcière . Les Belles Lettres, Paris 1994, ISBN 2-251-32420-8 .

middle Ages

  • Joel N. Feimer: The Figure of Medea in Medieval Literature: A Thematic Metamorphosis . New York 1983 (dissertation).
  • Ruth Morse: The Medieval Medea . Brewer, Cambridge 1996, ISBN 0-85991-459-3 .

Modern times

  • Yixu Lü: Medea among the Germans. Changes in a literary figure. Rombach, Freiburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-7930-9586-6 .
  • Matthias Luserke-Jaqui : Medea. Studies on the cultural history of literature. Francke, Tübingen / Basel 2002, ISBN 3-7720-2787-3
  • Inge Stephan: Medea. Multimedia career of a mythological figure. Böhlau, Cologne 2006, ISBN 3-412-36805-9 ( review ).
  • Christoph Steskal: Medea and Jason in the German literature of the 20th century. Updating potential of a myth. Roderer, Regensburg 2001, ISBN 3-89783-279-8 .

Visual arts

  • Jean-Michel Croisille: Poésie et art figuré de Néron aux Flaviens . 2 volumes, Latomus, Bruxelles 1982, ISBN 2-87031-119-2 , volume 1, pp. 28-77 and volume 2, plates 1-23.
  • Francesco De Martino (Ed.): Medea istantanea. Miniature, incisioni, illustrazioni (= Kleos. Vol. 18). Levante, Bari 2008, ISBN 978-88-7949-515-8 .
  • Ekaterini Kepetzis: Medea in the fine arts from the Middle Ages to the modern age. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 1997, ISBN 3-631-31758-1 .
  • Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood : Medea at a Shifting Distance. Images and Euripidean Tragedy . In: James J. Clauss , Sarah I. Johnston (Eds.): Medea. Essays on Medea in Myth, Literature, Philosophy, and Art . Princeton University Press, Princeton 1997, ISBN 0-691-04376-0 , pp. 253-296.
  • Margot Schmidt : Medeia . In: Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Volume 6.1, Artemis, Zurich 1992, ISBN 3-7608-8751-1 , pp. 386–398 (text) and Volume 6.2, pp. 194–202 (images); see also the lemmas Aigeus (Volume 1), Iason (Volume 5) and Pelias (Volume 7). Supplements by Vassiliki Gaggadis-Robin, John H. Oakley and Jean-Jacques Maffre in the supplementary volumes Supplementum 2009 : Supplement volume 1, Artemis, Düsseldorf 2009, ISBN 978-3-538-03520-1 , pp. 83, 330 f., 414 , 479 (text) and supplement volume 2, pp. 40, 162, 201, 231 (images)
  • Erika Simon : Medea in ancient art. Magician - mother - goddess. In: Annette Kämmerer u. a. (Ed.): Medea's Changes. Studies into a Myth in Art and Science . Mattes, Heidelberg 1998, ISBN 3-930978-36-9 , pp. 13-53.
  • Verena Zinserling-Paul: On the image of Medea in ancient art . In: Klio . Vol. 61, 1979, pp. 407-436.


  • Corinna Herr: Medea's anger. A 'strong woman' in operas of the 17th and 18th centuries (= contributions to the cultural and social history of music. Vol. 2). Centaurus, Herbolzheim 2000, ISBN 3-8255-0299-6 .
  • Andrea Winkler: Medea Libretti. An investigation into the history of materials in compositions from Cavalli to Liebermann . Detmold 2001 (dissertation).

Web links

Wiktionary: Medea  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Medea (mythology)  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Medea  - Sources and full texts


  1. The following overview is based on the representations of Karl Kerényi : The Heroes of the Greeks , Zurich 1958, pp. 266-298 and Albin Lesky : Medeia . In: Pauly-Wissowa RE, Volume 15/1, Stuttgart 1931, Sp. 29-64, here: 30-56.
  2. The idea that the fleece was a curative object, the possession of which guaranteed a king his rule, had come from the Hittite religion into Greek mythology. See Volkert Haas : Medea and Jason in the light of Hittite sources . In: Acta Antiqua Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 26, 1978, pp. 241-253.
  3. Hesiod, Theogony 992-996.
  4. A remnant of this tradition can also be found in a fragment of the lost work Peri Skython (or Scythica ) by Timonax, where Aietes gives Medea to Jason and the two marry in Colchis; the bridal chamber was later shown there: The Fragments of the Greek Historians Part 3 C, Volume 2, Leiden 1958, p. 928 (No. 842).
  5. ^ Alain Moreau: Le mythe de Jason et Médée. Paris 1994, pp. 45-47.
  6. ^ Pindar, Pythische Odes 4, 211-250. See Bruce Karl Braswell's commentary on this : A Commentary on the Fourth Pythian Ode of Pindar , Berlin 1988, pp. 293-345.
  7. Kurt von Fritz: The development of the Iason Medeasage and the Medea of ​​Euripides . In: Kurt von Fritz: Antike und Moderne Tragödie , Berlin 1962, pp. 322–429, here: 326 f.
  8. Angeliki Kottaridou: Kirke and Medeia. Cologne 1991, p. 131 f.
  9. Alain Moreau: Médée ou la ruine des structures familiales . In: Odile Cavalier (ed.): Silence et fureur , Paris 1996, pp. 303–321, here: 308.
  10. Kurt von Fritz: The development of the Iason Medeasage and the Medea of ​​Euripides . In: Kurt von Fritz: Antike und Moderne Tragödie , Berlin 1962, pp. 322–429, here: 327.
  11. On the dating of Eumelos' lifetime see Cecil M. Bowra: Two Lines of Eumelus . In: The Classical Quarterly , New Series, Vol. 13, 1963, pp. 145–153, here: 146 f.
  12. Pausanias 2, 3, 11. See Christine Harrauer: The Corinthian Child Murder. Eumelos and the consequences . In: Wiener Studien 112, 1999, pp. 5–28, here: 8–15; Édouard Will: Korinthiaka , Paris 1955, pp. 85 f., 88-90.
  13. ^ Alain Moreau: Le mythe de Jason et Médée. Paris 1994, pp. 50-52.
  14. Christine Harrauer: The Corinthian child murder. Eumelos and the consequences . In: Wiener Studien 112, 1999, pp. 5–28, here: 15–17; Édouard Will: Korinthiaka , Paris 1955, pp. 87, 95 f.
  15. Pausanias 2, 3, 7.
  16. ^ Edouard Will: Corinthiacs. Paris 1955, pp. 97-103; Sarah I. Johnston: Corinthian Medea and the Cult of Hera Akraia . In: James J. Clauss, Sarah I. Johnston (Eds.): Medea. Essays on Medea in Myth, Literature, Philosophy, and Art , Princeton 1997, pp. 44-70.
  17. ^ Edouard Will: Corinthiacs. Paris 1955, p. 87.
  18. ^ Alain Moreau: Le mythe de Jason et Médée. Paris 1994, pp. 50-52; Christine Harrauer: The Corinthian child murder. Eumelos and the consequences . In: Wiener Studien 112, 1999, pp. 5–28, here: 17–19; Kurt von Fritz: The development of the Iason Medeasage and the Medea of ​​Euripides . In: Kurt von Fritz: Antike und Moderne Tragödie , Berlin 1962, pp. 322–429, here: 330 f .; Ernst-Richard Schwinge: Who Killed Medea's Children? In: Anton Bierl u. a. (Ed.): Ancient literature in a new interpretation , Munich 2004, pp. 203–211.
  19. Herodotus 7:62.
  20. Hesiod, Theogony 1000-1002.
  21. See on this tradition Alain Moreau: Le mythe de Jason et Médée. Paris 1994, p. 60.
  22. An overview of the debate is provided by Fiona McHardy: From Treacherous Wives to Murderous Mothers: Filicide in Tragic Fragments . In: Fiona McHardy et al. a. (Ed.): Lost Dramas of Classical Athens , Exeter 2005, pp. 129–150, here: 138–141.
  23. Aristotle, Poetics 1454a – b. See Ian Worthington: The Ending of Euripides' 'Medea' . In: Hermes 118, 1990, pp. 502-505.
  24. Aristotle, Poetics 1461b.
  25. See for the interpretation of Kurt von Fritz: The development of the Iason-Medeasage and the Medea of ​​Euripides . In: Kurt von Fritz: Antike und Moderne Tragödie , Berlin 1962, pp. 322–429, here: 344–370; Ruth E. Harder: The roles of women in Euripides , Stuttgart 1993, pp. 356-396.
  26. This aspect, which is often emphasized in the research literature, is discussed. a. with Ernst-Richard Schwinge: Medea with Euripides and Christa Wolf . In: Poetica 35, 2003, pp. 275-305, here: 276-279.
  27. The translation of the passage is controversial; it can also read “but passion prevails over my decisions”.
  28. Euripides, Medeia 1078-1080. However, some researchers consider these verses to be spurious. Herbert Eisenberger , among others, pleads for inauthenticity : Interpretations of Euripides' "Medea" . In: Herbert Eisenberger (Ed.): Hermeneumata , Heidelberg 1990, pp. 173-209. See Charles Segal : Euripides' Medea: Vengeance, Reversal and Closure . In: Médée et la violence (= Pallas 45), Toulouse 1996, pp. 15–44, here: p. 24 note 27.
  29. John M. Dillon : Medea among the Philosophers . In: James J. Clauss, Sarah I. Johnston (Eds.): Medea. Essays on Medea in Myth, Literature, Philosophy, and Art , Princeton 1997, pp. 211-218. See GailAnn Rickert: Akrasia and Euripides' Medea . In: Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 91, 1987, pp. 91-117.
  30. On the situation of the children and their importance for Jason see Cecelia AE Luschnig: Granddaughter of the Sun. A Study of Euripides' Medea. Leiden 2007, pp. 50-53, 85-117.
  31. The fragments are edited by François Jouan and Herman Van Looy: Euripide. Vol. 8, Part 2: Fragments. Bellérophon - Protésilas , Paris 2000, pp. 515-530.
  32. The fragments are edited by François Jouan and Herman Van Looy: Euripide. Vol. 8, Part 1: Fragments. Aigeus - Autolykos , Paris 1998, pp. 1-13.
  33. See also Jan H. Barkhuizen: The psychological characterization of Medea in Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 3, 744-824 . In: Acta classica 22, 1979, pp. 33-48.
  34. Apollonios Rhodios, Argonautika 4,6–34.
  35. Apollonios Rhodios, Argonautika 4,303-349.
  36. Jan N. Bremmer : Why Did Medea Kill Her Brother Apsyrtus? In: James J. Clauss, Sarah I. Johnston (Eds.): Medea. Essays on Medea in Myth, Literature, Philosophy, and Art , Princeton 1997, pp. 83-100, here: 84 f.
  37. Apollonios Rhodios, Argonautika 4,350-521. See Calvin S. Byre: The Killing of Apsyrtus in Apollonius Rhodius' Argonautica . In: Phoenix 50, 1996, pp. 3-16.
  38. Apollonios Rhodios, Argonautika 4,982-1222.
  39. On this episode see Richard Buxton: Les yeux de Médée: le regard et la magie dans les Argonautiques d'Apollonios de Rhodes . In: La magie. Actes du Colloque International de Montpellier 25-27 mars 1999 , Vol. 2, Montpellier 2000, pp. 265-275. For iconography see Angeliki Kottaridou: Kirke and Medeia , Cologne 1991, pp. 273–275.
  40. On this problem, see Hermann Fränkel : Notes on the Argonautika des Apollonios , Munich 1968, pp. 488–490; Paul Dräger : Die Argonautika des Apollonios Rhodios , Munich 2001, pp. 123–125; Andrew R. Dyck: On the Way from Colchis to Corinth: Medea in Book 4 of the 'Argonautica' . In: Hermes 117, 1989, pp. 455-470.
  41. Kurt von Fritz: The development of the Iason Medeasage and the Medea of ​​Euripides . In: Kurt von Fritz: Antike und Moderne Tragödie , Berlin 1962, pp. 322–429, here: 332, 372–376.
  42. See also the analysis by Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff : Hellenistic poetry in the time of Callimachos , 2nd, improved edition, vol. 2, Berlin 1962, pp. 200–203, 212 f.
  43. See also Kurt von Fritz: The development of the Iason-Medeasage and the Medea of ​​Euripides . In: Kurt von Fritz: Antike und Moderne Tragödie , Berlin 1962, pp. 322–429, here: 374 f.
  44. A detailed analysis is provided by Alan Huston Rawn: Tradition and Innovation in Apollonios' Characterization of Medea in the Argonautika. Seattle 1993. Cf. Paul Dräger: Die Argonautika des Apollonios Rhodios , Munich 2001, pp. 120–125.
  45. The fragments are edited and commented by Theodor Heinze (ed.): P. Ovidius Naso: Der XII. Hero's letter: Medea to Jason. Leiden 1997, pp. 221-252.
  46. Ovid, Tristia 3.9. See also Marcus Beck: Tatort Tomi . In: Sven Conrad u. a. (Ed.): Pontos Euxeinos , Langenweißbach 2006, pp. 391-396.
  47. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses 7.53.
  48. Ovid, Metamorphoses 7.55.
  49. Ovid, Metamorphoses 7.7–158.
  50. Ovid, Metamorphoses 7.20 f .; 7.92 f.
  51. Ovid, Metamorphoses 7, 159-424.
  52. A detailed analysis is provided by Christine Binroth-Bank: Medea in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Frankfurt am Main 1994.
  53. ↑ However, some philologists have doubted that Ovid is actually the author of this letter. See Stephen Hinds : Medea in Ovid: Scenes from the Life of an Intertextual Heroine . In: Materiali e discussioni per l'analisi dei testi classici 30, 1993, pp. 9-47; Theodor Heinze (Ed.): P. Ovidius Naso: Der XII. Heroidenbrief: Medea to Jason , Leiden 1997, pp. 51-55.
  54. ^ Ovid, Heroides 12, 197.
  55. The letter is critically edited and commented by Theodor Heinze (Ed.): P. Ovidius Naso: Der XII. Hero's letter: Medea to Jason. Leiden 1997.
  56. Seneca, Medea 991 f.
  57. For Seneca 's Medea picture see Christine Walde : Senecas Medea - goddess against will? In: Bernhard Zimmermann (Ed.): Mythische Wiederkehr , Freiburg 2009, pp. 167–198; Stefanie Grewe: The political meaning of the Seneca tragedies and Seneca's political thinking at the time of the writing of the Medea , Würzburg 2001, pp. 50–60, 72–74, 78–90.
  58. This is, however, controversial; see e.g. B. Nikolaus Thurn : The Medea Senecas and the Medeia Euripides': No change of medium? In: Hans Jürgen Wendel u. a. (Ed.): Change of medium. On the interdependence of form and content , Rostock 2001, pp. 87–115, here: 88 f.
  59. Horace, Ars poetica 185.
  60. For the interpretation, see François Ripoll: L'inspiration tragique au chant VII des Argonautiques de Valérius Flaccus . In: Revue des Études Latines 82, 2004, pp. 187–208; Gesine Manuwald : The Argonauts in Colchis . In: Antike und Abendland 48, 2002, pp. 43–57, here: 48–52; Ulrich Eigler : Medea as a sacrifice - the intrigue of the gods in the VII. And VIII. Book of the Argonautica (VII 1 - VIII 67). In: Matthias Korn, Hans Jürgen Tschiedel (eds.): Ratis omnia vincet. Investigations on the Argonautica of Valerius Flaccus , Hildesheim 1991, pp. 155-172; Attila Ferenczi: Medea - a heroine . In: Ulrich Eigler, Eckard Lefèvre (ed.): Ratis omnia vicet. New investigations into the Argonautica of Valerius Flaccus , Munich 1998, pp. 337–346.
  61. See on this motif Fritz Graf : Medea, the Enchantress from Afar . In: James J. Clauss, Sarah I. Johnston (Eds.): Medea. Essays on Medea in Myth, Literature, Philosophy, and Art . Princeton 1997, pp. 21-43, here: 25-27.
  62. The text is critically edited and commented by Helen Kaufmann: Dracontius: Romul. 10 (Medea). Heidelberg 2006.
  63. For the interpretation see Werner Schubert: Medea in der Latinischen Literatur der Antike . In: Annette Kämmerer u. a. (Ed.): Medeas Wandlungen , Heidelberg 1998, pp. 55–91, here: 83–89.
  64. Pindar, Pythische Oden 4, 213. Cf. Paul Dräger: Die Argonautika des Apollonios Rhodios. Munich 2001, pp. 19-24.
  65. The fragments are edited and translated into English by Hugh Lloyd-Jones : Sophocles: Fragments , Cambridge (Massachusetts) 1996, pp. 186-189.
  66. ^ Hugh Lloyd-Jones (ed.): Sophocles: Fragments. Cambridge (Massachusetts) 1996, pp. 274-277.
  67. ^ Hugh Lloyd-Jones (ed.): Sophocles: Fragments. Cambridge (Massachusetts) 1996, pp. 268-271; Angeliki Kottaridou: Kirke and Medeia , Cologne 1991, pp. 209-213.
  68. ^ Walter Burkert: Medea: work on the myth from Eumelos to Karkinos . In: Bernhard Zimmermann (Ed.): Mythische Wiederkehr , Freiburg 2009, pp. 153–166, here: 162–166.
  69. Diodorus 4.40-56.
  70. See Jeffrey S. Rusten: Dionysius Scytobrachion. Opladen 1982, pp. 93-101.
  71. For this interpretation and its application to the Medea myth by ancient authors, see Alain Moreau: Le mythe de Jason et Médée. Paris 1994, pp. 221-232.
  72. ^ Paul Dräger: The Argonautica of Apollonios Rhodios. Munich 2001, pp. 25-29.
  73. Bibliotheke 1.127 to 147.
  74. See Harry D. Jocelyn (Ed.): The Tragedies of Ennius. Cambridge 1967, pp. 113-123 (compilation of fragments), 342-382 (commentary). Another hypothesis, according to which there was only one Medea drama by Ennius, is represented by André Arcellaschi: Médée dans le théâtre latin d'Ennius à Sénèque , Rome 1990, pp. 48-58.
  75. ^ Cicero, De finibus bonorum et malorum 1,4.
  76. Petra Schierl (ed.): The tragedies of Pacuvius. Berlin 2006, pp. 342–385 (critical edition of the fragments with introduction and commentary). See Alain Moreau: Le mythe de Jason et Médée , Paris 1994, pp. 206-208; André Arcellaschi: Médée dans le théâtre latin d'Ennius à Sénèque , Rome 1990, pp. 101–161.
  77. Jacqueline Dangel (Ed.): Accius: Œuvres (fragments). Paris 1995, pp. 202-206 (critical edition of the fragments), 349-352 (commentary). Cf. Thomas Baier : Accius: Medea sive Argonautae . In: Stefan Faller, Gesine Manuwald (ed.): Accius and his time , Würzburg 2002, pp. 51–62.
  78. Maria Teresa Galli (ed.): Hosidius Geta: Medea (= Vertumnus 10), Göttingen 2017 (critical edition with Italian translation and commentary). For interpretation see Anke Rondholz: The Versatile Needle. Hosidius Geta's Cento Medea and Its Tradition , Berlin 2012. Rondholz considers the work to be a mostly underestimated innovative achievement.
  79. Critical edition of the fragments: Jürgen Blänsdorf (ed.): Fragmenta poetarum Latinorum epicorum et lyricorum , 4th, extended edition, Berlin 2011, pp. 231–236. For the dating and assessment in antiquity see André Arcellaschi: Médée dans le théâtre latin d'Ennius à Sénèque. Rome 1990, pp. 198 f., 210-212, 215-217.
  80. ^ Hygin, Genealogiae 21-27.
  81. Marcus Iunianus Iustinus , Epitoma historiarum Philippicarum Pompei Trogi 42: 2-3.
  82. ^ Hugo Meyer: Medeia and the Peliaden. Rome 1980, pp. 25-27.
  83. ^ Margot Schmidt: Medeia . In: Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Volume 6.1, Zurich 1992, pp. 386-398, here: 388, 395 f. (Text) and Volume 6.2, pp. 194–202, here: 194 (illustrations). Cf. Mata Vojatzi: Frühhe Argonautenbilder , Würzburg 1982, p. 93 f.
  84. On the iconography of Medea's role in the Peliassage see Margot Schmidt: Medea at Work . In: Gocha R. Tsetskhladze u. a. (Ed.): Periplous , London 2000, pp. 263-270; Mata Vojatzi: Early Argonautenbilder , Würzburg 1982, pp. 94-100; Verena Zinserling-Paul: On the image of Medea in ancient art . In: Klio 61, 1979, pp. 407-436, here: 412-419; Angeliki Kottaridou: Kirke and Medeia , Cologne 1991, pp. 184-195, 250-259.
  85. On the painting of Timomachus and its literary reception, see Sean Alexander Gurd: Meaning and Material Presence: Four Epigrams on Timomachus' Unfinished Medea . In: Transactions of the American Philological Association 137, 2007, pp. 305-331.
  86. ^ Margot Schmidt: Medeia . In: Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Volume 6.1, Zurich 1992, pp. 386–398, here: 388 f. (Text) and Volume 6.2, pp. 194–202, here: 195 (illustrations).
  87. Luca Giuliani , Glenn W. Most : Medea in Eleusis, in Princeton . In: Chris Kraus u. a. (Ed.): Visualizing the Tragic , Oxford 2007, pp. 197-217; Jean-Marc Moret: Médée à Eleusis . In: Guy Labarre (ed.): Les cultes locaux dans les mondes grec et romain , Paris 2004, pp. 143-149.
  88. Verena Zinserling-Paul: On the image of Medea in ancient art . In: Klio 61, 1979, pp. 407-436, here: 425-430.
  89. See also Hans G. Frenz: Medeia . In: Files of the IV. International Colloquium on Problems of Provincial Roman Art Creation , Ljubljana 1997, pp. 119–126, here: 119–121. Vassiliki Gaggadis-Robin: Jason et Médée sur les sarcophages d'époque impériale , Rome 1994. See Genevieve Gessert: Myth as Consolatio: Medea on Roman Sarcophagi for a thorough examination of the sarcophagi . In: Greece & Rome 51, 2004, pp. 217-249.
  90. For details, see Elisabeth Lienert: Geschichte und Erziegen. Studies on Konrad von Würzburg's 'Trojan War'. Wiesbaden 1996, pp. 57-76.
  91. ^ Nathaniel Edward Griffin (ed.): Guido de Columnis: Historia destructionis Troiae. Cambridge (Massachusetts) 1936, pp. 15-32.
  92. Roman de la rose , verses 13229-13272.
  93. Florence Percival: Chaucer's Legendary Good Women. Cambridge 1998, p. 203.
  94. Florence Percival: Chaucer's Legendary Good Women. Cambridge 1998, pp. 199-220.
  95. On Gower's Medea reception see Joel N. Feimer: The Figure of Medea in Medieval Literature: A Thematic Metamorphosis. New York 1983, pp. 286-297.
  96. ^ Boccaccio, De claris mulieribus 17.
  97. Christine de Pizan, Le livre de la cité des dames 1.32 and 2.56.
  98. Lieselotte E. Saurma-Jeltsch: The taming of excess: The representation of Medea in German book illumination . In: Annette Kämmerer u. a. (Ed.): Medeas Wandlungen , Heidelberg 1998, pp. 93–128; Ekaterini Kepetzis: Medea in the fine arts from the Middle Ages to the modern age , Frankfurt am Main 1997, pp. 46–62, 66–76, 78 f.
  99. On Voltaire's view see Kurt von Fritz: The development of the Iason-Medeasage and the Medea of ​​Euripides . In: Kurt von Fritz: Antike und Moderne Tragödie , Berlin 1962, pp. 322–429, here: 386–403.
  100. ^ Edith Hall: Medea on the Eighteenth-Century London Stage . In: Edith Hall et al. (Ed.): Medea in Performance 1500-2000 , Oxford 2000, pp. 49-74, here: 52 f.
  101. ^ Edith Hall: Medea on the Eighteenth-Century London Stage . In: Edith Hall et al. (Ed.): Medea in Performance 1500-2000 , Oxford 2000, pp. 49-74, here: 53-55.
  102. For the content see Yixu Lü: Medea under the Germans. Freiburg 2009, pp. 96-105.
  103. Matthias Luserke-Jaqui: Medea. Studies on the cultural history of literature. Tübingen 2002, pp. 125-130; Yixu Lü: Medea among the Germans , Freiburg 2009, pp. 57–85; Sabine Eichelmann: The Myth of Medea , Marburg 2010, pp. 45–72.
  104. ^ Frédéric Dronne: Médée dans l'art, l'exemple de Jean-François de Troy . In: Nadia Setti (ed.): Réécritures de Médée , Saint-Denis 2007, pp. 97–106.
  105. See the picture Ekaterini Kepetzis: Medea in the fine arts from the Middle Ages to the modern age. Frankfurt am Main 1997, pp. 155-157.
  106. ^ Hickels Medea , oil painting in the Burgtheater , Vienna.
  107. For the content and the Medea figure see Andrea Winkler: Medea-Libretti. Detmold 2001, pp. 92-98.
  108. On Noverre's Medea interpretation and his successes see Andrea Winkler: Medea-Libretti. Detmold 2001, pp. 86-91; Margret Schuchard: Medea trivial . In: Annette Kämmerer u. a. (Ed.): Medeas Wandlungen , Heidelberg 1998, pp. 143–175, here: 153–159.
  109. Angeliki Kottaridou: Kirke and Medeia. Cologne 1991, p. 149 f .; Alain Moreau: Le mythe de Jason et Médée , Paris 1994, pp. 101-115.
  110. Against this, Christine Harrauer argues: The Corinthian Child Murder. Eumelos and the consequences . In: Wiener Studien 112, 1999, pp. 5–28, here: 22.
  111. ^ Albin Lesky: Medeia . In: Pauly-Wissowa RE, Volume 15/1, Stuttgart 1931, Sp. 29-64, here: 48-51; Edouard Will: Korinthiaka , Paris 1955, pp. 103-118; Alain Moreau: Médée ou la ruine des structures familiales . In: Odile Cavalier (ed.): Silence et fureur , Paris 1996, pp. 303–321, here: 306.
  112. Emily A. McDermott provides an overview: Euripides' Medea. The Incarnation of Disorder. University Park 1989, pp. 11-20.
  113. For Grillparzer's Medea figure see Horst Albert Glaser: Medea. Women's honor - child murder - emancipation. Frankfurt am Main 2001, pp. 111-120; Matthias Luserke-Jaqui: Medea. Studies on the cultural history of literature , Tübingen 2002, pp. 189–207; Konrad Kenkel: Medea-Dramen , Bonn 1979, pp. 62-82; on his relationship to the ancient tradition of Hans Schwabl : ancient designs of the Argonauts saga and Grillparzer's 'Goldenes Vlie' . In: Wiener Humanistische Blätter Heft 36, 1994, pp. 5–43.
  114. Pindar, Pythian Odes 4, 212.
  115. Christoph Steskal: Medea and Jason in the German literature of the 20th century offers a detailed interpretation . Updating potential of a myth. Regensburg 2001, pp. 120–151. See Konrad Kenkel: Medea-Dramen , Bonn 1979, pp. 83-105; Yixu Lü: Medea among the Germans , Freiburg 2009, pp. 172–200.
  116. ^ Jean Anouilh: Médée . In: Jean Anouilh: Nouvelles pièces noires , Paris 1961, pp. 351–399, here: 388–391.
  117. ^ Jean Anouilh: Médée . In: Jean Anouilh: Nouvelles pièces noires , Paris 1961, pp. 351–399, here: 398.
  118. Achim Block: Medea Dramas of World Literature. Göttingen 1957, pp. 244-247, 263.
  119. Achim Block: Medea Dramas of World Literature. Göttingen 1957, pp. 259 f., 265 f.
  120. Christa Wolf: From Kassandra to Medea . In: Marianne Hochgeschurz (Ed.): Christa Wolfs Medea . Munich 2000, pp. 15-24, here: 22 f.
  121. Christa Wolf: Medea. Voices (= works , vol. 11), Munich 2001, p. 216.
  122. ^ Ernst-Richard Schwinge: Medea with Euripides and Christa Wolf . In: Poetica 35, 2003, pp. 275-305, here: 293-305, quotation: 296.
  123. See for this work Yixu Lü: Medea under the Germans. Freiburg 2009, pp. 143–153.
  124. See for this work Yixu Lü: Medea under the Germans. Freiburg 2009, pp. 154–161.
  125. ^ William Morris: The Life and Death of Jason .
  126. Friederike Mayröcker: Collected Prose 1949–1975. Frankfurt am Main 1989, p. 30 f.
  127. ↑ In 1953 Seghers took a revised version into her collection of novels The Beehive .
  128. ^ Marie Luise Kaschnitz: Collected works. Vol. 1, Frankfurt am Main 1981, pp. 585-593, here: 591 f.
  129. Anna Seghers: The Argonaut ship . In: Anna Seghers: Stories 1948–1949 . Berlin 2012, pp. 118-134, here: 132 f.
  130. ^ Turner's Medea , Tate Britain , London.
  131. See Elizabeth Prettejohn: Medea, Frederick Sandys, and the Aesthetic Moment . In: Heike Bartel, Anne Simon (eds.): Unbinding Medea. Interdisciplinary Approaches to a Classical Myth from Antiquity to the 21st Century , London 2010, pp. 94–112.
  132. The work is in the University Museum for Art and Cultural History Marburg (inventory no. 1.008).
  133. ^ Images of Medea pictures by Italian artists from the turn of the millennium are compiled in: Francesco De Martino (ed.): Medea: teatro e comunicazione (= Kleos 11), Bari 2006, pp. 673–710.
  134. Rodin's Medea in the Philadelphia Museum of Art .
  135. ^ Paolozzi's sculpture in the Kröller-Müller Museum .
  136. ^ Leonard Baskin: Medea , Medea with owl , head of Medeas .
  137. For Pasolini's understanding of myth, see Angela Oster: Modern Mythographies and the Crisis of Civilization. Pier Paolo Pasolini's Medea. In: Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und Allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft , Issue 51, 2006, pp. 239–268. Cf. Bernd Hessen: Pasolini's Medea - from the perspective of a classical philologist . In: Martin Korenjak , Karlheinz Töchterle (ed.): Pontes II. Antike im Film , Innsbruck 2002, pp. 95-106.
  138. This film is about Margherita Rubino: Medea di Lars von Trier . In: Margherita Rubino (Ed.): Medea contemporanea , Genova 2000, pp. 13–81.
  139. ^ Alain Moreau: Le mythe de Jason et Médée. Paris 1994, pp. 283-285; Ludger Lütkehaus: The Medea Complex. Mother love and child murder . In: Bernhard Zimmermann (ed.): Mythische Wiederkehr , Freiburg 2009, pp. 121–133, here: 125–128.
  140. ^ Joseph C. Rheingold: The Mother, Anxiety, and Death. The Catastrophic Death Complex. Boston 1967, pp. 126-129. Cf. Anton Schaule: Mothers killing their own children with special consideration of the Medea complex , Munich 1982, pp. 5–21.
  141. Marianne Leuzinger-Bohleber : "... J'adore ce que me brûle ..." (Max Frisch). The “Medea fantasy” - an unconscious determinant of archaic femininity conflicts in some psychogenically sterile women . In: Annette Kämmerer u. a. (Ed.): Medeas Wandlungen , Heidelberg 1998, pp. 199-231.
  142. Richard W. Beeman, Kenlee S. Friesen, Rob E. Denell: Maternal-effect selfish genes in flour beetles. in: Science 1992 Apr 3; 256 (5053): 89-92. PMID 1566060 .
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