32 pages 1 hour read


Women of Trachis

Fiction | Play | Adult | BCE

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Important Quotes

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“People say—and they have been repeating this for ages—

That you’ll never know for sure whether your life

Is good or bad until it ends in death. That’s the human way.”

(Lines 1-3, Page 96)

Deianeira’s opening lines in the play share a belief that appears across ancient Greek literature. Among the most famous versions is that of Herodotus, whose Histories features Solon explaining that the happiest man is the one who has not only a good life but also a good death. The idea of a good death here may refer to hero cult, meaning that at the moment of his physical death, the hero is immortalized. A debate around Heracles’ death in Women of Trachis is whether Sophocles means the audience to infer that he will be deified.

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“But I was terror stricken. I was afraid

That my beauty would someday be a source of pain.”

(Lines 24-25, Page 97)

Deianeira recalls the battle between Heracles and Achelous to marry her. The interconnection of beauty and pain is pervasive in ancient Greek literature, most famously expressed in the figure of Helen of Sparta. In Women of Trachis, Deianeira’s beauty provoked Achelous to try to capture her, and Iole’s beauty provoked Heracles to wage war against her father. Qualities that are valued can also create strife, leading to unexpected outcomes and reversals of fortunes. Deianeira was happy to be married to Heracles, but their marriage has become a source of grief and worry, while Iole went from princess to enslaved in a single day.