L. A. Swift

in The Hidden Chorus

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780199577842
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722622 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Classical Monographs


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This chapter explores how Greek tragedy evokes parthenaic song. The chapter begins with an extensive discussion of partheneia with close readings of Alcman and Pindar's partheneia; it argues for a definition of the poetry as connected with the identity of the performers, and focuses on themes of female sexuality, display, and transition. The chapter also discusses Athenian knowledge of partheneia, since there is little evidence for an Athenian tradition of female choral performance. The second part of the chapter explores how partheneia is evoked in tragedy, with a particular emphasis on Euripides' Iphigeneia among the Taurians and Helen. It argues that both these plays contain heroines with a real‐life role in parthenaic cult, and that these cultic references tie in with the plays' presentation of the issues surrounding female transition.

Keywords: tragedy; partheneia; Alcman; Euripides; Iphigeneia among the Taurians; Helen; cult; transition; sexuality; female

Chapter.  26572 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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