La rifunzionalizzazione del mito dell’usignolo nel dramma attico

Sabrina Mancuso


The setting of a drama often entails significant political implicatons. My paper focuses on Sophocles’ fragmentary Tereus, which is a version of the nightingale-myth different from the one attested by Homer (Od. 19.518-524), Pherecydes (vol. 3 fr. 124 Jacoby) and Aeschylus (Suppl. 58-76). First of all, Sophocles’ Thracian setting is an innovation which can be read as a criticism towards Thrace itself. This can be demonstrated through an analysis of the allusions to the myth included in two other Sophoclean plays — Ai. 623-634 and El. 145-152 — in which the story of the nightingale shows a paradigmatic function. Although briefly mentioned, the two mythical exempla seem on the one hand to allude to the contrast between civilization and barbarism, on the other hand to stress the metapoetic function of the nightingale’s song. The first of the two motifs that emerges from Ajax and Electra can be compared with some aspects of Tereus: the differentiation between «foreigners» and «barbarians» presented in fragment 583 Radt; the glossectomy which Tereus inflicted on Philomela (referring to the hostility of the barbarians towards ἰσηγορία); Tereus’ transformation into a hoopoe (whose typical traits recall the characterization of the Thracians: fr. 581 Radt). It is therefore possible to demonstrate that Sophocles re-read the nightingale-myth in political terms to criticize any possible alliance with Thrace.

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