La Melanippe sophè di Euripide: l’archetipo dimenticato della donna filosofa

Fjodor Montemurro


With the exception of two Euripidean tragedies, Melanippe was a not well-known character in Greek mythology, although she represents an important paradigm for the development of women's history. Granddaughter of the wise centaur Chiron, she has in fact embodied the archetype of the ‘philosopher woman’, capable of shrewdly exploiting sophistic argumentations, as it will be shown by an analysis of the fragments of the Euripidean Melanippe Sophè. Melanippe is intrinsically typified as a wise character: she recalls the horse and its wisdom, has sophia as hereditary trait, and has remarkable rhetorical skills. Dionysius of Halicarnassus considered Melanippe’s rhesis as a case of λόγος ἐσχηματισμένος, while Aristotle had already branded it as an example of ἀπρέπεια, considering such a speech not suitable for a woman. Through the analysis of the texts of Aristoteles and Dionysius, we can prove that Melanippe can be understood as wise in both rhetorical and rationalist-philosophical way. It is not by chance that Aristophanes' Lysistrata will be echoing Melanippe’s words in front of the assembly of men, as she represents the first literary example of a female cultural universe embodied primarily by Pythagorean women and by the most famous hetaira Aspasia (whose connections to Melanippe will be fully investigated). Melanippe stands as a privileged character for the promotion of the new cultural instances of the end of 5th century BC which will find more mature fulfillment in Plato’s political project.

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