43 pages 1 hour read


Trojan Women

Fiction | Play | Adult | BCE

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Symbols & Motifs

Crowns and Garlands

For the Greeks, crowns and garlands (the Greek word stephanos can be translated as either) could symbolize either victory or death: athletic champions and brides would crown their heads in celebration, but mourners would also place garlands on the head of a deceased loved one. Euripides exploits this duality to illustrate the changing fortunes of his characters, and to complicate our picture of victory and defeat.

In Cassandra’s inappropriate marriage ceremony, we see her using the imagery of crowns to celebrate her victory in the face of defeat: “I am victorious, mother! Crown my head with garlands, celebrate my royal marriage” (lines 361-362; page 134). Cassandra’s method of finding victory in the face of defeat—in this case, taking solace in the fact that her captor will die violently—allows her to take an optimistic view of the Trojans’ defeat as a whole. As she explains to Hecuba, “Yes, anyone with sense steers clear of war. But if war comes, a fine death is a crown upon the city’s brow; the only shame in dying is to die disgracefully” (lines 413-416; page 135). In this lucid passage, Cassandra takes any solace to be a victory, a crown.