43 pages 1 hour read


Trojan Women

Fiction | Play | Adult | BCE

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Athens and the Peloponnesian War

Though it is set in another time and place—Troy was in Asia Minor, and was thought to be destroyed around 1200 BC—Trojan Women contains messages and allusions that would have been relevant to its Athenian audience in 415 BC. In particular, this play is widely thought to make reference to the Peloponnesian War, a devastating conflict between Athens and Sparta that had been carrying on for fourteen years when Trojan Women first appeared.

Though 415 BC was a year of relative quiet in the Peloponnesian War, it fell between two major events that would likely have been foremost in the minds of Euripides’ audience. One was the destruction of Melos in 416 BC, an island that had refused to ally itself with Athens, and instead had offered aid to Sparta. The Athenians, encouraged by the demagogue Alcibiades, besieged Melos, and when the island surrendered, the Athenians killed all the men and enslaved the women and children.

The other event we ought to bear in mind as we read this play is the Sicilian Expedition. Again, through the encouragement of the demagogue Alcibiades, the Athenians decided in early 415 to send a massive fleet to Sicily, which was not at that time involved in the war.