Ariadne, Medea, and Gratitude. Some Remarks: Elżbieta Wesołowska
Ariadne, Medea, and Gratitude. Some Remarks*
by Elżbieta Wesołowska (Poznań)
In his tragedy Medea, Lucius Annaeus Seneca presents the final episode of Medea and Jason’s relationship. Abandoned by her husband in Corinth, the Colchian takes bloody revenge, killing their children. In his Phaedra, on the other hand, the eponymous heroine Phaedra, Theseus’ unhappy wife hopelessly in love with her stepson, remembers with bitterness her sister Ariadne who helped Theseus when he ventured into the Labyrinth to be then left behind on the isle of Naxos.1
The cases of Ariadne and Medea offer examples of gratitude quickly withered. Both women helped their beloved men in their great and extraordinarily difficult missions. They were related to each other via Aeetes.2 Medea used her supernatural potential to help, while Ariadne relied on her intelligence, feminine indeed, as her instruments were the attributes of the strictly womanly task of spinning.3 Now in his Aeneid (6.28–30) Vergil claims it was Daedalus who invented the thread of the labyrinth. Even had that been the case, the yarn in her hand guided the hero to her as his prize as well as to the exit.4 ← 85 | 86 →
They both left their fathers and their childhood homes5 for men they hardly knew. Aeetes feared the sons of his daughter Chalciope and trusted Medea, Apsyrtus and even Chalciope herself.6
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