Presenter: Charles Pry (Mid-candidature review)

In Euripides’ Trojan Women Cassandra says of the Greeks’ ‘great general’ that he ‘destroyed what he most loved on behalf of what he hated most.’ She alludes to Agamemnon’s sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia which, on account of the high-stakes nature of contracting with the gods, was the consideration demanded in return for the Greek armada’s safe passage to Troy. It was a very high price to pay for the retrieval of Helen, his brother’s unfaithful wife. Cassandra’s words constitute a stinging rebuke in a speech which attempts to overturn traditional notions about the Trojan campaign. Using sophistic arguments and techniques, a popular intellectual pursuit for the times, Euripides imbues his character with cogent arguments and unsettling insights which often come in the form of clever rhetorical flourishes. In her speech, Cassandra takes aim at the Greeks who have clung to a notion of victory which can no longer be entertained: the Trojans, she claims, are in fact the victorious ones in the Trojan War. But at the centre of her argument is a paradoxical claim which, when unravelled, shows the hollowness of victory no matter how one conceptualises it. Ultimately in war there can be no victors. In this talk I will examine Cassandra’s marriage hymn and her speech and show how important these sections are for understanding the Euripidean attitude to war.