The Xenoi and Greeks between Opposition and ‘Hybridization’.

Some Observations about the Lexicon of the Otherness in Aeschylus’ Survived Tragedies

Palavras-chave: Aeschylus, xenos, Adamemnon, Septem contra Thebes, Supplices


The paper examines the opposition between Greeks and the so-called Others (foreigners, barbarians, etc.) as represented in Aeschylus’ surviving plays. This antithesis has become a major focus of scholarly interest not only in philological studies, but also in the modern historical, philosophical and political thought, where it corresponds to the radical opposition between ‘Greekness’ and ‘Otherness’, as well as between West and East. By focusing on this topic, the paper presents an innovative interpretation of some aeschylean texts taken from Suppliants, Agamemnon and Seven against Thebes, looking at foreign characters such as Suppliants’ Egyptian herald or Agamemnon’s Cassandra, but also at ethnically hybrid characters (the Danaids’ Chorus of the Suppliants, whose ancient bond with the Argive land is explicit, and Polynices’ army, described as an external foreign enemy). The aim of the texts’ selection is to capture the interest on Aeschylus’ lexis related to the semantic sphere of the foreigner. The assumption is that a methodology based on semantic values (especially of the terms ξένος or ξενόω, and of some compounds such as ἀστόξενος and ἐχθρόξενος) well witnesses how the Aeschylean lexicon maintains the broad semantic spectrum of the term ξένος, with the frequent co-presence of the meaning of ‘guest’ alongside that of ‘foreigner’. The argument is that in Aeschylean theatre the Greek/Others polarity is presented not only in terms of a contrast/opposition with Greekness (with the positive element of the pair destined to predominate over the Otherness), but also in terms of intermingling/confusion. Aeschylus is not only the poet of the conflict between Greeks and Barbarians, but also the inventor of collective characters in which Greek and foreign elements constantly co-exist, in order to determine hybrid identities.


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