This article is the first in a series of commentaries on the play Medea by the Athenian dramatist, Euripides (circa 480 – 404 BCE).
In Euripides’ day the modern-day nation state of Greece did not exist. The Greek world of the 5th century BCE consisted of hundreds of independent city states spread across the Mediterranean region, especially in what are now known as Greece and the Greek islands, Bulgaria, western Turkey, southern Italy, Sicily and southern France. What bound these cities together was a shared culture (religion, language, origins, stories) but with distinct dialects, political forms and other local differences. Some cities were democracies, some oligarchies and others military dictatorships. Some cities, mainly those outside modern-day Greece, were founded as colonies of other cities, and over time these colonies developed their own distinct cultures. Athens and Sparta were the most powerful cities in Euripides’ day. They had