Myth & Reality
Hippolytus, the Greek mythological drama by Euripides (BC 480 – 406), is still very much relevant to the modern world, as it portrays the complex relationship between women and men, apart from narrating the characteristics of modern Politics. In fact, the character of Hippolytus proves that events, taken place around 428 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, are highly relevant today. Just like his birth, Hippolytus’ love affairs were also very complex. Although he was the illegitimate son of the Athenian hero and King Theseus and either Antiope or the Amazon Queen Hippolyta, Hippolytus was a handsome, intelligent, brave and noble person. As a result, girls used to like him a lot. Aphrodite and Artemis, the two daughters of Greek God Zeus and the Titaness Dione, were no exception. Aphrodite was the Goddess of Love, and a symbol of physical relation. To her, love meant body, and nothing else. On the other hand, Artemis was the Goddess of Platonic Love and Hunting, and also the Protectress of Young Girls! She never mixed Love with Lust! Artemis used to consider love as the integration of soul and heart. While Aphrodite fell in love with Hippolytus; Hippolytus worshiped Artemis! This is how the story of Love Triangle began in ancient Greece…
Aphrodite became vindictive after Hippolytus rejected her proposal, and decided to teach him a lesson. When King Theseus conquered a neighbouring kingdom, the defeated King offered his beautiful Queen Phaedra to Theseus. Aphrodite had the information that Phaedra used to like Hippolytus. To take revenge, she encouraged Phaedra to propose to Hippolytus. However, Hippolytus refused to accept his stepmother’s proposal. Then, Queen Phaedra made Hippolytus swear not to tell anything to King Theseus and committed suicide by consuming poison. Before leaving this world, Queen Phaedra wrote in her suicide note that her stepson had made her unchaste! The note prompted King Theseus to send Hippolytus to exile. Artemis advised Hippolytus to disclose the truth to his father… however, he told Artemis that he was ready to get punished… but, he would never break the promise made to his stepmother! Yes, innocent Hippolytus sacrificed his life in order to stay true to his promise.
In contemporary world, no relationship is permanent, as people forget to respect others. Majority of the people get involved in new relationships whenever they get hurt by others, or their self-interests come under attack! There is no place for sacred love and dignity in this world! So, those – who believe in True Love – are in the receiving end. They live with sorrow. That is why this ancient Greek drama is still relevant.
Phaedra agonizing over her love for Hippolytus. ‘Phèdre‘ by Alexandre Cabanel
Technology is constantly evolving in this post-modern age… people are getting educated… however, they are losing their values. Most of the members of a modern society have become selfish and they do not bother to hurt others in order to serve their own (vested?) interests. In such an environment, it is difficult to find True Love. Love has turned into more of a physical affair from an emotional affair. As body is impermanent, love has become deciduous!
However, mind has no age. The character of Aphrodite reflects this particular aspect of the society. Her concept of physical love represents the fabric of the contemporary society. Meanwhile, the character of Phaedra represents the increasing number of illicit relationships in the society. It seems there is no place for True Love in the modern society. It is not correct. Hippolytus is the symbol of True Love and Integrity! He managed to protect himself from Aphrodite and Phaedra. The worshiper of love accepted sufferings, and not love, in the end. He never shifted from his own ethical stand and compromised with the evil. Such a character strongly challenges the ideology-less society, where fornication becomes a common phenomenon.
‘The Death of Hippolytus‘ (1860) by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
In the last scene of the play, Hippolytus is seen leaving his father’s kingdom to serve the punishment. A that time, a Royal Officer told him: “I know not how I might say that any mortal enjoys good fortune. For all that is noblest is now overthrown.” It is a strong political message that perfectly explains the modern day Politics. It means that a political leader is a God and every common man is a Hippolytus, who is constantly defeated by the complexities of life! That is why this ancient Greek play is so relevant…
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