Why does Euripides put the following speech into the mouth of Andromache, in his play of the same name?

Andromache: (Breaking into a rage) Inhabitants of Sparta, most hated men on earth, devious plotters, masters of lies, hatcher’s of wicked schemes, whose thoughts are twisted and rotten, never direct, your successes in Greece are built on crimes! Every vice belongs to you, you commit murder without end and know no shame in seeking your profit. Constantly you are discovered saying one thing but thinking another. I curse you! I am not appalled by the prospect of death as you suppose ... there will be no words of flattery on my tongue when I take leave of you ... do not take any pleasure from my present misery - it may come to you also.

What I'm interested in is answer that reflects the historical circumstances within which the play was written, that is the Peloponnesian Wars where Attica tore itself apart in civil warfare leading to the deaths of roughly 250,000 men, women and children and with the death of democracy and the rise of Macedonia, led by Alexander and which appeared to model itself upon the Persian empire. Also any other substantiating evidence in connection with any other plays that Euripides wrote on the same subject would be useful.

  • 2
    What is the source of the translation you are quoting? Is it your own translation? The word "hatchers" should not have an apostrophe.
    – user14111
    Jul 10, 2019 at 0:36
  • @user14111 In the online version of Andromache translated by E. P. Coleridge see the lines starting with "O citizens of Sparta, the bane of all the race of men, schemers of guile".
    – Tsundoku
    Jul 10, 2019 at 9:55
  • @ChristopheStrobbe That's a different translation.
    – user14111
    Jul 10, 2019 at 10:24
  • @user4111: I didn’t take a note of the translator - and no, it’s not my translation. I was more interested in what the play had to say. Jul 17, 2019 at 3:27
  • It looks like the Penguin edition, John Davie trans.: books.google.com/… Sep 22, 2019 at 12:58

1 Answer 1


Leaving aside the matter of the translation, the background of Andromache's speech is as follows.

At the time of the speech, Menelaus King of Sparta has been the leader of the Greeks war against Try, Andromache's home city. It is his thirst for revenge for the abduction/escape of Helen that has been the driving force of the war. The war ended with the sack of Troy, and the destruction of pretty much the entirety of Andromache's family, including her husband, her Father-in-law, and very many of her children.

Andromache is not, for example, making a factual statement that Spartans are, objectively, the most hated people on Earth - just that they deserve to be so.

  • As I understand it, the question isn't about the internal story of the play ("at the time of the speech...") as much as the external circumstances (i.e. Euripides' time)
    – b a
    Aug 25, 2019 at 0:00

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