Bere sangue di toro per dimostrare la propria innocenza. Una possibile interpretazione del fr. 178 R.2 della Helenes Apaitesis di Sofocle


Giulia Baccaro


The scholium to v. 84b of Aristophanes’ Knights preserves two verses from a Sophocles’ tragedy named after Helene, as the scholium itself points out. That tragedy is generally identified as the Helenes Apaitesis, a play almost entirely lost. The plot probably concerned the legation formed by Menelaus and Odysseus, who aimed to obtain the restitution of Helene. In the fr. 178 a character (very likely Helene), says that she would rather drink bull’s blood than bear the offences of some men (τῶνδ’), who we can assume are the Trojans. In ancient times Greeks believed that bull’s blood was a lethal poison for whomever drunk it. Several characters of Greek myth and history were thought to have died in this way; among them one of the most famous was surely Themistocles who, according to some historians, had committed suicide drinking bull’s blood in order to prove that he had always acted honestly towards Greece. Several authors (such as Thucydides, Diodorus of Sicily, Plutarch, Athaeneus and Cicero) narrate this imaginative version of the story, thus we can assume that it was very known. Furthermore, in the scholium already quoted it is said that the grammatikos Symmacus was strongly against that account, therefore we can infer that it was still popular in the IV century. Though in a different context, also Pausanias assigns to bull’s blood the power to prove someone’s honesty. He writes that in Gea’s sanctuary in Egira the priestesses must prove their virginity through a sort of ordeal: they had to drink bull’s blood, and only the virgins would survive. All this evidence could lead to a new interpretation of fr. 178 from Helenes Apaitesis; these verses could suggest a precise characterization of Helene: a desperate woman ready to face this terrible ordeal in order to prove herself not guilty. This fierce act of courage actually masks the certainty of a positive outcome, considering her inculpability. Helene, through the exact reference to bull’s blood, strongly claims her inno- cence, and the Athenian public of the V century had surely understood that.


I dati di download non sono ancora disponibili


Come citare
Baccaro, G. (2022). Bere sangue di toro per dimostrare la propria innocenza. Una possibile interpretazione del fr. 178 R.2 della Helenes Apaitesis di Sofocle. Frammenti Sulla Scena (online), 2, 1-11. Recuperato da
THE FORGOTTEN THEATRE. Atti del terzo convegno internazionale sul dramma frammentario antico (Università degli Studi di Torino, 26-29 novembre 2019) [a cura di Francesco Paolo Bianchi, Mattia De Poli, Andrea Giannotti]