The concept of the family as described in Ancient Greek Literature


As a key concept of numerous nationalities around the world, family is one of the core human values in the Western culture. Both American and European heritage show that our forefathers were concentrated on the integrity and harmony of their families among other important issues of their everyday life. Family is one of the dominant values described in Ancient Greek literature, however, not all ancient playwrights evaluate this issue over the other important concepts. The brightest examples of family relations are plays The Odyssey written by Homer, Antigone by Sophocles, and Medea by Euripides. They all expose family life from different angles all of which were important to Ancient Greeks.

In Homer’s play, Odyssey embodies great loyalty to family in particular. Having returned from a long journey, he finds out that his wife is still waiting for him despite a hundred of suitors are persuading her that Odyssey is already dead. During the journey, the hero was supported by his son, and after he came home, Odyssey reunited with his wife and father.

The plot of Sophocles’ Antigone underlines that family can be more important than laws of duty. Antigone demands a proper burial for her brother Polynices disgraced by King Creon. Antigone who disobeyed the king’s order was buried alive for her deeds. Creon’s only son Haemon condemns his father and commits a suicide. His mother has chosen to do the same from the immense grief. King Creon ends up blaming himself for his deeds that destroyed his family life.

Euripides’ tragedy Medea does not concentrate on a family so much as the previous plays did. Here, a woman who was betrayed by his husband transforms into a monster that is ready for a cold murder seeking for revenge. Medea and her husband Jason has ruined their family with hypocrisy, jealousy, and greed.