Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Ranja Knoebl - Clement of Alexandria and his use of Euripides

Research on Clement of Alexandria has not yet explained why Clement quotes so many passages from Euripidean drama in his main works Protrepticus, Paedagogus and Stromateis. And yet, considering the difficult relationship many early Christian writers had with the theatre (extracts from Euripideam tragedies were still performed), the repeated occurrence of quotations from Euripidean tragedy in Clement’s writings is striking. In my paper, I will illustrate how and in which argumentative contexts Clement embeds quotations from Euripidean drama into his own texts (1). In a second step, I will show how these tagged quotations differ from passages in which Clement paraphrases Euripides or simply borrows Euripidean imagery for his prose writings (2). In a final step, I will sketch possible scenarios of the intended and possible audiences of Clement’s work and discuss briefly (a) to which degree their knowledge of Euripidean tragedy was a prerequisite for the reception of Clement’s work, and (b) how Clement managed to charm his readers away from pagan paideia into the arms of a completely different set of values in Christianity (3).
The assumption underlying my paper is that quotations of specific passages from Euripidean plays were in the second century AD employed by pagans and Christians alike to illustrate their case, display their classical education, and support their argument. With my contribution, I hope to create a better understanding of how and why quotations from Euripidean drama proved so useful to the creation of Clement’s main argumentative texts (Protrepticus, Paedagogus, Stromateis), and whether they indirectly or directly served his aim to argue for Christian positions on right belief (‘orthodoxy’) and right action (‘orthopraxy’). A closer look at Clement’s use of Euripidean drama will challenge the rigid stereotype of the negative view on ancient drama in Christian authors. It also helps to identify how snippets from classical tragedy were used in Christian and non-Christian prose literature to support pro- and anti-pagan as well as pro- and anti-Christian arguments and how Euripides as a 'cultural icon' was used to support claims of paideia and authority on both sides of the debate.

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