The disproportion between what little can be ascertained about Euripides’ (yoo-RIHP-uh-deez) life and the richness and completeness of his texts is immense. Plutarch gives his date of birth, dramatically but probably incorrectly, as the day of the Battle of Salamis in 480 b.c.e. Born to the farmer Mnesarchus (or Mnesarchides) and his wife Clito, he rose from rather humble beginnings to gain an education in Athens, perhaps in the schools of Anaxagoras and Protagoras. His sympathy with Sophistic philosophy lends credibility to a friendship with Socrates, which is suggested by ancient biographers. He was married to Melito, with whom he had three sons. The youngest, also named Euripides, followed his father into the theater. Although he may once have been sent on an embassy to Syracuse, he generally disdained public life and held no political or religious office, as other playwrights did. He is said to have been studious and withdrawn by nature and probably spent much time in his large private library.
Euripides turned to playwriting young and was awarded his first chorus at the dramatic competitions of the Athenian City Dionysia in 455 b.c.e. He did not win, and indeed his later career was marked by a paucity of victories. He achieved his first victory in 441 b.c.e. Although he entered the agōn, or contest, twenty-two times, he took first prize on only four occasions, far fewer than either Aeschylus or Sophocles. However, the fact that he...
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