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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 395

Euripides's Ion was first performed in the approximate year of 412 BCE. This means that it was produced in the middle to later part of Euripides's career as a playwright (after the famous Medea and before the equally famous Bacchae). The play tells the story of Apollo's son, Ion (in alternate versions, he is Xuthus's biological son). In Euripides's version, the god Hermes narrates the backstory to the audience at the opening of the play, which is as follows: Phoebus Apollo had an affair with the mortal woman, Creusa, who bore a son, Ion, in secret. Creusa, fearing the punishment of her father, King Erectheus, left the son in a basket in a cave, expecting he would die.

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The action of the play picks up with Ion (whose name happens to be Greek for "going") sweeping the temple of Apollo at Delphi, home of a famous oracle. Creusa and her mortal husband, Xuthus, have come to pray for the birth of a child. While Xuthus is inside the chamber consulting the oracle, Creusa (as a ruse) describes to Ion the circumstances of "her friend" who gave birth to a son by Apollo but was forced to expose him. In smiler fashion, Ion admits that he was raised in the temple as an orphan, and he longs to know his mother.

After consulting the oracle, Xuthus immediately adopts Ion as a son, advised by the oracle that the next person he meets upon exiting the shrine is his son. Creusa is angry because she assumes that Ion is Xuthus's son by a slave woman. She plots to have a tutor poison Ion, but the plot is revealed when a bird accidentally drinks his poisoned wine at a banquet.

Creusa is incriminated by the tutor but realizes that Ion is her son when she sees the basket in which she exposed him and which Ion brought to Athens from the temple where the priestess of Apollo gave it to him. Once she recognizes him, Creusa embraces Ion as her son. She has to convince him by means of identifying the contents of the basket without looking inside (a weaving of a Gorgon's head, a pair of serpents, and an olive branch). After the revelation, Athena appears and verifies that Apollo (and not Xuthus) is in fact Ion's father, but they all agree to keep the secret from Xuthus.


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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 992

Years before, Phoebus Apollo raped Creusa, daughter of King Erechtheus, who subsequently and in secret gave birth to a son. By Apollo’s command she hid the infant in a cave, where Hermes was sent to carry him to the temple of Apollo. There he was reared as a temple ministrant. Meanwhile, Creusa married Xuthus as a reward for his aid in the Athenian war against the Euboeans, but the marriage remained without issue. After years of frustration, Xuthus and Creusa decided to make a pilgrimage to Delphi and ask the god for aid in getting a son.

At dawn Ion emerges from the temple of Apollo to sweep the floors, chase away the birds, set out the laurel boughs, and make the usual morning sacrifice. Creusa’s handmaidens come to admire the temple built upon the navel of the world and to announce the imminent arrival of their mistress. At the meeting of Creusa and Ion, Creusa confirms the story that her father was drawn from the earth by Athena and was swallowed up by the earth at the end of his life. The credulous Ion explains that his own birth, too, is shrouded in mystery, for he appeared out of nowhere at the temple and was reared by the priestess of Apollo. The greatest sorrow of his life, he says, is not knowing who his mother is. Creusa sympathizes and cautiously reveals that she has a friend with a similar problem, a woman bore a son to Apollo, only to have the infant disappear and to suffer childlessness for the rest of her life.

Ion, shocked and outraged at the insult to his god, demands that Creusa end her accusation of Apollo in his own...

(The entire section contains 1387 words.)

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