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Virgo to virago: Medea in the silver age

Corrigan, Kirsty Helen (2010) Virgo to virago: Medea in the silver age. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94284) (KAR id:94284)

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The infamous mythological figure of Medea appears in the extant texts of three Silver Age Latin authors: Ovid (principally in the epic Metamorphoses and elegiac epistles Heroides, but also minor references in his other elegiac poetry), Seneca (the tragedy Medea), and Valerius Flaccus (the epic Argonautica). Although each author approaches the character differently, similarities can be found in their treatments. Through a detailed character study of Medea in these texts we are able to discern that, as well as being a character full of ambiguities, she is always portrayed with some measure of sympathy. This varies according to context, both of genre and of the particular stage of her myth being depicted: a large span of Medea’s life and actions is covered in these accounts, from innocent girl through to formidable sorceress. This sympathy occurs despite Medea being a notorious witch and murderess, whose wicked actions were an irresistible draw for the writers. This is especially remarkable since, in these works, she is a product of the Silver Age, and therefore these portrayals satisfy the gruesome and macabre taste of the period, for which Medea the sorceress was an especially suitable topic. This sympathetic view can, in part, be explained by the apparent admiration which the authors felt for her, although the favour of the age for rhetorical argument also contributes to this. Earlier predecessors also had important influences on these works: notably Euripides, Apollonius of Rhodes, and Virgil. There are elements of both victim and villain in these accounts, a typical ambiguous tension in her character, but Medea is foremost a remarkable figure deserving the attention she receives. Her fascination and appeal cannot be denied, since she emerges predominant in each account, eclipsing her counterpart hero Jason: therefore she should, perhaps, be considered the true hero of these texts.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Anderson, Graham
Thesis advisor: Keaveney, Arthur
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94284
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D51 Ancient History
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > Department of Classical and Archaeological Studies
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 01 Sep 2022 13:51 UTC
Last Modified: 01 Sep 2022 13:52 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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