Red herrings and perceptual filters: problems and opportunities for Aeschylus's Supplices

Peter Olive

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The motivation behind the Danaïds’ flight from marriage to their cousins in Aeschylus’ Supplices has long been debated. For more than a century, prominent classicists have entertained the notion that the Danaïds consider such a marriage incestuous, despite difficulty justifying such a claim on the basis of the Danaïds’ language. This article will argue that since Darwin’s discovery of the deleterious effects of inbreeding, the incest taboo has been differently constituted, and that thinking native to our own culture has persistently intruded on attempts to interpret Aeschylus’ play. Having surveyed such problems in some detail, I use conceptual metaphor theory to eliminate the “flight from incest” theory, and posit that closer attention to the cultural biases I identify might help decode the myth’s enigmatic significance to Roman authors such as Vergil.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2021


  • Greek theatre
  • tragedy
  • Aeschylus
  • structuralism
  • conceptual metaphor
  • intellectual history
  • Aeneid

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