Today, I stumbled across this blog post by Ingrid D. Rowland, at the New York Review of Books, entitled From Aeschylus to the EU, which reminded me of the relevance that ancient Greek literature retains amidst the complexities of the modern world.
Rowland writes about a production of The Suppliants, a tragedy by Athenian playwright Aeschylus, which was recently staged by director Moni Ovadia at the ancient Greek theatre of Syracuse in Sicily. This is the tale of the daughters of Danaus, forced to flee from Egypt to Argos in order to avoid being forced to marry their cousins. After a struggle against their Egyptian pursuers, they receive protection from the Argive king, Pelasgos. At the heart of the story is the ancient Greek practice of granting refuge to suppliants in need.
As Rowland explains, this story is in conversation with some of the most important issues of today:
A similar process of triage is now taking place every day in refugee centers on the shores of Italy, tiny Malta, and Greece—even as they face a crushing burden of debt to the European Central Bank, the Greeks are also receiving a huge proportion of the refugees fleeing the bloodbaths of the Middle East, the refugees that much of the rest of Europe is reluctant to admit. The geographical location of the Greek peninsula has certainly contributed to the onslaught, but so has the immemorial tradition of hospitality that plays a central part in The Suppliants. Greeks should not refuse a stranger.
Please read the rest of Rowland’s post, if you have a moment. It’s wonderful to think that people today can still see the importance of these ancient stories.