Barbarian Essay, Research Paper

The term “Barbarian” is Greek in origin. The Greeks originally levied it at any races who

were not of a Greek origin; especially those who threatened Greek civilization and culture.

Because most of these “strangers” regularly assaulted Greek cities, the term “barbarian”

gradually evolved into a rude term: a person who was a sub-human, uncivilized, and

regularly practiced the most vile and inhuman acts imaginable. It is obvious that a

barbarian has not been considered as a member of society as well as a woman in Ancient

Greece. In many Greek tragedies that we have read women either play a secondary role or

absent at all. That is why it is so unusual to read a tragedy where woman is a main

character and not only that ? a woman is a foreigner, a barbarian.

Euripides, however, was the first one who created the play where he opposed a

barbarian to someone ?civilized?; he has his Medea confront Jason. The civilized Jason is

more barbaric in his emotional callousness than the barbarian Medea, but by the end of the

play she exacts a barbaric penalty.

The Nurse calls Medea a “strange woman.” She is anything but typical.

Euripides admits from the outset that this is a bizarre tale of an exceptional human being.

Lest she may sharpen a sword an thrust to the heart,

Stealing into the palace where the bed is made,

Or even kill the king and the new-wedded groom,

And thus bring a greater misfortune on herself.

Two great pains tear Medea: the betrayal of Jason and her betrayal of her country and

family. The two are interwoven and double her sorrow. Guilt, loneliness, rejection, love,

all war within her.

Ah, I have suffered

What should be wept for bitterly. I hate you,

Children of a hateful mother. I curse you

And your father. Let the whole house crash.

Of course Medea is barbarian, she came from a different country, she is violent

and everyone knows that she posses the unique and in somewhat supernatural power that

can make people to do things her way. These characteristics correspond to the definition

of barbarian in the Ancient Greece. On the other hand, we realize that the part of her

power is her intellect, which is not barbarians? own distinctive feature. People, including

the king, are afraid of Medea.


I am afraid of you, why should I dissemble it?

I believe their fear is based not only on the fact that she has a great passion and

able to do something terrible, but also on the fact that people start to realize that a

barbarian is a human who can think, who has emotions and feelings and, moreover, who

can take control over them. Another factor that scares people is her being a woman.

Medea?s voice is not only can be heard, but also her speeches are manipulative. She is able

to use any rhetoric speech that appeals to the emotions of the people. Medea enrages a

passion in them in response to her own.


You are a clever woman, versed in evil arts,

And are angry at having lost your husband?s love.

Medea is smart, she is greatly aware of being a “foreigner” and the Corinthians seem

to echo that awareness; she understands why she is not welcomed in the society, she

realizes that she has to leave, but her emotional pain makes her to do unthinkable.

Pain is often the source of anger and then violence. That progression is one of

Euripides’ main themes. “Great people’s tempers are terrible.” The greatness of the temper

is one measure of the greatness of the person who is angry. Medea?s passion causes

human tragedy. Medea also understands that her passion and anger is based on the

betrayal. Jason did not keep his word, he has broken the oath and this was unacceptable

for Medea.


Change your ideas of what you want, and show more sense.

Medea?s primitive passion is pitted against the civilized demands of a Jason. He

is empty inside, he has no emotions, no passion; the only thing that he has is the desire.

The desire to stabilize his political position. He used Medea for his own good: she helped

him to escape and to survive. Right now it is the time for Jason to move on with his life;

he doesn?t need Medea any more. Moreover, in some way he thinks he helped Medea and

she should be thankful for that.


In so far as you helped me, you did well enough.

But on this question of saving me, I can prove

You have certainly got from me more than you gave.

Jason, as he thinks, lives by the law instead of ?the sweet will of force?. But

what is the law? Who has it been written for? Ancient Greece. Jason is a perfect example

of a representative of this society. He even admits, that women are the unnecessary

creatures. They are needed only for producing children.


It would be better far for men

To have got their children in some other way, and women

Not to have existed. Then life would have been good .

Medea wants to make Jason suffer by making him listen, but for Jason her

argument is invalid. I think Medea is trying to prove that the society, in which money and

one?s political position are two things that matter, will not have any future. There are

some other things, such as love, dedication and ability to keep your word, that are needed

in the society for its success. In this sense Medea?s ideas are more civilized than Jason?s

emotionless and a blind desire for a power. As I mentioned earlier, these Medea?s ideas

are not valid in the Greek society, so she plays her barbaric game until the very end of the

play. Lessons are learned and tables are turned. The oppressor cannot oppress forever.

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