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Ion is an ancient Greek play by Euripides, thought to be written between 414 and 412 BC. It follows the orphan Ion in the discovery of his origins.

Background

Creusa, daughter of Erechtheus, was a noble native of Athens. The god Apollo slept with the young Creusa against her will. In the same cave in which this occurs, she gave birth to his son and intended to kill him by exposure. She keeps all this a secret. Many years later she was near the end of child bearing age, and had so far been unable to have a child with her husband Xuthus, a Thessalian and son of Aeolus. So they traveled to Delphi to seek a sign from the oracles.

Story

Ion begins with Hermes explaining how he had saved the exposed child and delivered him to the temple of Apollo in Delphi. He grew up as an orphan, and was taken care of by the Pythian Priestess. The audience is aware that this child Ion is Creusa's son, however the characters don't discover this fact till the end.

Creusa and her handmaidens arrive at the temple and meet Ion, and their respective backgrounds are relayed to each other. However, Creusa makes him believe the woman she is speaking of is not herself. Xuthus then arrives at the temple and is told a prophecy that the first man he meets when leaving the temple is his son. However, it was a false prophecy as the man he meets is Ion. Xuthus gives him this name Ion, "in accordance with what happened, for that thou wert the first to cross my path as I came forth from Apollo's sanctuary." (as translated by Edward P. Coleridge). After some discussion, the two both believe the prophecy and are happy. But they decide it would be in everyone's best interest if it was kept secret for awhile.

The handmaidens are unable to keep this secret, despite Xuthus's threatened penalty of death to whoever spills it. Creusa receives some bad advice from her old servant, and she decides to murder Ion. Using a drop of Gorgon's blood she inherited, she has the servant attempt to poison him. However, the attempt fails and she is found out. In order to escape death, she seeks protection in the temple. Ion goes after her seeking revenge for the murder plot.

In the temple, they are given clues from the priestess as to Ion's true origin: the items he was found in. Creusa discovers Ion is her son, and with these clues she proves it to him as well. Despite her having attempted to kill her son twice, and him kill her once, they become overjoyed with the discovery and make up. Athena comes down at the end and puts any doubt to rest, and gives the reason for the earlier false prophecy of him being Xuthus son. It was to give Ion a noble position, rather than being considered a bastard. She foretells that Ion will one day rule, and his name will be given to the land in his honor.

Alcestis

Translations

  • Robert Potter, 1781 - verse: full text
  • Edward P. Coleridge, 1891 - prose
  • Arthur S. Way, 1912 - verse
  • H.D., 1937 - verse
  • Ronald Frederick Willets, 1958 - verse
Plays by Euripides

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