Rhesus, possibly 450 BC, was once thought to be the earliest play by Euripides. Today most agree that he was not the author, however it is still included in many collections of Euripides plays. It takes place during the Trojan War, on the night when Odysseus and Diomedes sneak into the Trojan camp. This is the same event depicted in book 10 of Homer's the Iliad.


Dolon volunteers to spy on the Greeks in exchange for Achilles's horses when the war is won. Hector accepts the deal and sends him out. Dolon leaves wearing the skin of a wolf, and plans on deceiving the Greeks by walking on all fours. Rhesus, the neighboring king of Thrace, arrives to assist the Trojans soon after Dolon sets out. Hector berates him for coming so many years late, but decides better late than never. Rhesus says he intended on coming in the beginning, but was sidetracked defending his own land from Scythia.

Meanwhile, on their way into the Trojan encampment, Odysseuss and Diomedes run into Dolon and kill him. When they reach the encampment, Athena guides them to Rhesus's tent. Diomedes slays him and others while Odysseus takes his prized horses before making their escape. Rumors spread from Rhesus's men that it was an inside job, and that Hector was responsible. Hector arrives to cast blame on the sentinels for, due to the sly tactics, the guilty party could only be Odysseus. The mother of Rhesus, one of the nine muses, then arrives and lays blame on all those responsible: Odysseus, Diomedes, and Athena.

This short play is most notable in comparison with the Iliad. The part with Dolon is pushed to the background, and much more is revealed about Rhesus and the reactions to his murder by the Trojans.


According to Gilbert Murray in his introduction to Rhesus, passages from 'Euripides' Rhesus were quoted by early Alexandrian writers. However, there was some doubt shed on the authenticity of the work by ancient introductions. The first to fully dispute that Rhesus was a play by Euripides was L. C. Valcknaer in his Phoenissae (1755) and Diatribe in Eur. perditorum dramatum relliquias (1767). (Ancient History Sourcebook) Most scholars have agreed with Valcknaer, but there are some who still believe the play to be by Euripides. Stylistic differences are one of the main arguments of the controversy. Murry, in dissent of the popular opinion, claims the differences in style could be attributed to a younger, less developed Euripides. Or the differences could be attributed to it being a reproduction by Euripides' son or other contemporary playwrite.


Plays by Euripides

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