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By Tom Winnifrith

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Are vulnerable to further attempts to seize it from him by force. V. 200), and it has a political sophistication to it that is once more foreign to the world of the Homeric poems. In line with this, we cannot be surprised if the image of warfare that we find in the plays of Aeschylus seems very different from the Iliadic image. Not just in the presentation of actual contemporary experience of war in Persians, but even in the imagined experience of the great subject of Homeric epic, war at Troy, in Agamemnon.

That's it: no context, no explanation, and above all, no examples; nothing more than a quite generalised implication of Aeschylus' indebtedness to the Homeric poems, of his consciousness of obligation. It is hard even to be sure whether the word that I have translated 'cuts' implies choice portions or mere scraps. ', we have next to no evidence for a direct answer. ) extant plays, we shall be hard put to it to find more than three or four that take their subject matter from the Odyssey or Iliad, and another ten or eleven that might perhaps derive from episodes found in other poems of the Trojan cycle: that is, at most, fifteen plays which might owe something of their origin to 'Homeric' poems in the widest possible sense, out of between eighty and ninety plays attested.

The Ajax of Sophocles• play is in one sense an archaic, outmoded figure when contrasted with the more 1 modern 1 Odysseus, but in another perspective an image of an absolute •morality of honour• which had lost nothing of its relevance for the contemporaries of Alcibiades. But there is, I think, more to it than that. When we think of the Iliad and Odyssey as traditional poems, as 1 heroic poetry• preserving a traditional image of human existence, we are liable to blind ourselves to what Oliver Taplin has called their 1 intricacy 1 , the 1 modernity 1 of their vision of man, and the complexity, rather than simplicity, of their imagined world.

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