The myth of the sorceress Medea, who, abandoned by her Argonaut husband Jason, killed their children in revenge, has exerted a continuous impact on European writers and artists from classical Greece to the present day. The ancient Romans were especially drawn to the myth, but Seneca's tragedy is the only dramatic treatment to have survived from imperial Rome intact. It is intellectually and poetically one of the richest of Seneca's plays and theatrically one of his most invative, spectacular and self-reflective. Its themes include the problematics of power and civilization, the dynamics of 'self' and 'other', the psychology of action, the determinism of history, the tragic theatre itself. The play's deep influence on the European dramatic, operatic and artistic tradition (and beyond) is only w being fully appreciated. Poets, dramatists, librettists, composers, choreographers, painters, film-makers - including Boccaccio, Shakespeare, Webster, Corneille, Noverre, Cherubini, Mayr, Grillparzer, Turn
Anthony James Boyle is Professor of Classics at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. He has been editor of the Classical literary journal, Ramus, since its inception in 1972.