Electra Tyrannicide: Gender in the Reception of a Heroic Deliberation in Sophocles’ Tragedy


  • Agatha Bacelar




tyrannicide, Sophocles’ Electra, gender, citizenship, Athenian democracy


At the third episode of Sophocles’ Electra, the heroine, believing that her brother Orestes is dead, invites her sister Chrisothemis to a plan to kill Aegisthus, in a speech that recalls fifth century Athenian’s public honors to the tyrannicide couple, Harmodius and Aristogiton, and thus presents the two sisters as a kind of democratic champions (v. 947-989). This paper compares the treatment given by contemporary Commentaries to Sophocles’ Electrato this speech with recent gender-oriented studies of Athenian citizenship, in order to argue that the idea of the ancient polisas a “man’s club” depends much more on a modern stereotype about Athenian politics than on the ancient evidence available to us –a stereotype that projects XIX century European conceptions of politics on the ancient context, and perpetuates backwards a supposedly universal masculine domination. In this light, Electra’s attitude, surely exceptional because of her equally exceptional situation, far from strikingly transgressing ancient gender-roles, points to the importance of female citizenship in democratic Athens.


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How to Cite

Bacelar, A. (2023). Electra Tyrannicide: Gender in the Reception of a Heroic Deliberation in Sophocles’ Tragedy. Revista Archai, (33), e03308. https://doi.org/10.14195/1984-249X_33_08



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