Hymns and hymnal prayers in fifth century Greek tragedy with special reference to Euripides
A song of praise or of prayer addressed to a deity, which was generally called 'Hymn', was constructed in accordance with certain traditional principles, as far as its structure and vocabulary are concerned. In the various religious festivals and other events the Greeks sang such songs. The existing evidence offers valuable material to the student of the Greek sacral songs. Such songs are found in a considerable number in Greek Tragedy. Although they have a specific dramatic function, they follow the traditional forms to a greater or to a lesser extent. The comparison of these songs with similar songs among our sacral evidence, and also the comparison of the Euripidean with the Aeschylean and Sophoclean hymnal songs, shows that both Euripides and Sophocles follow the tradition to a considerable extent (Sophocles is the one closest to it in certain examples), while Aeschylus is far from it. Whereas the treatment of the gods is generally traditional, there is a great difference in the selection of the divine beings addressed, which is sometimes due to the dramatic context. The relation of these songs to the plot is rather independent in Sophocles, while in Aeschylus is purely dramatic; in Euripides it is either purely dramatic or at least relevant to the situation. As far as the various types of hymnal songs are concerned, there is a type which is found in Euripides only: hymns of a mythological narrative. Aeschylus prefers the type of the kλῦθι and ἰδεῖν hymnal songs, while Euripides and Sophocles prefer the kletic type. In Sophocles we do not find songs to heroes or to the dead; Euripides is the only one where we find encomium of heroes. Furthermore, in the employment of the hymnal techniques in songs where, non divine beings are addressed (such as mortals, creatures from the animal kingdom, elements of the natural world), the three tragedians show a considerable agreement. Euripides, however, offers a greater variety of such examples. Generally, Euripides does not, imitate the other two tiagedians in his treatment of the sacral songs.