Medea and her children at Corinth and beyond: Myth, cult, and history

Natalia Hudelson, University of Pennsylvania


This study examines the connections of Medea with the city of Corinth. Its purpose is twofold: to advance a better understanding of the development of Corinthian Medea over nearly a thousand years, and to offer a methodological approach for examining myth and history together. The first chapter takes as a case-study the cult for Medea's children, which she institutes at the end of Euripides' Medea. To examine the historicity of the cult, a methodology is developed which takes ancient sources of all types as the starting-point and re-evaluates modern scholarship against them. This investigation reveals the limited number of ancient sources which attest to a Corinthian cult for the children of Medea; the temporal distribution of these sources and their wildly divergent details lead to the conclusion that no such cult ever existed. The next three chapters examine the implications of this conclusion. Chapter Two explores the relationship between Medea and Hera Akraia, a uniquely Corinthian deity with a cult site northwest of Corinth. I reject the theory that Medea represents a faded local goddess but identify other reasons for which the two figures are connected in Corinthian folk memory. Chapter Three traces Medea's first extant appearances in the literary and artistic record in an effort to understand her characterization before the fifth century. This evidence suggests that her foreign origin was not originally important to her identity and that her magical capabilities may have only developed towards the end of the sixth century. Chapter Four returns to Euripides to examine why and how he manipulated the Medea myth, especially in regard to the cult to her children. I then examine the reasons for which Medea becomes more important to Athens in the fifth century and suggest that this pivot from local Corinthian significance to a broader Athenian audience contributed to the strange afterlife which the 'cult to Medea's children' had in Hellenistic scholarship. The final chapter returns to Pausanias' account of a monument for the children of Medea in Roman Corinth and explores the complex reasons for which that Roman colony asserted a cultural identity with reference to Medea.

Subject Area

Archaeology|Folklore|Ancient history

Recommended Citation

Hudelson, Natalia, "Medea and her children at Corinth and beyond: Myth, cult, and history" (2013). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3565091.