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Orders of Exchange: Buying Babies in the "Hippolytus"

Thursday, October 8, 2015
12:00 AM
Classics Library, 2175 Angell Hall

In his famously misogynist speech (Eu. Hipp. 616-33), the young Hippolytus suggests that men should be able to produce babies by purchasing them at temples, rather than engaging in sexual intercourse with women.  What has not been noticed is that the form of exchange Hippolytus suggests in this passage explicitly avoids the use of coinage, and thus belongs to what Kurke and others have termed the aristocratic, “long-term” order of exchange;  at the same moment  he suggests that women are “counterfeit coins,” thereby placing sexual reproduction on the side of “short term" commercial exchange. Built into Hippolytus’ misogyny, then, we can see his self-image as a champion for elitist, anti-democratic discourse — an opposition that resonates throughout the drama in his conflict with Theseus.