Philoctetes

by

Sophocles

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Atreus’s Sons/The Atridae Character Analysis

The sons of Atreus (sometimes called the Atridae) are Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae, and Menelaus, the king of Sparta. Both Agamemnon and Menelaus played special parts in the Trojan War, as it began after Menelaus’s wife, Helen, ran off with Paris, the prince of Troy. After Helen left Menelaus for Paris, Agamemnon ordered the united Greek forces to attack Troy, resulting in a war that rages for 10 years. Philoctetes blames Atreus’s sons for ordering Odysseus and his fleet of sailors to maroon him on Lemnos after a snake bite on his foot turned into a festering wound, and Philoctetes deeply hates them because of it. Through Atreus’s sons, Sophocles underscores how war and military command can force one into doing immoral or unethical things—such as abandoning a disabled warrior because his disability is a hindrance to their cause.

Atreus’s Sons/The Atridae Quotes in Philoctetes

The Philoctetes quotes below are all either spoken by Atreus’s Sons/The Atridae or refer to Atreus’s Sons/The Atridae. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Disability and Discrimination Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Philoctetes published in 2008.
Scene 2 (Lines 219 – 675) Quotes

I’m here because the two Greek generals, backed
By Odysseus, shamefully flung me ashore, alone
And abandoned, to waste away with a raging wound.
Struck down by the savage bite of a deadly snake.
With that for company, son, they marooned me here
And left me to rot on my own. (The fleet had sailed
From the isle of Chryse, and this was their first port of call.)
Then once, to their joy, they’d seen me asleep on the shore
After a stormy passage, they laid me inside
A rocky cave and left, tossing me out
A few beggarly rags, with a small amount of available
Food to keep me alive and avoid pollution.

Related Characters: Philoctetes (speaker), Neoptolemus, Odysseus, Atreus’s Sons/The Atridae
Page Number: 212-3
Explanation and Analysis:

Now, my boy, let me tell you about the island.
No sailor will ever land here, if he can help it.
There’s nowhere safe he can anchor his ship, no port
In which he can trade for profit or find a welcome.
No sensible man would steer a course for this place.
He might, perhaps, put in because he is forced to—
It happens now and again in a long lifetime.
Such people, when they arrive, my boy, will say
They’re sorry for me. They might feel sorry enough
To give me a scrap of food or something to wear.
But when I raise the question of taking me home,
Nobody wants to do it.

Related Characters: Philoctetes (speaker), Neoptolemus, Odysseus, Atreus’s Sons/The Atridae
Related Symbols: Philoctetes’s Wound 
Page Number: 213-4
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene 3 (Lines 730 – 1080) Quotes

You are not bad, I’m sure. But wicked men
Have taught you this base behavior. Leave it to others
And sail. But first return my weapons to me.

Related Characters: Philoctetes (speaker), Neoptolemus, Odysseus, Atreus’s Sons/The Atridae
Page Number: 237
Explanation and Analysis:
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Atreus’s Sons/The Atridae Character Timeline in Philoctetes

The timeline below shows where the character Atreus’s Sons/The Atridae appears in Philoctetes. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene 2 (Lines 219 – 675)
Disability and Discrimination Theme Icon
Deception, Ethics, and War Theme Icon
...Greece. He has “been rotting away” on Lemnos for nine years now, all because of Atreus’s sons and Odysseus. (full context)
Deception, Ethics, and War Theme Icon
Neoptolemus tells Philoctetes that he knows all about how terrible Atreus’s sons and Odysseus are, as they have offended him, too. Odysseus had come to Scyros and... (full context)
Deception, Ethics, and War Theme Icon
Philoctetes tells Neoptolemus that their shared anger with Atreus’s sons and Odysseus must mean that he can trust him. Philoctetes knows that Odysseus will do... (full context)
Disability and Discrimination Theme Icon
...to bring him to Troy by either force or persuasion. Neoptolemus asks the merchant what Atreus’s sons could possibly want with Philoctetes now, since they ordered him marooned here so many years... (full context)
Scene 3 (Lines 730 – 1080)
Suffering and Isolation Theme Icon
...As Philoctetes cries out in pain, he begs Neoptolemus not to leave him and curses Atreus’s sons and Odysseus. Philoctetes calls to death and asks why it never comes. He looks to... (full context)
Lament (Lines 1081 – 1218)
Decisions, Obligation, and the Greater Good Theme Icon
...hear them over his constant lamentations. The chorus begs Philoctetes to curb his hate for Atreus’s sons and Odysseus and not throw away their friendship. (full context)
Scene 4 (Lines 1219 – 1407)
Deception, Ethics, and War Theme Icon
Decisions, Obligation, and the Greater Good Theme Icon
...but Philoctetes still refuses. Neoptolemus shouldn’t want to help the Greeks either, Philoctetes says, since Atreus’s sons won’t give him Achilles’s armor. Neoptolemus should return to Scyros and “leave those rotten men... (full context)