Philoctetes

by

Sophocles

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The Trojan War Term Analysis

The Trojan War is an epic ten-year war fought between the Greeks and the Trojans. It was sparked after Paris, a prince of Troy, ran off with the wife of Menelaus, one of Atreus’s sons. Philoctetes was part of the first expedition to Troy along with Odysseus, but after Philoctetes was bitten by a snake on the island of Chryse and sustained a festering wound, Odysseus marooned him on Lemnos at the order of Atreus’s sons. Sophocles’s play begins nine years later, after Helenus, a prophet, claims the war can’t be won without both Neoptolemus and Philoctetes, who owns Heracles’s unerring bow and arrows. Philoctetes, however, adamantly refuses to go to Troy until Heracles appears from the heavens and orders him to go. Ancient Greeks of Sophocles’s time considered the Trojan War to have been an actual historical event that took place around the 12th century BCE, but today the war is widely considered mythical.

The Trojan War Quotes in Philoctetes

The Philoctetes quotes below are all either spoken by The Trojan War or refer to The Trojan War. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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 1 (Lines 1 – 134) Quotes

Now, Neoptolemus, true-born son of Achilles,
Greatest of all the Greeks, it was here that I once
Put ashore the Malian, Poeas’ son, Philoctetes,
Acting upon the orders of my superiors.
The gnawing wound in his foot was oozing with pus.
We couldn’t pour a libation or offer sacrifice
Undisturbed. His animal shouts and yells
Were constantly filling the camp with sounds of ill omen.
That story needn’t detain us now, however.
This isn’t the moment for long discussion.

Related Characters: Odysseus (speaker), Philoctetes, Neoptolemus, Achilles, Poeas
Related Symbols: Philoctetes’s Wound 
Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:

Now let me explain why you can safely meet
This man and secure his trust, when I can not.
You didn’t sail with the main expedition. You weren’t
Committed by oath or forced into taking part.
But every one of these charges applies to me.
If he sights me while the bow’s in his own possession,
I’m finished and you’ll be finished for being with me.
Those weapons can’t be resisted. Our task must be
To contrive a way for you to steal them from him.

Related Characters: Odysseus (speaker), Philoctetes, Neoptolemus
Page Number: 205
Explanation and Analysis:
Entry of the Chorus (Lines 135 – 218) Quotes

His dreadful fate’s no wonder to me.
If I have an inkling, his sufferings first
Were sent by the gods, when he entered the shrine
Of cruel Chryse, who dealt him his wound.
So what he endures now, far from his friends.
Must also be due to the will of some god:
He may not aim those god-given shafts,
Which none can resist, at the towers of Troy,
Till the time has come when the prophet declares
Those arrows will prove her destruction.

Related Characters: Neoptolemus (speaker), Philoctetes, Chorus, Chryse
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:
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:
Scene 4 (Lines 1219 – 1407) Quotes

Now that you know this, surely you must agree,
And gladly. You have so much to gain. First,
To come into healing hands, and then to be judged
The foremost hero of Greece, by taking Troy,
The city of sorrows, and winning the highest glory.

Related Characters: Neoptolemus (speaker), Philoctetes, Helenus
Related Symbols: Philoctetes’s Wound 
Page Number: 251
Explanation and Analysis:
Closing Scene (Lines 1408 – 1472) Quotes

You’ll go with Neoptolemus to Troy,
Where first your painful wound will soon be healed.
Then, chosen for your prowess from the host,
You’ll use my bow and arrows to bring down
Paris, the cause of all this bitter strife.
When you’ve sacked Troy, the army will present
You with the prize of valour, and you’ll bear
Your spoils back to your home on Oeta’s heights
To show your father Poeas. Do not fail,
Whatever spoils the army grants to you,
To lay a portion on my pyre in tribute
To my bow.

Related Characters: Heracles (speaker), Philoctetes, Neoptolemus, Poeas, Paris
Page Number: 255
Explanation and Analysis:

Now, Neoptolemus,
My words concern you too. You’ll not take Troy
Without his aid, nor he without your help.
No, each one guard the other, like two lions
Prowling the bush together. [to Philoctetes:] I shall send
Asclepius to heal your wounds in Troy.
The citadel must be captured by my bow
A second time. But when you lay the land
To waste, remember this: show piety
Towards the gods, since nothing ranks so high
With Zeus. For piety does not die with men.
Men live or die, but piety cannot perish.

Related Characters: Heracles (speaker), Philoctetes, Neoptolemus, Zeus, Asclepius, Priam
Page Number: 255
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Trojan War Term Timeline in Philoctetes

The timeline below shows where the term The Trojan War appears in Philoctetes. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene 1 (Lines 1 – 134)
Deception, Ethics, and War Theme Icon
...that the Greek army approached Neoptolemus and begged him to come to Troy, as the Trojan War can’t be won without him. Odysseus orders Neoptolemus to tell Philoctetes that he agreed to... (full context)
Deception, Ethics, and War Theme Icon
Decisions, Obligation, and the Greater Good Theme Icon
...in Neoptolemus’s nature to be deceptive, but since it will help the Greeks win the Trojan War , it is worth it, Odysseus says. He tells Neoptolemus to forget his morals for... (full context)
Entry of the Chorus (Lines 135 – 218)
Disability and Discrimination Theme Icon
Suffering and Isolation Theme Icon
...of the same name, while he was part of the first expedition headed to the Trojan War . Therefore, Neoptolemus says, Philoctetes’s agony is due to the will of the gods, and... (full context)
Scene 2 (Lines 219 – 675)
Disability and Discrimination Theme Icon
Deception, Ethics, and War Theme Icon
...to Troy. Neoptolemus feigns surprise and asks Philoctetes if he, too, was involved in the Trojan War . (full context)
Scene 3 (Lines 730 – 1080)
Decisions, Obligation, and the Greater Good Theme Icon
Neoptolemus tells Philoctetes that he must sail to Troy to help the Greeks win the Trojan War , which is where they will be going when they leave Lemnos. Philoctetes claims that... (full context)
Closing Scene (Lines 1408 – 1472)
Decisions, Obligation, and the Greater Good Theme Icon
Heracles tells Philoctetes and Neoptolemus that they must go to Troy together to end the Trojan War , and they both immediately agree to go. Heracles disappears, and Philoctetes bids the island... (full context)