Women of Trachis

Women of Trachis
Funeral of Hercules.jpg
Hercules on his funeral pyre by Hans Sebald Beham
Written bySophocles
ChorusWomen of Trachis
Old man
Place premieredAthens
Original languageAncient Greek
GenreAthenian tragedy
SettingAt Trachis, before the house of Heracles

Women of Trachis (Ancient Greek: Τραχίνιαι, Trachiniai; also translated as The Trachiniae) is an Athenian tragedy by Sophocles.

Women of Trachis is generally considered to be less developed than Sophocles' other works, and its dating has been a subject of disagreement among critics and scholars.


The story begins with Deianeira, the wife of Heracles, relating the story of her early life and her plight adjusting to married life. She is now distraught over her husband's neglect of her family. Often involved in some adventure, he rarely visits them. She sends their son Hyllus to find him, as she is concerned over prophecies about Heracles and the land he is currently in. After Hyllus sets off, a messenger arrives with word that Heracles, victorious in his recent battle, is making offerings on Cape Cenaeum and coming home soon to Trachis.

Lichas, a herald of Heracles, brings in a procession of captives. He tells Deianeira a false story of why Heracles had laid siege to the city of Oechalia (in Euboea). He claimed Eurytus, the city's king, was responsible for Heracles being enslaved, and therefore Heracles vowed revenge against him and his people. Among the captured girls is Iole, daughter of Eurytus. Deianeira soon learns that in truth Heracles laid siege to the city just to obtain Iole, whom he has taken as a lover.

Unable to cope with the thought of her husband falling for this younger woman, she decides to use a love charm on him, a magic potion that will win him back. When she was younger, she had been carried across a river by the centaur, Nessus. Halfway through he made a grab at her, but Heracles came to her rescue and quickly shot him with an arrow. As he died, he told her his blood, now mixed with the poison of the Lernaean Hydra in which Heracles' arrow had been dipped, would keep Heracles from loving any other woman more than her, if she follows his instructions. Deianeira dyes a robe with the blood and has Lichas carry it to Heracles with strict instructions that (a) no one else is to wear it, and (b) it is to be kept in the dark until he puts it on.

After the gift is sent, she begins to have a bad feeling about it. She throws some of the left-over material into sunlight and it reacts like boiling acid. Nessus had lied about the love charm. Hyllus soon arrives to inform her that Heracles lies dying due to her gift. He was in such pain and fury that he killed Lichas, the deliverer of the gift: "he made the white brain to ooze from the hair, as the skull was dashed to splinters, and blood scattered therewith" (as translated by Sir Richard C. Jebb).

Deianeira feels enormous shame for what she has done, amplified by her son's harsh words, and kills herself. Hyllus discovers soon after that it wasn't actually her intention to kill her husband. The dying Heracles is carried to his home in horrible pain and furious over what he believes was a murder attempt by his wife. Hyllus explains the truth, and Heracles realizes that the prophecies about his death have come to pass: He was to be killed by someone who was already dead, and it turned out to be Nessus.

In the end, he is in so much pain that he is begging for someone to finish him off. In this weakened state, he says he is like a woman. He makes a final wish, which Hyllus promises to obey (under protest), that Hyllus is to marry Iole. The play concludes with Heracles being carried off to be burned alive, as an ending to his suffering.

Other Languages
čeština: Trachiňanky
Ελληνικά: Τραχίνιαι
español: Las traquinias
íslenska: Trakynjur
italiano: Le Trachinie
Nederlands: Trachiniae
português: As Traquínias
română: Trahinienele
українська: Трахінянки