1st Edition

Understanding Human Life through Psychoanalysis and Ancient Greek Tragedy Explorations of Euripides, Sophocles and Aeschylus

By Sotiris Manolopoulos Copyright 2025
    208 Pages
    by Routledge

    208 Pages
    by Routledge

    Drawing parallels between ancient theatre, the analytic setting and the workings of psychic life, this book examines the tragedies of Euripides, Sophocles and Aeschylus through a psychoanalytic lens, with a view of furthering the reader’s understanding of primitive mental states.

    What lessons can we learn from the tragic poets about psychic life? What can we learn about psychoanalytic work from ancient tragedy and playwrights? Sotiris Manolopolous considers how the key tenets of ancient Greek theatre - passion, conflict, trauma and tragedy - were focussed on because they could not be spoken of in daily life, and how these restraints have continued into contemporary life. Throughout, he considers how theatre can be used to stage political experiences and shows how these experiences are a vital part of understanding an analysand within an analytic setting. Drawing on his own clinical practice, Manolopoulos considers what ancient playwrights might teach us about early, uncontained agonies of annihilation and primitive mental states that manifest themselves both within the individual and the collective experience of contemporary life such as climate change denial and totalitarian politicians.

    Drawing on canonical works such as Hippolytus, Orestes, Antigone and Prometheus Unbound, this book continues the legacy of research that shows how contemporary analysts, students and scholars can learn from ancient Greek literature and applies it directly to those negatively impacted by the trauma of 21st century life and politics.

    Chapter 1 The Dramatic Point of View

    Chapter 2 Euripides' Hippolytus: Drives Unleashed

    Chapter 3 Euripides’ Medea: The Barbaric Reality

    Chapter 4 Euripides’ Orestes: The Contamination of The City

    Chapter 5 Euripides’ Suppliant Women: Mourning and Femininity

    Chapter 6 Euripides’ Alcestis: Narcissim and Anti-Narcissim

    Chapter 7 Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Tauris: Bringing the Stranger Back Home

    Chapter 8 Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis: Triumph in Sacrifice

    Chapter 9 Sophocles’ Philoctetes: From Somatic Pain to Trading

    Chapter 10 Sophocles’ Antigone: The Tragic Staging of the Political

    Chapter 11 Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound: From Pain to Suffering and Thinking

    Chapter 12 A Plea for A New Political Subject


    Sotiris Manolopoulos is a child analyst and training analyst based in Athens, Greece. He was trained in the Canadian Psychoanalytic Society and is a member of the Hellenic Psychoanalytic Society, where he was previously president and director of training.

    Sotiris Manolopoulos’ work wells from a profound psychoanalytic understanding of the child’s interaction with the early maternal environment containing a tragic dimension from the very beginning. Without the mother’s silent work of mourning, it would possibly result in destructive consequences both at the individual and social level. The author’s linking this constellation to the ancient Greek tragedy in a creative way is a major achievement.

    Simon Salonen, M.D., Ph.D., Emeritus Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of Turku, Member of Finnish Psychoanalytical Society. Author of “Metapsychological Perspectives on Psychic Survival”.


    Deeply familiar with Greek mythology, and well versed in philosophy and psychoanalysis, Sotiris Manolopoulos throws a wide net to capture and bring together the individual, the clinical, the social and the political in their intricate connectedness. His thoughtful exploration of tragic theatre illuminates psychic life between passion and order, despair and resolution. A greatly enriching journey through the lands of ancient drama from the vantage point of contemporary psychoanalysis.

    Cordelia Schmidt-Hellerau, Ph.D., Chair of the IPA in Culture Committee


    In this book Sotiris Manolopoulos takes the reader on a psychoanalytic Odyssey to explore some of the key Greek tragedies. Through a psychoanalytic lens familiar Greek characters are analysed to highlight the depths of the human psyche. It is an impressive endeavour that offers a compelling integration of both theatre and psychoanalysis.

    Jan Abram, Author of The Surviving Object: psychoanalytic clinical essays on psychic survival of-the-object (2022) New Library of Psychoanalysis, Routledge


    Sotiris Manolopoulos unpicks with mastery the thread of the souls of the heroes from Ancient tragedy, analysing their words and actions in the light of modern psychoanalysis and his clinical experience, displaying through the function of the chorus the connection between the collective and the individual at the point where the personal psyche, in order to be woven, consistently relies on the social and the sequence of passages through the Other, and the others, to the sufferer and the living subject.

    Thanassis Hatzopoulos is a child psychiatrist, psychoanalyst (member of the Société de Psychanalyse Freudienne, Paris, of the International Winnicott Association, Sao Paolo, and president of the Hellenic Psychoanalytical Space D. W. W, Athens) and a poet.