Melivoia is an ancient city and a cove for ships of Magnisia, which was mentioned even in the times of Homer. There is no natural port in the area, but the cove of Melivoia is historic as many shipwrecks of Xerxi’s fleet were washed ashore, as Herodotos explicitly narrates. Melivoia took part in the the Troic war, with the eminent archer Filoktitis as its leader.
The mythical Filoktitis, who contributed decisively in the conquest of Troy with his Hercules’ poisonous arrows, is the most known king of ancient Melivoia. While he was king, his kingdom, one of the biggest and strongest in Greece, prospered. His name continues and will continue to be mentioned in times to come, as do the relics of this ancient civilization in the area. Melivoia is a historical place, blessed by God, a theatre of war battles during ancient times, a valued field raided by the pirates, but also a known monasterial community during the Byzantine years. The “Mount of Cells” was the precurser for the Agio Oros. The historical importance is evident in the area.
Sophokles’ “Filoktitis”was taught in 409bC and won the first victory. It is the second last of seven tragedies that made it to our times and which Sophokles’ wrote when he was very about 85 years old. Our admiration for the strength of his mind and soul gives its place to surprise when, after five years at the age of 90, he will write his swan song “Oidipodas Epi Kolono”.
Aeschylus -we don’t know when- and Euripides -in 431bC- had already drawn information from the epic and written about the tragic myth of Filoktitis, son of Pianda from Magnisia, king of Malida, . But Sophokles managed to give Filoktitis a new meaning, enhancing the dramatic elements of the myth and expanding the tragic battles, by associating him with the young son of Achilles, Neoptolemos, who had inborn innocence and character integrity. Thus, he created a second dramatic centre next to Filoktitis with the shocking processes on the susceptible character of the young hero.
In order to emphasize even more the tragic position of Filoktitis, who is decomposing in Limnos, where he was abandoned for years by the Achaious, when he was bitten by an adder in Chrisi, he presents the island to be desolated, without a living soul to stand by him. He replaces the chorus of Limnos of the other two tragic poets with sailors of Neoptolemos. In this way, Sophokles’ tragedy acquires a different dimension, enlarges the tragedy and enriches the problematic dimension in multiple directions.
Let us see the myth, as it was handed to us by the tragic poet:
Elenos, son of Priamos with prophetic abilities, who is captured by the Argians, is forced to reveal that Ilion would fall into the hands of the Greeks only with the bow and arrows of Hercules. He had granted them to Filoktitis out of gratitude, when he lit the fire in Iti thus helping him to burn, as was his wish. Filoktitis took them with him to the Trojan war. But on the way, after he was bitten by the snake in Chrisi, the Achaoi abandoned him without mercy in Limnos, because they couldn’t stand the malodor from his inflamed wound, his shouting and swearing.
Our hero hates them for their merciless behaviour towards him, and they know this well. Now that they needed him as much as his weapons to fulfill the prophecy for the success of the war, they know that it is very difficult to pursuade him to return to Troy and they will have to use deceit. So they send Odyssey to trick him that there, he will be healed from the wounds that torture him and he will be exalted with the conquest of Ilion. If that failed, he would have to use force.
But Odyssey, knowing that the hero hates him, since he was the one who abandoned him on the desolated island of Limnos, takes with him the pure and untutored Neoptolemos. He is sure that in this way, his plan will succeed, since he also believes that he can manipulate Neoptolemos.
Neoptolemos is hesitant at first, but he is convinced by the master’s arguments and goes along with the deceit. He lies and gains the trust of Filoktitis, who in a crisis of pain gives him Hercules’ bow and arrows. For a moment it looks like Odyssey and his sly plans have succeeded. But our young hero, consumed by the intolerable torture of Filoktitis and the phenomenal nastiness of his life, finds his pure nature and generosity that he has inherited from his father and returns the bow and arrows to the suffering old man. He is ready to take him back to his home, which he so desires.
Odyssey’s wrathful intervention is without result, but he insists to execute his plan successfully for the good of the Greeks, by implementing his famous saying “end justifies the means”. Filoktitis cannot be convinced, opposing his wrath and spite. It will take the “deus ex machine” intervention of Hercules to make him accept to go to Troy with his weapons, where he will kill Paris, acquire fame for the conquest of Ilion and be healed from his wounds by the doctor Machaona.
The myth is called “Filoktitis”and its main subject is of course the fate of a tortured and bitter man who cannot look after himself, but desires the trust and help of the others. But the character and structure of the drama impose us to understand it as a tragedy of three different people, who are strictly defined by their personal characteristics and their individual nature, which of course leads to multiple battles.
Of the same importance is the drama of Neoptolemos, who, contrary to his nature and conscience, is blackmailed and mislead to inappropriate for his character ways, only to find himself again, after a painful experience. This trial of Achilles’ pure son with his psychological shifts is so fundamental for the play, that many said that the tragedy should have been called “Neoptolemos”.
But we have to acknowledge that Odyssey, a resolute executioner of the army for the good of all Greeks, realizes his mission, which he plans on implementing in any way. That is why he imposes his duty, although his cunning ways may shock us and evoke our anger.
This play by Sophokles, with its incomparable story, its plasticity and symmetry, its exceptional acting and intense emotions, Neoptolemos’ stirring turn, the ideological speculations, was justly considered one of the most complete achievements of world play-writing. It was only natural to evoke the interest of thousands of researchers, many of who admired it unconditionally. The tragic myth of Filoktitis with his tortures, abandoned by his own companions, was also natural to evoke and inspire many ancient and modern poets, even though none of them ever managed to reach the unprecedented achievement of Sophokles.