Euripides' The Suppliant Women, first presented around 420 bce, focuses on the suffering brought to civilians from war. Athens comes off as the merciful democratic ideal state through Theseus.
At the temple of Demeter at Eleusis, northwest to nearby Athens, Aethra, the widowed mother of Theseus, prays for the suppliant women: mothers of the seven warriors who remain unburied after their failed assault on Thebes. Adrastus, the remaining leader of the warriors and king of Argos, pleads with Aethra to persuade her son to help against Theban vengeance so that the men may be buried. Theseus arrives and grills Adrastus, who explains that he had hoped his sons-in-law, Polyneices and Tydeus, would overcome their outcast status, and he begs Theseus to make an appeal to the Thebans. Theseus declines, despite the chorus of women echoing the sentiment, but he does listen to his mother regarding the customs and the advisability of the quality of mercy in Athenian leaders. Theseus decides he'll bring it to vote and make the request of Creon. A herald from Thebes engages Theseus in a debate about democracy: he comes from Thebes where one man rules instead of a "mob" (73). Creon has sent word that alliance with Adrastus and the suppliants will result in war. But Theseus will bury the corpses no matter what.
Theseus gathers an army to head for Thebes. A messenger declares that Theseus has been victorious, stopping hs army at the gates, though, in order to stay on-task. Theseus will return with the corpses and the suppliants sing a dirge. When Theseus and the bodies arrive, Adrastus provides eulogies and the women sing more. Evadne, Capaneus' widow (and Eteocles' sister) appears on a cliff above the funeral pyre. Her father Iphis cannot dissuade her and she leaps into her husband's pyre. Iphis mourns.
The kids of the dead warriors carry in the urns holding the ashes of their fathers. Athena appears and forces Adrastus to swear never to make war on Athens. Two of the kids are charged with avenging the dead on Thebes when they're old enough.