Medea was first performed in 431 BCE at the City Dionysia festival. Here every year three playwrights competed against each other, each writing a tetralogy of four tragedies and a satyr play (alongside Medea were Philoctetes, Dictys and the satyr play Theristai). In 431 the competition was between Euphorion (the son of famed playwright Aeschylus), Sophocles (Euripides' main rival) and Euripides. Euphorion won, and Euripides placed last.
The form of the play differs from many other Greek tragedies by its simplicity: All scenes involve only two actors, Medea and someone else. These encounters serve to highlight Medea's skill and determination in manipulating powerful male figures to achieve her own ends. The play is also the only Greek tragedy in which a kin-killer makes it unpunished to the end of the play, and the only one about child-killing in which the deed is performed in cold blood as opposed to in a state of temporary madness.