Politics, Education and Shame: Passages from “Iphigenia at Aulis”

From Euripides Iphigenia at Aulis

346-348
“…It isn’t right that
A well-born man change his ways when attempting great deeds:
No, he should at that moment be steadfast, especially to his friends
Since a man is most able to help his friends when he does well.”

…ἄνδρα δ᾽ οὐ χρεὼν
τὸν ἀγαθὸν πράσσοντα μεγάλα τοὺς τρόπους μεθιστάναι,
ἀλλὰ καὶ βέβαιον εἶναι τότε μάλιστα τοῖς φίλοις,
ἡνίκ᾽ ὠφελεῖν μάλιστα δυνατός ἐστιν εὐτυχῶν.

This sounds nice and sententious. But remember that Menelaos is trying to convince Agamemnon to kill his daughter.

494: “What does your daughter have to do with Helen?”

…τί δ’ ῾Ελένης παρθένωι τῆι σῆι μέτα;

524-527
Agamemnon: “The offspring of Sisyphus knows everything.”
Menelaos: “There is no way that Odysseus will hurt you and me.”
Agamemnon: “He has always been clever with the mob.”
Menelaos: “He is a slave to public favor, a terrible evil.?

Αγ. τὸ Σισύφειον σπέρμα πάντ’ οἶδεν τάδε.
Με. οὐκ ἔστ’ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς ὅτι σὲ κἀμὲ πημανεῖ.
Αγ. ποικίλος ἀεὶ πέφυκε τοῦ τ’ ὄχλου μέτα.
Με. φιλοτιμίαι μὲν ἐνέχεται, δεινῶι κακῶι.

559-567

“Men have different natures;
They have different ways. But acting rightly
Always stands out.
The preparation of education
points the way to virtue.
For it is a mark of wisdom to feel shame
and it brings the transformative grace
of seeing through its judgment
what is right; it is reputation that grants
an ageless glory to your life.”

διάφοροι δὲ φύσεις βροτῶν,
διάφοροι δὲ τρόποι· τὸ δ’ ὀρ-
θῶς ἐσθλὸν σαφὲς αἰεί·
τροφαί θ’ αἱ παιδευόμεναι
μέγα φέρουσ’ ἐς τὰν ἀρετάν·
τό τε γὰρ αἰδεῖσθαι σοφία,
†τάν τ’ ἐξαλλάσσουσαν ἔχει
χάριν ὑπὸ γνώμας ἐσορᾶν†
τὸ δέον, ἔνθα δόξα φέρει
κλέος ἀγήρατον βιοτᾶι.Image result for Ancient Greek helen vase

 

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