A Mind Devouring Sickness

Sophocles, Ajax, 621–635 (go here for the full text on the Scaife viewer)

“His mother, old age’s roommate
And pale in old age
When she hears he is afflicted with a mind-devouring sickness
Will not hold back her mourning,
Her mourning nor the pitiful lament of the nightingale
But she will wail the sharp funereal tones.
Strikes will sound as they fall on her breasts
And she will rip out her white hair.

Anyone who is pointlessly sick is better off
When he lies down with Hades.”

ἦ που παλαιᾷ μὲν σύντροφος ἁμέρᾳ,
λευκῷ τε γήρᾳ μάτηρ νιν ὅταν νοσοῦν-
τα φρενοβόρως ἀκούσῃ,
αἴλινον αἴλινον
οὐδ᾿ οἰκτρᾶς γόον ὄρνιθος ἀηδοῦς
σχήσει δύσμορος, ἀλλ᾿ ὀξυτόνους μὲν ᾠδὰς
θρηνήσει, χερόπληκτοι δ᾿
ἐν στέρνοισι πεσοῦνται
δοῦποι καὶ πολιᾶς ἄμυγμα χαίτας.
κρείσσων γὰρ Ἅιδᾳ κεύθων ὁ νοσῶν


“Someone who is pointlessly sick
Is better when lying in Hades.
Look—one who came from one of the best lines
Of the much suffering Achaeans
Is no longer secure
In his childhood’s mind.
He wanders outside of it.
Miserable parent, what kind of a fate
remains for you to learn of your child,
the kind of life no other the descendants of Aiakos
faced before now.”

κρείσσων γὰρ Ἅιδᾳ κεύθων ὁ νοσῶν
ὃς εἷς πατρῴας ἥκων γενεᾶς ἄρι-
στα πολυπόνων Ἀχαιῶν,
οὐκέτι συντρόφοις
ὀργαῖς ἔμπεδος, ἀλλ᾿ ἐκτὸς ὁμιλεῖ.
ὦ τλᾶμον πάτερ, οἵαν σε μένει πυθέσθαι
παιδὸς δύσφορον ἄταν,
ἃν οὔπω τις ἔθρεψεν
αἰὼν Αἰακιδᾶν ἄτερθε τοῦδε.

Aelian Varia Historia, 9. 6-7

“Perikles, when he lost his sons in the plague, took their deaths most bravely and persuaded the Athenians to endure the deaths of their closest friends more graciously.

Xanthippe was in the habit of saying that even through endless troubles had afflicted Athens and themselves, she always saw the same expression on Socrates’ face when he left the home and returned. He kept a level response to all things and was always pleasant in attitude, above any kind of grief, and entirely stronger than fear.”

Ὅτι Περικλῆς ἐν τῷ λοιμῷ τοὺς παῖδας ἀποβαλὼν ἀνδρειότατα τὸν θάνατον αὐτῶν ἤνεγκε καὶ πάντας Ἀθηναίους εὐθυμότερον ἔπεισε τοὺς τῶν φιλτάτων θανάτους φέρειν.

Ἡ Ξανθίππη ἔφη μυρίων μεταβολῶν τὴν πόλιν <καὶ αὐτοὺς> κατασχουσῶν ἐν πάσαις ὅμοιον τὸ Σωκράτους πρόσωπον καὶ προϊόντος ἐκ τῆς οἰκίας καὶ ἐπανιόντος ἀεὶ θεᾶσθαι·ἥρμοστο γὰρ πρὸς πάντα ἐπιεικῶς, καὶ ἦν ἵλεως ἀεὶ τὴν διάνοιαν καὶ λύπης ὑπεράνω πάσης καὶ φόβου κρείττων παντὸς ὤν.

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