Aeschylus, Libation-Bearers 18-19
“…Zeus allow me payback for the death
Of my father and be my willing ally.”
ὦ Ζεῦ, δός με τείσασθαι μόρον
πατρός, γενοῦ δὲ σύμμαχος θέλων ἐμοί.
The Center for Hellenic Studies , the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre has been presenting scenes from Greek tragedy on the ‘small screen’ since the beginning of the US lockdown in March. As our director Paul O’Mahony has put it, since we are “unable to explore the outside world, we have no option but to explore further the inner one.”
Aeschylus, Libation-Bearers 225-228
“When you see me you, fail to recognize me
But when you glanced at this lock of hair
Or followed along the shape of my feet,
You took flight and imagined me there!”
αὐτὸν μὲν οὖν ὁρῶσα δυσμαθεῖς ἐμέ·
κουρὰν δ᾿ ἰδοῦσα τήνδε κηδείου τριχὸς
ἰχνοσκοποῦσά τ᾿ ἐν στίβοισι τοῖς ἐμοῖς
ἀνεπτερώθης κἀδοκεῖς ὁρᾶν ἐμέ.
Today we come to the second play of the Oresteia, the Libation-Bearers, which follows the death of Agamemnon some time later with the return of his son Orestes. Motifs from this play remained well-known enough that audiences of the later Elektras by Sophocles and Euripides could be relied upon to recall its moments of recognition and the tension between the expectations placed on Euripides and his hesitation when finally facing the deed.
Along with the rest of the trilogy, the Libation-Bearers earned first prize at the City Dionysia in 458 BCE. But what was it about these plays that charmed the judges and audiences? This play certainly does not present the heroic narrative one might expect from the Homeric Odyssey, where Orestes is repeated hailed as a returning avenger and a model for Telemachus. This Orestes reunites joyously with his sister and joins her in a shared song of lament that takes up the central portion of the play. When the time to act arrives, pushed on by Apollo’s prophecies, Orestes hesitates before taking his mother’s life. And then he is cursed by the furies, pushing him into the exile resolved in the Eumenides.
The story of Agamemnon and Orestes hinges on the balance of justice and vengeance. The horrible logic of the later faces up to the demands of the former and comes up short. In the distance between the two, humankind continues to suffer.
Aeschylus, Libation-Bearers 387-394
“May I sing a song of victory
Over a slaughtered man
And a woman as she dies—
Why should I hide
The kind of plan floating in my mind?
Before my heart’s prow
A driving anger blows,
ἐφυμνῆσαι γένοιτό μοι †πευκή-
εντ᾿† ὀλολυγμὸν ἀνδρὸς
θεινομένου γυναικός τ᾿
ὀλλυμένας· τί γὰρ κεύθω
φρενὸς οἷον ἐντὸς
ποτᾶται; πάροιθεν δὲ πρῴρας
δριμὺς ἄηται κραδίας
θυμός, ἔγκοτον στύγος.
Scenes (from Oliver Taplin’s Translation)
Aeschylus, Libation-Bearers 585-95
“The earth feeds many things,
Terrible griefs of fear,
And the folds of the sea
Are full with similar monsters.
Lights burning between
Sky and earth cause harm
To creatures on wing and on foot.
You might even mention the wind-borne rage of hurricanes.
But who can speak of the arrogant
Mind of a man or the all-daring
Lusts in a woman’s thoughts,
The joined paths of mortal ruin?”
πολλὰ μὲν γᾶ τρέφει
δεινὰ δειμάτων ἄχη,
πόντιαί τ᾿ ἀγκάλαι
βρύουσι· βλάπτουσι καὶ πεδαίχμιοι
πτανά τε καὶ πεδοβάμονα· κἀνεμόεντ᾿ ἂν
αἰγίδων φράσαις κότον·
ἀντ. αἀλλ᾿ ὑπέρτολμον ἀν-
δρὸς φρόνημα τίς λέγοι
καὶ γυναικῶν φρεσὶν
ἔρωτας, ἄταισι συννόμους βροτῶν;
Producers and Crew
Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Associate Director: Liz Fisher
Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University)
Dramaturg: Emma Pauly
Executive Producer: Lanah Koelle (Center for Hellenic Studies)
Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society)
Poster Artist: John Koelle
Poster Designer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies)
Aeschylus, Libation-Bearers 434-438
“You speak of complete dishonor!
She will payback the dishonoring of my father
With willing gods
With my willing hands.
When I have cut her out, may I die too.”
τὸ πᾶν ἀτίμως ἔλεξας, οἴμοι·
πατρὸς δ᾿ ἀτίμωσιν ἆρα τείσει
ἕκατι μὲν δαιμόνων,
ἕκατι δ᾿ ἁμᾶν χερῶν.
ἔπειτ᾿ ἐγὼ νοσφίσας ὀλοίμαν.
Upcoming Episodes (Go to CHS Project Page for more information)
October 28 Libation Bearers, Aeschylus; translation by O. Taplin
November 4 Eumenides, Aeschylus
with Ellen McLaughlin (Barnard College) and Andrew Simpson (Catholic Univeristy of America); translation by O. Taplin
November 11 Medea, Euripides
with Fiona Macintosh (University of Oxford)
Aeschylus, Libation-Bearers 548-550
“It is right—because she raised a terrible monster—
For her to die violently. Once transformed into a snake,
I kill her. That’s what this dream is telling us.”
δεῖ τοί νιν, ὡς ἔθρεψεν ἔκπαγλον τέρας,
θανεῖν βιαίως· ἐκδρακοντωθεὶς δ᾿ ἐγὼ
0κτείνω νιν, ὡς τοὔνειρον ἐννέπει τόδε.