Pieces of Everything: Reading Fragments from Greek Tragedy

Sophocles fr. Fr. 593 (Tereus)

“Let any person who lives acquire however much
Pleasure each day offers. Tomorrow always comes upon us
Blind.”

ζώοι τις ἀνθρώπων τὸ κατ’ ἦμαρ ὅπως
ἥδιστα πορσύνων• τὸ δ’ ἐς αὔριον αἰεὶ
τυφλὸν ἕρπει

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iwiM7wj3Ww&authuser=0

Aeschylus fr. 124 from Lykourgos (from Athenaeus 10.447c)

“He used to drink beer from these [heads] once he dried them
And then boast proudly about it in his man-cave.”

κἀκ τῶνδ᾿ ἔπινε βρῦτον ἰσχναίνων χρόνῳ
κἀσεμνοκόμπει τοῦτ᾿ ἐν ἀνδρείᾳ στέγῃ

Sophocles, fr. 583

“I am nothing now, apart. But often
I have examined the nature of women like this,
How we are nothing. As girls we live the sweetest life
of all human beings, I think, in our father’s house.
But ignorance nurses children always with pleasure.
When we come with full wits to adolescence,
We are sent out and made ready for sale,
Away from our paternal gods and our parents,
Some sent to foreign husbands, some sent to barbarians;
Some are sold to unhappy homes, some are wed to horrors.
And then, once a single evening has joined us,
We need to praise it and think that this is living well.”

<ΠΡΟΚΝΗ•> νῦν δ’ οὐδέν εἰμι χωρίς. ἀλλὰ πολλάκις
ἔβλεψα ταύτῃ τὴν γυναικείαν φύσιν,
ὡς οὐδέν ἐσμεν. αἳ νέαι μὲν ἐν πατρὸς
ἥδιστον, οἶμαι, ζῶμεν ἀνθρώπων βίον•
τερπνῶς γὰρ ἀεὶ παῖδας ἁνοία τρέφει.
ὅταν δ’ ἐς ἥβην ἐξικώμεθ’ ἔμφρονες,
ὠθούμεθ’ ἔξω καὶ διεμπολώμεθα
θεῶν πατρῴων τῶν τε φυσάντων ἄπο,
αἱ μὲν ξένους πρὸς ἄνδρας, αἱ δὲ βαρβάρους,
αἱ δ’ εἰς ἀγηθῆ δώμαθ’, αἱ δ’ ἐπίρροθα.
καὶ ταῦτ’, ἐπειδὰν εὐφρόνη ζεύξῃ μία,
χρεὼν ἐπαινεῖν καὶ δοκεῖν καλῶς ἔχειν

As HANNAH ČULÍK-BAIRD explores in a recent essay, what we call ‘fragments’ come from either a process of destruction or from selection and preservation in other ancient texts. We have under 40 ancient tragedies in their entirety, but we have fragments and titles for many more. The numbers of what we don’t have can be startling; what I find fascinating is how what we do have shapes our perception of what might have been.

Seven plays for Aeschylus; Seven for Sophocles; three times and more that number for Euripides. These selections are not the product of accidental survival but instead creations of choice and taste. In the same way, the fragments we have of their plays and other lost authors exists because they were useful as proof in a rhetorical exercise, as demonstration of culture and erudition, as illustration of some story or style that was lost.

In truth, even our whole text our fragments, as we have explored in this series, because they are transcripts of performances, mere written records of songs and dances communicating through audience and performers messages about their history, their futures, and the worlds they experienced together. In a way, then, exploring the conditions and characters of other fragments is a metonym for what we do with ancient texts all the time: we reconstruct, reconstrue, and try to make sense of their place among changing worlds.

Today we bring together some longer fragments of Greek plays with some later texts, to see what happens and what doesn’t and what we need to provide to make them whole.

Euripides, Stheneboia Fr. 661-662

“There is no man who is lucky in all things.
Either a man born noble has no livelihood
Or the baseborn ploughs fertile fields.
And many who boast of their wealth or birth
Are shamed by a foolish woman in their homes.”

Οὐκ ἔστιν ὅστις πάντ’ ἀνὴρ εὐδαιμονεῖ•
ἢ γὰρ πεφυκὼς ἐσθλὸς οὐκ ἔχει βίον,
ἢ δυσγενὴς ὢν πλουσίαν ἀροῖ πλάκα.
πολλοὺς δὲ πλούτῳ καὶ γένει γαυρουμένους
γυνὴ κατῄσχυν’ ἐν δόμοισι νηπία.

Scenes (George Theodorids’ translation)

69-287: Iolaus, Kopreas, Chorus, Demophon
473-595: Makaria, Iolaos, Demophon
708-799: Chorus, Alcmene, Iolaos, Servant
960-end: Chorus, Alcmene, Eurystheus

Euripides, fr.286.1-7 (Bellerophon)

“Is there anyone who thinks there are gods in heaven?
There are not. There are not, for any man who wishes
Not to be a fool and trust some ancient story.
Look at it yourselves, don’t make up your mind
Because of my words. I think that tyranny
Kills so many men and steals their possessions
And that men break their oaths by sacking cities.
But the men who do such things are more fortunate
Than those who live each die piously, at peace.
I know that small cities honor the gods,
Cities that obey stronger more impious men
Because they are overpowered by the strength of their arms.”

φησίν τις εἶναι δῆτ’ ἐν οὐρανῷ θεούς;
οὐκ εἰσίν, οὐκ εἴσ’, εἴ τις ἀνθρώπων θέλει
μὴ τῷ παλαιῷ μῶρος ὢν χρῆσθαι λόγῳ.
σκέψασθε δ’ αὐτοί, μὴ ἐπὶ τοῖς ἐμοῖς λόγοις
γνώμην ἔχοντες. φήμ’ ἐγὼ τυραννίδα
κτείνειν τε πλείστους κτημάτων τ’ ἀποστερεῖν
ὅρκους τε παραβαίνοντας ἐκπορθεῖν πόλεις•
καὶ ταῦτα δρῶντες μᾶλλόν εἰσ’ εὐδαίμονες
τῶν εὐσεβούντων ἡσυχῇ καθ’ ἡμέραν.
πόλεις τε μικρὰς οἶδα τιμώσας θεούς,
αἳ μειζόνων κλύουσι δυσσεβεστέρων
λόγχης ἀριθμῷ πλείονος κρατούμεναι.

Euripides, fr. 292.6 (Bellerophon)

“If the gods do a shameful thing, they are not gods.”

εἰ θεοί τι δρῶσιν αἰσχρόν, οὐκ εἰσὶν θεοί.

Scenes

From Sophocles’ Tereus, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, and Euripides’ Hypsipyle.

Performers

Narrator 1 / Father-in-Law / Shepard / Amphiaraus / Chiron – Paul Hurley
Narrator 2 / Tereus / Itys / Demetrius / Thoas / Euneos – Nick Nudler
Narrator 3 / Procne / Hypsipyle – Sara Valentine
Narrator 4 / Philomela / Chorus / Eurydice – Lily Ling
Special Guests: Melissa Funke, Charlotte Parkyn
Guest Director: Tabatha Gayle

Euripides, Heracleidae, Medea 863-866 (Full texts on the Scaife Viewer)

“…with his current fortune
He announces for all mortals a clear thing to learn,
Do not envy someone who seems to be lucky
Before you see them die. For each day is its own fortune.”

…τῇ δὲ νῦν τύχῃ
βροτοῖς ἅπασι λαμπρὰ κηρύσσει μαθεῖν,
τὸν εὐτυχεῖν δοκοῦντα μὴ ζηλοῦν πρὶν ἂν
θανόντ᾿ ἴδῃ τις· ὡς ἐφήμεροι τύχαι.

Cast 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)

Euripides, Fr. 462

“I both know and have experienced the hard way
that all people are the friends of men who have.
No one slinks about where there is no food,
But they go where there is wealth and a gathering.
To be ‘well-born’ is also the property of the rich;
But the poor man does well if he dies.”

᾿Επίσταμαι δὲ καὶ πεπείραμαι λίαν,
ὡς τῶν ἐχόντων πάντες ἄνθρωποι φίλοι.
οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἕρπει πρὸς τὸ μὴ τροφὴν ἔχον,
ἀλλ᾿ εἰς τὸ πλοῦτον καὶ συνουσίαν ἔχον.
καὶ τῶν ἐχόντων ηὑγένεια κρίνεται.
ἀνὴρ δ᾿ ἀχρήμων εἰ θάνοι πράσσει καλῶς.

Upcoming Episodes (Go to CHS Project Page for more information)

December 2 Oedipus at Colonus, Sophocles – 3:30pm EST
with Laura Slatkin (New York University)

Tuesday, December 8 – Wednesday, December 9 Odyssey ‘round the world – a special 24-hour event featuring performances of every rhapsody of the Odyssey recorded by students, faculty, and actors around the world. View the schedule.

December 9 Performing Epic: The Odyssey
with Suzanne Lye (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Leonard Mullener (Brandeis University), Sheila Murnaghan (University of Pennsylvania), and Greg Nagy (Harvard University); translation by Stanley Lombardo, coutesy of Hackett Publishing Company

December 16 Cyclops, Euripides
with Carl Shaw (New College of Florida)

December 23 Series Finale: Frogs, Aristophanes

Euripides, fr. 580

“Agamemnon, human beings have every kind
Of luck—but it comes together in this one thing.
Everyone—both those who love art and those
Who live without it toil over money
And whoever has the most is the wisest.”

Ἀγάμεμνον, ἀνθρώποισι πᾶσαν αἱ τύχαι
μορφὴν ἔχουσι, συντρέχει δ᾿ εἰς ἓν τόδε·
†τούτου† δὲ πάντες, οἵ τε μουσικῆς φίλοι
ὅσοι τε χωρὶς ζῶσι, χρημάτων ὕπερ
μοχθοῦσιν, ὃς δ᾿ ἂν πλεῖστ᾿ ἔχῃ σοφώτατος.

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