Wealth, A Guide for Wickedness

Euripides, Elektra 369-376 (Full text on the Scaife Viewer)

“I have known a man of a noble father who turns out
To be nothing while powerful men can rise from the low.
I have seen emptiness in a rich man’s thought
And great judgement in a poor person’s frame.

How can anyone take these things on and judge them?
Wealth? Whoever uses that uses wickedness as a guide.
Or those who have nothing? Poverty has a sickness:
it teaches a person to be cruel because of need.”

ἤδη γὰρ εἶδον ἄνδρα γενναίου πατρὸς
τὸ μηδὲν ὄντα, χρηστά τ᾿ ἐκ κακῶν τέκνα,
λιμόν τ᾿ ἐν ἀνδρὸς πλουσίου φρονήματι,
γνώμην δὲ μεγάλην ἐν πένητι σώματι.
πῶς οὖν τις αὐτὰ διαλαβὼν ὀρθῶς κρινεῖ;
πλούτῳ; πονηρῷ τἄρα χρήσεται κριτῇ.
ἢ τοῖς ἔχουσι μηδέν; ἀλλ᾿ ἔχει νόσον
πενία, διδάσκει δ᾿ ἄνδρα τῇ χρείᾳ κακόν.


“What deceived you the most, what you misunderstood,
Is that someone can be strong because of money.
Money can only stay with us for a brief time.
Character is strength, not money.

Character always stands at our sides and bears our troubles.
Wealth shacks up with fools unjustly and then disappears
Leaving their houses after it bloomed for a little while.”

ὃ δ᾿ ἠπάτα σε πλεῖστον οὐκ ἐγνωκότα,
ηὔχεις τις εἶναι τοῖσι χρήμασι σθένων·
τὰ δ᾿ οὐδὲν εἰ μὴ βραχὺν ὁμιλῆσαι χρόνον.
ἡ γὰρ φύσις βέβαιος, οὐ τὰ χρήματα.
ἡ μὲν γὰρ αἰεὶ παραμένουσ᾿ αἴρει κακά·
ὁ δ᾿ ὄλβος ἀδίκως καὶ μετὰ σκαιῶν ξυνὼν
ἐξέπτατ᾿ οἴκων, σμικρὸν ἀνθήσας χρόνον.

Orestes, Electra and Hermes at the tomb of Agamemnonlucanian red-figure pelikec. 380–370 BC, Louvre (K 544)

Check out scenes from this play and more in the CHS and Out of Chaos Theatre series Reading Greek Tragedy Online

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