Inhumanity: Then And Now

Euripides Heracles, 51-59

We hang on in this place where we lack everything—
Food, drink, clothes—and lay our bodies on the bare ground.
Shut out from home, we sit here despairing of rescue.
But now I see which friends are not true friends,
while the ones who are, sincerely cannot help us.
Such is the calamity for men and women.
May this never happen to those even somewhat kind to me.
(Being somewhat kind: the sure-fire test of who is a friend.)

πάντων δὲ χρεῖοι τάσδ᾽ ἕδρας φυλάσσομεν,
σίτων ποτῶν ἐσθῆτος, ἀστρώτῳ πέδῳ
πλευρὰς τιθέντες: ἐκ γὰρ ἐσφραγισμένοι
δόμων καθήμεθ᾽ ἀπορίᾳ σωτηρίας.
φίλων δὲ τοὺς μὲν οὐ σαφεῖς ὁρῶ φίλους,
οἳ δ᾽ ὄντες ὀρθῶς ἀδύνατοι προσωφελεῖν.
τοιοῦτον ἀνθρώποισιν ἡ δυσπραξία:
ἧς μήποθ᾽ὅστις καὶ μέσως εὔνους ἐμοὶ
τύχοι, φίλων ἔλεγχον ἀψευδέστατον.

21st-century Reality:

“Children stranded near the border with Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia since the end of August have been struggling with hypothermia, exhaustion, and hunger, while their mental and physical health have deteriorated from their perilous journeys and the drawn-out situation they’re facing.”

“[Until] a few weeks ago unthinkable for me as a medical professional that in the 21st century there are children and women and pregnant women in the middle of the forest in Western civilization and that they are suffering because . . . of the cold, because they don’t have drinking water, and they don’t have food.”

Image credit: CNN.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at

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