Honoring the Dead with the Dead

Euripides, Hecuba 303-316

“I will not deny what I said to everyone:
Now that Troy has been taken we should give your child
To be sacrificed to the first man of the army when he asks it.

Here is where many cities start to stumble—
When there is some excellent and willing man
Who earns no greater than the lesser mob.
Achilles is worthy of our honor, Ma’am,
Because he died most nobly for Greece.

Wouldn’t it be shameful if we used him as a friend
When he was watching but stopped when he was dead?
What would someone say if there was some new reason
To gather an army and lead it against an enemy?
Will we fight or will we worry about our lives
Once we see that the dead are not honored?”

ἃ δ᾿ εἶπον εἰς ἅπαντας οὐκ ἀρνήσομαι,
Τροίας ἁλούσης ἀνδρὶ τῷ πρώτῳ στρατοῦ
σὴν παῖδα δοῦναι σφάγιον ἐξαιτουμένῳ.
ἐν τῷδε γὰρ κάμνουσιν αἱ πολλαὶ πόλεις,
ὅταν τις ἐσθλὸς καὶ πρόθυμος ὢν ἀνὴρ
μηδὲν φέρηται τῶν κακιόνων πλέον.
ἡμῖν δ᾿ Ἀχιλλεὺς ἄξιος τιμῆς, γύναι,
θανὼν ὑπὲρ γῆς Ἑλλάδος κάλλιστ᾿ ἀνήρ.
οὔκουν τόδ᾿ αἰσχρόν, εἰ βλέποντι μὲν φίλῳ
χρώμεσθ᾿, ἐπεὶ δ᾿ ὄλωλε μὴ χρώμεσθ᾿ ἔτι;
εἶἑν· τί δῆτ᾿ ἐρεῖ τις, ἤν τις αὖ φανῇ
στρατοῦ τ᾿ ἄθροισις πολεμίων τ᾿ ἀγωνία;
πότερα μαχούμεθ᾿ ἢ φιλοψυχήσομεν,
τὸν κατθανόνθ᾿ ὁρῶντες οὐ τιμώμενον;

Sebastiano Ricci (Belluno 1659-Venice 1734) – The Sacrifice of Polyxena –

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