Wannabe Politicians and Lords of Lies

Euripides, Hecuba 251-257

“Don’t you engage in true evil in these plans
When you even admit that I treated you well
But instead of helping me you do as much harm as possible?

You are a thankless brood, you mob of wannabe
Politicians. I wish I didn’t know you
When you don’t care about harming your friends
As long as you say something the masses will like.”

οὔκουν κακύνῃ τοῖσδε τοῖς βουλεύμασιν,
ὃς ἐξ ἐμοῦ μὲν ἔπαθες οἷα φῂς παθεῖν,
δρᾷς δ᾿ οὐδὲν ἡμᾶς εὖ, κακῶς δ᾿ ὅσον δύνᾳ;
ἀχάριστον ὑμῶν σπέρμ᾿, ὅσοι δημηγόρους
ζηλοῦτε τιμάς· μηδὲ γιγνώσκοισθέ μοι,
οἳ τοὺς φίλους βλάπτοντες οὐ φροντίζετε,
ἢν τοῖσι πολλοῖς πρὸς χάριν λέγητέ τι.

Euripides, Andromache 445-450

“Inhabitants of Sparta, most hateful of mortals
To all people, masters of tricks,
Lords of lies, devious plotters of evils,
You never have a healthy thought but everything
Is twisted—oh, it is wrong that you’re lucky in Greece.
What don’t you do? Don’t you have the most murders?”

πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποισιν ἔχθιστοι βροτῶν
Σπάρτης ἔνοικοι, δόλια βουλευτήρια,
ψευδῶν ἄνακτες, μηχανορράφοι κακῶν,
ἑλικτὰ κοὐδὲν ὑγιὲς ἀλλὰ πᾶν πέριξ
φρονοῦντες, ἀδίκως εὐτυχεῖτ᾿ ἀν᾿ Ἑλλάδα.
τί δ᾿ οὐκ ἐν ὑμῖν ἐστιν; οὐ πλεῖστοι φόνοι;

Hecuba kills Polymestor by Giuseppe maria Crespi

Bold Tongues and Barbarian Words

Sophocles, Ajax 1142-149

“I once before saw a man with a bold tongue
Railing on sailors to sail in a storm.
But when the storm fell, you couldn’t find a single word
From him as he hid beneath his cloak
And just let any sailor who wanted to walk over him.
This is how some great storm might blow in
Over you and your braying mouth
Ending your loud cry with a bit of cloud.”

ἤδη ποτ᾿ εἶδον ἄνδρ᾿ ἐγὼ γλώσσῃ θρασὺν
ναύτας ἐφορμήσαντα χειμῶνος τὸ πλεῖν,
ᾧ φθέγμ᾿ ἂν οὐκ ἐνηῦρες, ἡνίκ᾿ ἐν κακῷ
χειμῶνος εἴχετ᾿, ἀλλ᾿ ὑφ᾿ εἵματος κρυφεὶς
πατεῖν παρεῖχε τῷ θέλοντι ναυτίλων.
οὕτω δὲ καὶ σὲ καὶ τὸ σὸν λάβρον στόμα
σμικροῦ νέφους τάχ᾿ ἄν τις ἐκπνεύσας μέγας
χειμὼν κατασβέσειε τὴν πολλὴν βοήν.

For the full text, check out the version in Perseus’ new Scaife Viewer


“Won’t you come to your senses? Won’t you learn your nature
And ask some other person who is free here
Who can tell us your affairs instead of you?
I can’t understand anything at all when you talk.
I don’t understand this barbarian tongue.”

οὐ σωφρονήσεις; οὐ μαθὼν ὃς εἶ φύσιν
ἄλλον τιν᾿ ἄξεις ἄνδρα δεῦρ᾿ ἐλεύθερον,
ὅστις πρὸς ἡμᾶς ἀντὶ σοῦ λέξει τὰ σά;
σοῦ γὰρ λέγοντος οὐκέτ᾿ ἂν μάθοιμ᾿ ἐγώ·
τὴν βάρβαρον γὰρ γλῶσσαν οὐκ ἐπαΐω.


“Acting rightly is not easy for a tyrant.”

τόν τοι τύραννον εὐσεβεῖν οὐ ῥᾴδιον.

Achilles and Ajax

Funny Fragments from Philyllius and Phrynichus (Old Comedy)

Philyllius, fr. 20 (from “The Snail”)

“My grandfather was a dappled dogfish”

ὁ πάππος ἦν μοι γαλεὸς ἀστερίας

Philyllius, fr. 20 (from “The Snail”)

“I am neither a cicada nor a snail, woman!”

ΚΟΧΛΙΑΣ. Φιλύλλιος (I 787 K)·
οὔκ εἰμι τέττιξ οὐδὲ κοχλίας, ὦ γύναι.

Phrynichus, fr. 3 (Athenaeus 165b)

“The hardest of all modern labors is to protect ourselves from them [the youth].
For they have some kind of a goad in their fingers, this man-hating bloom of youth.
They talk sweetly enough as they circum-ambulate the marketplace with another—
But when they take their seats, they mock the men they addressed sweetly
Scratching deep furrows into them once they’ve found themselves in a group”

ἐστὶν δ’ αὐτούς γε φυλάττεσθαι τῶν νῦν χαλεπώτατον ἔργον.
ἔχουσι γάρ τι κέντρον ἐν τοῖς δακτύλοις, μισάνθρωπον ἄνθος ἥβης·
εἶθ’ ἡδυλογοῦσιν ἅπασιν ἀεὶ κατὰ τὴν ἀγορὰν περιόντες.
ἐπὶ τοῖς βάθροις ὅταν ὦσιν, ἐκεῖ τούτοις οἷς ἡδυλογοῦσι
μεγάλας ἀμυχὰς καταμύξαντες καὶ συγκύψαντες ἅπαντας γελῶσι.

“I Believe God is Like This…” Three Sophoklean Fragments on Mysteries

fr. 745

“Pursuits hidden well at home
Should never be heard outside the doors.”

σπουδὴ γὰρ ἡ κατ’ οἶκον ἐγκεκρυμμένη
οὐ πρὸς θυραίων οὐδαμῶς ἀκουσίμη.

Fr. 771

“I believe that god is like this:
He always prophesies to the wise in riddles;
But he teaches fools poorly and briefly”

καὶ τὸν θεὸν τοιοῦτον ἐξεπίσταμαι,
σοφοῖς μὲν αἰνικτῆρα θεσφάτων ἀεί,
σκαιοῖς δὲ φαῦλον κἀν βραχεῖ διδάσκαλον

fr. 843

“I learn what can be taught; I seek what
can be found; and I seek in the gods what must be prayed for.”

τὰ μὲν διδακτὰ μανθάνω, τὰ δ’ εὑρετὰ
ζητῶ, τὰ δ’ εὐκτὰ παρὰ θεῶν ᾐτησάμην

Nobility Comes Not from Noble Birth: Euripides, fr. 52

“Our conversation will be superfluous if
We praise nobility in human birth.
For long ago at the moment we were first created
And the earth produced mortals one could distinguish
She raised us all up with similar appearance.
We have no special trait. One race
Are the well-born and the low-born.
Time makes some haughty with custom.
But god makes some noble with intelligence
and understanding, not wealth….”

περισσόμυθος ὁ λόγος, εὐγένειαν εἰ
βρότειον εὐλογήσομεν.
τὸ γὰρ πάλαι καὶ πρῶτον ὅτ’ ἐγενόμεθα,
διὰ δ’ ἔκρινεν ἁ τεκοῦσα γᾶ βροτούς,
ὁμοίαν χθὼν ἅπασιν ἐξεπαίδευσεν ὄψιν.
ἴδιον οὐδὲν ἔσχομεν• μία δὲ γονὰ
τό τ’ εὐγενὲς καὶ τὸ δυσγενές•
νόμῳ δὲ γαῦρον αὐτὸ κραίνει χρόνος.
τὸ φρόνιμον εὐγένεια καὶ τὸ συνετὸν
ὁ θεὸς δίδωσιν, οὐχ ὁ πλοῦτος.

This is from Euripides’ lost play Alexandros.