Ignoring the Cause, Assailing the Symptoms

Euripides, Andromache 26-31

“Before, even though I was buried in sorrows
Hope always led me to this child who, if saved
Might provide some kind of defense or aid.

But once my husband married that Spartan Hermione
He has spurned my slave’s bed and I
Have been battered down by her evil tortures.”

καὶ πρὶν μὲν ἐν κακοῖσι κειμένην ὅμως
ἐλπίς μ᾿ ἀεὶ προσῆγε σωθέντος τέκνου
ἀλκήν τιν᾿ εὑρεῖν κἀπικούρησιν κακῶν·
ἐπεὶ δὲ τὴν Λάκαιναν Ἑρμιόνην γαμεῖ
τοὐμὸν παρώσας δεσπότης δοῦλον λέχος,
κακοῖς πρὸς αὐτῆς σχετλίοις ἐλαύνομαι.

387-393

“You do huge things for minor reasons—
Listen to me! Why are you hurting me? What’s the reason
What city did I betray? Which child of yours did I kill?
What home did I burn down? I was forced to bed
With my master. You’ll kill me and not him
When he is the cause of these things? You’ll ignore
The cause and just keep pounding on the symptom?”

ὦ μεγάλα πράσσων αἰτίας σμικρᾶς πέρι,
πιθοῦ· τί καίνεις μ᾿; ἀντὶ τοῦ; ποίαν πόλιν
προύδωκα; τίνα σῶν ἔκτανον παίδων ἐγώ;
ποῖον δ᾿ ἔπρησα δῶμ᾿; ἐκοιμήθην βίᾳ
σὺν δεσπόταισι· κᾆτ᾿ ἔμ᾿, οὐ κεῖνον κτενεῖς,
τὸν αἴτιον τῶνδ᾿, ἀλλὰ τὴν ἀρχὴν ἀφεὶς
πρὸς τὴν τελευτὴν ὑστέραν οὖσαν φέρῃ;

Colin Morison (1732-1810) – Andromache Offering Sacrifice to Hector’s Shade

413-420

“Child, I who bore you go to Hades now
So you may not die. If you outrun this fate,
Remember your mother, all I suffered and how I died.
Go to your father and through kisses
Tell him what I died while shedding tears
And throwing your arms around him.
Children are the soul of all humankind—
Whoever has no children mocks them and
While they may feel less pain, feel sadder happiness too”

ὦ τέκνον, ἡ τεκοῦσά σ᾿, ὡς σὺ μὴ θάνῃς,
στείχω πρὸς Ἅιδην· ἢν δ᾿ ὑπεκδράμῃς μόρον,
μέμνησο μητρός, οἷα τλᾶσ᾿ ἀπωλόμην,
καὶ πατρὶ τῷ σῷ διὰ φιλημάτων ἰὼν
δάκρυά τε λείβων καὶ περιπτύσσων χέρας
λέγ᾿ οἷ᾿ ἔπραξα. πᾶσι δ᾿ ἀνθρώποις ἄρ᾿ ἦν
ψυχὴ τέκν᾿· ὅστις δ᾿ αὔτ᾿ ἄπειρος ὢν ψέγει,
ἧσσον μὲν ἀλγεῖ, δυστυχῶν δ᾿ εὐδαιμονεῖ.

Check out Tamieka Chavis’ fabulous reading as Andromache

 

Fragmentary Friday: Fire For Women

Euripides, fr. 429

“In exchange for fire we women
Were made, another fire, greater
Much harder to fight.”

ἀντὶ πυρὸς γὰρ ἄλλο πῦρ
μεῖζον ἐβλάστομεν γυναῖ-
κες πολὺ δυσμαχώτερον.

Women
Eretria Painter’s Name Vase

Fr. 464

“Get married already, get married, and then die
Either by poison or a trick from your wife.”

γαμεῖτε νῦν, γαμεῖτε, κᾆτα θνῄσκετε
ἢ φαρμάκοισιν ἐκ γυναικὸς ἢ δόλοις.

Fr. 493

“Hating the female race is the most painful thing.
If those who have fallen share shame
With the women who have not and the wicked ones
Share repute with those who are not, and they don’t
Seem to men to be trustworthy when it comes to marriage.”

ἄλγιστόν ἐστι θῆλυ μισηθὲν γένος·
αἱ γὰρ σφαλεῖσαι ταῖσιν οὐκ ἐσφαλμέναις
αἶσχος γυναιξὶ καὶ κεκοίνωνται ψόγον
ταῖς οὐ κακαῖσιν αἱ κακαί· τὰ δ’ εἰς γάμους
οὐδὲν δοκοῦσιν ὑγιὲς ἀνδράσιν φρονεῖν.

Fr. 162

“When a young man faces up to Aphrodite,
He is unguardable: even if he is useless in everything else,
Every man is very clever about sex.”

ἢν ἀνδρὸς δ’ ὁρῶντος εἰς Κύπριν νεανίου
ἀφύλακτος ἡ τήρησις, ὡς κἂν φαῦλος ᾖ
τἄλλ’, εἰς ἔρωτα πᾶς ἀνὴρ σοφώτατος·

Three Sophoklean Fragments on Old Age

Acrisus

62

“No lie lasts through old age”

ἀλλ’ οὐδὲν ἕρπει ψεῦδος εἰς γῆρας χρόνου

65

“No one loves living as much as a man growing old”

τοῦ ζῆν γὰρ οὐδεὶς ὡς ὁ γηράσκων ἐρᾷ

260 (Thyestes)

“Even though I am an old man. But a sound mind
Likes to accompany old age with the ability to devise what is necessary.”

καίπερ γέρων ὤν• ἀλλὰ τῷ γήρᾳ φιλεῖ
χὠ νοῦς ὁμαρτεῖν καὶ τὸ βουλεύειν ἃ δεῖ

Three Sophoklean Fragments on Not Living

Fr. 488 (Peleus)

“Not existing is better than living badly”

ὸ μὴ γὰρ εἶναι κρεῖσσον ἢ τὸ ζῆν κακῶς

Fr. 593 (Tereus)

Let any man who lives acquire however much
Pleasure each day offers. Tomorrow always comes upon him
Blind.

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

fr. 698 (Philoctetes at Troy)

“Death is the final doctor for all disease”
ἀλλ’ ἔσθ’ ὁ θάνατος λοῖσθος ἰατρὸς νόσων

“It is terrible when someone who is good knows it”: Three Fragments from Sophocles on Nobility

Fr. 836

“A beggar is no worse, if he thinks well

οὐδὲν κακίων πτωχός, εἰ καλῶς φρονεῖ

Fr. 839

“Noble words cannot come from ignoble actions”

οὐκ ἔστ’ ἀπ’ ἔργων μὴ καλῶν ἔπη καλά

Fr. 931

“It is terrible when someone who is good knows it”

ἦ δεινὸν ἆρ’ ἦν, ἡνίκ’ ἄν τις ἐσθλὸς ὢν
αὑτῷ συνειδῇ

“No One is Pain-Free”: Four Sophoklean Fragments on Life and Pain

Fr. 356 (Creusa)

“The most noble thing is to be just.
The best thing is to live without sickness; the sweetest is when
A man has the ability to get what he wants each day.”

κάλλιστόν ἐστι τοὔνδικον πεφυκέναι,
λῷστον δὲ τὸ ζῆν ἄνοσον, ἥδιστον δ’ ὅτῳ
πάρεστι λῆψις ὧν ἐρᾷ καθ’ ἡμέραν

Fr. 375 (Laocoon)

“There is no account of pain that has gone by”

μόχθου γὰρ οὐδεὶς τοῦ παρελθόντος λόγος

Fr. 410 (The Mysians)

“No one is pain-free: the man who has the least
is the luckiest.”

ἄμοχθος γὰρ οὐδείς• ὁ δ’ ἥκιστ’ ἔχων
μακάρτατος

Fr. 434 (Nauplius)

“A single night seems like ten thousand for a man
Who suffers, but even daybreak surprises a man doing well.”

τῷ γὰρ κακῶς πράσσοντι μυρία μία
νύξ ἐστιν, εὖ παθόντα δ’ ἡμέρα φθάνει

The Horrors of a Marriage Arranged: Sophokles, fr. 583 (Tereus)

“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

The story of Prokne, upon which this play of Sophocles is based, is most well-known to us from Ovid. Tereus, a Thracian King, marries the Athenian Prokne and then rapes her sister Philomela when she comes to visit. The sexual assault was not enough–he also cut out her tongue to keep her from telling her sister.

Philomela weaves a picture of what happened to inform Prokne; they kill her son with Tereus (Itys) and feed him to his father. According to Ovid, when Tereus tries to kill them, the gods turn them into birds to help them escape.

It seems that this passage–which shows Sophocles’ ability to empathize with someone else’s perspective–conveys a misery that is prior to the assault.