Write This Down: You are the City. You Are the people

Aeschylus, Suppliants 179-180

“I suggest you safeguard my words by writing them on tablet in your minds”
αἰνῶ φυλάξαι τἄμ᾿ ἔπη δελτουμένας

Aeschylus, Suppliants, 200-204

“Don’t be too aggressive or broken in speech:
These people are especially ready to be angry.
Remember to be accommodating: you are a foreign refugee in need.
To speak boldly is not a fitting move for the weak.”

καὶ μὴ πρόλεσχος μηδ᾿ ἐφολκὸς ἐν λόγῳ
γένῃ· τὸ τῇδε κάρτ᾿ ἐπίφθονον γένος.
μέμνησο δ᾿ εἴκειν· χρεῖος εἶ, ξένη, φυγάς·
θρασυστομεῖν γὰρ οὐ πρέπει τοὺς ἥσσονας.

Aeschylus, Suppliants, 370-375

“You are the city, really. You are the people.
An unjudged chief of state rules
The altar, the city’s hearth,
With only your votes and nods,
With only your scepter on the throne
You judge every need. Be on guard against contamination!”

σύ τοι πόλις, σὺ δὲ τὸ δάμιον·
πρύτανις ἄκριτος ὢν
κρατύνεις βωμόν, ἑστίαν χθονός,
μονοψήφοισι νεύμασιν σέθεν,
μονοσκήπτροισι δ᾿ ἐν θρόνοις χρέος
πᾶν ἐπικραίνεις· ἄγος φυλάσσου.

File:Nicolas Bertin - The Danaides in Hell.jpg

The Danaides in hell, by Nicolas Bertin

Aeschylus, Suppliants 991-997

“Write this down with the many other notes
In your mind of the wisdoms from your father:
An unfamiliar mob is evaluated by time,
But everyone has an evil tongue prepared to lash out
over immigrants and speaking foully is somehow easy.
I advise you not to bring me shame
Now that you are in the age which turns mortal gazes.”

καὶ ταῦτα μὲν γράψασθε πρὸς γεγραμμένοις
πολλοῖσιν ἄλλοις σωφρονίσμασιν πατρός,
ἀγνῶθ᾿ ὅμιλον ἐξελέγχεσθαι χρόνῳ·
πᾶς δ᾿ ἐν μετοίκῳ γλῶσσαν εὔτυκον φέρει
κακήν, τό τ᾿ εἰπεῖν εὐπετὲς μύσαγμά πως.
ὑμᾶς δ᾿ ἐπαινῶ μὴ καταισχύνειν ἐμέ,
ὥραν ἐχούσας τήνδ᾿ ἐπίστρεπτον βροτοῖς

An Alternative Child Procurement Plan. Or, Hippolytus Breaks Incel

Euripides, Hippolytus, 616-624

“Zeus! Why have you settled women, a curse for mortals
To live among us in the light of the sun?
If you wanted to sow the mortal race
You didn’t need to procure it from women!
But mortals could have placed purchase weights
Of bronze or gold or iron in your temples
To purchase the seed of children, each price
Equal to the worth of the man, and then we
Could live free of women in our homes!”

ὦ Ζεῦ, τί δὴ κίβδηλον ἀνθρώποις κακὸν
γυναῖκας ἐς φῶς ἡλίου κατῴκισας;
εἰ γὰρ βρότειον ἤθελες σπεῖραι γένος,
οὐκ ἐκ γυναικῶν χρῆν παρασχέσθαι τόδε,
ἀλλ᾿ ἀντιθέντας σοῖσιν ἐν ναοῖς βροτοὺς
ἢ χαλκὸν ἢ σίδηρον ἢ χρυσοῦ βάρος
παίδων πρίασθαι σπέρμα τοῦ τιμήματος
τῆς ἀξίας ἕκαστον, ἐν δὲ δώμασιν
ναίειν ἐλευθέροισι θηλειῶν ἄτερ.

Scholia NAB ad Eur. Hipp 620

“These plans are strange. For then poor people couldn’t obtain children.”

ἀτόπως δὲ ταῦτα. οἱ γὰρ πένητες οὐκ ἂν ἐκτήσαντο παῖδας

Peter Paul Reubens, The Death of Hippolytus

Strong Winds and Serving Justice

Euripides, Andromache 479-485

“When strong winds carry sailors forward
Divergent opinions steering the ship
Or a mob thick with wise men is feebler
Than a single mind with self-control.
In city and under a single
Authority should be one person’s
Whenever we want to find success.”

πνοαὶ δ᾽ ὅταν φέρωσι ναυτίλους θοαί,
κατὰ πηδαλίων δίδυμαι πραπίδων γνῶμαι,
σοφῶν τε πλῆθος ἀθρόον ἀσθενέστερον
φαυλοτέρας φρενὸς αὐτοκρατοῦς.
ἑνὸς ἄρ᾽ ἄνυσις ἀνά τε μέλαθρα
κατά τε πόλιας, ὁπόταν εὑ-
ρεῖν θέλωσι καιρόν.

Euripides, Hecuba 834-845

“My speech is lacking one thing still.
I wish I had the voice in my limbs
And hands and hair and the march of my feet
Or the skills of Daidalos or some god
So I could completely grasp you by your knees
Wailing, laying about you with every kind of argument.
Master, great hope of life for the Greeks,
Heed me—lend an avenging hand to an old woman
Even if she is nothing at all.

For it is right that a good man serve justice
And always do evil everywhere to evil men.”

ἑνός μοι μῦθος ἐνδεὴς ἔτι·
εἴ μοι γένοιτο φθόγγος ἐν βραχίοσιν
καὶ χερσὶ καὶ κόμαισι καὶ ποδῶν βάσει
ἢ Δαιδάλου τέχναισιν ἢ θεῶν τινος,
ὡς πάνθ᾿ ἁμαρτῇ σῶν ἔχοιτο γουνάτων
κλαίοντ᾿, ἐπισκήπτοντα παντοίους λόγους.
ὦ δέσποτ᾿, ὦ μέγιστον Ἕλλησιν φάος,
πιθοῦ, παράσχες χεῖρα τῇ πρεσβύτιδι
τιμωρόν, εἰ καὶ μηδέν ἐστιν ἀλλ᾿ ὅμως.
ἐσθλοῦ γὰρ ἀνδρὸς τῇ δίκῃ θ᾿ ὑπηρετεῖν
καὶ τοὺς κακοὺς δρᾶν πανταχοῦ κακῶς ἀεί.

Euripides, Hecuba 885-887

Agamemnon: Frightening! But I surely can’t trust a woman’s strength.
Hecuba: Why? Didn’t women kill the sons of Aegyptus
And wipe Lemnos clean of all men?

δεινόν· τὸ μέντοι θῆλυ μέμφομαι σθένος.
τί δ᾿; οὐ γυναῖκες εἷλον Αἰγύπτου τέκνα
καὶ Λῆμνον ἄρδην ἀρσένων ἐξῴκισαν;

Viviano Codazzi and Filippo Lauri – Arches in ruins and Hecuba’s vengeance over Polymestor

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.


“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


“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


Instructors of Evil

Euripides, Andromache 940-951

“I had great wealth and I was ruling my home.
I would have had noble children some day
And she would only give birth to half-slave bastards for them.
But never and I say it over and over, never
Should anyone who has any sense at all and a wife
Allow other women to come to visit them!

These women are instructors of evils.
One ruins a marriage because she hopes to gain something,
While another who’s afflicted wants someone to be sick with.
Many more act because of native vice—and this is how
The homes of men grow diseased.”

πολὺς μὲν ὄλβος, δωμάτων δ᾿ ἠνάσσομεν,
παῖδας δ᾿ ἐγὼ μὲν γνησίους ἔτικτον ἄν,
ἡ δ᾿ ἡμιδούλους τοῖς ἐμοῖς νοθαγενεῖς.
ἀλλ᾿ οὔποτ᾿ οὔποτ᾿ (οὐ γὰρ εἰσάπαξ ἐρῶ)
χρὴ τούς γε νοῦν ἔχοντας, οἷς ἔστιν γυνή,
πρὸς τὴν ἐν οἴκοις ἄλοχον ἐσφοιτᾶν ἐᾶν
γυναῖκας· αὗται γὰρ διδάσκαλοι κακῶν·
ἡ μέν τι κερδαίνουσα συμφθείρει λέχος,
ἡ δ᾿ ἀμπλακοῦσα συννοσεῖν αὑτῇ θέλει,
πολλαὶ δὲ μαργότητι· κἀντεῦθεν δόμοι
νοσοῦσιν ἀνδρῶν. …


“You’ve laid into your kindred with your tongue too much!
Such things are forgivable for you now, but still
Women must work to cover up women’s afflictions!”

ἄγαν ἐφῆκας γλῶσσαν ἐς τὸ σύμφυτον.
συγγνωστὰ μέν νυν σοὶ τάδ᾿, ἀλλ᾿ ὅμως χρεὼν
κοσμεῖν γυναῖκας τὰς γυναικείας νόσους.

Frederic Leighton, “Captive Andromache”

and here’s a performance of sections of this play from Reading Greek Tragedy Online:


Frightening Sights and Ancient Statues

Michael Apostolius, 16.71

“Why do you judge the Achaeans from the walls?” A proverb applied to those who don’t evaluate events clearly but as they want.”

Τί τοὺς ᾿Αχαιοὺς ἀπὸ τοῦ πύργου κρίνετε: ἐπὶ τῶν μὴ δοκιμαζόντων τὰ πράγματα ἀκριβῶς, ἀλλ’ ὡς ἐκεῖνοι βούλονται.

Aeschylus, Persians 210-214

“For me, this was frightening to see,
And for you to hear. Know well that my child
Would be wondrous to behold if he did well but,
He’s not beholden to the state:
he will rule the land if he merely survives.”

ταῦτ᾿ ἐμοί τε δείματ᾿ εἰσιδεῖν
ὑμῖν τ᾿ ἀκούειν. εὖ γὰρ ἴστε, παῖς ἐμὸς
πράξας μὲν εὖ θαυμαστὸς ἂν γένοιτ᾿ ἀνήρ·
κακῶς δὲ πράξας—οὐχ ὑπεύθυνος πόλει,
σωθεὶς δ᾿ ὁμοίως τῆσδε κοιρανεῖ χθονός.


Q: “Who is the shepherd who is master of the army?”
Ch. “They are known the slaves and attendant of no man.”

τίς δὲ ποιμάνωρ ἔπεστι κἀπιδεσπόζει στρατῷ;
οὔτινος δοῦλοι κέκληνται φωτὸς οὐδ᾿ ὑπήκοοι.


“I was present there—not merely hearing other’s words
Persians, I can tell you what kinds of terrible things occurred.”

καὶ μὴν παρών γε κοὐ λόγους ἄλλων κλυών,
Πέρσαι, φράσαιμ᾿ ἂν οἷ᾿ ἐπορσύνθη κακά.

Porph. On Abstaining from Animal Food (de abst. 2. 18(p. 148 Nauck))

“People say that when the Delphians asked Aeschylus to write a paean for the god he said that Tynnichus had already composed the best one. His would be no better when compared to it than modern statues set alongside ancient ones.”

τὸν γοῦν Αἰσχύλον φασὶ τῶν Δελφῶν ἀξιούντων εἰς τὸν θεὸν γράψαι παιᾶνα εἰπεῖν ὅτι βέλτιστα Τυννίχῳ πεποίηται· παραβαλλόμενον δὲ τὸν αὑτοῦ πρὸς τὸν ἐκείνου ταὐτὸ πείσεσθαι τοῖς ἀγάλμασιν τοῖς καινοῖς πρὸς τὰ ἀρχαῖα.

File:Himation Statue Greek Orator Roman-Egypt.png
Statue of a Greek Orator statue in Himation from from Herakleopolis Magna

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 –

Beyond Justice’s Realm

Euripides, Andromache 744-746

“I just let your words roll off of me:
You’re just a walking shadow who has a voice,
Incapable of doing anything other than speaking alone.”

τοὺς σοὺς δὲ μύθους ῥᾳδίως ἐγὼ φέρω·
σκιὰ γὰρ ἀντίστοιχος ὣς φωνὴν ἔχεις,
ἀδύνατος οὐδὲν ἄλλο πλὴν λέγειν μόνον.


“It is better to win without earning a bad reputation
Than to overturn justice with envy and force.
Mortals may find victory sweet at first,
But it grows dry over time
And pulls down insults on our homes.
That’s why I praise and I honor a life
Which has no power at home or in the state
Outside the realm of justice.”

κρεῖσσον δὲ νίκαν μὴ κακόδοξον ἔχειν
ἢ ξὺν φθόνῳ σφάλλειν δυνάμει τε δίκαν.
ἡδὺ μὲν γὰρ αὐτίκα τοῦτο βροτοῖσιν,
ἐν δὲ χρόνῳ τελέθει
ξηρὸν καὶ ὀνείδεσιν ἔγκειται δόμων.
ταύταν ᾔνεσα ταύταν καὶ σέβομαι βιοτάν,
μηδὲν δίκας ἔξω κράτος ἐν θαλάμοις
καὶ πόλει δύνασθαι.

Hektor and Andromache, Antonio Zucchi 1773


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

There’s No Hektor Here

Euripides, Andromache, 96-102

“I have not a single but many things to mourn:
My native city, Hektor dead, and the hateful
Fate to which I was tied when I fell
Unworthily into a life of slavery.
Don’t ever say that any mortal is blessed
Before you see how they end life at death
How they finish that last day and go below.”

πάρεστι δ᾽ οὐχ ἓν ἀλλὰ πολλά μοι στένειν,
πόλιν πατρῴαν τὸν θανόντα θ᾽ Ἕκτορα
στερρόν τε τὸν ἐμὸν δαίμον᾽ ᾧ συνεζύγην
δούλειον ἦμαρ εἰσπεσοῦσ᾽ ἀναξίως.
χρὴ δ᾽ οὔποτ᾽ εἰπεῖν οὐδέν᾽ ὄλβιον βροτῶν,
πρὶν ἂν θανόντος τὴν τελευταίαν ἴδῃς
ὅπως περάσας ἡμέραν ἥξει κάτω.


“No Hektor is in this place.
Nor Priam nor their gold. But this is a Greek city.
Are you so lost in your ignorance, you wretch,
That you dare to sleep with the man who killed
Your husband and to have a child for those who
Killed your family? This is the way of all foreigners:
A father sleeps with his daughter and son with his mother,
A girl sleeps with her brother and the dearest relatives
Fall apart over murder. The law prevents none of these things.
Don’t introduce any of these practices here: it is not good
For one man to hold the reins for two wives.
Anyone who wants to avoid living badly
Prefers looking to one lover in his bed.”

οὐ γάρ ἐσθ᾽ Ἕκτωρ τάδε,
οὐ Πρίαμος οὐδὲ χρυσός, ἀλλ᾽ Ἑλλὰς πόλις.
εἰς τοῦτο δ᾽ ἥκεις ἀμαθίας, δύστηνε σύ,
ἣ παιδὶ πατρός, ὃς σὸν ὤλεσεν πόσιν,
τολμᾷς ξυνεύδειν καὶ τέκν᾽ αὐθεντῶν πάρα
τίκτειν. τοιοῦτον πᾶν τὸ βάρβαρον γένος:
πατήρ τε θυγατρὶ παῖς τε μητρὶ μείγνυται
κόρη τ᾽ ἀδελφῷ, διὰ φόνου δ᾽ οἱ φίλτατοι
χωροῦσι, καὶ τῶνδ᾽ οὐδὲν ἐξείργει νόμος.
ἃ μὴ παρ᾽ ἡμᾶς εἴσφερ᾽: οὐδὲ γὰρ καλὸν
δυοῖν γυναικοῖν ἄνδρ᾽ ἕν᾽ ἡνίας ἔχειν,
ἀλλ᾽ εἰς μίαν βλέποντες εὐναίαν Κύπριν
στέργουσιν, ὅστις μὴ κακῶς οἰκεῖν θέλει.

“Amdromache” by Georges Rochegrosse