Adrift in Exile: Returning to Euripides’ “Heracleidae” Online

Euripides, Heracleidae 179-180 (Full text on the Scaife Viewer)

“Who could judge or recognize a speech as just,
Before clearly understanding the issue from both sides?”

τίς ἂν δίκην κρίνειεν ἢ γνοίη λόγον,
πρὶν ἂν παρ᾿ ἀμφοῖν μῦθον ἐκμάθῃ σαφῶς;

Poster for a performance of Euripdies Children of Herakles on OCtover 22 at 3 PM ESTlive Link

 

Euripides, Heracleidae 26-27

“I share my exile with these children who are in exile,
And I share in their sufferings as they suffer too.”

ἐγὼ δὲ σὺν φεύγουσι συμφεύγω τέκνοις
καὶ σὺν κακῶς πράσσουσι συμπράσσω κακῶς,

The “Children of Herakles”, was performed around 430 BCE, just as the Athenians were beginning their 3 decade war against the Spartans. It may not be Euripides’ most famous play, but it has just about everything you’d ask for in a tragedy: theme of Xenia, suppliancy, noble bloodlines, battle, human sacrifice, gender, a war scene described in a messenger speech, revenge.

Like any good tragedy, it focuses on the choices human beings make outside of their fate and divine meddling. But its end is troubling, perhaps reflecting the world outside of the play, where violence is far from distant and death for many is certain. For while this is the year that Athens repels a Spartan invasion and attacks the Peloponnese, it is also the first year of the famous plague. This play, so focused on the descendants of Herakles and the end of feuds, seems so precariously set at the beginnings of things.

Euripides, Heracleidae 427-430

 “Children, we are like sailors who have fled
A savage storm’s blows to touch the land
With their hand only to be pounded back
From the shore to the sea by the winds again.”

ὦ τέκν᾿, ἔοιγμεν ναυτίλοισιν οἵτινες
χειμῶνος ἐκφυγόντες ἄγριον μένος
ἐς χεῖρα γῇ συνῆψαν, εἶτα χερσόθεν
πνοαῖσιν ἠλάθησαν ἐς πόντον πάλιν.

Scenes (George Theodorids’ translation)

Performers

Demophon/Eurystheus: Tim Delap
Makaria: Tabatha Gayle
Kopreas: Paul O’Mahony
Iolaos: René Thornton Jr
Alcmene: Gabriella Weltman
Special Guest: Katherine Lu Hsu

Euripides, Heracleidae, Medea 863-866

“…with his current fortune
He announces for all mortals a clear thing to learn,
Do not envy someone who seems to be lucky
Before you see them die. For each day is its own fortune.”

…τῇ δὲ νῦν τύχῃ
βροτοῖς ἅπασι λαμπρὰ κηρύσσει μαθεῖν,
τὸν εὐτυχεῖν δοκοῦντα μὴ ζηλοῦν πρὶν ἂν
θανόντ᾿ ἴδῃ τις· ὡς ἐφήμεροι τύχαι.

Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University)
Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society)
Poster Artist: John Koelle
Poster Designer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies)

Euripides, Heracleidae 1016-1017

“Although I don’t long for death,
I wouldn’t be annoyed at leaving life behind.”

….θανεῖν μὲν οὐ
χρῄζω, λιπὼν δ᾿ ἂν οὐδὲν ἀχθοίμην βίον.

Euripides, Heracleidae 1-6

“For a long time now this has been my belief
One man is born just those near him
While another’s heart lusts after profit
And he is useless to the city, a heavy burden to bear,
The ‘best’ to himself…”

Πάλαι ποτ᾿ ἐστὶ τοῦτ᾿ ἐμοὶ δεδογμένον·
ὁ μὲν δίκαιος τοῖς πέλας πέφυκ᾿ ἀνήρ,
ὁ δ᾿ ἐς τὸ κέρδος λῆμ᾿ ἔχων ἀνειμένον
πόλει τ᾿ ἄχρηστος· καὶ συναλλάσσειν βαρύς,
αὑτῷ δ᾿ ἄριστος·…

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 Archaic Love Song

Sophocles, Antigone, 781-800.

Love, unbeatable in war,
Love, who ravishes wealth,
Who in the soft cheeks
Of girls keeps vigil,
And who roams the seas
And rustic hideaways:
Gods can’t elude you,
Nor can mortal men.
Who admits you goes mad.

You wrench just men’s minds
Into shameful wrongs.
(This family strife between men,
It’s you who stirred it.)
Desire, clear in the eyes
Of a fetching bride, prevails.
Desire reigns
Beside the great laws.
Irresistible god
Aphrodite frolics.

Ἔρως ἀνίκατε μάχαν,
Ἔρως, ὃς ἐν κτήμασι πίπτεις,
ὃς ἐν μαλακαῖς παρειαῖς
νεάνιδος ἐννυχεύεις,
φοιτᾷς δʼ ὑπερπόντιος ἔν τʼ
ἀγρονόμοις αὐλαῖς·
καί σʼ οὔτʼ ἀθανάτων φύξιμος οὐδεὶς
οὔθʼ ἁμερίων σέ γʼ ἀν-
θρώπων. ὁ δʼ ἔχων μέμηνεν.

σὺ καὶ δικαίων ἀδίκους
φρένας παρασπᾷς ἐπὶ λώβᾳ·
σὺ καὶ τόδε νεῖκος ἀνδρῶν
ξύναιμον ἔχεις ταράξας·
νικᾷ δʼ ἐναργὴς βλεφάρων
ἵμερος εὐλέκτρου
νύμφας, τῶν μεγάλων πάρεδρος ἐν ἀρχαῖς
θεσμῶν. ἄμαχος γὰρ ἐμ-
παίζει θεὸς Ἀφροδίτα.

Tarnished bronze statuette: Nude venus holding hand of winged cupid
Aphrodite Spanking Eros.
c.1st Century BC. Bronze.
J. Paul Getty Museum.

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 featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

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

Two kinds of Loneliness

The Good News According to Mark. 5:1-5:5.

And they came to the other side of the sea,
to the region of the Gerasenes.
And when he stepped from the boat, straight up to him,
from among the tombs, there came a man
with an impure spirit whose home was the tombs.

No one could restrain him then, even with chains.
He had been shackled and chained many times,
but he snapped the chains and crushed the shackles.
No one was strong enough to subdue him.
Night and day, among the tombs and in the hills,
he screamed and mutilated himself with stones.

Sophocles, Philoctetes 169-175, 183-186.

How I pity him.
He has no one who cares,
No eyes to face his own.
Wretched, always alone,
He’s sick with a savage sickness.
His every need a struggle.
How, how in the world does he hold out?

This man, perhaps second to no one
From an eminent house,
Has no share in common life.
He exists alone, away from others,
Among spotted or hairy beasts.
His hurt and hunger, pitiful.
Unceasing and grave, his worry.

Mark.

Καὶ ἦλθον εἰς τὸ πέραν τῆς θαλάσσης εἰς τὴν χώραν τῶν Γερασηνῶν. Καὶ ἐξελθόντος αὐτοῦ ἐκ τοῦ πλοίου [εὐθὺς] ὑπήντησεν αὐτῷ ἐκ τῶν μνημείων ἄνθρωπος ἐν πνεύματι ἀκαθάρτῳ, ὃς τὴν κατοίκησιν εἶχεν ἐν τοῖς μνήμασιν, καὶ οὐδὲ ἁλύσει οὐκέτι οὐδεὶς ἐδύνατο αὐτὸν δῆσαι διὰ τὸ αὐτὸν πολλάκις πέδαις καὶ ἁλύσεσι δεδέσθαι καὶ διεσπάσθαι ὑπ᾽αὐτοῦ τὰς ἁλύσεις καὶ τὰς πέδας συντετρίφθαι, καὶ οὐδεὶς ἴσχυεν αὐτὸν δαμάσαι: καὶ διὰ παντὸς νυκτὸς καὶ ἡμέρας ἐν τοῖς μνήμασιν καὶ ἐν τοῖς ὄρεσιν ἦν κράζων καὶ κατακόπτων ἑαυτὸν λίθοις.

Sophocles.

οἰκτίρω νιν ἔγωγ᾽, ὅπως,
μή του κηδομένου βροτῶν
μηδὲ ςύντροφον ὄμμ᾽ ἔχων,
δύστανος, μόνος ἀεί,
νοσεῖ μὲν νόσον ἀγρίαν,
ἀλύει δ᾽ ἐπὶ παντί τῳ
χρείας ἱσταμένῳ. πῶς ποτε πῶς δύσμορος ἀντέχει; . . .

οὗτος πρωτογόνων ἴσως
οἴκων οὐδενὸς ὕστερος,
πάντων ἄμμορος ἐν βίῳ
κεῖται μοῦνος ἀπ᾽ ἄλλων,
στικτῶν ἢ λασίων μετὰ
θηρῶν, ἔν τ᾽ ὀδύναις ὁμοῦ
λιμῷ τ᾽ οἰκτρός, ἀνήκεστ᾽ αμεριμνήμτα τ᾽ἔχων βάρη. . .

Semi-abstract painting of an old man playing a classical guitar
Pablo Picasso.
The Old Guitarist.
Art Institute of Chicago.

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 featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

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

 

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

Tyranny, Terror, and Mutilation

CW: Violence, torture, killing

Today’s monstrous news shows Russian soldiers mutilating and killing prisoners of warHomeric epic features its ‘hero’ doing the same thing, and few respondents over time have worried about what that means.

Homer, Odyssey 22.474-477 

“They took Melanthios out through the hall and into the courtyard.
They cut off his nose and ears with pitiless bronze.
Then they cut off his balls and fed them raw to the dogs;
And they cut off his hands and feet with an enraged heart.”

ἐκ δὲ Μελάνθιον ἦγον ἀνὰ πρόθυρόν τε καὶ αὐλήν·
τοῦ δ’ ἀπὸ μὲν ῥῖνάς τε καὶ οὔατα νηλέϊ χαλκῷ
τάμνον μήδεά τ’ ἐξέρυσαν, κυσὶν ὠμὰ δάσασθαι,
χεῖράς τ’ ἠδὲ πόδας κόπτον κεκοτηότι θυμῷ.

Ekhetos is mentioned again at 18.116 and 21.308.

Od. 18.83-87

“If this one defeats you and proves stronger,
I will send you to the shore, throw you in a black ship,
And ship you off to king Ekhetos, the most wicked man of all.
He will cut off your nose and ears with pitiless bronze
And after severing your balls, he will feed them raw to his dogs.”

αἴ κέν σ’ οὗτος νικήσῃ κρείσσων τε γένηται,
πέμψω σ’ ἤπειρόνδε, βαλὼν ἐν νηῒ μελαίνῃ,
εἰς ῎Εχετον βασιλῆα, βροτῶν δηλήμονα πάντων,
ὅς κ’ ἀπὸ ῥῖνα τάμῃσι καὶ οὔατα νηλέϊ χαλκῷ
μήδεά τ’ ἐξερύσας δώῃ κυσὶν ὠμὰ δάσασθαι.”

Schol ad. Hom. Od. 18.85 QV

“Ekhetos was the son of Boukhetos, after whom there is also a city named in Sicily. He is said to have been tyrant of the Sicilians. The story is that he did every kind of mischief to the inhabitants of his land and killed foreigners by mutilating them. He exhibited so much wickedness that even those who lived far off would send people to him to kill when they wanted to punish someone. He developed all kinds of unseemly methods. This is why the people would not endure so bitter a tyranny, and they killed him by stoning.”

εἰς ῎Εχετον βασιλῆα] ῎Εχετος ἦν μὲν υἱὸς Βουχέτου, ἀφ’ οὗ καὶ ἐν Σικελίᾳ πόλις Βούχετος καλεῖται. Σικελῶν δὲ τύραννος λέγεται. τοῦτον τοὺς μὲν ἐγχωρίους κατὰ πάντα τρόπον σίνεσθαι, τοὺς δὲ ξένους ἀναιρεῖν λωβώμενον· τοσαύτην δὲ κακίαν ἔχειν ὡς καὶ τοὺς μακρὰν οἰκοῦντας ὅτε θέλοιεν σφόδρα τινὰ τιμωρῆσαι καὶ ξένῳ περιβαλεῖν θανάτῳ ἐκπέμπειν αὐτῷ. πολλὰς γὰρ μηχανὰς ἐξευρεῖν τοῦτον αἰκίας. ὅθεν τὸν λαὸν οὐχ ὑπομένειν τὴν πικρὰν ταύτην τυραννίδα, λίθοις δὲ αὐτὸν ἀνελεῖν.

A lingering interpretive problem for the Odyssey is why the epic  introduces this torture and attributes it to a very bad person, only to have Odysseus commit the very same act later in the epic. A pressing question for modern readers of Homer is why so few of us have bothered to worry about this at all.

Combined with the hanging of the enslaved women, this should be an indictment of Odysseus and support for the rebellion against him in book 24.

From the Suda:

“Tyrannos: The poets before the Trojan War used to name kings (basileis) tyrants, but later during the time of Archilochus, this word was transferred to the Greeks in general, just as the sophist Hippias records. Homer, at least, calls the most lawless man of all, Ekhetos, a king, not a tyrant. Tyrant is a a name that derives from the Tyrrenians because these men were quite severe pirates.* None of the other poets uses the name tyrant in any of their works. But Aristotle in the Constitution of the Cumaeans says that tyrants were once called aisumnêtai, because this name is a bit of a euphemism.”

Τύραννος: οἱ πρὸ τῶν Τρωϊκῶν ποιηταὶ τοὺς βασιλεῖς τυράννους προσηγόρευον, ὀψέ ποτε τοῦδε τοῦ ὀνόματος εἰς τοὺς Ἕλληνας διαδοθέντος κατὰ τοὺς Ἀρχιλόχου χρόνους, καθάπερ Ἱππίας ὁ σοφιστής φησιν. Ὅμηρος γοῦν τὸν πάντων παρανομώτατον Ἔχετον βασιλέα φησί, καὶ οὐ τύραννον. προσηγορεύθη δὲ τύραννος ἀπὸ Τυρρηνῶν: χαλεποὺς γὰρ περὶ λῃστείας τούτους γενέσθαι. οὐδεὶς δὲ οὐδὲ ἄλλος τῶν ποιητῶν ἐν τοῖς ποιήμασιν αὐτοῦ μέμνηται τὸ τοῦ τυράννου ὄνομα. ὁ δὲ Ἀριστοτέλης ἐν Κυμαίων πολιτείᾳ τοὺς τυράννους φησὶ τὸ πρότερον αἰσυμνήτας καλεῖσθαι. εὐφημότερον γὰρ ἐκεῖνο τὸ ὄνομα. ὅτι καὶ ἕτεροι ἐτυράννησαν, ἀλλ’ ἡ τελευταία καὶ μεγίστη κάκωσις πάσαις ταῖς πόλεσιν ἡ Διονυσίου τυραννὶς ἐγένετο.

Theodor van Thulden, 1606 – 1669,

A Bad End

Euripides. Bacchae. 1114-1136

His priestess-mother got the killing going,
attacking him. He tore off his headdress
so she would know him and not kill him,
poor Agave. Touching her face, he said:
“It’s me, mother. Your son, Pentheus.
You bore me in Echion’s house.
O mother, have mercy on me.
Don’t kill your son over his mistake.”

Foaming at the mouth and wild eyes whirling,
she did not think as thinking requires:
in thrall to Bacchus, she was unmoved.
She gripped his left arm below the elbow,
jammed her foot against the poor man’s ribs,
then ripped arm from shoulder with strength not her own.
The god had made it easy for her hands.

Ino all the while worked his other arm,
ripping flesh. Autone and the Bacchic pack
grabbed at him too, screaming in unison.
While he groaned (all that his breathing allowed)
theirs were shouts of joy. One left with his arm;
one his foot, the shoe still on. The mauling
exposed his ribs. And then, with hands blood stained,
as they would a ball, they tossed around his flesh.

πρώτη δὲ μήτηρ ἦρξεν ἱερέα φόνου
καὶ προσπίτνει νιν: ὃ δὲ μίτραν κόμης ἄπο
ἔρριψεν, ὥς νιν γνωρίσασα μὴ κτάνοι
τλήμων Ἀγαύη, καὶ λέγει, παρηίδος
ψαύων: Ἐγώ τοι, μῆτερ, εἰμί, παῖς σέθεν
Πενθεύς, ὃν ἔτεκες ἐν δόμοις Ἐχίονος:
οἴκτιρε δ᾽ ὦ μῆτέρ με, μηδὲ ταῖς ἐμαῖς
ἁμαρτίαισι παῖδα σὸν κατακτάνῃς.
ἣ δ᾽ ἀφρὸν ἐξιεῖσα καὶ διαστρόφους
κόρας ἑλίσσουσ᾽, οὐ φρονοῦσ᾽ ἃ χρὴ φρονεῖν,
ἐκ Βακχίου κατείχετ᾽, οὐδ᾽ ἔπειθέ νιν.
λαβοῦσα δ᾽ ὠλένης ἀριστερὰν χέρα,
πλευραῖσιν ἀντιβᾶσα τοῦ δυσδαίμονος
ἀπεσπάραξεν ὦμον, οὐχ ὑπὸ σθένους,
ἀλλ᾽ ὁ θεὸς εὐμάρειαν ἐπεδίδου χεροῖν:
Ἰνὼ δὲ τἀπὶ θάτερ᾽ ἐξειργάζετο,
ῥηγνῦσα σάρκας, Αὐτονόη τ᾽ ὄχλος τε πᾶς
ἐπεῖχε βακχῶν: ἦν δὲ πᾶσ᾽ ὁμοῦ βοή,
ὃ μὲν στενάζων ὅσον ἐτύγχαν᾽ ἐμπνέων,
αἳ δ᾽ ἠλάλαζον. ἔφερε δ᾽ ἣ μὲν ὠλένην,
ἣ δ᾽ ἴχνος αὐταῖς ἀρβύλαις: γυμνοῦντο δὲ
πλευραὶ σπαραγμοῖς: πᾶσα δ᾽ ᾑματωμένη
χεῖρας διεσφαίριζε σάρκα Πενθέως.

Hans Bellmer. La Poupee. c.1938

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 featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

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.

168-177

“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.

“Andromache ” by Georges Rochegrosse