Ajax

Sophocles

Sophocles, creator; Sophocles the plays and fragments with critical notes, commentary, and translation in English prose Part 7 The Ajax; Jebb, Richard Claverhouse, Sir, 1841-1905, editor, translator. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1893.

  1. Never again, my fellow Salaminians, will I be amazed if some nobody by birth does wrong,
  2. when those who are reputed to be born of noble blood employ such wrongful sentiments in their arguments. Come, tell me from the first once more—do you really say that you brought Ajax here to the Greeks as an ally personally recruited by you? Did he not sail of his own accord? As his own master?
  3. On what grounds are you his commander? On what grounds have you a right to kingship over the men whom he brought from home? It was as Sparta’s king that you came, not as master over us. Nowhere was it established among your lawful powers that you should order him any more than he you.
  4. You sailed here under the command of others, not as a supreme commander who might at any time exercise authority over Ajax. No, rule the troops you rule, and use your reverend words to punish them! But this man, whether you or the other general forbid it, I will lay
  5. in the grave as justice demands, and I will not fear your tongue. It was not at all for your wife’s sake that Ajax made this expedition, as did those toil-worn drudges. No, it was for the sake of the oath by which he had sworn, and not at all for you, since it was not his habit to value nobodies.
  6. And so when you come here again, bring more heralds, and the leader of the expedition, too. Your bluster could not make me turn to notice you, so long as you are what you are.
Chorus
  1. Again, I say, in these troubles I cannot approve of such a tone. Harsh words sting, however just they are.
Menelaus
  1. The bowman seems to feel no little grandeur.
Teucer
  1. I do, since it is no lowly skill that I possess.
Menelaus
  1. How you would boast, if you had a shield!
Teucer
  1. Even without a shield I would be a match for you fully armed.
Menelaus
  1. What a tongue you have! What dreadful anger it feeds!
Teucer
  1. When right is with him, a man’s thoughts may be grand.
Menelaus
  1. What, is it right that the man who murdered me should prosper?
Teucer
  1. Murdered you? It is truly a strange happening, if in fact you live after being killed.
Menelaus
  1. A god rescued me. So far as that corpse is concerned, I am in Hades.
Teucer
  1. Then since it was the gods who saved you, do not dishonor the gods.
Menelaus
  1. What, would I find fault with divine law?
Teucer
  1. Yes, if by your presence here you prevent burial of the dead.
Menelaus
  1. Prevent it I do, since he was at war with me and I with him. Burial in such a case would not be right.