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. And a dose of this very medicine, I foresee, will find you before long, unless you gain a little good sense. He no longer exists, but is already a shade, yet still you boldly insult us and give your tongue too much freedom. Restrain yourself, I say. Recall your birth, your nature.
  2. Bring someone else here—a man who is freeborn—who can plead your cause before me in your place. For when you speak, I no longer understand— I do not know your barbarian language.
Chorus
  1. If only you both had the sense to exercise self-restraint!
  2. There is no better advice that I could give you two.
Teucer
  1. My, how quickly gratitude to the dead seeps away from men and is found to have turned to betrayal, since this man no longer offers even the slightest praise in remembrance of you, Ajax, even though it was for his sake
  2. you toiled so often in battle, offering your own life to the spear! No, your assistance is dead and gone, all flung aside! Full and foolish talker, do you no longer remember anything of the time when you were trapped inside your defenses,
  3. when you were all but destroyed in the turn of the battle and he, he alone came and saved you at the moment when the flames were already blazing around the decks at your ships’ sterns and Hector was leaping high over the trench towards the vessels?
  4. Who averted that? Was it not Ajax who did it, the one who, you say, nowhere set foot where you were not? Well, do you grant that he did his duty to you there? And what about when another time, all alone, he confronted Hector in single combat according to the fall of the lots, and not at anyone’s command?
  5. The lot which he cast in was not the kind to flee the challenge; it was no lump of moist earth, but one which would be the first to leap lightly from the crested helmet! It was this man who did those deeds, and I, the slave, the son of the barbarian mother, was at his side.
  1. Pitiful creature, how can you be so blind as to argue the way you do? Are you not aware of the fact that your father’s father Pelops long ago was a barbarian, a Phrygian? That Atreus, your own begetter, set before his brother a most unholy feast made from the flesh of his brother’s children?
  2. And you yourself were born from a Cretan mother, whose father found a stranger straddling her and who was consigned by him to be prey for the mute fish. So being of such a kind, can you reproach a man like me for my lineage? I am the son of Telamon,
  3. who won my mother for his consort as prize for valor supreme in the army. And she was the daughter of Laomedon, of royal blood, and it was as the flower of the spoil that Alcmena’s son gave her to Telamon. Thus nobly born as I am from two noble parents,
  4. could I disgrace my own flesh and blood, whom even as he lies here subdued by such massive troubles, you, making your pronouncements without a blush of shame, would thrust out without burial? Now consider this well: wherever you cast him away, with him you will also cast our three corpses.
  5. It is right for me to die before all men’s eyes while I am toiling in his cause, rather than for your wife—or should I say your brother’s? With this in mind, then, look not to my safety, but to yours instead, since if you cause me any grief at all, you will soon wish
  6. that you had been more timid than bold when confronting me.
    Chorus
    1. Lord Odysseus, you arrive at the right time, if mediation, not division, is your purpose in coming.
    Odysseus
    1. What is the trouble, friends? From far off I heard shouting from the Atreidae over this brave man’s corpse.
    Agamemnon
    1. Is it not because we, Lord Odysseus, have long had to hear the worst, most shameful language from this man?
    Odysseus
    1. How so? I can pardon a man a retaliatory barrage of abuse if another has insulted him.
    Agamemnon
    1. I insulted him, since his conduct toward me was of the same stripe.