Libation Bearers


Aeschylus, creator; Aeschylus with an English translation Vol II. Smyth, Herbert Weir, 1857- 1937, editor, translator. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd.: 1926.

  1. Look, the light has come,
  2. and I am freed from the cruel curb that restrained our household. House, rise up! You have lain too long prostrate on the ground.
Orestes with the branch and wreath of a suppliant is disclosed standing by the bodies. With him are Pylades and attendants who display the robe of Agamemnon
  1. Behold this pair, oppressors of the land, who murdered my father and ransacked my house! They were majestic then, when they sat on their thrones,
  2. and are lovers even now, as one may judge by what has happened to them, and their oath holds true to their pledges. Together they vowed a league of death against my unhappy father, and together they vowed to die, and they have kept their promise well. But now regard again, you who hear this account of ills,
  3. the device for binding my unhappy father, with which his hands were manacled, his feet fettered. Spread it out! Stand around in a circle, and display this covering for a man, that the Father may see—not mine, but he who surveys all this, the Sun—
  4. that he may see the impious work of my own mother, that he may be my witness in court that I justly pursued this death, my own mother’s. For I do not speak of Aegisthus’ death: he has suffered the penalty prescribed for adulterers.
  5. But she who devised this abhorrent deed against her husband, whose children she bore, a burden under her belt, a burden once dear, but now a hateful ill, as it seems: what do you think of her? Had she been born a seasnake or a viper, I think her very touch without her bite would have caused anyone else to rot,
  6. if shamelessness and an immoral disposition could do so. He again takes up the bloody robe What name shall I give it, however tactful I may be? A trap for a wild beast? Or a shroud for a corpse in his bier,[*](δροίτης κατασκήνωμα also means curtain of a bath.) wrapped around his feet? No, rather it is a net: you might call it a hunting net, or robes to entangle a man’s feet.
  7. This would be the kind of thing a highwayman might posses, who deceives strangers and earns his living by robbery, and with this cunning snare he might kill many men and warm his own heart greatly. May such a woman not live with me in my house!
  8. Before that may the gods grant me to perish childless!
  1. Alas! Alas! Sorrowful work! You were done in by a wretched death. Alas! Alas! And for the survivor also suffering blossoms.
  1. Did she do the deed or not? No, this is my witness, dyed by Aegisthus’ sword. This is a stain of blood that helps time to spoil the many tinctures of embroidered fabric. Now at last I speak his praises. Now at last I am present to lament him, as I address this web that wrought my father’s death.
  2. Yet I grieve for the deed and the punishment and for my whole clan. My victory is an unenviable pollution.
  1. No mortal being shall pass his life unscathed, free from all suffering to the end.
  2. Alas! Alas! One tribulation comes today, another tomorrow.
  1. But since I would have you know, for I do not know how it will end: I think I am a charioteer driving my team far beyond the course. For my ungoverned wits are whirling me away overmastered, and at my heart fear wishes to sing and dance to a tune of wrath.
  2. But while I am still in my senses, I proclaim to those who hold me dear and declare that not without justice did I slay my mother, the unclean murderess of my father, and a thing loathed by the gods. And for the spells that gave me the courage for this deed I count Loxias, the prophet of Pytho,
  3. my chief source. It was he who declared that, if I did this thing, I would be acquitted of wrongdoing. But if I refrained—I will not name the penalty; for no bowshot could reach such a height of anguish. And now observe me, how armed with this branch and wreath I go as a suppliant, an outcast for the shedding of kindred blood, to the temple set square on the womb of the earth,
  4. the precinct of Loxias, and to the bright fire said to be imperishable.[*](In the Delphic shrine there was an undying fire.) To no other hearth did Loxias bid me turn. And as to the manner in which this evil deed was wrought, I charge all men of Argos in time to come to bear me witness.
  5. I go forth a wanderer, estranged from this land, leaving this repute behind, in life or death.