Eumenides

Aeschylus

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. And I will aid my suppliant and rescue him! For the wrath of the one who seeks purification is terrible among mortals and gods, if I intentionally abandon him. Enters the Sanctuary.
The scene changes to Athens, before the temple of Athena. Enter Hermes with Orestes, who embraces the ancient image of the goddess.
Orestes
  1. Lady Athena, at Loxias’ command I have come. Receive kindly an accursed wretch, not one who seeks purification, or with unclean hand, but with my guilt’s edge already blunted and worn away at other homes and in the travelled paths of men.
  2. Going over land and sea alike, keeping the commands of Loxias’ oracle, I now approach your house and image, goddess. Here I will keep watch and await the result of my trial.
The Furies enter dispersedly, hunting Orestes’ trail by scent.
Chorus
  1. Aha! This is a clear sign of the man. Follow the hints of a voiceless informer. For as a hound tracks a wounded fawn, so we track him by the drops of blood. My lungs pant from many tiring struggles, for I have roamed over the whole earth,
  2. and I have come over the sea in wingless flight, pursuing him, no slower than a ship. And now he is here somewhere, cowering. The smell of human blood gives me a smiling welcome.
  1. Look! Look again!
  2. Look everywhere, so that the matricide will not escape by secret flight, with his debt unpaid! Yes, here he is again with a defense; his arms twisted around the image of the immortal goddess,
  3. he wishes to be tried for his debt.[*](The reading χερῶν seems to mean deed of violence.) But that is not possible; a mother’s blood upon the earth is hard to recover—alas, the liquid poured on the ground is gone. But you must allow me in return to suck
  4. the red blood from your living limbs. May I feed on you—a gruesome drink! I will wither you alive and drag you down, so that you pay atonement for your murdered mother’s agony. And you will see any other mortal who has sinned by not honoring
  5. a god or a stranger or dear parents, each having a just punishment. For Hades is mighty in holding mortals to account under the earth,
  6. and he observes all things and within his mind inscribes them.
Orestes
  1. Taught by misery, I know many purification rituals, and I know where it is right to speak and equally to be silent; and in this case, I have been ordered to speak by a wise teacher.
  2. For the blood is slumbering and fading from my hand, the pollution of matricide is washed away; while it was still fresh, it was driven away at the hearth of the god Phoebus by purifying sacrifices of swine. It would be a long story to tell from the beginning,
  3. how many people I have visited, with no harm from association with me. Time purges all things, aging with them. So now with a pure mouth I piously invoke Athena, lady of this land, to come to my aid. Without the spear,
  4. she will win me and my land and the Argive people as faithful and true allies for all time. But whether in some region of the Libyan land, near the waters of Triton, her native stream, she is in action or at rest,[*](Literally, she places her foot upright or covered over. The poet may have in mind statues of the goddess: ὀρθόν referring to upright posture, κατηρεφῆ to her long garment falling over her foot when she was represented as sitting.)
  5. aiding those whom she loves, or whether, like a bold marshal, she is surveying the Phlegraean [*](The scene of the battle of the Gods and Giants, in which Athena slew Enceladus.) plain, oh, let her come—as a goddess, she hears even from far away—to be my deliverer from distress!
Chorus
  1. No, neither Apollo nor Athena’s strength
  2. can save you from perishing abandoned, not knowing where joy is in your heart—a bloodless victim of the gods below, a shadow. You do not answer, but scorn my words, you who are fattened and consecrated to me?
  3. Living, you will be my feast, not slain at an altar; now you will hear this hymn, a spell to bind you.
Chorus
  1. Come now, let us also join the dance, since we are resolved to display our hated song