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. since I am a prophet, I cannot lie. I have never yet, on my oracular throne, said anything about a man or woman or city that Zeus, the father of the Olympians, did not command me to say. Learn how strong this plea of justice is;
  2. and I tell you to obey the will of my father; for an oath is not more powerful than Zeus.[*](The oath taken by the judges (489) may pronounce Orestes guilty as to the fact; but as his deed was done at the command of Zeus, whose representative is his son, Zeus therefore assumes all moral responsibility.)
Chorus
  1. Zeus, as you say, gave you this oracular command, to tell Orestes here to avenge his father’s murder but to take no account at all of the honor due his mother?
Apollo
  1. Yes, for it is not the same thing—the murder of a noble man, honored by a god-given scepter, and his murder indeed by a woman, not by rushing arrows sped from afar, as if by an Amazon, but as you will hear, Pallas, and those
  2. who are sitting to decide by vote in this matter. She received him from the expedition, where he had for the most part won success beyond expectation,[*](Literally trafficked better—better either than his foes, the Trojans; or beyond expectation (since he was guilty of the death of his daughter); or possibly, without any implicit comparative force, simply well.) in the judgment of those favorable to him; then, as he was stepping from the bath, on its very edge, she threw a cloak like a tent over it,
  3. fettered her husband in an embroidered robe, and cut him down. This was his death, as I have told it to you—the death of a man wholly majestic, commander of the fleet. As for that woman, I have described her in such a way as to whet the indignation of the people who have been appointed to decide this case.
Chorus
  1. Zeus gives greater honor to a father’s death, according to what you say; yet he himself bound his aged father, Cronus. How does this not contradict what you say? I call on you as witnesses turning to the judges to hear these things.
Apollo
  1. Oh, monsters utterly loathed and detested by the gods!
  2. Zeus could undo fetters, there is a remedy for that, and many means of release. But when the dust has drawn up the blood of a man, once he is dead, there is no return to life. For this, my father has made no magic spells,
  3. although he arranges all other things, turning them up and down; nor does his exercise of force cost him a breath.
Chorus
  1. See how you advocate acquittal for this man! After he has poured out his mother’s blood on the ground, shall he then live in his father’s house in Argos?
  2. Which of the public altars shall he use? What purification rite of the brotherhoods[*](Kinsfolk, actual or fictitious, were united in phratriai, with common worship, offerings, and festivals.) will receive him?
Apollo
  1. I will explain this, too, and see how correctly I will speak. The mother of what is called her child is not the parent, but the nurse of the newly-sown embryo.[*](This notion appears in Egypt (Diodorus Siculus 1. 80, whose source was Hecataeus, an older contemporary of Aeschylus) and in various Greek authors later than Aeschylus, e.g. Eur. Or. 552; Frag. 1064, the Pythagoreans cited by Stobaeus (Hense ii. 72). The passage in the play has been invoked as evidence that the Athenians of the fifth century B.C. were upholding, some the ancient mode of tracing descent from the mother (the argument of the Erinyes); others, the patrilinear theory advocated by Apollo.)
  2. The one who mounts is the parent, whereas she, as a stranger for a stranger, preserves the young plant, if the god does not harm it. And I will show you proof of what I say: a father might exist without a mother. A witness is here at hand, the child of Olympian Zeus,
  3. who was not nursed in the darkness of a womb, and she is such a child as no goddess could give birth to. For my part, Pallas, as in all other matters, as I know how, I will make your city and people great; and I have sent this man as a suppliant to your sanctuary
  4. so that he may be faithful for all time, and that you, goddess, might win him and those to come after him as a new ally and so that these pledges of faith might remain always, for the later generations of these people to cherish.
Athena
  1. Am I to assume that enough has been said,
  2. and shall I now command these jurors to cast an honest vote according to their judgment?
Chorus
  1. For our part, every bolt is already shot. But I am waiting to hear how the trial will be decided.
Athena
  1. Why not? As for you, To Apollo and Orestes. how shall I arrange matters so that I will not be blamed by you?