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The Heracleidae   

Before the altar and temple of Zeus at Marathon. IOLAUS, an old man,
and the children of Heracles are seen on the steps of the
altar.


IOLAUS I hold this true, and long have held: Nature hath made one
man upright for his neighbours' good, while another hath a disposition
wholly given over to gain, useless alike to the state and difficult
to have dealings with, but for himself the best of men; and this I
know, not from mere hearsay. For I, from pure regard and reverence
for my kith and kin, though might have lived at peace in Argos, alone
of all my race shared with Heracles his labours, while he was yet
with us, and now that he dwells in heaven, I keep these his children
safe beneath my wing, though myself need protection. For when their
father passed from earth away, Eurystheus would first of all have
slain us, but we escaped. And though our home is lost, our life was
saved. But in exile we wander from city to city, ever forced to roam.
For, added to our former wrongs, Eurystheus thought it fit to put
this further outrage upon us: wheresoe'er he heard that we were settling,
thither would he send heralds demanding our surrender and driving
us from thence, holding out this threat, that Argos is no meal city
to make a friend or foe, and furthermore pointing to his own prosperity.
So they, seeing how weak my means, and these little ones left without
a father, bow to his superior might and drive us from their land.
And I share the exile of these children, and help them bear their
evil lot by my sympathy, loth to betray them, lest someone say, "Look
you! now that the children's sire is dead, Iolaus no more protects
them, kinsman though he is." Not one corner left us in the whole of
Hellas, we are come to Marathon and its neighbouring land, and here
we sit as suppliants at the altars of the gods, and pray their aid;
for 'tis said two sons of Theseus dwell upon these plains, the lot
of their inheritance, scions of Pandion's stock, related to these
children; this the reason we have come on this our way to the borders
of glorious Athens. To lead the flight two aged guides are we; my
care is centred on these boys, while she, I mean Alcmena, clasps her
son's daughter in her arms, and bears her for safety within this shrine,
for we shrink from letting tender maidens come anigh the crowd or
stand as suppliants at the altar. Now Hvllus and the elder of his
brethren are seeking some place for us to find a refuge, if we are
driven by force from this land. O children, children, come hither!
hold unto my robe; for lo! I see a herald coming towards us from Eurystheus,
by whom we are persecuted, wanderers excluded from every land. A curse
on the and him that sent thee, hateful wretch! for that same tongue
of thine hath oft announced its master's evil hests to these children's
noble sire as well. (COPREUS, the herald of EURYSTHEUS, enters.)
COPREUS Doubtless thy folly lets thee think this is a good position
to have taken up, and that thou art come to a city that will help
thee. No! there is none that will prefer thy feeble arm to the might
of Eurystheus. Begone! why take this trouble? Thou must arise and
go to Argos, where awaits thee death by stoning.
IOLAUS Not so, for the god's altar will protect me, and this land
of freedom, wherein we have set foot.
COPREUS Wilt give me the trouble of laying hands on thee?
IOLAUS By force at least shalt thou never drag these children hence.
COPREUS That shalt thou soon learn; it seems thou wert a poor prophet,
after all, in this. (COPREUS seizes the children.)
IOLAUS This shall never happen while I live.
COPREUS Begone! for I will take them hence, for all thy refusals,
for I hold that they belong to Eurystheus, as they do indeed. (He
throws IOLAUS to the ground.)

IOLAUS Help, ye who long have had your home in Athens! we suppliants
at Zeus' altar in your market-place are being haled by force away,
our sacred wreaths defiled, shame to your city, to the gods dishonour.
(The CHORUS OF AGED ATHENIANS enters.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Hark, hark! What cry is this that rises near

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