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The Heracleidae   


the altar? At once explain the nature of the trouble.
IOLAUS See this aged frame hurled in its feebleness upon the ground!
Woe is me!
LEADER Who threw thee down thus pitiably?
IOLAUS Behold the man who flouts your gods, kind sirs, and tries
by force to drag me from my seat before the altar of Zeus.
CHORUS (chanting) From what land, old stranger, art thou come to
this confederate state of four cities? or have ye left Euboea's cliffs,
and, with the oar that sweeps the sea, put in here from across the
firth?
IOLAUS Sirs, no island life I lead, but from Mycenae to thy land
I come.
CHORUS (chanting) What do they call thee, aged sir, those folk in
Mycenae?
IOLAUS Maybe ye have heard of Iolaus, the comrade of Heracles, for
he was not unknown to fame.
CHORUS (chanting) Yea, I have heard of him in bygone days; but tell
me, whose are the tender boys thou bearest in thine arms?
IOLAUS These, sirs, are the sons of Heracles, come as suppliants
to you and your city.
CHORUS (chanting) What is their quest? Are they anxious, tell me,
to obtain an audience of the state?
IOLAUS That so they may escape surrender, nor be torn with violence
from thy altars, and brought to Argos.
COPREUS Nay, this will nowise satisfy thy masters, who o'er thee
have a right, and so have tracked thee hither.
CHORUS (chanting) Stranger, 'tis but right we should reverence the
gods' suppliants, suffering none with violent hand to make them leave
the altars, for that will dread justice ne'er permit.
COPREUS Do thou then drive these subjects of Eurystheus forth, and
this hand of mine shall abstain from violence.
CHORUS (chanting) 'Twere impious for the state to neglect the suppliant
stranger's prayer.
COPREUS Yet 'tis well to keep clear of troubles, by adopting that
counsel, which is the wiser.
LEADER Thou then shouldst have told the monarch of this land thy
errand before being so bold, out of regard to his country's freedom,
instead of trying to drag strangers by force from the altars of the
gods.
COPREUS Who is monarch of this land and state?
LEADER Demophon, son of gallant Theseus.
COPREUS Surely it were most to the purpose to discuss this matter
somewhat with him; all else has been said in vain.
LEADER Lo! here he comes in person, in hot haste, and Acamas his
brother, to hear what thou hast to say. (DEMOPHON, Acamas, and their
retinue enter.)

DEMOPHON Since thou for all thy years hast outstripped younger men
in coming to the rescue to this altar of Zeus, do thou tell me what
hath chanced to bring this crowd together.
LEADER There sit the sons of Heracles as suppliants, having wreathed
the altar, as thou seest, O king, and with them is Iolaus, trusty
comrade of their sire.
DEMOPHON Why should this event have called for cries of pain?
LEADER (turning to COPREUS) This fellow caused the uproar by trying
to drag them forcibly from this altar, and he hurled down the old
man, till my tears for pity flowed.
DEMOPHON Hellenic dress and fashion in his robes doth he no doubt
adopt, but deeds like these betray the barbarian. Thou, sirrah, tell
me straight the country whence thou camest thither.
COPREUS An Argive I; since that thou seek'st to know. Who sent me,
and the object of my coming, will I freely tell. Eurystheus, king
of Mycenae, sends me hither to fetch these back; and I have come,
sir stranger, with just grounds in plenty, alike for speech or action.
An Argive myself, Argives I come to fetch, taking with me these runaways

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