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The Heracleidae   


from my native city, on whom the doom of death was passed by our laws
there; and we have right, since we rule our city independently, to
ratify its sentences. And though they have come as suppliants to the
altars of numerous others, we have taken our stand on these same arguments,
and no one has ventured to bring upon himself evils of his own getting.
But they have come hither, either because they perceived some folly
in thee, or, in their perplexity, staking all on one risky throw to
win or lose; for surely they do not suppose that thou, if so thou
hast thy senses still, and only thou, in all the breadth of Hellas
they have traversed, wilt pity their foolish troubles. Come now, put
argument against argument: what will be thy gain, suppose thou admit
them to thy land, or let us take them hence? From us these benefits
are thine to win: this city can secure as friends Argos, with its
far-reaching arm, and Eurystheus' might complete; whilst if thou lend
an ear to their piteous pleading and grow soft, the matter must result
in trial of arms; for be sure we shall not yield this struggle without
appealing to the sword. What pretext wilt thou urge? Of what domains
art thou robbed that thou shouldst take and wage war with the Tirynthian
Argives? What kind of allies art thou aiding? For whom will they have
fallen whom thou buriest? Surely thou wilt get an evil name from the
citizens, if for the sake of an old man near the grave, a mere shadow
I may say, and for these children, thou wilt plunge into troublous
waters. The best thou canst say is, that thou wilt find in them a
hope, and nothing more; and yet this falls far short of the present
need; for these would be but a poor match for Argives even when fully
armed and in their prime, if haply that raises thy spirits; moreover,
the time 'twixt now and then is long, wherein ye may be blotted out.
Nay, hearken to me; give me naught, but let me take mine own, and
so gain Mycenae; but forbear to act now, as is your Athenian way,
and take the weaker side, when it is in thy power to choose the stronger
as thy friends.
LEADER Who can decide a cause or ascertain its merits, till from
both sides he clearly learn what they would say?
IOLAUS O king, in thy land I start with this advantage, the right
to hear and speak in turn, and none, ere that, will drive me hence
as elsewhere they would. 'Twixt us and him is naught in common, for
we no longer have aught to do with Argos since that decree was passed,
but we are exiles from our native land; how then can he justly drag
us back as subjects of Mycenae, seeing that they have banished us?
For we are strangers. Or do ye claim that every exile from Argos is
exiled from the bounds of Hellas? Not from Athens surely; for ne'er
will she for fear of Argos drive the children of Heracles from her
land. Here is no Trachis, not at all; no! nor that Achaean town, whence
thou, defying justice, but boasting of the might of Argos in the very
words thou now art using, didst drive the suppliants from their station
at the altar. If this shall be, and they thy words approve, why then
I trow this is no more Athens, the home of freedom. Nay, but I know
the temper and nature of these citizens; they would rather die, for
honour ranks before mere life with men of worth. Enough of Athens!
for excessive praise is apt to breed disgust; and oft ere now have
myself felt vexed at praise that knows no bounds. But to thee, as
ruler of this land, fain would show the reason why thou art bound
to save these children. Pittheus was the son of Pelops; from him sprung
Aethra, and from her Theseus thy sire was born. And now will I trace
back these children's lineage for thee. Heracles was son of Zeus and
Alcmena; Alcmena sprang from Pelops' daughter; therefore thy father
and their father would be the sons of first cousins. Thus then art
thou to them related, O Demophon, but thy just debt to them beyond
the ties of kinship do I now declare to thee; for I assert, in days
gone by, I was with Theseus on the ship, as their father's squire,
when they went to fetch that girdle fraught with death; yea, and from
Hades' murky dungeons did Heracles bring thy father up; as all Hellas
doth attest. Wherefore in return they crave this boon of thee, that
they be not surrendered up nor torn by force from the altars of thy

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