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The Heracleidae   


to Zeus, who routs the foe, for their triumphant victory, whilst they
bid me bring this prisoner to thee, wishing to gladden thy heart;
for 'tis the sweetest sight to see a foe fall on evil days after prosperity.
ALCMENA Art come, thou hateful wretch? Hath justice caught thee then
at last? First, turn thy head this way to me, and endure to look thy
enemies in the face, for thou art no more the ruler, but the slave.
Art thou the man-for this I fain would learn-who didst presume to
heap thy insults on my son, who now is where he is, thou miscreant?
What outrage didst thou abstain from putting upon him? Thou that didst
make him go down alive even to Hades, and wouldst send him with an
order to slay hydras and lions? Thy other evil schemes I mention not,
for to tell them were a tedious task for me. Nor did it content thee
to venture thus far only; no! but from all Hellas wouldst thou drive
me and my children, heaven's suppliants though we were, grey-beards
some of us, and some still tender babes. But here hast thou found
men and a free city, that feared not thee. Die in torment must thou,
and e'en so wilt thou gain in every way, for one death is not thy
due, after all the sorrow thou hast caused.
MESSENGER Thou mayst not slay him.
ALCMENA Then have we taken him captive in vain. But say, what law
forbids his death?
MESSENGER It is not the wiff of the rulers of this land.
ALCMENA Why, what is this? Do they not approve of slaying enemies?
MESSENGER Not such as they have taken alive in battle.
ALCMENA Did Hyllus uphold this decision?
MESSENGER He, I suppose, ought to have disobeyed the law of the land.
ALCMENA The prisoner's life ought not to have been spared a moment.
MESSENGER It was then that he was wronged, by not being slain at
first.
ALCMENA Why, then, he is still in time to pay his penalty.
MESSENGER There is no one who will slay him now.
ALCMENA I will; and yet I count myself someone.
MESSENGER Well, thou wilt incur great blame, if thou do this deed.
ALCMENA I love this city well; that cannot be gainsaid. But since
this man hath fallen into my power, no mortal hand shall wrest him
from me. Wherefore let who will, call me the woman bold, with thoughts
too high for her sex; yet shall this deed be brought to pass by me.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Lady, full well I understand thou hast a dire
quarrel with this man, and 'tis pardonable.
EURYSTHEUS Woman, be sure I will not flatter thee nor say aught to
save my life, that can give any occasion for a charge of cowardice.
It was not of my own free will I took this quarrel up; I am aware
that I was born thy cousin, and kinsman to Heracles, thy son; but
whether I would or no, Hera, by her power divine, caused me to be
afflicted thus. Still, when undertook to be his foe, and when I knew
I had to enter on this struggle, I set myself to devise trouble in
plenty, and oft from time to time my midnight communing bore fruit,
scheming how to push aside and slay my foes, and for the future divorce
myself from fear; for I knew that son of thine was no mere cipher,
but a man indeed; yea, for, though he was my foe, I will speak well
of him, because he was a man of worth. Now, after he was taken hence,
was I not forced, by reason of these children's hatred, and because
I was conscious of an hereditary feud, to leave no stone unturned
by slaying, banishing, and plotting against them? So long as I did
so, my safety was assured. Suppose thyself hadst had my lot, wouldst
not thou have set to harassing the lion's angry whelps, instead of
letting them dwell at Argos undisturbed? Thou wilt not persuade us
otherwise. Now therefore, since they did not slay me then, when I
was prepared to die, by the laws of Hellas my death becomes a curse
on him who slays me now. The city wisely let me go, in that she regarded
the gods more than her hatred of me. Thou hast had my answer to thy
words; henceforth must I be called avenging spirit and noble hero
too. 'Tis even thus with me; to die have I no wish, but, if I leave
my life, I shall in no way be grieved.

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