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The Suppliants   


CHILDREN I weep to hear that piteous word; 'it stabs me to the heart,
CHORUS My child, thou art undone; no more shall I behold thee, thy
own fond mother's treasure.
THESEUS Adrastus, and ye dames from Argos sprung, ye see these children
bearing in their hands the bodies of their valiant sires whom I redeemed;
to thee I give these gifts, I and Athens. And ye must bear in mind
the memory of this favour, marking well the treatment ye have had
of me. And to these children I repeat the self-same words, that they
may honour this city, to children's children ever handing on the kindness
ye received from us. Be Zeus the witness, with the gods in heaven,
of the treatment we vouchsafed you ere you left us.
ADRASTUS Theseus, well we know all the kindness thou hast conferred
upon the land of Argos in her need, and ours shall be a gratitude
that never waxeth old, for your generous treatment makes us debtors
for a like return.
THESEUS What yet remains, wherein I can serve you?
ADRASTUS Fare thee well, for such is thy desert and such thy city's
too.
THESEUS Even so. Mayst thou too have the self-same fortune! (ATHENA
appears from above.)

ATHENA Hearken, Theseus, to the words that I Athena utter, telling
thee thy duty, which, if thou perform it, will serve thy city. Give
not these bones to the children to carry to the land of Argos, letting
them go so lightly; nay, take first an oath of them that they will
requite thee and thy city for your efforts. This oath must Adrastus
swear, for as their king it is his right to take the oath for the
whole realm of Argos. And this shall be the form thereof: "We Argives
swear we never will against this land lead on our mail-clad troops
to war, and, if others come, we will repel them." But if they violate
their oath and come against the city, pray that the land of Argos
may be miserably destroyed. Now hearken while I tell thee where thou
must slay the victims. Thou hast within thy halls a tripod with brazen
feet, which Heracles, in days gone by, after he had o'erthrown the
foundations of Ilium and was starting on another enterprise, enjoined
the to set up at the Pythian shrine. O'er it cut the throats of three
sheep; then grave within the tripod's hollow belly the oath; this
done, deliver it to the god who watches over Delphi to keep, a witness
and memorial unto Hellas of the oath. And bury the sharp-edged knife,
wherewith thou shalt have laid the victims open and shed their blood,
deep in the bowels of the earth, hard by the pyres where the seven
chieftains burn; for its appearance shall strike them with dismay,
if e'er against thy town they come, and shall cause them to return
with sorrow. When thou hast done all this, dismiss the dead from thy
land. And to the god resign as sacred land the spot where their bodies
were purified by fire, there by the meeting of the triple roads that
lead unto the Isthmus. Thus much to thee, Theseus, address; next to
the sons of Argos I speak; when ye are grown to men's estate, the
town beside Ismenus shall ye sack, avenging the slaughter of your
dead sires; thou too, Aegialeus, shalt take thy father's place and
in thy youth command the host, and with thee Tydeus' son marching
from Aetolia,-him whom his father named Diomedes. Soon as the beards
your cheeks o'ershadow must ye lead an armed Danaid host against the
battlements of Thebes with sevenfold gates. For to their sorrow shall
ye come like lion's whelps in full-grown might to sack their city.
No otherwise is it to be; and ye shall be a theme for minstrels' songs
in days to come, known through Hellas as "the After-born"; so famous
shall your expedition be, thanks to Heaven.
THESEUS Queen Athena, I will hearken to thy bidding; for thou it
is dost set me up, so that I go not astray. And I will bind this monarch
by an oath; do thou but guide my steps aright. For if thou art friendly
to our state, we shall henceforth live secure. (ATHENA vanishes.)
CHORUS (chanting) Let us go, Adrastus, and take the oath to this
monarch and his state; for the service they have already done us claims
our reverence.

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