Let us fight! I anticipate no dishonorable death. No symbol was fixed to his shield's circle. For he does not wish to appear the bravest, but to be the bravest, as he harvests the fruit of his mind's deep furrow, where his careful resolutions grow. I advise you to send wise and brave opponents against him. He who reveres the gods is to be feared. In all things, nothing is more evil than evil partnership.
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Its fruit should not be gathered in: the field of recklessness yields a harvest of death. For it may be that a pious man, embarked shipboard with sailors hot for some crime, perishes along with the sort of men hated by the gods; or, a man, though upright himself, when among fellow-citizens who hate all strangers and neglect the gods, may fall undeserving into the same trap as they, and be subdued, struck by the scourge of God that strikes all alike.
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Just the same, I will station a man against him, mighty Lasthenes, a gate-keeper who hates foreigners. He has the wisdom of an old man, but his body is at its prime: his eyes are quick, and he does not let his hand delay for his spear to seize what is left exposed by the shield. Still it is God's gift when mortals succeed. Turn aside the evils suffered in war onto those who invade our land! May Zeus strike them with his thunderbolt outside the walls and slay them!
SCOUT  Last I will tell of the seventh champion, him at the seventh gate, 13 your own brother, and of what fate he prays for and calls down on the city. His prayer is that after he mounts the battlements and is proclaimed king in the land, and shouts the paian in triumph over its capture, he may then meet you in combat, and once he kills you, that he may perish at your side, or, if you survive, make you pay with banishment in the same way as you dishonored him with exile. Mighty Polynices shouts such threats and invokes his native gods, the gods of his fatherland, to watch over his prayers in every way.
He holds a shield, a perfect circle, newly-made, with a double symbol cleverly fastened on it: a woman modestly walking in the fore leads a man in arms made, it appears, of hammered gold. Ah, now indeed our father's curses are brought to fulfillment. But neither weeping nor wailing is proper for me now, lest a grief even harder to bear is brought to life.
As for him whose name is so very fitting, Polynices, we shall know soon enough what the symbol on his shield will accomplish, whether the babbling letters shaped in gold on his shield, together with his mind's wanderings, will bring him back. If Justice, Zeus's maiden daughter, were attending his actions and his thoughts, this might be so.
But as it is, neither when he escaped the darkness of his mother's womb, nor in childhood, nor at any point in his early manhood, nor when the beard first thickened on his cheek, did Justice acknowledge him and consider him worthy. And even now I do not think that she is standing by his side to aid the destruction of his fatherland. Indeed, Justice would truly be false to her name, if she should ally herself with a man so utterly audacious in his plans.
Trusting in this fact I will go and stand against him—I myself in person. Who else has a more just claim? Commander against commander, brother against brother, enemy against enemy, I will take my stand. Quick, bring my greaves to protect against spears and stones! It is enough that Cadmeans are advancing to close combat with Argives. That bloodshed can be expiated. But when men of the same blood kill each other as you desire, the pollution from this act never grows old. But you cannot speak of any glory for happenings that are at once evil and held in dishonor.
Do not let mad lust for battle fill your soul and carry you away. Reject this evil passion while it is still young. CHORUS  A savage desire eats away at you, drives you to murder, blood-sacrifice proscribed by divine law, whose only fruit is bitterness.
ETEOCLES  True, my own beloved father's hateful, ruinous curse hovers before my dry, unweeping eyes, and informs me of benefit preceding subsequent death. You will not be called a coward if you retain life nobly. Will not the avenging Erinys in her dark aegis leave your house, when the gods receive sacrifice from your hands?
So then, why should we cringe and shy away from deadly fate? CHORUS  It is only at this moment that death stands close by you, for the divine spirit may change its purpose even after a long time and come on a gentler wind. But now it still seethes. Too true were the phantoms in my sleeping visions, predicting the division of our father's wealth! CHORUS  I shudder in terror at the goddess who lays ruin to homes, a goddess unlike other divinities, who is an unerring omen of evil to come.
I shudder that the Erinys invoked by the father's prayer will fulfil the over-wrathful curses that Oedipus spoke in madness. This strife that will destroy his sons drives the Erinys to fulfillment. Who could cleanse them of their pollution? O, the new troubles of this house mixed with its evils of before!
Aeschylus II : the suppliant maidens ; The Persians ; Seven against Thebes ; Prometheus bound
It remains even into the third generation, ever since Laius—in defiance of Apollo who, at his Pythian oracle at the earth's center, said three times that the king would save his city if he died without offspring—ever since he, overcome by the thoughtlessness of his longing, fathered his own death, the parricide Oedipus, who sowed his mother's sacred field, where he was nurtured, and endured a bloody crop.
Madness united the frenzied bridal pair. As one wave sinks, the sea raises up another, triple-crested, which crashes around the city's stern. In between a narrow defense stretches— no wider than a wall. I fear that the city will be overthrown along with its kings.
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When the fortune of seafaring merchants has grown too great, it must be thrown overboard. With the hand that killed his father he struck out his eyes, which were dearer to him than his children. So now I tremble in fear that the swift-running Erinys will bring this to fulfillment.
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Our city has escaped the yoke of slavery; the boasts of the powerful men have fallen to the ground. The city enjoys fair weather and has taken on no water even though it has been buffeted by many waves. The walls hold, and we have fortified the gates with champions fully capable in single-handed combat. For the most part all is well, at six of the gates. But lord Apollo, the reverend leader of the seventh, 15 took for himself the seventh gate, accomplishing upon the children of Oedipus the ancient follies of Laius.
All alone, in truth, it consumes the ill-fated family. We have cause in this for joy and tears—the one because the city fares well, the other because the leaders, the two generals, have divided the whole of their property with hammered Scythian steel. They will possess only that land they take in burial, swept away as they were in accordance with their father's curses. CHORUS  O great Zeus and the divine powers that guard our city, you who indeed protect these walls of Cadmus, should I rejoice and shout in triumph for the unharmed safety of the city, or should I lament our leaders in war, now wretched, ill-fated and childless?
A chill of horror falls about my heart. In frenzy like a maenad I make my song for the grave as I hear of their corpses dripping with blood, how they died through the workings of cruel fate. This song of the spear, sung to the flute, is indeed born of an ill omen. Laius' plans, made in disobedience, have kept their force. I am anxious for our city; divine decrees do not lose their edge. The events are self-evident; the messenger's report is plain to see.
Twofold is our distress—double disaster of kindred murder, this double suffering has come to fulfillment. What shall I say? What else indeed than that sorrow born of sorrows surround this house's hearth? With all sincerity, I think, will they pour forth their fitting grief from their lovely, deep-bosomed breasts. But it is right for us, before their singing, to cry out the awful hymn of the Erinys and thereafter sing the hated victory song of Hades. To your misery you have captured your father's house with the spear.
Pierced through your left sides, pierced indeed—through those sides that were born from one womb! Ah, the curses that demand death for death!
Right through, as you say, were they struck, with blows to house and body by an unspeakable wrath and by the doom, called down by their father's curse, which they shared without discord. But for those who come after them there remains their property, on which account the strife of those terrible-fated men came to fulfillment in death.
In their haste to anger they apportioned their property so that each has an equal share.