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Euripides' BACCHAE Complete

Translated, with notes, by Th. Buckley.

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I, Bacchus, the son of Jove, am come to this land of the Thebans, whom
formerly Semele, the daughter of Cadmus, brought forth, delivered by the
lightning-bearing flame. And having taken a mortal form instead of a God's,
I am present at the fountains of Dirce and the water of Ismenus. And I see
the tomb of my thunder-stricken mother here near the palace, and the
remnants of the house smoking, and the still living name of Jove's fire,
the everlasting insult of Juno against my mother. But I praise Cadmus, who
has made this place hallowed, the shrine of his daughter; and I have
covered it around with the cluster-bearing leaf of the vine. And having
left the wealthy lands of the Lydians and Phrygians, and the sun-parched
plains of the Persians, and the Bactrian walls; and having come over the
stormy land of the Medes, and the happy Arabia, and all Asia which lies
along the coast of the salt sea, having fair-towered cities full of Greeks
and barbarians mingled together; and there having danced and established my
mysteries, that I might be a God manifest among men, I have come to this
city first of the Grecian [cities,] and I have raised my shout first in
Thebes of this land of Greece, fitting a deer-skin on my body, and taking a
thyrsus in my hand, an ivy-clad[2] weapon, because the sisters of my
mother, whom, it least of all became, said that I, Bacchus, was not born of
Jove; but that Semele, having conceived by some mortal, charged the sin of
her bed upon Jove, a trick of Cadmus; on which account they said that Jove
had slain her, because she told a false tale about her marriage. Therefore
I have now driven them from the house with frenzy, and they dwell on the
mountain, insane of mind; and I have compelled them to wear the dress of my
mysteries. And all the female seed of the Cadmeans, as many as are women,
have I driven maddened from the house. And they, mingled with the sons of
Cadmus, sit on the roofless rocks beneath the green pines. For this city
must know, even though it be unwilling, that it is not initiated into my
Bacchanalian rites, and that I plead the cause of my mother, Semele, in
appearing manifest to mortals as a God whom she bore to Jove. Cadmus then
gave his honor and power to Pentheus, born from his daughter, who fights
against the Gods as far as I am concerned, and drives me from sacrifices,
and in his prayers makes no mention of me; on which account I will show him
and all the Thebans that I am a God. And having set matters here aright,
manifesting myself, I will move to another land. But if the city of the
Thebans should in anger seek by arms to bring down the Bacchae from the
mountain, I, general of the Maenads, will join battle.[3] On which account I
have changed my form to a mortal one, and transformed my shape into the
nature of a man. But, O ye who have left Tmolus, the bulwark of Lydia; ye
women, my assembly, whom I have brought from among the barbarians as
assistants and companions to me; take your drums, your native instruments
in the Phrygian cities, the invention of the mother Rhea[4] and myself, and
coming beat them around this royal palace of Pentheus, that the city of
Cadmus may see it. And I, with the Bacchae, going to the dells of Cithaeron,
where they are, will share their dances.

[1] For illustrations of the fable of this play, compare Hyginus, Fab. clxxxiv., who evidently has a view to Euripides. Ovid, Metam. iii. fab. v. Oppian, Cyneg. iv. 241 sqq. Nonnus, 45, p. 765 sq. and 46, p. 783 sqq., some of whose imitations I shall mention in my notes. With the opening speech of this play compare the similar one of Venus in the Hippolytus.

[2] Cf. vs. 176; and for the musical instruments employed in the Bacchanalian rites, vs. 125 sqq. Oppian, Cyn. iv. 243. νεβρισι δ' αμφεβαλοντο, και εστεψαντο κορυμβοις, Εν σπεϊ, και περι παιδα το μυστικον ωρχησαντο. Τυμπανα δ' εκτυπεον, και κυμβαλα χερσι κροταινον. Compare Gorius, Monum. Libert. et Serv. ad Tab. vii. p. 15 sq.

[3] Such is the sense of συναψομαι, μαχην being understood. See Matthiae.

[4] Drums and cymbals were invented by the Goddess in order to drown the cries of the infant Jupiter. Minutius Felix, xxi. "Avido patri subtrahitur infans ne voretur, et Corybantum cymbalis, ne pater audiat, vagitus initus eliditur" (read audiat vagitus, tinnitus illi editur, from the vestigia of Cod. Reg.). Cf. Lactant. i. 13.

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