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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Euripides' HERACLES Complete

Translated by E. Coleridge.

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Amphitryon: What mortal hath not heard of him who shared a wife with
Zeus, Amphitryon of Argos, whom on a day Alcaeus, son of Perseus begat,
Amphitryon the father of Heracles? He it was dwelt here in Thebes,
where from the sowing of the dragon's teeth grew up a crop of earth-born
giants; for of these Ares saved a scanty band, and their children's
children people the city of Cadmus. Hence sprung Creon, son of Menoeceus,
king of this land; and Creon became the father of this lady Megara,
whom once all Cadmus' race escorted with the glad music of lutes at
her wedding, in the day that Heracles, illustrious chief, led her
to my halls. Now he, my son, left Thebes where I was settled, left
his wife Megara and her kin, eager to make his home in Argolis, in
that walled town which the Cyclopes built, whence I am exiled for
the slaying of Electryon; so he, wishing to lighten my affliction
and to find a home in his own land, did offer Eurystheus a mighty
price for my recall, even to free the world of savage monsters, whether
it was that Hera goaded him to submit to this, or that fate was leagued
against him. Divers are the toils he hath accomplished, and last of
all hath he passed through the mouth of Taenarus into the halls of
Hades to drag to the light that hound with bodies three, and thence
is he never returned. Now there is an ancient legend amongst the race
of Cadmus, that one Lycus in days gone by was husband to Dirce being
king of this city with its seven towers, before that Amphion and Zethus,
sons of Zeus, lords of the milk-white steeds, became rulers in the
land. His son, called by the same name as his father, albeit no Theban
but a stranger from Euboea, slew Creon, and after that seized the
government, having fallen on this city when weakened by dissension.
So this connection with Creon is likely to prove to us a serious evil;
for now that my son is in the bowels of the earth, this illustrious
monarch Lycus is bent on extirpating the children of Heracles, to
quench one bloody feud with another, likewise his wife and me, if
useless age like mine is to rank amongst men, that the boys may never
grow up to exact a blood-penalty of their uncle's family. So I, left
here by my son, whilst he is gone into the pitchy darkness of the
earth, to tend and guard his children in his house, am taking my place
with their mother, that the race of Heracles may not perish, here
at the altar of Zeus the Saviour, which my own gallant child set up
to commemorate his glorious victory over the Minyae. And here we are
careful to keep our station, though in need of everything, of food,
of drink, and raiment, huddled together on the hard bare ground; for
we are barred out from our house and sit here for want of any other
safety. As for friends, some I see are insincere; while others, who
are staunch, have no power to help us further. This is what misfortune
means to man; God grant it may never fall to the lot of any who bears
the least goodwill to me, to apply this never-failing test of friendship!

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