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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Euripides' ORESTES Complete

Translated by E. Coleridge.

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Electra: There is naught so terrible to describe, be it physical
pain or heaven-sent affliction, that man's nature may not have to
bear the burden of it. Tantalus, they say, once so prosperous,-and
I am not now taunting him with his misfortunes,-Tantalus, the reputed
son of Zeus, hangs suspended in mid air, quailing at the crag which
looms above his head; paying this penalty, they say, for the shameful
weakness he displayed in failing to keep a bridle on his lips, when
admitted by gods, though he was but mortal, to share the honours of
their feasts like one of them.

He it was that begat Pelops, the father of Atreus, for whom the goddess,
when she had carded her wool, spun a web of strife, even to the making
of war with his own brother Thyestes. But why need I repeat that hideous

Well, Atreus slew Thyestes' children and feasted him on them; but,-passing
over intermediate events-from Atreus and Aerope of Crete sprang Agamemnon,
that famous chief,-if his was really fame,-and Menelaus. Now it was
this Menelaus who married Helen, Heaven's abhorrence; while his brother,
King Agamemnon, took Clytemnestra to wife, name of note in Hellas,
and we three daughters were his issue, Chrysothemis, Iphigenia, and
myself Electra; also a son Orestes; all of that one accursed mother,
who slew her lord, after snaring him in a robe that had no outlet.
Her reason a maiden's lips may not declare, and so leave that unexplained
for the world to guess at. What need for me to charge Phoebus with
wrong-doing, though he instigated Orestes to slay his own mother,
a deed that few approved; still it was his obedience to the god that
made him slay her; I, too, feebly as a woman would, shared in the
deed of blood, as did Pylades who helped us to bring it about.

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