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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Euripides' SUPPLIANTS Complete

Translated by E. Coleridge.

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Aethra: O Demeter, guardian of this Eleusinian land, and ye servants
of the goddess who attend her fane, grant happiness to me and my son
Theseus, to the city of Athens and the country of Pittheus, wherein
my father reared me, Aethra, in a happy home, and gave me in marriage
to Aegeus, Pandion's son, according to the oracle of Loxias. This
prayer I make, when I behold these aged dames, who, leaving their
homes in Argos, now throw themselves with suppliant branches at my
knees in their awful trouble; for around the gates of Cadmus have
they lost their seven noble sons, whom on a day Adrastus, king of
Argos, led thither, eager to secure for exiled Polyneices, his son-in-law,
a share in the heritage of Oedipus; so now their mothers would bury
in the grave the dead, whom the spear hath slain, but the victors
prevent them and will not allow them to take up the corpses, spurning
Heaven's laws. Here lies Adrastus on the ground with streaming eye,
sharing with them the burden of their prayer to me, and bemoaning
the havoc of the sword and the sorry fate of the warriors whom he
led from their homes. And he doth urge me use entreaty, to persuade
my son to take up the dead and help to bury them, either by winning
words or force of arms, laying on my son and on Athens this task alone.
Now it chanced, that I had left my house and come to offer sacrifice
on behalf of the earth's crop at this shrine, where first the fruitful
corn showed its bristling shocks above the soil. And here at the holy
altars of the twain goddesses, Demeter and her daughter, I wait, holding
these sprays of foliage, a bond that bindeth not, in compassion for
these childless mothers, hoary with age, and from reverence for the
sacred fillets. To call Theseus hither is my herald to the city gone,
that he may rid the land of that which grieveth them, or loose these
my suppliant bonds, with pious observance of the gods' will; for such
as are discreet amongst women should in all cases invoke the aid of

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