The Eumenides
[The Kindly Ones]
458 BC


This translation by Ian Johnston, Professor Emeritus at Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, BC, has certain copyright restrictions.  For information please use the following link: Copyright. For comments or question please contact Ian Johnston.

Last revised October 1, 2002, minor editorial corrections made on May 21, 2005, minor formatting changes made on June 6, 2012, and in March 2014.

For links to other plays in the trilogy, please use the following link: Oresteia Table of Contents.

This text is available in the form of a Publisher or Word file for those who would like to print it off as a small booklet. There is no charge for these files. For details, please use the following link: Publisher files.

Note that in the following text the numbers in square brackets refer to the Greek text and that the numbers without brackets refer to this text. Partial indented lines are included with the previous partial lines in the reckoning.

For a list of other translations and lectures by Ian Johnston, use this link: johnstonia


Dramatis Personae

Priestess: prophetic priestess (the Pythia) of Apollo at Delphi.
Apollo: divine son of Zeus, god of prophecy.
Orestes: son of Agamemnon and Clytaemnestra, brother of Electra.
Clytaemnestra: mother of Orestes, appearing as a ghost after her murder.
Chorus: Furies, goddesses of blood revenge.
Athena: divine daughter of Zeus who was born fully grown from his head (without a mother).
Athenian citizens

Scene: The play opens just in front of the temple of Apollo at Delphi

[Enter the Pythia, the Priestess of Apollo]

      In my prayer, I hold Earth in highest honour, 
      as the first of prophets among all gods.
      Then, after her came Themis. That goddess,
      so the legend goes, followed her mother
      at this seat of prophecy. Third in line,
      another Titan, Phoebe, child of Earth,
      was then assigned to occupy this throne.
      There was no force—Themis approved the change.
      Phoebe then gave it as a birthday gift
      to the god who takes his name from her,
      Phoebus Apollo. He left the island Delos,
      moving from his lake and ridge to Pallas,
      to those shores where ships sail in to trade.
      Then he came to live on Mount Parnassus.
      A reverential escort came with him—
      children of the fire god, Hephaestus,
      highway builders who tame the wilderness
      and civilize the land. As he marched here,
      people came out in droves to worship him,
      including their king and helmsman, Delphus.
      Then Zeus inspired in him prophetic skills,
      and set him on this throne as fourth in line.
      Here Apollo speaks for Zeus, his father. 
      My prayers begin with preludes to these gods.
      My words also give special prominence
      to the goddess who stands outside the shrine,
      Pallas Athena. I revere those nymphs 
      inhabiting Corycia’s rocky caves,
      where flocks of birds delight to congregate,
      where holy spirits roam. I don’t forget                                                                                                                  
      how Dionysus, ruler of this land, 
      divine commander of those Bacchic women,
      ripped Pentheus apart, as if he were
      a cornered rabbit. I also call upon
      the streams of Pleistus and Poseidon’s power,
      and Zeus most high, who fulfills all things.
      I’ll take my seat now on the prophet’s throne.
      May I be fortunate, above the rest,
      to see far more than previous attempts.
      If any Greeks are in attendance here,
      let them draw lots and enter, each in turn,
      as is our custom. I will prophesy,
      following directions from the god.

[The Priestess enters the temple, only to return immediately, very agitated. She collapses onto her hands and knees]

                                                  It’s horrible!
      Too horrible to say . . . awful to see.
      It drives me back . . . out of Apollo’s shrine.
      My strength is gone . . . I can’t stand up.
      I have to crawl on hands and knees—my legs
      just buckle under me . . . An old woman
      overcome with fear is nothing, a child.
      No more . . .  

[The Priestess gathers herself together and stands with great difficulty, holding onto the temple doors for support]

                        As I was entering the inner shrine—                                                                                                                   50
      the part covered up with wreaths—I saw him,                                                                                                                                                                                               [40]
      right on the central navel stone, a man
      the gods despise, sitting there, in the seat
      reserved for suppliants, hands dripping blood.
      He’d drawn his sword, but held an olive branch.
      It had a tuft of wool on top, a mark 
      of reverence—a large one, really white.
      I saw all that distinctly. But then I saw
      in front of him something astonishing,
      on the benches groups of women sleeping—                                                                                                                  
      well, they weren’t exactly women,
      I’d say more like Gorgons—then again,
      not much like Gorgons either. Years ago
      I once saw a picture of some monsters
      snatching a feast away from Phineas.
      But the ones inside here have no wings—
      I checked. They’re black and totally repulsive,
      with loud rasping snorts that terrify me.
      Disgusting pus comes oozing from their eyes.
      As for their clothing—quite inappropriate                                                                                                                   70
      to wear before the statues of the gods,
      or even in men’s homes.
I’ve never seen
      a tribe which could produce this company,
      a country which would admit with pride
      that it had raised them without paying a price,
      without regretting all the pain they cost.
      Where does this end? That is Apollo’s work.
      Let that be his concern. His force is strong—
      what he reveals has healing power.
      He reads the omens and can purify                                                                                                                  
      the home, his own and other men’s.

[The scene changes to reveal the inside of the temple, with Orestes clutching the central stone (the navel stone) and the Furies asleep in front of him. Apollo enters from the back of the temple (the inner shrine). Apollo moves to stand near Orestes]

      I’ll not leave you—no, I’ll stand beside you,
      your protector till the end. Close at hand
      or far away, I’ll show no gentleness
      towards your enemies. Right now you see
      these frenzied creatures overcome with sleep,
      just lying there, these loathsome maidens,
      ancient children, hags. No god or man                                                                                                                                                            
      or animal has intercourse with them.
      They’re born for evil. That’s why they live                                                                                                                  
      within the blackest gloom of Tartarus,
      under the earth. Olympian gods and men
      despise them. But you should still keep going.
      Do not give up. They’ll chase you everywhere,
      as you move along well-traveled ground,
      across wide continents, beyond the seas,
      through cities with the ocean all around.
      Don’t grow weary brooding on your pain.
      And then, once you reach Athena’s city,
      sit down, and wrap your arms around her,
                                                                                                                                                         100                                                                                                                                                          [80]
      embrace her image. With people there
      to judge your cause and with the force of speech,
      the spell-binding power in words, we’ll find
      a way to free you from misfortune.
      For I was the one who urged you on
      to kill your mother.

                                  My lord Apollo,
      you have no knowledge how to be unjust.
      That being the case, now learn compassion, too.
      Your power to do good is strong enough.

      Remember this—don’t let fear defeat you                                                                                                                  
      by conquering your spirit. And you, Hermes,                                                                                                                                                                                                  [90]
      my own blood brother from a common father,
      protect this man. Live up to that name of yours,
      and be his guide. Since he’s my suppliant,
      lead him as if you were his shepherd—
      remember Zeus respects an outcast’s rights—
      with you to show the way, he’ll get better,
      and quickly come among men once again.

[Exit Orestes. Apollo moves back into the inner sanctuary. Enter the Ghost of Clytaemnestra]

GHOST OF CLYTAEMNESTRA [addressing the sleeping chorus]
Ah, you may be fast asleep, but now
      what use is sleeping? On account of you,
      I alone among the dead lack honour. 
      The ghosts of those I killed revile me—
      they never stop. I wander in disgrace.
      They charge me with the most horrific crimes.
      But I, too, suffered cruelty from those                                                                                                                                                                                                                  [100]
      most dear to me.
And yet, although I died
      at the hands of one who killed his mother,
      no spirit is enraged on my behalf.
      Look here—you see these slashes on my heart?
      How did they get there? While it’s asleep                                                                                                                  
      the mind can see, but in the light of day
      we have no vision of men’s destiny.
      You’ve licked up many of my offerings,
      soothing milk and honey without wine.
      I’ve given many sacrificial gifts
      with fire in my hearth at solemn banquets,
      in that night hour no god will ever share.
      I see all that being trampled underfoot.
      He’s gone, eluded you—just like a fawn,
      he’s jumped the centre of your nets with ease.
      He mocks your efforts as he moves away.
      Listen to me. I’m speaking of my soul.
      So rouse yourselves! Wake up, you goddesses
      from underground. While you dream on I call—
      now Clytaemnestra summons you!

[The members of the Chorus begin to make strange sounds and to mutter in their sleep]

      You may well moan—the man’s escaped. He’s gone.                                                                                                                                                                                [120]
      He’s flown a long way off. The friends he has
      are stronger than my own. You sleep on there
      so heavily, no sense of my distress.
      Orestes, the man who killed his mother,
      has run off! You mutter, but keep sleeping.
      On your feet!. Why won’t you get up? What work
      has fate assigned you if not causing pain?
      Sleep and hard work, two apt confederates,
      have made these fearsome dragons impotent,
      draining all their rage.

CHORUS MEMBER [muttering in her sleep]
                                                        Seize him! 
      Seize him! Seize him! Seize that man! Look out!

      You hunt your prey, but only in your dreams,
      whimpering like hounds who never lose
      their keenness for the hunt. But you don’t act!
      Get up! Don’t let exhaustion beat you down.
      Sleep makes you soft—you overlook my pain.
      Let my reproaches justly prick your hearts,
      a spur for those who act with righteousness.
      Blow your blood-filled breath all over him.
      Let those fires in your bodies shrivel him.
      Go on! Drive him to a fresh pursuit. Go!

[The Furies begin to wake up slowly, one after the other. As they start to get up, the Ghost of Clytaemnestra exits]

CHORUS LEADER [waking up and rousing the other Furies]
Wake up! Come on, I’ll wake you up.
      Now do the same for her. Still sleeping?
      Stand up. Wipe that sleep out of your eyes.
      Let’s chant our prelude—that should take effect.

[The Furies, now awake, gather as a group, moving around trying to find Orestes or smell his track. They speak these lines as individual members of the larger group]

      -Ah ha, what this? Dear sisters, something’s wrong.

      -I’ve been through a lot, and all for nothing.

      -We’re being made to suffer something bad,
      alas, an evil we cannot endure.

      -Our quarry’s slipped our nets. He’s gone!
      Once sleep came over us, we lost our prey.

      -You’re disgraceful, Hermes, a child of Zeus 
      who loves to steal.

                                      -For a god you’re young—                                                                                                                                                                                                   [150]
      but still you trample on more ancient spirits.                                                                                                                                                          180

      -You showed that suppliant respect, 
      a godless man, so vicious to his parent.

      -You may be a god, but you’re a thief.
      You filched a man who killed his mother.

      -Who can say there’s justice in such theft?

      -In my dreams shame struck—
      it came on like a charioteer
      who gripped his cruel whip so tight, 
      then hit under my heart, 
      deep in my gut.

      -I feel the executioner’s scourge,                                                                                                                                                                                                                              [160]
      the one who wields a heavy lash, 
      weighed down with pain.

      -Younger gods are doing this—
      they push their ruling power
      beyond what’s theirs by right.

      Their throne drips blood
      around its foot,
      around its head.

      -I see Earth’s central navel stone                                                                                                                   200
      defiled with blood, corrupted,
      stained with guilt.

      -The prophet soils the hearth,
      pollutes the shrine himself,
      acting on his own behalf.
      against divine tradition,
      he honours human things.

      -He sets aside decrees of fate
      established long ago.

      -Though he inflict his pain on me,                                                                                                                                                          210
      he’ll never free that man.
      Let him flee underground,
      he’ll find no liberty below.

      -As he seeks to cleanse himself
      he’ll meet the next avenger—
      a family member coming for his head.

[Enter Apollo from the inner part of the shrine]

      Get out! I’m ordering you to leave this house.
      Move on! Out of my prophet’s sanctuary!
      Go now, or else you’ll feel my arrows bite,
      glittering winged snakes shot from a golden string.
      Then, your agonies will make you choke,
      spit out black froth you suck from men,
      and vomit up the clotted blood you’ve drunk
      from murder. This shrine’s no place for you.
      No, you belong where heads are sliced away,
      eyes gouged out—where justice equals slaughter—
      where youthful men are ruined by castration,
      where others suffer mutilation, stoning, 
      where men impaled on spikes below the spine
      scream all the time. That’s the feast you love.
                                                                                                                                                         230                                                                                                                                                          [190]
      You hear me? And that’s why gods detest you.
      The way you look, your shape, says what you are—
      some blood-soaked lion’s den might be your home.
      You must not infect those near this temple
      with your pollution. So leave this place,
      you flock without a shepherd, you herd
      the gods despise.

                                                    Lord Apollo,
      listen to what we say. It’s our turn to speak.
      You’re no mere accomplice in this crime—
      you did it all yourself. You bear the guilt.
                                                                                                                                                         240                                                                                                                                                          [200]

      What does that mean? Go on. Keep talking.

      You told that stranger to kill his mother.

      To avenge his father is what I said.
      What’s wrong with that?

                                            Then you supported him.
      You helped a man who’d just committed murder.       

      And I instructed him to come back here
      to expiate his crime.

                                   Then why insult us,
      the ones who chased him here?

                                            It’s not right
      for you to come inside my shrine.

      We’ve been assigned to do this.

                                             Assigned?                                                                                                                                                          250
      What’s that? Proclaim your fine authority.

      We chase out of their homes those criminals                                                                                                                                                
      who slaughter their own mothers.

      What about a wife who kills her husband?

      That’s not blood murder in the family.

      What about Zeus and his queen Hera—
      your actions bring disgrace on them.
      You ignore the strongest bonds between them.
      Your claim dishonours Aphrodite, too,
      goddess of love, from whom all men derive                                                                                                                  
      their greatest joys. With man and woman
      a marriage sealed by fate is stronger
      than any oath, and justice guards it.
      Now, if one partner kills the other one,
      and you’re not interested in punishment,
      if you feel no urge to act, then I say
      the way you chase Orestes is unjust.
      I don’t see why in one case you’re so harsh
      when you don’t really care about the other.
      However, goddess Athena will take charge—                                                                                                                  
      she’ll organize a trial.

                                             But that fugitive—
      he’ll never be free of me, never.

      Then go after him. Bring yourself more trouble.

      Don’t try to curb my powers with your words.

      Your powers?
Those I wouldn’t take,
      not even as a gift.

                                        Of course not.

      You’re already great, by all accounts—
      right by Zeus’ throne. But for my part,
      since I’m called onward by a mother’s blood,
      I’ll chase this man with justice of my own.
      I scent the trail!

                                                   I’ll help my suppliant
      and bring him safely home. With gods and men
      the anger of a man who seeks redemption
      will be dreadful, if, of my own free will,
      I abandon him.

[Apollo exits into the inner shrine. The scene now changes to Athens, just outside the Temple of Athena. Orestes enters and move up to the large statue of Athena]

                                 Queen Athena,
      I’ve come here on Apollo’s orders.
      I beg your kindness. Please let me enter,
      a man accursed, an outcast. I don’t seek
      ritual purification—my hands are clean—
      but my avenging zeal has lost its edge,
      worn down, blunted by other people’s homes,
      by all well-beaten pathways known to men.
      I’ve stayed true to what Apollo told me
      at his oracle. Crossing land and sea,
      I’ve reached this statue by your shrine at last.
      Here I take up my position, goddess.
      I await the outcome of my trial.

[Enter the Furies, like hunting dogs, still tracking Orestes by his scent. They do not see him at first]

      Ah ha! Here we have that man’s clear scent,
      a silent witness, but firm evidence.
      After him! Like hounds chasing a wounded fawn,
      we track him by the drops of blood he sheds.
      Man-killing work—the effort wearies me.
      My lungs are bursting. We’ve roamed everywhere,
      exploring all the regions of the earth, 
      crossing seas in wingless flight, moving on
      faster than any ship, always in pursuit.
      Now he’s cornered here, cowering somewhere.
      I smell human blood—I could laugh for joy!
      Start looking for him! Seek him out again!
      Check everywhere. Don’t let him escape.
      That man killed his mother—he must pay!

[The Chorus of Furies catch sight of Orestes and crowd around him]

CHORUS [different individuals]
-He’s over there! Claiming sanctuary,
      at that statue of the eternal goddess,
      embracing it.
He must want a trial,
      a judgment on his murderous violence.

      -Impossible! A mother’s blood, once shed,
      soaks in the earth and can’t come back again—
      the flowing stream moves through the ground,
      then disappears forever.

      -No. You must pay me back. 
      I’ll suck your blood.
      Drinking your living bones sustains me—
      I feed upon your pain.

      -Though it wears me out, I’ll drag you down,
      still living, to the world below. And there 
      you’ll pay for murdering your mother.

      -You’ll see there other human criminals
      who’ve failed to honour gods and strangers,
      who’ve abused the parents they should love.
      They all receive the justice they deserve.

      -Hades, mighty god of all the dead,                                                                                                                                                          330
      judges mortal men below the ground.
      His perceptive mind records all things.

      My misery has been my teacher—
      I know that men are cleansed in many ways,
      that sometimes it’s appropriate to speak,
      sometimes to stay silent. And in this case
      a wise master has ordered me to speak.
      Blood on my hands is dormant now, fading—
      polluting stains from my mother’s murder
      have been washed away. When they were fresh,
      Apollo in his temple cleansed my guilt—
      slaughtering pigs to make me pure again.
      It’s a long story to describe for you,
      right from the start, all the men I’ve seen,
      ones I’ve stayed with, then left unharmed.
      Time destroys all things which age with time.
      Now, with full reverence and holy speech,
      I invoke Athena, this country’ s queen.
      I beg her help. Let her appear unarmed.
      She’ll win true allies in me, my land,
                                                                                                                                                         350                                                                                                                                                          [290]
      the Argive people. We’ll trust her forever.
      No matter where she is—in Libya,
      in some region by the springs of Triton,
      her birthplace, with her covered feet at rest
      or on the move, assisting those she loves,
      or whether, like some bold commander
      in the Phelegraean plain, battle site
      of gods and giants, she surveys the field—
      I pray she’ll come, for she’s a goddess
      and hears me, even though she’s far away.
      May she come here. May she deliver me.

      But Apollo’s power will not save you—      
will Athena’s. You’re slated to die                                                                                                                                                                                                                  [300]
      abandoned and alone, without a sense
      of heartfelt joy, a bloodless criminal
      sucked dry by demons, just a shade—no more.

[Orestes makes no answer]

      What? You ignore my words and won’t reply,
      you, a victim fattened up for me,
      my consecrated gift? You’ll not perish
      on any altar—no, I’ll eat you alive.

[Orestes continues to remain silent]

      All right then, hear our song, a spell to chain you.

      Come, let’s link our arms and dance—
      Furies determined to display
      our fearful art, to demonstrate
      collective power we possess
      to guide all mortals’ lives.

      We claim we represent true justice.
      Our anger never works against
      a man whose hands are clean—
      all his life he stays unharmed.
      But those men guilty of some crime,
      as this one is, who hide away,
      concealing blood-stained hands—
      we harass them as testament
      to those they’ve murdered.
      Blood avengers, always in pursuit,
      we chase them to the end.

      Hear me, Mother Night, 
      mother who gave birth to me
      so I could avenge                                                                                                                  
      the living and the dead.
      Leto’s child, Apollo,
      dishonours me—he tears
      that man out of my hands,
      the hare who cowers there,
      who by rights must expiate
      his mother’s blood.

      Let this frenzied song of ours
      fall upon our victim’s head,
      our sacrifice—our frenzy                                                                                                                  
      driving him to madness—
      obliterate his mind.
      This is our Furies’ chant
      It chains up the soul,
      destroys its harmony,
      and withers mortal men.

      Remorseless Fate gave us this work
      to carry on forever, a destiny
      spun out for us alone,
      to attach ourselves to those                                                                                                                  
      who, overcome with passion,
      slaughter blood relatives.
      We chase after them until the end,
      until they go beneath the ground.
      In death they find small freedom.

      Let this frenzied song of ours
      fall upon our victim’s head,
      our sacrifice—our frenzy
      driving him to madness—
      obliterate his mind.
      This is our Furies’ chant.
      It chains up the soul,
      destroys its harmony,
      and withers mortal men.

      These rights are ours from birth—
      even the immortal gods
      may not lay hands on us.
      We share no feasts with them,
      no fellowship—their pure white robes
      are no part of our destiny.

      The task I take upon myself is mine,
      to overthrow whole families,
      when strife inside the home
      kills someone near and dear.
      We chase that murderer down,
      the one who’s spilled fresh blood.
      For all his strength, we wear him down.

      That’s why we’re now here,
      eager to contest the charge,
      to challenge other gods,
                                                                                                                                                         440                                                                                                                                                          [360]
      to make sure none of them
      ends up controlling what is ours.
      There will be no trial—
      for Zeus despises us,
      considers us unworthy,
      refusing to converse with us
      because we deal in blood.

      The task I take upon myself is mine,
      to overthrow whole families,
      when strife inside the home                                                                                                                  
      kills someone near and dear.
      We chase that murderer down,
      the one who’s spilled fresh blood.
      For all his strength, we wear him down.

      Those proud opinions people have,
      who raise themselves so high,
      who puff themselves to heaven,
      will melt away, dissolving      
      in dishonour underground,
      when we, in our black robes,
      beat out our vengeful dance—                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   [370]
      when we launch our attack.

      Leaping from the heights,
      we pound them with our feet—
      our force trips up the runner
      as he sprints for home,
      a fate he cannot bear.

      His mind is so confused
      he does not sense his fall.
      Dark clouds of his defilement                                                                                                                  
      hover all around the man.
      Murky shadows fall,
      enveloping his home—
      and Rumour spreads
      a tale of sorrow.

      Leaping from the heights,
      we pound them with our feet—
      our force trips up the runner
      as he sprints for home,
      a fate he cannot bear.

      So things remain.
      We have our skills—
      our powers we fulfill,
      keeping human evil in our minds.
      Our awesome powers
      cannot be appeased by men.
      Dishonoured and despised,
      we see our work gets done.
      Split off from gods,
      with no light from the sun,
      we make the path more arduous
      for those who still can see
      and for the blind.

      What man is not in awe
      or stands there unafraid
      to hear me state my rights,
      those powers allowed by Fate
      and ratified by all the gods,
      mine to hold forever?

      Those old prerogatives                                                                                                                   500
still retain—they’re mine.
      I have my honour, too,
      though my appointed place
      is underneath the ground
      in sunless darkness.

      [Enter Athena]

      I heard someone summon me from far away.
      I was in Troy, by the Scamander’s banks,
      taking ownership of new property,
      a gift from ruling leaders of Achaea,
      a major part of what their spears had won,
                                                                                                                                                         510                                                                                                                                                          [400]
      assigned to me entirely and forever,
      a splendid gift for Theseus’ sons.
      I’ve come from there at my untiring pace,
      not flying on wings, but on this whirling cape,
      a chariot yoked to horses in their prime.
      Here I see an unfamiliar crowd,
      strangers to this place, nothing I fear,
      but astonishing to see. Who are you?
      I’m talking to all those assembled here—
      the stranger crouching there beside my statue,
      and those of you like no one ever born,                                                                                                                                                                                                              [410]
      creatures no god has seen in goddesses,
      in form a thing unknown to mortal men.
      But to say such things about one’s neighbour
      who’s done no wrong is far from just
      and contravenes our customs.

                                                 Daughter of Zeus,
      you’ll find out everything—and briefly, too.
      We are immortal children of the Night.
      Below ground, where we have our homes,
      we’re called the Curses.

                                          Now I know your race                                                                                                                   530
      I know what people call you.

                                              But our powers—
      these you’ll quickly ascertain as well.

      Those I’d like to learn. Please state them clearly.

      We hound out of their homes all those who kill.

      Once the killer flees, where does he finally go?

      Where no one thinks of joy, for there is none.

      Your screams would drive this man to such a flight?

      Yes—he thought it right to kill his mother.

      Why? Was he forced to do it? Did he fear
      another person’s anger?

                                          Where’s the urge                                                                                                                   540
      so strong to force a man to kill his mother?

      There are two sides to this dispute. I’ve heard
      only one half the argument.

                                            What about the oath?
      He won’t deny he did it or accept
      the guilt we charge him with.

                                              Where do you stand?
      You wish to be considered righteous,
      but not to act with justice.

                                                    How? Teach me.
      You clearly have a mind for subtleties.

      I assert that no one should use oaths
      to let injustice triumph.

                                            Question him.                                                                                                                                                          550
      Then make a righteous judgment.

                                               Are you prepared
      that I should be the one to do this,
      to produce a final verdict?

                                                   Why not?
      We respect your worth, as you do ours.

      Stranger, do you have anything to say
      by way of a response? State your country,
      lineage, and circumstance. And then,
      defend yourself against their accusations,
      if you really trust the justice of your case,
      as you sit here clinging to my statue,
      a sacred suppliant beside my hearth,                                                                                                                                                                                                                    [440]
      doing what Ixion did so long ago.
      Speak to me. Address all this directly.

      Queen Athena, your last words express
      important doubts which I must first remove.
      I’m not a suppliant in need of cleansing.
      Nor have I fallen at your statue’s feet
      with my hands defiled. On these two points
      I’ll offer weighty proof. Our laws assert
      a criminal polluted with blood guilt                                                                                                                  
      will be denied all speech until he’s cleansed
      by someone authorized to purify
      a man for murder, who sprinkles him
      with suckling victim’s blood. Some time ago,
      in homes of other men, I underwent
      such purification rites with slaughtered beasts,
      at flowing streams, as well. So, as I say,
      there are no grounds for your misgivings here.
      As for my family, you’ll know that soon enough—
      I’m an Argive, son of Agamemnon.
      You may well ask his story—he’s the man
      who put that naval force together.
      You worked with him to see that Ilion,
      Troy’s city, ceased to be. When he came home,
      he died in a disgraceful way, butchered
      by my mother, whose black heart snagged him
      in devious hunting nets—these still exist,
      attesting to that slaughter in his bath.
      I was in exile at the time. I came back.
      I killed my mother—that I don’t deny—                                                                                                                  
      to avenge the murder of my father,
      whom I truly loved. For this murder
      Apollo bears responsibility,
      along with me. He urged me to it,
      pointing out the cruel reprisals I would face
      if I failed to act against the murderers.
      Was what I did a righteous act or not?
      That you must decide. I’ll be satisfied,
      no matter how you render judgment.

      This is a serious matter, too complex                                                                                                                  
600                                                                                                                                                          [470]
      for any mortal man to think of judging.
      It’s not right even for me to adjudicate
      such cases, where murder done in passion
      merits passionate swift punishment.
      Above all, you come here a suppliant
      who’s gone through all cleansing rituals,
      who’s pure and hence no danger to my shrine.
      You thus have my respect, for in my view,
      where my city is concerned, you’re innocent.
      But these Furies also have their function.
      That’s something we just cannot set aside.
      So if they fail to triumph in this case,
      they’ll spread their poisonous resentment—
      it will seep underground, infecting us,
      bring perpetual disease upon our land,
      something we can’t bear. So stands the case.
      Two options, each of them disastrous.

      Allow one to remain, expel the other?
      No, I see no way of resolving this.
      But since the judgment now devolves on me,
’ll appoint human judges of this murder,
      a tribunal bound by oath—I’ll set it up
      to last forever. So you two parties,
      summon your witnesses, set out your proofs,
      with sworn evidence to back your stories.
      Once I’ve picked the finest men in Athens,
      I’ll return. They’ll rule fairly in this case,
      bound by a sworn oath to act with justice.

[Exit Athena]

      If his legal action triumphs,
      if now this matricide prevails,                                                                                                                                                          630
      then newly set divine decrees
      will overthrow all order.
      Mortals will at once believe
      that everything’s permitted.
      From now on parents can expect
      repeated blows of suffering
      inflicted by their children—
      now and in time yet to come.

      For Furies who keep watch on men
      will bring no anger down                                                                                                                  
640                                                                                                                                                          [500]
      on human crimes—so then
      we loose death everywhere,
      all forms of killing known to man.
      So one, seeing his neighbour’s pain,
      will ask another, “Where’s this end?

      When does our suffering diminish?”
      But the poor wretch can offer nothing—
      his remedies are vain, without effect.

      So when a terrible disaster strikes
      let no one make the old appeal,
                                                                                                                                                         650                                                                                                                                                          [510]
      “Justice, you Furies—hear me,
      you powers on your thrones!”
      It may well happen soon—
      a father in despair, a mother
      in some new catastrophe,
      may scream out for pity,
      now the house of justice falls.

      Sometimes what’s terrible can work
      to bring about what’s good.
      Such terror needs to sit on guard,
      to check the passionate heart.
      There is a benefit for men
      to learn control through suffering.
      For where is there a man or city—
      both alike in this regard—
      who still respects what’s just
      without a heart attuned to fear?

      It’s not right that men revere
      a life without controls
      or one enslaved by tyrants.
      Those who practise moderation
      in everything they do
      acquire strength from god,
      though he hands down
      his other gifts in other ways.

      Our words stress self-control,
      for arrogance, we know,
      is surely born from sacrilege. 
      From a healthy heart and mind
      comes the happiness men love,
      the joy they ask for in their prayers.

      To sum up everything about this case,
      I’ll tell you this—Justice has an altar.
      Give that full human reverence.
      Don’t trample it profanely underfoot
      because self-interest sees advantages.
      Remember punishment will come—
      that outcome’s fixed and permanent.
      So each of you, above all else,
      should honour parents,
      pay them the deference you owe,
      respect all guests and strangers
      you welcome in your home. 

      For happiness will never fail                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       [550]
      the man who follows justice,
      freely and without constraint.

      He’ll never be destroyed.
      But the reckless man who goes too far,
      who piles up riches for himself
      in any way he can and disregards                                                                                                                  
      all justice—I tell you this—
      in time he’ll have to strike his sail,
      as storming torments break his ship,
      as his yardarm shatters. 

      He screams for help.
      But no one listens.  
      In the middle of the seas
      he fights—but all in vain.
      Whirlpools suck him down,
      while heaven roars with laughter                                                                                                                  
710                                                                                                                                                          [560]
      at the sight of this hot-tempered man
      who used to boast with pride
      he’d never come to grief
      now helpless, panic stricken,
      unable to ride out the waves.
      He always lived for wealth—
      now that, too, smashes on the reef,
      the rock of Justice—he drowns,
      unseen and unlamented.

[The scene shifts to the Areopagus, the high court of Athens. Athena enters with a herald and ten citizens, the jury she has selected. A crowd of citizens enters with her. Orestes moves to the place where the accused stands]

      Herald, blow the call for order in this court.
      Raise that Etruscan trumpet, fill your lungs,
      let these people hear an ear-piercing blast.
      As they crowd into this court of judgment
      it’s better to have silence. The whole city
      can listen to my laws, which are eternal.
      So can these litigants. Then all will see
      the justice in our verdict for themselves.

[Enter Apollo. He moves to stand behind Orestes]

      Lord Apollo, you have your own domain.
      What’s your role here? Announce that to us.

      I’ve come here as a witness. That man,
      the accused, according to our customs,
      came a suppliant to my shrine, my hearth.
      I purified him of the blood he spilled.
      As his advocate, I share the blame
      arising from his mother’s murder.
      Start the trial. You understand procedure.
      Confirm that with a just decision.

ATHENA [addressing the Furies]
      Then I’ll begin the trial. You speak up first.
      The plaintiff opens our proceedings.
      Tell us the facts. Begin at the beginning—                                                                                                                  
      inform us clearly of the issues here.

      There are many of us, but we’ll keep
      our speeches brief.  

[Turning to interrogate Orestes]

                                     Answer our questions,
      as we put them one by one. First, tell us—
      did you kill your mother?

                                        Yes, I killed her.
      I don’t deny the fact.

                                     We take first fall.
      Three falls wins the match.

                                                You gloat,                                                                                                                                                                                                  [590]
      but your opponent isn’t pinned down yet.

      Now you must describe the murder for us.
      How did you kill her?

                                                       I’ll tell you—                                                                                                                  
drew my sword and slit her throat.

      Who persuaded you to do this? Whose advice?

      The orders of this god.
He is my witness.

      The prophet ordered you to kill your mother?

      He did. And to this moment I have no regrets.

      But if the verdict lays its hands on you,
      you’ll change your story soon enough.

      I’m confident. My father from his grave
      will send the help I need.

                                          So you trust the dead,
      and yet you killed your mother?

      I do, for she was guilty of two crimes.

      How so? Inform the judges on this point.

      She killed her husband and my father.

      But her death evens out the score for her.
      You’re still living.

                                          When she was still alive
      you didn’t hound her into exile. Why?

      She and her victim shared no common blood.

      And my mother and me? Are we blood linked?

      How else could she sustain you in her womb,
      you murderer? Do you now reject                                                                                                                  
      the closest bond there is, a mother’s blood?

ORESTES [turning to Apollo]
      You must give evidence, Apollo.
      Take the lead for me. Did I kill her justly?
      For I don’t deny I did the murder.
      But whether that act of shedding blood
      was just or not, as you perceive the facts,
      you must decide, so I can tell the court.

      Let me address this high court of Athena.
      Tribunal members, what I have to say
      will proceed from justice. I’m a prophet.
      I cannot tell a lie. And never yet,
      when I’ve been seated in my oracle,
      have I said anything in prophecy
      concerning woman, man, or city state,
      that Olympian father Zeus did not command.
      Make sure you understand how powerful
      his justice is. That’s why I urge you now—
      obey the will of Zeus, our father.
      No oath has greater strength than Zeus.

      Then, Zeus, according to your reasoning,
      told your oracle to give the order—
      Orestes must avenge his father’s death,
      ignoring any rights his mother had.

For these two things are not the same—
      he died a noble man, a special king
      who bears a sceptre given by the gods, 
      an honoured king who dies by murder,
      and at a woman’s hand, not in a fight
      where arrows fly in from a distance, 
      as with the Amazons, but in a way                                                                                                                  
      which we’ll describe for you, Athena,
      and those here ready to decide this case
      when you cast your votes. He’d just come home,
      returning from a long and harsh campaign,
      where in the eyes of loyal citizens
      he’d won success beyond all expectation.
      She welcomed him. Then, he took his bath.
      As he stepped out—still on the outer rim—
      she threw the cloak, his shroud, around him,
      just like a tent. She caught him in those robes,
      whose endless folds enclosed him like a net.
      Then she hacked him down. I’m telling you,
      that’s how the splendid leader of the ships
      went to his death. As for that woman,
      I speak of her to rouse a sense of shame
      in those men chosen here to judge this case.

      So your claim is Zeus thinks a father’s death
      is more significant? But on his own
      he chained up his old father, Cronos.
      Does that not contradict what you’ve just said?
      I ask you judges to take note of this.

      You monsters—how all the gods detest you!
      Zeus has power to smash those chains apart.
      For that he has a remedy, many ways      
      to set us free. But once a mortal’s blood
      has drained into the dust, the man is dead.
      And then there’s no return. My father Zeus
      has made no charms for that, though he can change
      all other things without a pause for breath.

      You plead to set him free. But think of this—                                                                                                                  
      will this man, who shed his mother’s blood,
      who spilled it on the ground, return back home,
      to live in Argos in his father’s house?
      Where are the public altars he can use,
      the family cleansing rites he can attend?

      I’ll speak to that, as well. Make sure you note
      how right my answer is. That word mother—
      we give it to the one who bears the child.
      However, she’s no parent, just a nurse
      to that new life embedded in her.
      The parent is the one who plants the seed,
      the father. Like a stranger for a stranger,
      she preserves the growing life, unless
      god injures it. And I can offer proof
      for what I say—a man can have a child
      without a mother. Here’s our witness,
      here—Athena, child of Olympian Zeus.

[Apollo points to Athena]

      No dark womb nursed her—no goddess bears
      a child with ancestry like hers. Athena,
      since I know so many other things,
      I’ll make your city and your people great.
      That’s why I sent this man a suppliant
      to your own shrine, so he might prove himself,
      then place eternal trust in you, dear goddess,
      and you could win a new ally in him,
      in his descendants, too, and thus create
      an everlasting bond with his posterity.

      Has each side said enough? Shall I now
      instruct the judges to cast their votes,
      acting on their judgment of what’s just?

      Though we’ve already shot our final arrow,
      we’ll stay to hear this contest to the end.

      Why not? Now, as for you defendants,
      what can I do to avoid your censure?

      You have heard what you have heard.  

[To jurors] 

                                                                   My friends,
      as you cast your ballots, make sure your hearts
      respect that oath you made.

      You citizens of Athens, you judges
      at the first trial ever held for murder,
      hear what I decree. Now and forever                                                                                                                  
      this court of judges will be set up here
      to serve Aegeus’ people. This place,
      this Mount of Ares, is where Amazons,
      once marched in force, enraged at Theseus.
      Here they pitched their tents. Then they built
      a new city on the heights, with lofty walls
      to match his own, making a sacrifice
      to Ares, god of war, from whom this rock
      derives its name, the Mount of Ares.
      From this hill Reverence and Terror,                                                                                                                                                          880
      two kindred rulers of my citizens,
      will guarantee they don’t commit injustice,
      by day or night, unless the citizens
      pollute the laws with evil innovations.
      Once limpid waters are stained with mud,
      you’ll never find a drink. My people,
      avoid both anarchy and tyranny.
      I urge you to uphold this principle.
      Show it due reverence. As for terror,
      don’t banish it completely from the city.
      What mortal man is truly righteous 
      without being afraid? Those who sense the fear
      revere what’s right. With citizens like these
      your country and your city will be safe,
      stronger than anything possessed by men
      in Pelops’ country or in Scythia.
      So here I now establish this tribunal,
      incorruptible, magnificent,
      swift in punishment—it stands above you,
      your country’s guardian as you lie asleep.
      I’ve gone through this at length to urge you on,
      my citizens, today and in the future.
      But now you must get up, cast your ballots,
      decide this case, while honouring your oath.
      I’m finished—that’s all I have to say. 

[The members of the tribunal begin to step forward and cast their votes into the urns]

      Watch out. Don’t ever show us disrespect.
      For our united power can crush your land.

      Let me remind you—fear the oracles,
      not just mine, but those of Zeus the Father.
      Don’t make them barren.

                                             You interfere                                                                                                                   910
      in blood work that’s not your proper business.
      Your oracles remain no longer pure.

      When the first man-killer Ixion
      went a suppliant to Zeus for cleansing,
      was Zeus wrong to treat him as he did?

      Argue all you want. But in this judgment
      if I don’t prevail, I’ll be back again
      to bring this country to its knees.

      Among all gods, old and new alike,
      you have no honour. I will triumph here.

      Just as you triumphed in the house of Pheres,
      persuading Fate to free all men from death.

      Surely it’s right to help a worshipper,
      especially when his need is desperate?

      You made those ancient goddesses, the Fates,      
      drunk on wine, then got them to suspend
      the oldest rule of order we possess.

      Well, you’ll soon lose this case. Then you can spew
      your poison and not hurt your enemies.

      You’re young. You’d ride roughshod over me                                                                                                                  
      because I’m old. I’ll await the verdict,
      see where this trial ends. I have my doubts
      about my anger at this city.

      It’s now my task to give my final verdict.
      And I award my ballot to Orestes.
      No mother gave me birth—that’s why
      in everything but marriage I support
      the man with all my heart, a true child
      of my father Zeus. Thus, that woman’s death
      I won’t consider more significant.
      She killed her husband, guardian of their home.                                                                                                                                                                                           [740]
     If the votes are equal, Orestes wins.
      Now, members of the jury, do your job.
      Shake the ballots from the urns—and quickly.

[The urns are emptied and the ballots counted]

      O Phoebus Apollo, how did they vote?

      O black mother Night, are you watching this?

      Now for the result.
Either I hang
      or live on to see the light of day.

      Either we’re finished or our honour thrives.

      Shake out all ballots, friends. Count them fairly.
       Divide them with due care. Make no mistakes.
      Errors in judgment now can mean disaster.
      A single ballot cast can save this house.

[The ballots are shown to Athena]

      The numbers of the votes are equal—thus,
      this man’s acquitted of the murder charge.

      O Pallas Athena, you’ve saved my house.
      I’d lost my homeland—now you give it back,
      and anyone in Greece can say, “This man
      is once again an Argive, occupying
      his father’s property, thanks to Pallas,
      thanks to Apollo, and thanks to Zeus,
      third god and all-fulfilling saviour.”
      Faced with these pleaders for my mother’s cause,
      Zeus chose to honour my father’s death.
      Now I’ll go home. But first I make this oath
      to your land and people for all time to come—
      never will an Argive leader march in here
      with spears arrayed against you. If he does,
      in violation of this oath of mine, 
      from the grave we’ll see his effort fails.
      We’ll bring him bad luck, trouble on the march,                                                                                                                                                                                           [770]
      send birds of evil omen over him.
      He’ll regret the pains his campaign brings him.
      But all those who keep this oath, who honour
      for all time Athena’s city, allies
      who fight on its behalf, such citizens
      we’ll treat with greater favour and good will.
      And so farewell to you, Athena,
      farewell to those who guard your city.
      In struggles with your enemies, I hope                                                                                                                  
      you catch them in a stranglehold, win out,
      and gain the spear denoting victory.

[Apollo and Orestes leave. The Furies move to surround Athena]

      You younger gods, you’ve wrenched our ancient laws
      out of my grasp, then stamped them underfoot.
      You heap on us dishonourable contempt.
      Now my anger turns against this land
      I’ll spread my poisons—how it’s going to pay,
      when I release this venom in my heart
      to ease my grief. I’ll saturate this ground.
      It won’t survive. From it disease will grow,
      infecting leaves and children—that’s justice.
      Sterility will spread across the land,
      contaminate the soil, destroy mankind.
      What can I do now but scream out in pain?
      The citizens make fun of us, the Furies.
      How can we put up with such indignity,
      daughters of Night disgracefully abused,
      dishonoured, shamed, our powers cast aside?

      Let me persuade you not to spurn this trial.
      You’ve not been beaten—the votes were fair,
      the numbers equal, no disgrace to you.
      But we received clear evidence from Zeus.
      The one who spoke the oracle declared
      Orestes should not suffer for his act.
      So don’t be vengeful, breathing anger
      on this land and drenching it with showers,
      whose drops, like spears, will kill the seeds,
      and blast its fruitfulness. I promise you
      in all righteousness you’ll have your place,
      a subterranean cavern, yours by right.
      Beside the hearth you’ll sit on glittering thrones,
      worshipped with reverence by my citizens.

      You younger gods, you’ve wrenched our ancient laws
      out of my grasp, then stamped them underfoot.
      You heap on us dishonourable contempt.
      Now my anger turns against this land
      I’ll spread my poisons—how it’s going to pay,
      when I release this venom in my heart
      to ease my grief. I’ll saturate this ground.
      It won’t survive. From it disease will grow,
      infecting leaves and children—that’s justice.
      Sterility will spread across the land,
      contaminate the soil, destroy mankind.
      What can I do now but scream out in pain?
      The citizens make fun of us, the Furies.
      How can we put up with such indignity,
      daughters of Night disgracefully abused,
      shamed, dishonoured, our powers cast aside?

      But you’ve not lost honour—you’re goddesses.

      Don’t let your anger lead you to excess,
      to blast this land of men past remedy.
      I have faith in Zeus. Why must I mention that?
      Well, I’m the only god who knows the keys
      to Zeus’ arsenal where he keeps sealed
      his lightning bolt. But there’s no need for that.
      Accept my argument. Don’t let rash tongues
      hurl threats against this land, condemning it
      to sterile fruitlessness. Ease your anger.
      Let your fury’s black and bitter waves recede.
      You can live with me, receive full honours.
      The first fruits of this fertile land are yours,
      forever, all those offerings for heirs,
      for marriages—from now on they’re yours.
      With all this, you’ll praise what I’m advising.

      Such suffering for me.
      My ancient wisdom 
      driven underground,
      despised, dishonoured.
      The shame, my shame.
      This pure rage I breathe                                                                                                                  
1050                                                                                                                                                          [840]
      consumes me utterly.
      What sinks under my ribs
      and pains my heart?

      O Night, my mother,
      the cunning of those gods,
      too hard to overcome,
      takes all my ancient powers,
      and leaves me nothing.

      I’ll bear with your rage, for you are older,
      and thus your wisdom far exceeds my own.
      But Zeus gave me a fine intelligence as well.                                                                                                                                                                                                  [850]
      So let me tell you this—if you leave here,
      for this land you’ll feel a lover’s yearning.
      As time goes on, my citizens will win
      increasing honour, and you, on your thrones,
      seated outside the house of Erechtheus,
      a place of honour, will win more respect
      from lines of men and women filing past
      than you could find in all the world beyond.
      So cast no stones for bloodshed on this land,
      my realm. Do not corrupt our youthful hearts,
      intoxicating them with rage, like wine,
      or rip the heart out of a fighting cock
      to set it in my people, giving them
      a thirst for reckless internecine war.
      Let them fight wars abroad, without restraint
      in those men driven by a lust for fame.
      I want no birds who fight their wars at home.
      That’s what I offer you. It’s yours to take.
      Do good things, receive good things in honour.
      Take your place in a land the gods all love.

      Such suffering for me—
      my ancient wisdom 
      driven underground,
      despised, dishonoured.
      The shame, my shame.
      This pure rage I breathe
      consumes me utterly.
      What sinks under my ribs
      and pains my heart?

      O Night, my mother,
      the cunning of those gods,
      too hard to overcome,
      takes all my ancient powers,
      and leaves me nothing.

      I’ll not tire of telling you your gifts,
      so you can never lodge complaints that I,
      a newer god, or men who guard this land
      failed to revere such ancient goddesses
      and cast you out in exile from our city.
      No. But if you respect Persuasion, 
      holding in reverence that sacred power
      whose soothing spell sits on my tongue,
      then you should stay. If that’s not your wish,
      it would be unjust to vent your anger
      on this city, injuring its people,
      enraged at them from spite. It’s up to you—
      take your allotted portion of this land,
      justly entitled to your share of honour.

      Queen Athena, this place you say is ours,
      what exactly is it?

                                  One free of pain,
      without anxieties.
Why not accept?

      If I do, what honours would I get?

      Without you no house can thrive.

      You’d do this? You’d grant me that much power?

      I will. Together we’ll enrich the lives
      of all who worship us.

                             This promise you make—
      you’ll hold to it forever?

      Yes. I don’t say anything I don’t fulfill.

      Your magic’s doing its work, it seems—
      I feel my rage diminish.

                                            Then stay.
      In this land you’ll win more friends.

      Let me speak out a blessing on the land.
      Tell me what I might say.

                                                    Speak nothing
      of brutal victories—only blessings
      stemming from the earth, the ocean depths,
      the heavens. Let gusting winds caress the land
      in glorious sunlight, our herds and harvests
      overflow with plenty, so they never fail                                                                                                                  
      our citizens in time to come, whose seed
      will last forever. Let their prosperity
      match how well they worship you. I love
      these righteous men, the way a gardener loves
      his growing plants, this race now free of grief.
      These things are yours to give. For my part,
      I’ll see this city wins triumphal fame
      in deadly wars where men seek glory,
      so all men celebrate victorious Athens.

      Then we’ll accept this home                                                                                                                  
      and live here with Athena.
      We’ll never harm a place
      which she and Ares
      and all-powerful Zeus
      hold as a fortress of the gods,
      this glorious altar, the shield
      for all the gods of Greece.
      I make this prayer for Athens,
      prophesying fine things for her—
      bounteous happy harvests                                                                                                                  
      bursting from the earth,
      beneath a radiant sun.

      To all my citizens I’ll act with kindness,
      setting in place these goddesses among them—
      powerful divinities, implacable—
      whose office is to guide all mortals’ lives
      in everything they do. If there’s a man
      who’s never felt their weight, he’s ignorant
      of where life’s blows arise. His father’s crimes
      drag him before these goddesses, and there,
      for all his boasting, his destruction comes— 
      dread silent anger crushing him to dust.

      Hear me speak my blessing—
      let no winds destroy the trees
      nor scorching desert heat move in                                                                                                                                                                                                                          [940]
      to shrivel budding plants,
no festering blight kill off the fruit.
      May Pan foster fertility
      and make the flocks increase,
      to every ewe twin lambs,
      all born in season, and in Athens
      may the earth be rich in treasure,
      paying fine gifts to Hermes, 
      god of unexpected luck.

      Do you hear that, you guardians of my city?
      The blessings they will bring? They’re powerful,
      the sacred Furies, among immortal gods,
      among the dead below. With mortal men
      it’s clear they work their wills decisively,
      for some a life of song, for others lives of tears.

      I forbid those deadly accidents
      which cut men down before their time.
      And all you gods with rightful powers,
      let our lovely girls all live
      to find a husband. Hear our prayers,
      you sacred Fates, our sisters,
      you children of the Night,
      who apportion all things justly, 
      who have a place in every home,
      whose righteous visitations                                                                                                                  
      at all times carry weight, everywhere
      most honoured of the gods.

      I rejoice to hear these love-filled blessings
      conferred upon this land. It pleases me
      Persuasion kept watch on my tongue and lips,
      when I met their fierce refusal. But Zeus,
      the patron god of our assemblies, 
      has triumphed. Our struggle here for justice
      has left us victorious forever.

      I pray man-killing civil strife                                                                                                                  
      may never roar aloud
      within the city—may its dust
      not drink our citizen’s dark blood,
      nor passions for revenge incite
      those wars which kill the state.
      Let men give joy for joy,
      united by their common love,
      united in their enmities—
      for that cures all human ills.

      You see now how these Furies seek their way                                                                                                                  
      with well intentioned words? I can predict
      these terrifying faces will provide
      my citizens all sorts of benefits.
      So treat them kindly, just as they are kind.
      Worship them forever. Then you’ll keep
      your land and city on the path of justice,
      in everything you do attaining glory.

      Rejoice, rejoice
      amid the riches you deserve
      rejoice, you citizens,
      who dwell with Zeus,
      who love that virgin girl,
      Athena—and she loves you.
      You manifest your wisdom
      at the proper time, nestling
      underneath Athena’s wings,
      while Zeus looks on in awe.

[Enter a group citizens to lead Athena’s procession, some bearing unlit torches, some robes, and some leading animals for sacrifice]

      And you too rejoice. I must lead the way,
      show you to your rooms, by sacred torchlight
      carried by your escort. Now you can go—                                                                                                                  
      move with speed under the earth, and there
      with sacred sacrificial blood hold down
      what would destroy my land and send above
      what brings prosperity, so that our city
      may prove victorious. And now you citizens,
you children of Cranaus, king of this rock,                                                                                                                                                                                                       [1010]
      lead our new residents for life away.
      May all citizens look on with favour
      at those who bring such favours to them.

      Farewell, once more farewell,
      all those who live in Athens,
      gods and men, inhabitants
      of Pallas’ city. Pay us respect,
      while we live here among you—
      you’ll have cause to celebrate
      the fortunes of your lives.

      My thanks to you for these words of blessing.

      Now I’ll send you down by blazing torchlight
      to your homes beneath the earth, with this escort
      of those duty-bound to guard my statue.
      That seems right. For the most precious part
      of all the land of Theseus will come out,
      a splendid throng of girls and mothers,
      groups of older women.

[From the processional company some women bearing scarlet robes move forward to place the robes on the Furies. Athena speaks directly to them]

                                                       Invest these Furies
      with their special crimson robes. Honour them.
      Then, move on with the torches, so this group,
      our fellow residents, can show the love
      they bear this land, and for all time to come
      bring our city strength and great good fortune.

[The women dress the Furies in the scarlet robes and sing the final song of joy and thanks, as the entire procession of Athena, Furies, and citizens moves off stage]

      Move on with your loyal escort,
      you mighty children of the Night,
      children without children, no longer young,
      yet glorious in your honours.
      You citizens, nothing but blessings in your songs.

      Deep in those primeval caverns
      far underground, our sacrifices,
      the sacred honours we bestow on you
      will maintain our city’s reverence.
      All of you, nothing but blessings in your songs.

      Come forward, sacred goddesses,                                                                                                                                                          1270                                                                                                                                                          [1040]
      benevolent and gracious to our land,
      come forward with the flaming torches,
      rejoicing as we move along our way.
      Now raise triumphal cries to crown our song!

      Peace now reigns forevermore
      between Athena’s people and their guests.
      For all-seeing Zeus and Fate herself
      have worked together for this ending.

      Now raise triumphal cries to crown our song!

[The entire group moves off singing and dancing]





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