From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Time waxing old can many a lesson teach.

Aeschylus (Greek: Αἰσχύλος; 525 BC – 456 BC) was a playwright of ancient Greece, the earliest of the three greatest Greek tragedians, the others being Sophocles and Euripides.


Success is man’s god.
His resolve is not to seem, but to be, the best.
It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.
Of all the gods, Death only craves not gifts: / Nor sacrifice, nor yet drink-offering poured / Avails; no altars hath he, nor is soothed / By hymns of praise.
  • So in the Libyan fable it is told
    That once an eagle, stricken with a dart,
    Said, when he saw the fashion of the shaft,
    "With our own feathers, not by others' hands,
    Are we now smitten."
    • Fragment 63 (trans. by E. H. Plumptre), reported in Theoi
  • Of all the gods, Death only craves not gifts:
    Nor sacrifice, nor yet drink-offering poured
    Avails; no altars hath he, nor is soothed
    By hymns of praise. From him alone of all
    The powers of heaven Persuasion holds aloof.
    • Fragment 146 (trans. by Plumptre), reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • ὅπου γὰρ ἰσχὺς συζυγοῦσι καὶ δίκη
    ποία ξυνωρὶς τῆσδε καρτερωτέρα
  • O Death the Healer, scorn thou not, I pray,
    To come to me: of cureless ills thou art
    The one physician. Pain lays not its touch
    Upon a corpse.
    • Fragment 250 (trans. by Plumptre), reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • The man who does ill, ill must suffer too.
  • A prosperous fool is a grievous burden.
    • Fragment 383, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • Bronze is the mirror of the form; wine, of the heart.
    • Fragment 384, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.
    • Fragment 385, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)

The Persians (472 BC)

The English translations are by Christopher Collard (Oxford University Press, 2008), Janet Lembke and C. J. Herington (Oxford University Press, 1981), S. G. Benardete (University of Chicago Press, 1956) and Robert Potter (1777).
  • Ἔστι γὰρ πλοῦτός γ᾽ ἀμεμφής, ἀμφὶ δ᾽ ὀφθαλμῷ φόβος·
    ὄμμα γὰρ δόμων νομίζω δεσπότου παρουσίαν.
    • Wealth itself is blameless, but there can be fear for its precious eye; for I consider the presence of a house's master to be its saving light.
    • lines 168–169 (tr. Christopher Collard)
  • Ὤμοι, κακὸν μὲν πρῶτον ἀγγέλλειν κακά.
    • Bitter, being first to tell you bitter news.
    • line 253 (tr. Janet Lembke and C. J. Herington)
  • Ἀνδρῶν γὰρ ὄντων ἕρκος ἐστὶν ἀσφαλές.
    • The walls of Athens are impregnable,
      Their firmest bulwarks her heroic sons.
    • line 349 (tr. Robert Potter)
  • Φίλοι, κακῶν μὲν ὅστις ἔμπειρος κυρεῖ,
    ἐπίσταται βροτοῖσιν ὡς, ὅταν κλύδων
    κακῶν ἐπέλθῃ, πάντα δειμαίνειν φίλον,
    ὅταν δ᾽ ὁ δαίμων εὐροῇ, πεποιθέναι
    τὸν αὐτὸν αἰὲν ἄνεμον οὐριεῖν τύχας.
    • My friends, anyone with real experience of trouble knows how, when a surge of it comes upon them, they are apt to fear everything; but when fortune's tide is good, they trust that the same breeze will blow favourably for ever.
    • lines 598–602 (tr. Christopher Collard)
  • Ἀλλ᾽, ὅταν σπεύδῃ τις αὐτός, χὠ θεὸς συνάπτεται.
    • But when a man
      speeds toward his own ruin,
      a god gives him help.
    • line 742 (tr. Janet Lembke and C. J. Herington)
  • θῖνες νεκρῶν δὲ καὶ τριτοσπόρῳ γονῇ
    ἄφωνα σημανοῦσιν ὄμμασιν βροτῶν
    ὡς οὐχ ὑπέρφευ θνητὸν ὄντα χρὴ φρονεῖν.
    • And corpses, piled up like sand, shall witness,
      Mute, even to the century to come,
      Before the eyes of men, that never, being
      Mortal, ought we cast our thoughts too high.
    • lines 818–820 (tr. S. G. Benardete)
  • Ὕβρις γὰρ ἐξανθοῦσ᾽ ἐκάρπωσεν στάχυν
    ἄτης, ὅθεν πάγκλαυτον ἐξαμᾷ θέρος.
    • Arrogance in full bloom bears a crop of ruinous folly from which it reaps a harvest all of tears.
    • lines 821–822 (tr. Christopher Collard)
  • Αἰόλ᾽ ἀνθρώπων κακά,
    πόνου δ᾽ ἴδοις ἂν οὐδαμοῦ ταὐτὸν πτερόν.
    • Mankind's troubles flicker about, and you'll nowhere see misery fly on the same wings.
    • lines 328–329 (tr. Christopher Collard)
  • Φύλακα πολυπόνων
    • The guardian of poor suffering mankind.
    • lines 382–383 (tr. Christopher Collard)
  • Καὶ γλῶσσα τοξεύσασα μὴ τὰ καίρια,
    γένοιτο μύθου μῦθος ἂν θελκτήριος.
    • When a tongue at the wrong moment shoots off sharp-pointed words to rouse and hurt the spirit, speech may well soothe speech.
    • lines 446–447 (tr. Christopher Collard)
  • I would far rather be ignorant than knowledgeable of evil.
    • line 453; comparable to "where ignorance is bliss, / 'Tis folly to be wise", Thomas Gray, On a Distant Prospect of Eton College, stanza 10
  • "Reverence for parents" stands written among the three laws of most revered righteousness.
    • line 707; alternately reported with "Honour thy father and thy mother" in place of "Reverence for parents", in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
On me the tempest falls. It does not make me tremble. O holy Mother Earth, O air and sun, behold me. I am wronged.
  • Ἅπας δὲ τραχὺς ὅστις ἂν νέον κρατῇ.
  • Ἐλεύθερος γὰρ οὔτις ἐστὶ πλὴν Διός.
  • Innumerable twinkling of the waves of the sea.
    • line 89
  • Τὴν πεπρωμένην δὲ χρὴ
    αἶσαν φέρειν ὡς ῥᾷστα, γιγνώσκονθ' ὅτι
    τὸ τῆς ἀνάγκης ἔστ' ἀδήριτον σθένος.
    • What's determined
      Bear, as I can, I must, knowing the might
      Of strong Necessity is unconquerable.
    • lines 103–105 (tr. G. M. Cookson)
  • ἔνεστι γάρ πως τοῦτο τῇ τυραννίδι
    νόσημα, τοῖς φίλοισι μὴ πεποιθέναι.
    • For somehow this is tyranny's disease, to trust no friends.
    • lines 224–225
    • Variant translation: In every tyrant's heart there springs in the end
      This poison, that he cannot trust a friend.
  • Ἐλαφρὸν ὅστις πημάτων ἔξω πόδα
    ἔχει παραινεῖν νουθετεῖν τε τοὺς κακῶς
    • Easy, whoever out of trouble holds his
      Foot, to admonish and remind those faring
    • lines 263–265 (tr. Henry David Thoreau)
  • Γίγνωσκε σαυτὸν καὶ μεθάρμοσαι τρόπους
    νέους. νέος γὰρ καὶ τύραννος ἐν θεοῖς.
    • Learn to know thy heart,
      And, as the times, so let thy manners change,
      For by the law of change a new God rules.
    • lines 309–310 (tr. G. M. Cookson)
  • Οὔκουν ἔμοιγε χρώμενος διδασκάλῳ
    πρὸς κέντρα κῶλον ἐκτενεῖς.
    • Therefore, while thou hast me for schoolmaster,
      Thou shalt not kick against the pricks.
    • lines 322–323 (tr. G. M. Cookson)
  • Ἢ οὐκ οἶσθ' ἀκριβῶς ὢν περισσόφρων ὅτι
    γλώσσῃ ματαίᾳ ζημία προστρίβεται.
    • Know'st thou not well, with thy superior wisdom, that
      On a vain tongue punishment is inflicted?
    • lines 328–329 (tr. Henry David Thoreau)
  • Πολλῷ γ' ἀμείνων τοὺς πέλας φρενοῦν ἔφυς
    ἢ σαυτόν. ἔργῳ κοὐ λόγῳ τεκμαίρομαι.
    • Thou are a better counsellor to others
      Than to thyself:—I judge by deeds not words.
    • lines 335–336 (tr. G. M. Cookson)
  • Ἐγὼ γὰρ οὐκ εἰ δυστυχῶ, τοῦδ' εἵνεκα
    θέλοιμ' ἂν ὡς πλείστοισι πημονὰς τυχεῖν.
    • If I grieve,
      I do not therefore wish to multiply
      The griefs of others.
    • lines 345–346 (tr. Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
  • ὀργῆς νοσούσης εἰσὶν ἰατροὶ λόγοι
    • Words are the physicians of a mind diseased.
    • line 378; compare: "Apt words have power to suage / The tumours of a troubl'd mind", John Milton, Samson Agonistes.
  • Κέρδιστον εὖ φρονοῦντα μὴ φρονεῖν δοκεῖν.
    • Since it most profits that the truly wise
      Should seem not wise at all.
    • line 385 (tr. Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
  • Μνήμην ἁπάντων, μουσομήτορ' ἐργάνην.
    • Memory, Muse-mother, doer of all things.
    • line 461 (tr. Henry David Thoreau)
  • Chorus: Let not thy love to man o'erleap the bounds
    Of reason, nor neglect thy wretched state:
    So my fond hope suggests thou shalt be free
    From these base chains, nor less in power than Jove.
Prometheus: Not thus — it is not in the Fates that thus
These things should end; crush'd with a thousand wrongs,
A thousand woes, I shall escape these chains.
Necessity is stronger far than art.
Chorus: Who then is ruler of necessity?
Prometheus: The triple Fates and unforgetting Furies.
Chorus: Must Jove then yield to their superior power?
Prometheus: He no way shall escape his destined fate.
Chorus: What, but eternal empire, is his fate?
Prometheus: Thou mayst not know this now: forbear to inquire.
Chorus: Is it of moment what thou keep'st thus close?
Prometheus: No more of this discourse; it is not time
Now to disclose that which requires the seal
Of strictest secresy; by guarding which I shall escape the misery of these chains.
  • lines 510–524, as translated by R. Potter (1860)
  • βούλευμα μὲν τὸ Δῖον, Ἡφαίστου δὲ χείρ.
    • The will of Zeus,
      The hand of his Hephæstus.
    • line 619 (tr. Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
  • Ὡς τἀποκλαῦσαι κἀποδύρασθαι τύχας
    ἐνταῦθ', ὅπου μέλλοι τις οἴσεσθαι δάκρυ
    πρὸς τῶν κλυόντων, ἀξίαν τριβὴν ἔχει.
    • Since to open out
      And mourn out grief, where it is possible
      To draw a tear from the audience, is a work
      That pays its own price well.
    • lines 637–639 (tr. Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
  • κρεῖσσον γὰρ εἰσάπαξ θανεῖν
    ἢ τὰς ἁπάσας ἡμέρας πάσχειν κακῶς.
    • For it would be better to die once and for all than to suffer pain for all one's life.
    • lines 750–751
      • Variant translation by John Stuart Blackie (1850):
        "Life and life's sorrows? Once to die is better
        Than thus to drag sick life."
  • Τὸ κηδεῦσαι καθ' ἑαυτὸν ἀριστεύει μακρῷ.
    • True marriage is the union that mates
      Equal with equal.
    • line 890 (tr. G. M. Cookson)
  • Σεμνόστομός γε καὶ φρονήματος πλέως
    ὁ μῦθός ἐστιν, ὡς θεῶν ὑπηρέτου.
    • A speech well-mouthed
      In th' utterance, and full-minded in the sense,
      As doth befit a servant of the gods!
    • lines 953–954 (tr. Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
  • Ἀλλ' ἐκδιδάσκει πάνθ' ὁ γηράσκων χρόνος.
    • Time waxing old can many a lesson teach.
    • line 981 (tr. E. H. Plumptre).
    • Variant translations:
      • Time brings all things to pass.
      • Time as he grows old teaches all things.
  • Δακὼν δὲ στόμιον ὡς νεοζυγὴς
    πῶλος βιάζῃ καὶ πρὸς ἡνίας μάχῃ.
    • Like a young horse
      Who bites against the new bit in his teeth,
      And tugs and struggles against the new-tried rein.
    • lines 1009–1010 (tr. Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
  • Αὐθαδία γὰρ τῷ φρονοῦντι μὴ καλῶς
    αὐτὴ καθ' αὑτὴν οὐδενὸς μεῖζον σθένει.
    • For stubborness, if one be in the wrong,
      Is in itself weaker than naught at all.
    • lines 1012–1013 (tr. G. M. Cookson)
  • Ψευδηγορεῖν γὰρ οὐκ ἐπίσταται στόμα
    τὸ Δῖον, ἀλλὰ πᾶν ἔπος τελεῖ.
    • God's mouth knows not how to speak falsehood, but he brings to pass every word.
    • lines 1032–1033
  • On me the tempest falls. It does not make me tremble. O holy Mother Earth, O air and sun, behold me. I am wronged.
    • line 1089
  • Μέλει γὰρ ἀνδρί, μὴ γυνὴ βουλευέτω,
    τἄξωθεν· ἔνδον δ᾽ οὖσα μὴ βλάβην τίθει.
    • Let not a woman's voice
      Be loud in council! for the things without,
      A man must care; let women keep within—
      Even then is mischief all too probable!
    • lines 200–201 (tr. E. D. A. Morshead)
  • Πειθαρχία γάρ ἐστι τῆς εὐπραξίας
    μήτηρ, γυνὴ σωτῆρος.
    • Obedience mother is of good success,
      Sure pledge of safety.
    • lines 224–225 (tr. Anna Swanwick)
  • Ἔστι· θεοῦ δ᾽ ἔτ᾽ ἰσχὺς καθυπερτέρα·
    πολλάκι δ᾽ ἐν κακοῖσι τὸν ἀμάχανον
    κἀκ χαλεπᾶς δύας ὕπερθ᾽ ὀμμάτων
    κρημναμενᾶν νεφελᾶν ὀρθοῖ.
    • True, but the strength of god is mightier still,
      And oft, in direst strait,
      It lifteth from the lowest depths of ill
      Him who, with cloud-veiled eyes, was desperate.
    • lines 226–229 (tr. Anna Swanwick)
  • Ἀψυχίᾳ γὰρ γλῶσσαν ἁρπάζει φόβος.
    • Through want of heart fear seizes on my tongue.
    • line 259 (tr. Anna Swanwick)
  • κόσμον μὲν ἀνδρὸς οὔτιν᾽ ἂν τρέσαιμ᾽ ἐγώ,
    οὐδ᾽ ἑλκοποιὰ γίγνεται τὰ σήματα
    λόφοι δὲ κώδων τ᾽ οὐ δάκνουσ᾽ ἄνευ δορός.
    • To me, no blazon on a foeman's shield
      Shall e'er present a fear! such pointed threats
      Are powerless to wound; his plumes and bells,
      Without a spear, are snakes without a sting.
    • lines 397–399 (tr. E. D. A. Morshead)
  • Καὶ τῷδε κέρδει κέρδος ἄλλο τίκτεται.
    • Gain upon gain, and interest to boot!
    • line 437 (tr. G. M. Cookson)
  • Ἀνὴρ ἄκομπος, χεὶρ δ᾽ ὁρᾷ τὸ δράσιμον.
    • No boaster he,
      But with a hand which sees the thing to do.
    • line 554 (tr. Anna Swanwick)
  • Oὐ γὰρ δοκεῖν ἄριστος, ἀλλ᾽ εἶναι θέλει
    • His resolve is not to seem, but to be, the best.
    • line 592; compare: esse quam videri.
  • ἐν παντὶ πράγει δ᾽ ἔσθ᾽ ὁμιλίας κακῆς
    κάκιον οὐδέν
    • In every enterprise is no greater evil than bad companionship
    • lines 599–600 (tr. David Grene)
  • Ἄτης ἄρουρα θάνατον ἐκκαρπίζεται.
    • The field of Sin
      Brings forth the fruits of Death.
    • line 601 (tr. G. M. Cookson)
  • φιλεῖ δὲ σιγᾶν ἢ λέγειν τὰ καίρια.
    • He or silence keeps or speaks in season.
    • line 619 (tr. Anna Swanwick)
  • γέροντα τὸν νοῦν, σάρκα δ᾽ ἡβῶσαν φύει
    • He has the wisdom of an old man, but his body is at its prime
    • line 622 (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth)
  • Εἴπερ κακὸν φέροι τις, αἰσχύνης ἄτερ
    ἔστω· μόνον γὰρ κέρδος ἐν τεθνηκόσι·
    κακῶν δὲ κᾀσχρῶν οὔτιν᾽ εὐκλείαν ἐρεῖς.
    • If any one bear evil, let it be
      Without disgrace, sole profit to the dead;
      On base and evil deeds no glory waits.
    • lines 683–685 (tr. Anna Swanwick)

Oresteia (458 BC)



He who learns must suffer. / And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget / Falls drop by drop upon the heart, / And in our own despite, against our will, / Comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.
Only when man's life comes to its end in prosperity can one call that man happy.
Death is better, a milder fate than tyranny.
I think the slain care little if they sleep or rise again.
  • I pray the gods will give me some relief
    And end this weary job. One long full year
    I've been lying here, on this rooftop,
    The palace of the sons of Atreus,
    Resting on my arms, just like a dog.
    I've come to know the night sky, every star,
    The powers we see glittering in the sky,
    Bringing winter and summer to us all,
    As the constellations rise and sink.
    • opening lines
  • βοῦς ἐπὶ γλώσσῃ μέγας
    • A great ox stands on my tongue.
    • lines 36–37
  • Ὡς ἑκὼν ἐγὼ
    μαθοῦσιν αὐδῶ κοὐ μαθοῦσι λήθομαι.
    • I, of set will, speak words the wise may learn,
      To others, nought remember nor discern.
    • lines 38–39 (tr. E. D. A. Morshead)
  • Τελεῖται δ' ἐς τὸ πεπρωμένον·
    οὔθ' ὑποκαίων οὔτ' ἐπιλείβων
    οὔτε δακρύων ἀπύρων ἱερῶν
    ὀργὰς ἀτενεῖς παραθέλξει.
    • But as he willed 'tis ordered all,
      And woes, by heaven ordained, must fall—
      Unsoothed by tears or spilth of wine
      Poured forth too late, the wrath divine
      Glares vengeance on the flameless shrine.
    • lines 68–71 (tr. E. D. A. Morshead)
  • τὸν φρονεῖν βροτοὺς ὁδώ-
    σαντα, τὸν πάθει μάθος
    θέντα κυρίως ἔχειν.
    στάζει δ᾽ ἔν θ᾽ ὕπνῳ πρὸ καρδίας
    μνησιπήμων πόνος: καὶ παρ᾽ ἄ-
    κοντας ἦλθε σωφρονεῖν.
    δαιμόνων δέ που χάρις βίαιος
    σέλμα σεμνὸν ἡμένων.
    • Zeus, who guided mortals to be wise,
      has established his fixed law—
      wisdom comes through suffering.
      Trouble, with its memories of pain,
      drips in our hearts as we try to sleep,
      so men against their will
      learn to practice moderation.
      Favours come to us from gods
      seated on their solemn thrones—
      such grace is harsh and violent.
    • lines 176–183, as translated by Ian Johnston (Google Books)
    • Variant translations:
      • Zeus has led us on to know,
        the Helmsman lays it down as law
        that we must suffer, suffer into truth.
        We cannot sleep, and drop by drop at the heart
        the pain of pain remembered comes again,
        and we resist, but ripeness comes as well.
        From the gods enthroned on the awesome rowing-bench
        there comes a violent love.
        • Robert Fagles, The Oresteia (1975)
      • Zeus, whose will has marked for man
        The sole way where wisdom lies;
        Ordered one eternal plan:
        Man must suffer to be wise.
        Head-winds heavy with past ill
        Stray his course and cloud his heart.
        Sorrow takes the blind soul’s part —
        Man grows wise against his will.
        For powers who rule from thrones above
        By ruthlessness commend their love.
        • Phillip Vellacott, The Oresteian Trilogy, Penguin 1973 (Google Books)
      • God, whose law it is
        that he who learns must suffer.
        And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget
        falls drop by drop upon the heart,
        and in our own despite, against our will,
        comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.
        • Edith Hamilton, The Greek Way (1930), pp. 61 and 194 (Google Books)
    • Robert F. Kennedy quoted these lines in his speech announcing the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on 4 April 1968. His version:
      • Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
        falls drop by drop upon the heart
        until, in our own despair, against our will,
        comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.
    • Variant translations of πάθει μάθος:
      • By suffering comes wisdom.
      • The reward of suffering is experience.
      • Wisdom comes alone through suffering.
  • Then he put on The harness of Necessity.
    • Phillip Vellacott, The Oresteian Trilogy, Penguin 1973 (Google Books)
  • Least said is soonest mended.
    • Phillip Vellacott, The Oresteian Trilogy, Penguin 1973 (Google Books)
  • Δίκα δὲ τοῖς μὲν παθοῦ-
    σιν μαθεῖν ἐπιῤῥέπει· τὸ μέλλον.
    • Justice turns the scale
      For those to whom through pain
      At last comes wisdom's gain.
      • lines 250–251 (tr. E. H. Plumptre)
  • But Justice with her shining eyes Lights the smoke-begrimed and mean Dwelling; honours those who prize Honour; searches far to find All whose hearts and hands are clean; Passes with averted gaze Golden palaces which hide Evil armed in insolence; Power and riches close combined, Falsely stamped with all men’s praise, Win from her no reverence.
    • Phillip Vellacott, The Oresteian Trilogy, Penguin 1973 (Google Books)
  • Εὐάγγελος μέν, ὥσπερ ἡ παροιμία,
    ἕως γένοιτο μητρὸς εὐφρόνης πάρα.
    • May Morning, as the proverb runs, appear
      Bearing glad tidings from his mother Night!
    • lines 264–265 (tr. E. H. Plumptre)
  • Ὄξος τ' ἄλειφά τ' ἐγχέας ταὐτῷ κύτει
    διχοστατοῦντ' ἂν οὐ φίλως † προσεννέποις.
    • Within one cup pour vinegar and oil,
      And look! unblent, unreconciled, they war.
    • lines 322–323 (tr. E. D. A. Morshead)
  • She [Helen] brought to Ilium her dowry, destruction.
    • line 406
  • Πιθανὸς ἄγαν ὁ θῆλυς ὅρος ἐπινέμεται
    ταχύπορος· ἀλλὰ ταχύμορον
    γυναικογήρυτον ὄλλυται κλέος.
    • Quickly, with rapid steps, too credulous,
      The limit which a woman sets to trust
      Advances evermore; And with swift doom of death
      A rumour spread by woman perishes.
    • line 485–487 (tr. E. H. Plumptre)
  • Πάλαι τὸ σιγᾶν φάρμακον βλάβης ἔχω.
    • Sole cure of wrong is silence.
    • line 548 (tr. E. D. A. Morshead)
  • ἀεὶ γὰρ ἥβη τοῖς γέρουσιν εὐμαθεῖν.
    • Old men are always young enough to learn.
    • Variant translation: Learning is ever in the freshness of its youth, even for the old.
    • Old and ready to learn Is always young.
      • Phillip Vellacott, The Oresteian Trilogy, Penguin 1973 (Google Books)
  • δίχα δ' ἄλλων μονόφρων εἰμί
    • I hold my own mind and think apart from other men.
    • line 757
  • Τὸ δυσσεβὲς γὰρ ἔργον
    μετὰ μὲν πλείονα τίκτει,
    σφετέρᾳ δ' εἰκότα γέννᾳ.
    • Prolific truly is the impious deed;
      Like to the evil stock, the evil seed.
      • lines 758–760 (tr. Anna Swanwick)
  • Glances whose gentle fire Bestowed both wound and balm;
    • Phillip Vellacott, The Oresteian Trilogy, Penguin 1973 (Google Books)
  • Φιλεῖ δὲ τίκτειν Ὕβρις
    μὲν παλαιὰ νεά-
    ζουσαν ἐν κακοῖς βροτῶν
    Ὕβριν τότ' ἢ τόθ', ὅτε τὸ κύριον μόλῃ.
    • But ancient Arrogance, or soon or late,
      When strikes the hour ordained by Fate,
      Breedeth new Arrogance, which still
      Revels, wild wantoner in human ill.
    • lines 763–766 (tr. Anna Swanwick)
  • Τῷ δυσπραγοῦντί τ' ἐπιστενάχειν
    πᾶς τις ἑτοῖμος· δῆγμα δὲ λύπης
    οὐδὲν ἐφ' ἧπαρ προσικνεῖται·
    καὶ ξυγχαίρουσιν ὁμοιοπρεπεῖς,
    ἀγέλαστα πρόσωπα βιαζόμενοι.
    • The show of weeping and of ruth
      To the forlorn will all men pay,
      But of the grief their eyes display,
      Nought to the heart doth pierce its way.
      And, with the joyous, they beguile
      Their lips unto a feigned smile.
    • lines 790–794 (tr. E. D. A. Morshead)
  • Παύροις γὰρ ἀνδρῶν ἐστι συγγενὲς τόδε,
    φίλον τὸν εὐτυχοῦντ' ἄνευ φθόνων σέβειν.
    • It is in the character of very few men to honor without envy a friend who has prospered.
    • lines 832–833
    • There are few whose inborn love Warms without envy to a friend’s prosperity.
      • Phillip Vellacott, The Oresteian Trilogy, Penguin 1973 (Google Books)
  • Now, dearest husband, come, step from your chariot. But do not set to earth, my lord, the conquering foot That trod down Troy. Servants, do as you have been bidden; Make haste, carpet his way with crimson tapestries, Spread silk before your master’s feet; Justice herself Shall lead him to a home he never hoped to see.
    • Phillip Vellacott, The Oresteian Trilogy, Penguin 1973 (Google Books) Thought to be the earliest known reference to "red carpet"
  • Δύσφρων γὰρ ἰὸς καρδίαν προσήμενος
    ἄχθος διπλοίζει τῷ πεπαμένῳ νόσον·
    τοῖς τ' αὐτὸς αὑτοῦ πήμασιν βαρύνεται
    καὶ τὸν θυραῖον ὄλβον εἰσορῶν στένει.
    • The jealous poison, lodged within the heart,
      Tortures with twofold pang whom it infects;
      By his own griefs oppressed, the envious man
      Groans also to behold another's joy.
    • lines 834–837
  • God’s best gift Is a mind free from folly
    • Phillip Vellacott, The Oresteian Trilogy, Penguin 1973 (Google Books)
  • Ὀλβίσαι δὲ χρὴ
    βίον τελευτήσαντ' ἐν εὐεστοῖ φίλῃ.
    • Only when man's life comes to its end in prosperity can one call that man happy.
    • lines 928–929. Variant translations:
      • Hold him alone truly fortunate who has ended his life in happy well-being.
      • Call no man happy till he is dead.
        • Also expressed by Sophocles at the end of "Oedipus The King".
  • Ὁ δ' ἀφθόνητός γ' οὐκ ἐπίζηλος πέλει.
    • Life envy-free is life unenviable.
      • line 939 (tr. Anna Swanwick)
    • Greatness wins hate. Unenvied is unenviable.
      • Phillip Vellacott, The Oresteian Trilogy, Penguin 1973 (Google Books)
  • Τὸν κρατοῦντα μαλθακῶς
    θεὸς πρόσωθεν εὐμενῶς προσδέρκεται.
    • God on high
      Looks graciously on him whom triumph's hour
      Has made not pitiless.
    • lines 951–952 (tr. E. D. A. Morshead)
  • Ἑκὼν γὰρ οὐδεὶς δουλίῳ χρῆται ζυγῷ.
    • None of their own will choose a bond-slave's life.
      • line 953 (tr. E. H. Plumptre)
  • Prophets find bad news useful. Why, the primary aim Of all their wordy wisdom is to make men gape.
    • Phillip Vellacott, The Oresteian Trilogy, Penguin 1973 (Google Books)
  • CHORUS: Courage and destiny in you Are proudly matched. CASSANDRA: The happy never hear such praise. CHORUS: Yet a brave death lends brightness to mortality.
    • Phillip Vellacott, The Oresteian Trilogy, Penguin 1973 (Google Books)
  • Ἰὼ βρότεια πράγματ'· εὐτυχοῦντα μὲν
    σκιᾷ τις ἂν πρέψειεν· εἰ δὲ δυστυχοῖ,
    βολαῖς ὑγρώσσων σπόγγος ὤλεσεν γραφήν.
    • Ah state of mortal man! in time of weal,
      A line, a shadow! and if ill fate fall,
      One wet sponge-sweep wipes all our trace away.
      • lines 1327–1329 (tr. E. D. A. Morshead)
    • Alas for human destiny! Man’s happiest hours Are pictures drawn in shadow. Then ill fortune comes, And with two strokes the wet sponge wipes the drawing out. And grief itself’s hardly more pitiable than joy.
      • Phillip Vellacott, The Oresteian Trilogy, Penguin 1973 (Google Books)
  • Of fortune no man tastes his fill. While pointing envy notes his store, And tongues extol his happiness, Man surfeited will hunger still. For who grows weary of success, Or turns good fortune from his door Bidding her trouble him no more?
    • Phillip Vellacott, The Oresteian Trilogy, Penguin 1973 (Google Books)
  • Τὸ μὲν εὖ πράσσειν ἀκόρεστον ἔφυ
    πᾶσι βροτοῖσιν.
    • Too true it is! our mortal state
      With bliss is never satiate.
      • lines 1331–1332 (tr. E. D. A. Morshead)
  • Oh me, I have been struck a mortal blow right inside.
    • line 1343
  • Death is better, a milder fate than tyranny.
    • line 1364
    • Variant translation: Death is softer by far than tyranny.
  • Σάφ' εἰδότας χρὴ τῶνδε θυμοῦσθαι πέρι·
    τὸ γὰρ τοπάζειν τοῦ σάφ' εἰδέναι δίχα.
    • When we know clearly, then should we discuss:
      To guess is one thing, and to know another.
    • lines 1368–1369 (tr. E. H. Plumptre)
  • Clytemnestra: He collapsed, snorting his life away,
    spitting great gobs of blood all over me,
    drenching me in showers of his dark blood.
    And I rejoiced—just as the fecund earth
    rejoices when the heavens send spring rains
    • lines 1388–1392 (tr. Ian Johnston)
  • Γνώσῃ διδαχθεὶς ὀψὲ γοῦν τὸ σωφρονεῖν.
    • Thou shalt learn,
      Late though it be, the lesson to be wise.
    • line 1425 (tr. E. H. Plumptre)
  • Ἡ δέ τοι κύκνου δίκην
    τὸν ὕστατον μέλψασα θανάσιμον γόον
    κεῖται † φιλήτως τοῦδ'.
    • And she who, like a swan,
      Has chanted out her last and dying song,
      Lies, loved by him.
    • lines 1444–1446 (tr. E. H. Plumptre)
  • Zeus, first cause, prime mover; for what thing without Zeus is done among mortals?
    • line 1485
  • Πρὸς κέντρα μὴ λάκτιζε.
    • Do not kick against the pricks.
    • line 1624
  • I know how men in exile feed on dreams of hope.
    • line 1668
  • Old as you are, you shall be taught some wisdom yet.
    • Phillip Vellacott, The Oresteian Trilogy, Penguin 1973 (Google Books)
  • Kόμπασον θαρσῶν, ἀλέκτωρ ὥστε θηλείας πέλας.
    • Be boastful and be bold, like cock beside his partner.
    • line 1671 (tr. Anna Swanwick)

The Libation Bearers

  • Time was, when one creed ruled the people’s mind: Reverence for royal power Unquestioned, firm as love could bind. Now reverence has resigned Her faith; fear has his hour. Success is now men’s god, men’s more than god.
    • Phillip Vellacott, The Oresteian Trilogy, Penguin 1973 (Google Books)
  • Good fortune is a god among men, and more than a god.
    • line 59
    • Variant translation: Success is man's god.
  • Destiny waits alike for the free man as well as for him enslaved by another's might.
    • line 103
  • For a deadly blow let him pay with a deadly blow; it is for him who has done a deed to suffer.
    • line 312
  • Παῖδες γὰρ ἀνδρὶ κληδόνες σωτήριοι
    • Children are memory's voices, and preserve
      The dead from wholly dying.
      • lines 505–506 (tr. E. D. A. Morshead)
  • θηλυκρατὴς ἀπέρωτος ἔρως παρανικᾷ
    κνωδάλων τε καὶ βροτῶν.
    • For love unlovely, when its evil spell
      'Mong brutes or men the feebler sex befools,
      Conjugial bands o'errules.
      • lines 600–601 (tr. Anna Swanwick)
  • What is pleasanter than the tie of host and guest?
    • line 702


  • Μέγας γὰρ Ἅιδης ἐστὶν εὔθυνος βροτῶν
    ἔνερθε χθονός,
    δελτογράφῳ δὲ πάντ᾽ ἐπωπᾷ φρενί.
    • For Hades, ruler of the nether sphere,
      Exactest auditor of human kind,
      Graved on the tablet of his mind
      Doth every trespass read.
    • lines 273–275 (tr. Anna Swanwick)
  • For fear, enforcing goodness,
    Must somewhere reign enthroned,
    And watch men’s ways, and teach them,
    Through self-inflicted sorrow,
    That sin is not condoned.
    What man, no longer nursing
    Fear at his heart – what city,
    Once fear is cast away,
    Will bow the knee to Justice
    As in an earlier day?
    • Phillip Vellacott, The Oresteian Trilogy, Penguin 1973 (Google Books)
  • Seek neither licence, where no laws compel,
    Nor slavery beneath a tyrant’s rod;
    Where liberty and rule are balanced well
    Success will follow as the gift of God
    • Phillip Vellacott, The Oresteian Trilogy, Penguin 1973 (Google Books)
  • This above all I bid you: reverence
    Justice' high altar; let no sight of gain
    Tempt you to spurn with godless insolence
    This sanctity. Cause and effect remain;
    From sin flows sorrow
    • Phillip Vellacott, The Oresteian Trilogy, Penguin 1973 (Google Books)
  • Ἐγὼ διδαχθεὶς ἐν κακοῖς ἐπίσταμαι
    πολλοὺς καθαρμούς, καὶ λέγειν ὅπου δίκη
    σιγᾶν θ᾽ ὁμοίως.
    • To me, long disciplined in woe, are known
      Divers lustrations; when to speak I know,
      When to be silent.
    • lines 276–278 (tr. Anna Swanwick)
  • Χρόνος καθαιρεῖ πάντα γηράσκων ὁμοῦ.
    • Time, waxing old, doth all things purify.
    • line 286 (tr. Anna Swanwick)
  • καὶ ζῶν με δαίσεις οὐδὲ πρὸς βωμῷ σφαγείς
    • Chorus of Furies: Living, you will be my feast, not slain at an altar
    • line 305 (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth)
  • Chorus of Furies: We claim to be just and upright. No wrath from us will come stealthily to the one who holds out clean hands, and he will go through life unharmed; but whoever sins, as this man has, and hides his blood-stained hands, as avengers of bloodshed we appear against him to the end, presenting ourselves as upright witnesses for the dead.
    • lines 312–320 (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth)
  • Κλύειν δίκαιος μᾶλλον ἢ πρᾶξαι θέλεις.
    • Repute of justice, not just act, thou wishest.
    • line 430 (tr. Anna Swanwick)
  • Ὅρκοις τὰ μὴ δίκαια μὴ νικᾶν λέγω.
    • I say that oaths shall not enforce the wrong.
    • line 432 (tr. E. D. A. Morshead)
  • Μήτ᾽ ἀνάρχετον βίον
    μήτε δεσποτούμενον
    παντὶ μέσῳ τὸ κράτος
    θεὸς ὤπασεν.
    • Praise not, O man, the life beyond control,
      Nor that which bows unto a tyrant's sway.
      Know that the middle way
      Is dearest unto God, and they, thereon who wend,
      They shall achieve the end.
      • lines 526–530 (tr. E. D. A. Morshead)
  • Guard well and reverence that form of government
    Which will eschew alike licence and slavery;
    And from your polity do not wholly banish fear.
    For what man living, freed from fear, will still be just?
    Hold fast such upright fear of the law’s sanctity
    • Phillip Vellacott, The Oresteian Trilogy, Penguin 1973 (Google Books)
  • Ἐκ δ᾽ ὑγιεί-
    ας φρενῶν ὁ πάμφιλος
    καὶ πολύευκτος ὄλβος.
    • While from inward health doth flow,
      Beloved of all, true bliss which mortals seek.
    • lines 535–537 (tr. Anna Swanwick)
  • ἑκὼν δ᾽ ἀνάγκας ἄτερ δίκαιος ὢν
    οὐκ ἄνολβος ἔσται·
    πανώλεθρος δ᾽ οὔποτ᾽ ἂν γένοιτο.
    • Whoever is just willingly and without compulsion will not lack happiness; he will never be utterly destroyed.
    • lines 550–552 (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth)
  • ἀνδρὸς δ᾽ ἐπειδὰν αἷμ᾽ ἀνασπάσῃ κόνις
    ἅπαξ θανόντος, οὔτις ἔστ᾽ ἀνάστασις.
    • But when the dust has drawn up the blood of a man, once he is dead, there is no return to life.
    • lines 647–648 (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth)
  • Γνώμης δ᾽ ἀπούσης πῆμα γίγνεται μέγα,
    βαλοῦσά τ᾽ οἶκον ψῆφος ὤρθωσεν μία.
    • The default
      Of one vote only bringeth ruin deep,
      One, cast aright, may stablish house and home.
    • lines 750–751 (tr. E. D. A. Morshead)


  • Appearances are a glimpse of the unseen.
  • Better to die on your feet than live on your knees.
    • This is usually attributed to Emiliano Zapata, but sometimes to Aeschylus, who is credited with expressing similar sentiments in Prometheus Bound: "For it would be better to die once and for all than to suffer pain for all one's life".
  • In war, truth is the first casualty.
    • This is often attributed to U.S. Senator Hiram Johnson, but does not appear anywhere in his speeches. Arthur Ponsonby#Falsehood in Wartime (1928) quoted: "When war is declared, Truth is the first casualty", but the first recorded use seems to be by Philip Snowden in his introduction to Truth and the War, by E. D. Morel. London, July 1916: "'Truth,' it has been said, 'is the first casualty of war.'" Samuel Johnson#The Idler (1758–1760) expressed a similar idea: "Among the calamities of war may be justly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages."

Quotes about Aeschylus

Aeschyli Tragoediae septem, 1552
  • He raised everything he touched to grandeur. The characters in his hands became heroic; the conflicts became tense and fraught with eternal issues.
  • The tragic style of Aeschylus is still
    imperfect. Now and then its constituents,
    epic and lyric, are not properly fused.
    He is often abrupt, immoderate, hard.
    To succeed him with a more artful tragedy
    was easy; in his almost superhuman
    greatness he is likely to remain unexcelled. . . .
  • I regard the Oresteia as probably on the whole the greatest spiritual work of man.
  • Æschylus is above all things the poet of righteousness. "But in any wise, I say unto thee, revere thou the altar of righteousness": this is the crowning admonition of his doctrine, as its crowning prospect is the reconciliation or atonement of the principle of retribution with the principle of redemption, of the powers of the mystery of darkness with the coeternal forces of the spirit of wisdom, of the lord of inspiration and of light.
Wikipedia has an article about:
Wikisource has original text related to:
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: