Classical Texts Library >> Seneca the Younger, Agamemnon


SENECA THE YOUNGER was a Latin playwright and philosopher who flourished in Rome in the late C1st A.D. during the reigns of the emperors Claudius and Nero. His surviving work includes ten tragedy plays, nine of which are based on mythological themes. His authorship of Hercules Oetaeus and Octavia is uncertain.

Seneca. Tragedies . Translated by Miller, Frank Justus. Loeb Classical Library Volumes. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1917.

The Miller translations of Seneca's tragedies are no longer in print having been replaced in the Loeb Classical Library series by those of John Finch. These are available new from Amazon.com (see left below for details). In addition to the translation of the plays, the two volumes contain the source Latin texts, Miller's introduction and footnotes and an index of proper names.



AGAMEMNON, king of Argos, and leader of all the Greeks in their war against Troy.
GHOST OF THYESTES, returned to earth to urge on his son to the vengeance which he was born to accomplish.
AEGISTHUS, son of Thyestes by an incestuous union with his daughter; paramour of Clytemnestra.
CHORUS of Argive women.
EURYBATES, messenger of Agamemnon.
CASSANDRA, daughter of Priam, captive of Agamemnon.
ELECTRA, daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra.
STROPHIUS, king of Phocis.
ORESTES, son of Agamemnon (persona muta).
PYLADES, son of Strophius (persona muta).
BAND of captive Trojan women.

THE SCENE is laid partly within and partly without the palace of Agamemnon at Argos or Mycenae, on the day of the return of the king from his long absence at Troy, beginning in the period of darkness just preceding the dawn.


The blood-feud between Atreus and Thyestes was not ended with the terrible vengeance which Atreus wreaked upon his brother. It was yet in fate that Thyestes should live to beget upon his own daughter a son, Aegisthus, who should slay Atreus and bring ruin and death upon the great Atrides, Agamemnon.
The Trojan war is done. And now the near approach of the victorious king, bringing his captives and treasure home to Argos, has been announced. But little does he dream to what a home he is returning. For Clytemnestra, enraged at Agamemnon because he had sacrificed her daughter Iphigenia at Aulis to appease the winds, and full of jealousy because he brings Cassandra as her rival home, estranged also by the long-continued absence of her lord, but most estranged by her own guilty union with Aegisthus, is now plotting to slay her husband on his return, gaining thus at once revenge and safety from his wrath.

[1] Leaving the murky regions of infernal Dis, I come, sent forth from Tartarus’ deep pit, doubting which world I hate the more – Thyestes flees the lower, the upper he puts to flight. Lo, my spirit shudders, my limbs quake with fear; I see my father’s, nay more, my brother’s house. This is the ancient seat of Pelops’ line; here ‘tis the custom of the Pelasgians to crown their kings; on the this throne sit high lords whose proud hands wield the sceptre; here is their council-chamber – here they feast.1

[12] Fain would I turn me back. Is it not better to haunt even the gloomy pools, better to gaze upon the guardian of the Styx, tossing his three-fold neck with sable mane? where one,2 his body bound on the swift-flying wheel, is whirled back upon himself; where vain uphill toil3 is mocked as the stone rolls ever backward; where a greedy bird tears at the liver4 constantly renewed; and the old man,5 thirst-parched midst waters, catches at fleeting waves with cheated lips, doomed to pay dearly for the banquet6 of the gods. But how small a part of my offence is his? Let us take count of all whom for their impious deeds the Cretan judge7 with whirling urn condemns; all of them by my crimes shall I, Thyestes, conquer. But by my brother shall I be conquered, full of my three sons buried in me; my own flesh have I consumed.

[28] Nor thus far only has Fortune defiled the sire,8 but, daring greater crime than that committed, she bade him seek his daughter’s incestuous embrace. Fearlessly and to the dregs did I drain her bidding, but ‘twas an impious thing I did. And therefore, that a father’s power might extend o’er all his children, my daughter, forced by fate,9 bore child to me, worthy to call me father. Nature has been confounded; father with grandsire, yea, monstrous! husband with father, grandsons with sons, have I confused – day with night.

[37] But at length, though late and coming after death, the promise of dim prophecy is fulfilled to me, worn with my woes; that king of kings, that leader of leaders, Agamemnon, following whose banner a thousand ships once covered the Trojan waters with their sails, now that, after ten courses of Phoebus, Ilium is o’erthrown, now is he near at hand – to give his throat into his wife’s power. Now, now shall this house swim in blood other than mine;10 swords, axes, spears, a king’s head cleft with the axe’s heavy stroke, I see; now crimes are near, now treachery, slaughter, gore – feasts are being spread. The author of thy birth has come, Aegisthus.11 Why dost hang thy head in shame? Why doth thy trembling hand, doubtful of purpose, fall? Why doest take counsel with thyself, why turn the question o’er and o’er whether this deed become thee? Think on thy mother; it becomes thee well.

[53] But why suddenly is the summer night prolonged to winter’s span? or what holds the setting stars in the sky? Are we delaying Phoebus? [Preparing to go.] Give back the day now to the universe. [Ghost vanishes.]

[57] O Fortune, who dost bestow the throne’s high boon with mocking hand, in dangerous and doubtful state thou settest the too exalted. Never have sceptres obtained calm peace or certain tenure; care on care weighs them down, and ever do fresh storms vex their souls. Not so on Libyan quicksands does the sea rage and roll up wave on wave; not so, stirred from their lowest depths, surge Euxine’s waters, hard by the icy pole, where, undipped in the azure waves,12 Boötes follows his shining wain, as does Fortune roll on the headlong fates of kings. To be feared they long, and to be feared they dread; kindly night gives them no safe retreat, and sleep, which conquers care, soothes not their breasts.

[77] What palace has not crime answering crime13 hurled headlong? What palace do impious arms not vex? Law, shame, the sacred bonds of marriage, all flee from courts. Hard in pursuit comes grim Bellona of the bloody hand, and she who frets the proud, Erinys, forever dogging homes too high, which any hour brings low from high estate.

[87] Though arms be idle and treachery give o’er, great kingdoms sink of their own weight, and Fortune gives way ‘neath the burden of herself. Sails swollen with favouring breezes fear blasts too strongly theirs; the tower which rears its head to the very clouds is beaten by rainy Auster; the grove, spreading dense shade around, sees ancient oak-trees riven; ‘tis the high hills that the lightnings strike; large bodies are more to disease exposed, and while common herds stray o’er vagrant pastures, the head highest upreared is marked for death.

[101] Whatever Fortune has raised on high, she lifts but to bring low. Modest estate has longer life; then happy he whoe’er, content with the common lot, with safe breeze hugs the shore, and, fearing to trust his skiff to the wider sea, with unambitious oar keeps close to land.

[108] Why, sluggish soul, dost safe counsel seek? Why waver? Already the better way is closed. Once thou mightest have guarded thy chaste bed and thy widowed sceptre with pure, wifely faith; gone are good fashions, right doing, honour, piety, faith, – and modesty, which, once ‘tis gone, knows no return. Fling loose the reins and, forward bent, rouse onward all iniquity; through crime ever is the safe way for crime. Devise now in thine own heart a woman’s wiles, – what any faithless wife, beside herself with blind passion, what step-mother’s hands have dared, or what she dared, that maid14 ablaze with impious love, who fled her Phasian realm in that Thessalian bark; dare sword, dare poison; or else flee from Mycenae with the partner of thy guilt, in stealthy bark. But why timidly talk of stealth, of exile, and of flight? Such things thy sister15 did; thee some greater crime becomes.

[125] Queen of the Greeks, Leda’s illustrious child, what ponderest thou in silence, what mad deed, ungoverned in thy purpose, art planning with restless soul? Though thy say no word, thy face discovers all thy anguish. Wherefore, whate’er it be, give thyself time and room; what reason cannot, delay has ofttimes cured.

]131] Passions rack me too strong to endure delay; flames are burning my very marrow and my heart; here fear16 blent with anguish plies the spur, and my breast throbs with jealousy;17 there base love forces its yoke upon my mind and forbids me to give way. And midst such fires that beset my soul, shame, weary indeed and conquered and utterly undone, still struggles on.18 By shifting fllods am I driven, as when here wind, there tide harries the deep, and the waters halt uncertain to which foe they will yield. Wherefore I have let go the rudder from my hands – where wrath, where smart, where hope shall carry me, there will I go; to the waves have I given my bark. Where reason fails, ‘tis best to follow chance.

[145] Blind is he and rash who follows chance.

[146] When fortune is at its worst, why fear its hazard?

[147] Sae is thy sin and hidden, if thou allow it so.

[148] Open to view is a royal house’s every sin.

[149] Dost repent the old crime, yet plan the new?

[150] Surely ‘tis folly to stop midway in sin.

[151] Whoso piles crime on crime, makes greater what he dreads.19

[152] Both knife and cautery oft take the place of drugs.

[153] Desperate remedies no one tries at first.

[154] In midst of ills, we must snatch at headlong ways.

[155] But let the hallowed name of wedlock turn thee back.

[156] For ten years widowed, shall I still think on husband?

[157] Thine offspring of him thou shouldst remember.

[158] I do remember my daughter’s20 wedding fires, my son-in-law, Achilles; true faith he21 showed a mother!

[160] She freed our becalmed fleet from delay, and roused the sluggish sea from its deep repose.

[162] Oh, shame! oh, anguish! I, child of Tyndarus, of heavenly lineage, have borne a sacrifice for the Grecian fleet! Once more in memory I see my daughter’s wedding rites, which he made worthy of Pelops’ house, when, with prayer on lip, the father stood before the altars, how fit for nuptials! Calchas shuddered at his own oracles and at the recoiling altar-fires. O house that ever o’ertops crime with crime! With blood we purchased winds, and war with murder! But, say you, by this means a thousand ships spread sail together? ‘Twas by no favouring god the fleet was freed; no! Aulis from port drave forth the impious ships. Thus beginning, not more happily did he wage the war. With love of a captive smitten, unmoved by prayer, he held as spoil the child of Smynthean Apollo’s aged priest,22 then as now mad with passion for a sacred maid.23 Neither Achilles, unmoved by threats, could bend him, nor he24 who alone sees the secrets of the universe, (for me and mine sure seer, for slave-girls of no weight),25 nor the plague-smit people, nor the blazing pyres. Midst the death-struggle of falling Greece, conquered, but by no foe, he languishes, has leisure for love, seeks new amours; and, lest his widowed couch ever be free from some barbaric mistress, he lusted for the Lyrnesian maid,26 Achilles’ spoil, nor blushed toe bear her away, torn from her lord’s embrace – he, the enemy of Paris! Now, wounded afresh, he rages with passion for the inspired Phrygian maid;27 and after Troy’s conquest, after Ilium’s overthrow, he comes back home, a captive’s husband Priam’s son-in-law!

[193] Now gird thee up, my soul; no trivial strife art thou preparing. Crime must be forestalled.28 Sluggish, what day dost thou await? Till Phrygian wives shall wield our Pelops’ sceptre? Do the virgin daughters of thy house and Orestes, image of his father, hold thee back? Nay, ‘tis the ills that that threaten them that should urge thee on; o’er them a storm of woes hangs lowering. Why, wretched woman, dost thou hesitate? Through thine own side, if not otherwise it can be done, let the sword be driven, and so slay two. Mingle thy blood with his, in thy death destroy thy husband; death hath no pang when shared with whom thou wouldest.

[203] O Queen, restrain thyself, check thine impetuous wrath and think what thou art daring; the conqueror of wild Asia is at hand, Europe’s avenger, dragging in triumph captive Pergama and the Phrygians, long since subdued. Against him now with guile and stealth dost thou essay to fight, whom Achilles with his savage sword hurt not, though in grim wrath he armed his insolent hand, nor the better Ajax29 raging and bent on death, nor Hector, sole bulwark against the warring Greeks, nor the sure-aimed shafts of Paris, nor swarthy Memnon, nor Xanthus, rolling down corpses and arms commingled, nor Simoïs, its waves running red with blood, nor Cycnus, snowy30 offspring of the Ocean-god, nor warlike Rhesus and his Thracian horde, nor the Amazon, with her painted quiver, battle-axe in hand, and crescent shield? Him, home-returning, dost thou prepare to slay and to defile thine altars with slaughter impious? Will victorious Greece leave such a deed unavenged? Horses and arms, the sea studded with ships, set these before thine eyes, the ground flowing with streams of blood, and the whole fate of the captured house of Dardanus turned ‘gainst the Greeks.31 Control thy fierce passions, and do thou thyself set thine own soul at peace. [Exit.]


[226] [In soliloquy.] The hour which always in my heart and soul I dreaded is here indeed, the hour of fate for me. Why, would, dost fear to face it? Why at the first onslaught dost lay down thy arms? Be sure that for thee destruction and dread doom the pitiless gods prepare. Then set thy vile life to face all punishments, and with confronting breast welcome both sword and flame, Aegisthus; for one so born, ‘tis no penalty to die.

[234] [To CLYTEMNESTRA.] Thou partner of my peril, thou, Leda’s daughter, be but my comrade still; then blood for blood shall he repay to thee, this cowardly warrior and valiant sire. But why does pallor o’erspread thy trembling cheeks, and why in thy listless face is thine eye so dull and drooping?

[239] Love for my husband conquers and turns me back. Return we thither whence ‘twere well never to have come away. E’en now let us reseek purity and truth, for never too late is trod the path to honesty; whose repents his sin is well-nigh innocent.

[244] Whither art borne, mad one? Dost believe or hope that Agamemnon is still true to his marriage vows? Though there were nought in thine own heart to rouse grave fears, still would his arrogant, immoderate, o’er-inflated fortune swell his pride. Harsh to his allies was he while Troy still stood; what thinkest thou Troy32 has added to a spirit by its own nature fierce? Mycenae’s king he was; he will come back her tyrant; – prosperity urges pride beyond itself. With what magnificence the surging throng of harlots comes! But one stands out among the throng and holds the king in thrall, the handmaid33 of the fate-revealing god.34 Wilt thou give up and endure a sharer in thy marriage bed? But she will not. A wife’s utmost of woe is a mistress openly queening it in her husband’s house. Nor throne nor bed can brook a partnership.

[260] Aegisthus, why dost thou again drive me headlong, and fan to flame my wrath already cooling? Suppose the victor has allowed himself some liberty toward a captive maid; ‘tis meet neither for wife nor mistress to take note of this. There is one law for thrones, one for the private bed. What? Does my own heart, itself conscious of base guilt, suffer me to pass harsh judgment on my husband? Let her forgive freely who forgiveness needs.

[268] Sayst thou so? Canst bargain for mutual forgiveness? Are the rights of kings unknown to thee or strange? To us harsh judges, partial to themselves, they deem this the greatest pledge of kingship, if whate’er to others is unlawful is unlawful to them alone.

[273] He pardoned Helen; joined to her Menelaüs she returns, who Europe and Asia to like ruin dashed.

[275] Aye, but no woman with stealthy love has stolen Atrides and captured his heart close-barred against his wife.35 Already thy lord seeks charge against thee, intends cause of strife. Suppose no baseness has been done by thee; what boots an honest life and sinless? Whom a master hates is condemned of guilt unheard. Spurned away, wilt thou go back to Sparta and thy Eurotas, wilt flee to thy father’s house? The rejected of kings have no escape. With false hope dost thou relieve thy fears.

[284] None knows my guilt save one faithful friend.

[285] Faith never crosses the threshold of a king.

[286] With wealth will I purchase, with bribes will I blind faith.

[287] Faith gained by bribes is overcome by bribes.

[288] The remnant of my old time chastity revives; why dost thou cry against it? Why with cozening words dost give me evil counsel? Deserting the king of kings, shall I wed with thee, a high-born woman with an outcast?

[292] And wherefore less than Atreus’ son do I seem to thee, who am Thyestes’ son?

[293] If that is not enough, say grandson, too.

[294] Phoebus was the source of my begetting; my birth shames me not.

[295] Dost thou name Phoebus as source of an incestuous birth, whom, calling back his steeds in sudden night, you36 drove from heaven? Why besmirch the gods? Thou, trained by guile to steal the marriage bed, whom we know only as man of unlawful love, depart at once, take from my sight the infamy of our house; this home is waiting for its king and lord.

[302] Exile is not new to me; I am used to woe. If thou commandest, O queen, not alone from home and Argos do I flee: I am ready at thy bidding to plunge sword into my heart, o’erweighed with grief.

[306] [Aside.] Yet, should I, cruel daughter of Tyndareus, let this be done. [To AEGISTHUS.] Who jointly sins owes also faith to crime. Come thou with me, that the dark and threatening state of our affairs joint plans may set in order.

[310] Sing ye, O maids renowned, of Phoebus! To thee, Phoebus, the festal throng wreaths the head, to thee, waving laurel-bough, the Argive maid in wonted fashion spreads forth her virgin locks; and thou who drinkest of Erasinus’ cool waters, who of Eurotas, and who of Ismenus drinkest, silently flowing along its green banks; thou, too, though stranger in Thebes, come join in our chorus, whom Manto, reader of fate, Tiresias’ daughter, warmed with due rites to worship the gods, offspring of Latona.

[326] Thy bow, now peace has come back, all-conquering Phoebus, loose, and thy quiver, full of swift arrows, lay down from thy shoulder and let resound, smit by thy flying fingers, the tuneful lyre. No stern, high strains in lofty measures would I have it sound, but such simply song as ‘tis thy wont to modulate on lighter shell, when the learned Muse surveys thy sports. ‘Tis thy right, too, on heavier strings to sound such strain as thou sangest when gods saw Titans by thunder overcome, even when mountains, on lofty mountains set, furnished pathway for grim monsters, when Pelion stood on Ossa set beneath, and cloud-capped Olympus weighed on both.

[348] Thou, too, be near, who as wife and sister sharest the sceptre’s might, Juno the royal! We, thy chosen band, in Mycenae adore thee. Thou art the sole protector of Argos that calls on thee with anxious prayers; thou in thy hand holdest war and peace. Accept now the laurels of Agamemnon, victorious goddess. To thee the box-wood flute of many openings soundeth its solemn strains; to thee skilled maidens touch the strings in soothing melody; to thee Grecian mothers wave the votive torch; at thy shrines shall fall the bull’s white mate, which knows not the plough, whose neck the yoke ne’er scarred.

[368] And thou, child of the great Thunderer, glorious Pallas, who oft with thy spear didst attack the Dardanian towers, to thee in mingled chorus mothers, younger and older, kneel, and at thy coming the priest throws wide the doors of the temple. To thee the throng, crowned with woven wreaths, advances; to thee aged and spent old men, their petitions heard, give thanks and with trembling hand pour wine in libation.

[382] Thee, too, O Trivia,37 with mindful hearts and prayer familiar we adore. Thou biddest thy natal Delos to stand firm, Lucina,38 erstwhile a Cyclad, drifting hither and yon at the will of the winds; now ‘tis a stable land with root firm fixed, repels the winds and gives anchorage for ships, though wont to follow them. Victorious, thou countest o’er the corpses that their mother,39 child of Tantalus, bemoaned; now on Sipylus’ high top she stands, a weeping statue, and to this day fresh tears the ancient marble drips. Zealously both maid and man adore the twin divinities.40

[400] And thou before all others, father and ruler, god of the thunder, by whose mere nod the farthest poles do tremble, O Jove, thou author of our race, kindly accept our gifts, and with a father’s care take thought for thine own true progeny.

[408] But lo, a soldier, hurrying with huge steps, hastes hither with signs of joyful tidings clearly visible, (for his spear bears a laurel wreath on its iron tip,) and Eurybates, the ever faithful servant of the king, is here.

[Enter EURYBATES with laurel-wreathed spear.]

[392a] Ye shrines and altars of the heavenly gods, ye household deities of my fathers, after long wanderings wearied, and scarce trusting mine own eyes, I humbly give reverence. [To the people.] Pay now your vows to the high gods; the pride and glory of the Argive land returns to his own house at last, Agamemnon, victorious!

[Enter CLYTEMNESTRA in time to hear the herald’s concluding words.]

[397a] Blessed news this that falls upon mine ears! But where delays my husband whom I have sought through ten long years? Rests he on sea, or land?

[400a] Unharmed, increased in glory, illustrious with praise, he hath set homeward foot upon the longed-for shore.

[402a] With sacred rites let us hail the day, fortunate at last, and the gods, even if propitious, yet slow in granting our request. But tell me, thou, does my husband’s brother live, and where is my sister,41 tell.

[406a] Better than our hopes I pray and beseech the gods; for the sea’s dubious lot forbids to speak certainty. When our scattered fleet met swollen seas, one ship could scarce descry her sister ship. Nay, e’en Atrides’ self, on the boundless ocean wandering, endured losses heavier by sea than war, and like a vanquished man, though victor, he returns, bringing but few and shattered vessels from his mighty fleet.

[414] Tell what calamity has swallowed up my ships, or what mishap by sea has dispersed the chiefs.

[416] A tale bitter in the telling thou demandest; thou biddest me mix the unlucky message with the glad. My sick mind shrinks from speech and shudders at the thought of such disasters.

[419] Tell on; who shrinks from knowledge of his calamities but aggravates his fear; troubles half seen do torture all the more.

[421] When all Pergamum fell ‘neath the Doric fire, the spoil was divided and in eager haste all sought the sea. And now the warrior eases his side of the sword’s weary load, and unheeded lie the shields along the high sterns; the oar is fitted to the warrior’s hands, and to their eager haste all tarrying seems over long. Then, when the signal for return gleamed on the royal ship, and the loud trumpet-blast warned the glad rowers, the king’s gilded prow, leading, marked out the way, and opened up the course for a thousand ships to follow.

[431] A gentle breeze at first steals into our sails and drives our vessels onward; the tranquil waves, scarce stirring, ripple beneath soft Zephyr’s breathing, and the sea reflects the splendour of the fleet, hiding the while beneath it. ‘Tis sweet to gaze on the bare shores of Troy, sweet to behold deserted Sigeum’s wastes. The young men all haste to bend the oars, with strokes together, aid winds with hands and move their sturdy arms with rhythmic swing. The furrowed waters quiver, the vessel’s sides hiss through the waves and dash the blue sea into hoary spray. When a fresher breeze strains the swelling sails, the warriors lay by their oars, trust ship to wind and, stretched along the benches, either watch the far-fleeing land as the sails retreat, or rehearse their wars – brave Hector’s threats, the chariot42 and his ransomed body given to the pyre, Hercean Jove sprinkled with royal blood.43 Then, too, the Tyrrhene fish44 plays to and fro in the smooth water, leaps over the heaving seas with arching back, and sports around, now dashing about in circles, now swimming by our side, now gaily leading and again following after; anon the band in sheer wantonness touch the leading prow, now round and round the thousandth ship they swim.

[456] Meanwhile all the shore is hid and the plains sink from view, and dimly the ridges of Ida’s mount appear; and now, what alone the keenest eye can see, the smoke of Ilium shows but a dusky spot. Already from the yoke Titan was freeing his horses’ weary necks; now to the stars his rays sink low, now day goes headlong down. A tiny cloud, growing to a murky mass, stains the bright radiance of the setting sun, and the many coloured sun-set has made us doubt the sea.45

[465] Young night had spangled the sky with stars; the sails, deserted by the wind, hung low. Then from the mountain heights there falls a murmur deep, whose threatening, and the wide-sweeping shore and rocky headlands send forth a moaning sound; the waves, lashed by the rising wind, roll high – when suddenly the moon is hid, the stars sink out of sight, skyward the sea is lifted, the heavens are gone. ‘Tis doubly night; dense fog o’erwhelms the dark and, all light withdrawn, confuses sea and sky. From all sides at once the winds fall on and ravage the sea, from its lowest depths upturned, West wind with East wind striving, South with North. Each wields his own weapons, with deadly assault stirring up the deep, while a whirlwind churns the waves. Strymonian Aquilo sends the deep snow whirling, and Libyan Auster stirs up the sands of Syrtes;46 nor stand the strife with Auster: Notus, heavey with clouds, blows up, swells waves with rain, while Eurus attacks the dawn, shaking Nabataean realms, and eastern gulfs. What wrought fierce Corus, thrusting forth his head from ocean? The whole sky he tears from its foundations, and you might think the very gods falling from the shattered heavens, and black chaos enveloping the world. Flood strives with wind and wind backward rolls the flood. The sea contains not itself, and rain and waves mingle their waters. Then even this comfort fails their dreadful plight, to see at least and know the disaster by which they perish. Darkness weighs on their eyes, and ‘tis the infernal night of awful Styx. Yet fires burst forth, and from the riven clouds gleams the dire lightning flash, and to the poor sailors great is the sweetness of that fearful gleam; even for such light they pray.

[497] The fleet itself helps on its own destruction, prow crashing on prow and side on side. One ship the yawning deep sucks into the abyss, engulfs and spews forth again, restored to the sea above; one sinks of its own weight, another turns its wrecked side to the waves, and one the tenth47 wave o’erwhelms. Here, battered and stripped of all its ornament, one floats, with neither sails nor oars nor straight mast bearing the high sailyards, a broken hulk, drifting wide on the Icarian sea. Reason, experience, are of no avail; skill yields to dire calamity. Horror holds their limbs; the sailors all stand stupefied, their tasks abandoned; oars drop from hands. To prayer abject fear drives the wretches, and Trojans and Greeks beg the same things of the gods. What can near doom accomplish? Pyrrhus envies his father, Ulysses Ajax, the younger Atrides Hector, Agamemnon Priam; whoever at Troy lies slain is hailed as blessed, who by deeds of arms earned death, whom glory guards, whom the land he conquered buries. “Do se and wave bear48 those who have dared naught noble and shall a coward’s doom o’erwhelm brave men? Must death be squandered? Whoe’er of heaven’s gods thou art, not yet with our sore troubles sated, let thy divinity be at last appeased; o’er our calamities e’en Troy would weep. But if thy hate is stubborn, and ‘tis thy pleasure to send the Greek race to doom, why wouldst have those49 perish along with us, for whose sake we perish? Allay the raging sea: this fleet bears Greeks but it bears Trojans too.” They can no more; the sea usurps their words.

[528] But lo! disaster on disaster! Pallas, armed with the bolt of angry Jove, threatening essays whate’er she may, not with spear, not with aegis, not with Gorgon’s50 rage, but with her father’s lightning, and throughout the sky new tempests blow. Ajax51 alone, undaunted by disaster, keeps up the struggle. Him, shortening sail with straining halyard, the hurtling lightning grazed. Another bolt is levelled; this, with all her might, Pallas launched true, with hand back drawn, in imitation of her father. Through Ajax it passed, and through his ship, and part of the ship with it, and Ajax it bore away. Then he, nothing moved, like some high crag, rises flame-scorched from the briny deep, cleaves the raging sea, with his breast bursts through the floods and, holding to his wrecked vessel with his hand, drags flames along, shines brightly midst the darkness of the sea and illumines the waves. At last, gaining a rock, in mad rage he thunders: “’Tis sweet to have conquered all things, flood and flame, to have vanquished sky, Pallas, thunderbolt and sea. If led not in terror of the god of war; both Hector at once and Mars did I with my sole arm withstand; nor did together with their Phrygians, I conquered; – and shall I shrink from thee? Another’s weapon with weakling hand thou hurlest. What, if he himself should hurl –?52 When in his madness he would be daring more, father Neptune, pushing with his trident, o’erwhelmed the rock, thrusting forth his head from his waves’ depths, and broke off the drag. This in his fall Ajax bears down with him, and now he lies, by earth and fire and billows overcome.

[557] But us shipwrecked mariners, another, worse ruin challenges. There is a shallow water, a deceitful shoal full of rough boulders, where treacherous Caphereus hides his rocky base beneath whirling eddies; the sea boils upon the rocks, and ever the flood seethes with its ebb and flow. A precipitous headland o’erhangs, which on either hand looks out upon both stretches of the sea. Hence thou mayst descry thine own Pelopian shores, and Isthmus which, backward curving with its narrow soil, forbids the Ionian sea to join with Phrixus’ waves; hence also Lemnos, infamous for crime,53 and Calchedon, and Aulis which long delayed the fleet. Seizing this summit, the father of Palamedes with accursed hand raised from the high top a beacon-light and with treacherous torch lured the fleet upon the reefs. There hang the ships caught on jagged rocks; some are broken to pieces in the shallow water; the prow of one vessel is carried away, while a part sticks fast upon the rock; one ship crashes with another as it draws back, both wrecked and wrecking. Now ships fear land and choose the seas. Towards dawn the storm’s rage is spent; now that atonement has been made for Ilium, Phoebus returns and sad day reveals the havoc of the night.

[579] Shall I lament or rejoice me at my lord’s return? I do rejoice to see him home again, but o’er our realm’s heavy loss am I forced to grieve. At last O father, that dost shake the high-resounding heavens, restore to the Greeks their gods appeased. Now let every head by crowned with festal wreaths, let the sacrificial flute give forth sweet strains, and the white victim at the great altars fall.

[586] But see, a mournful throng with locks unbound, the Trojan women are here, while high above them all, with proud step advancing, Phoebus’ mad priestess waves the inspired laurel branch.

[Enter band of Trojan women led by CASSANDRA.]

[589] Alas, how alluring a bane is appointed unto mortals, even dire love of live, though refuge from heir woes opes wide, and death with generous hand invites the wretched, a peaceful port of everlasting rest. Nor fear nor storm of raging Fortune disturbs that calm, nor bolt of the harsh Thunderer. Peace so deep fears no citizens’ conspiracy, no victor’s threatening wrath, no wild seas ruffled by stormy winds, no fierce battle lines or dark cloud raised by barbaric squadrons’ hoofs, no nations falling with their city’s utter overthrow, while the hostile flames lay waste the walls, no fierce, ungovernable war. All bonds will he break through, who dares scorn the fickle gods, who on the face of dark Acheron, on fearful Styx can look, unfearful, and is bold enough to put an end to life. A match for kings, a match for the high gods will he be. Oh, how wretched ‘tis to know not how to die!

[612] We saw our country fall on that night of death, when you, ye Doric fires, ravished Dardania’s homes. She, not in war conquered, not by arms, not, as aforetime, by Hercules’ arrows, fell; her, not Peleus’ and Thetis’ son o’ercame, nor he,54 well-beloved by overbrave Pelides, when in borrowed arms he shone and drove Troy’s sons in flight, a false Achilles; nor, when Pelides’ self through grief55 gave o’er his fierce resentment,56 and the Trojan women, from the ramparts watching, feared his swift attack, did she lose amid her woes the crowning glory of suffering conquest bravely; for ten long years she stood, fated to perish by one night’s treachery.57

[627] We saw that feigned gift, measureless in bulk, and with our own hands trustfully dragged along the Greeks’ deadly offering; and oft on the threshold of the gate the noisy footed monster stumbled, bearing within its hold hidden chiefs and war. We might have turned their guile against themselves, and caused the Pelasgians by their own trick to fall. Oft sounded their jostled shields, and a low muttering smote our ears, when Pyrrhus grumbled, scarce yielding to crafty Ulysses’ will.

[638] All unafraid, the Trojan youth joy to touch the fatal ropes.58 Companies of their own age here Astyanax leads, there she,59 to the Thessalian pyre betrothed, she leading maids, he youths. Gaily do mothers bring votive offerings to the gods; gaily do fathers approach the shrines; each wears but one look the city o’er; and, what never we saw since Hector’s funeral, Hecuba was glad. And now, unhappy grief, what first, what last, wilt thou lament? Walls by divine hands fashioned, by our own destroyed? Temples upon their own gods consumed? Time lacks to weep such ills – thee, O great father, the Trojan women weep. I saw, I saw in the old man’s throat the sword of Pyrrhus scarce wet in his scanty blood.

[659] Restrain your tears which all time will seek, ye Trojan women, and do you yourselves grieve for your own dead with groans and lamentations; my losses refuse all sharing. Cease then your grief for my disasters. I myself shall suffice for the woes of mine own house.

[664] ‘Tis sweet to mingle tears with tears; griefs bring more smart where they wound in solitude, but ‘tis sweet in company to bewail one’s friends; nor shalt thou, though strong, heroic, and inured to woe, avail to lament calamities so great. Not the sad nightingale,60 which from the vernal bough pours forth her liquid song, piping of Itys in ever changing strains; not the bird61 which, perching on Bistonian battlements, tells o’er and o’er the hidden sins of her cruel lord, will e’er be able, with all her passionate lament, worthily to mourn thy house. Should bright Cycnus’62 self, haunting midst snowy swans Ister and Tanaïs, utter his dying song; should halcyons mourn their Ceyx midst the light wave’s lapping, when, though distrustful, boldly they trust once more to the tranquil ocean, and anxiously on unsteady nest cherish their young; should the sad throng which follows the unmanned men63 bruise their arms along with thee, the throng which, by the shrill flute maddened, smite their breasts to the tower-crowned mother,64 that for Phrygian Attis they may lament, – not so, Cassandra, is there measure for our tears, for what we suffer has outmeasured measure.

[693] But why dost tear off the holy fillets from thy head? Methinks the gods should be most reverenced by unhappy souls.

[695] Now have our woes o’ermastered every fear. Neither do I appease the heavenly gods by any prayer, nor, should they wish to rage, have they wherewith to harm me. Fortune herself has exhausted all her powers. What fatherland remains? What father? What sister now? Altars65 and tombs66 have drunk up my blood. What of that happy throng of brothers? Gone, all! in the empty palace only sad old men are left; and throughout those many chambers they see all women, save her of Sparta, widowed. That mother of so many kings, queen of the Phrygians, Hecuba, fruitful for funeral-fires, proving new laws of fate, has put on bestial form:67 around her ruined walls madly she barked, surviving Troy, son, husband – and herself!

[710] The bride of Phoebus suddenly is still, pallor o’erspreads her cheeks, and constant tremors master all her frame. Her fillets stand erect, her soft locks rise in horror, her labouring heart sounds loud with pent murmuring, her glance wanders uncertain, her eyes seem backward turned into herself, anon they stare unmoving. Now she lifts her head into the air higher than her wont, and walks with stately tread; now makes to unlock her struggling lips, now vainly tries to close them on her words, a mad priestess fighting against the god.

[720] Why, O Parnassus’ sacred heights, do ye prick me with fury’s goads anew, why do you sweep me on, bereft of sense? Away! O Phoebus, I am no longer thine; quench thou the flames set deep within my breast. For whose sake wander I now in madness? for whose sake in frenzy rave? Now Troy has fallen – what have I, false prophetess, to do?

[726] Where am I? Fled is the kindly light, deep darkness blinds my eyes, and the sky, buried in gloom, is hidden away. But see! with double sun the day gleams forth ,and double Argos lifts up twin palaces! Ida’s groves I see; there sits the shepherd, fateful judge midst mighty goddesses. – Fear him, ye kings, I warn you, fear the child of stolen love;68 that rustic foundling shall overturn your house. What means that mad woman with drawn sword in hand? What hero seeks she with her right hand, a Spartan in her garb,69 but carrying an Amazonian axe? – What sight is that other which now employs mine eyes? The king of beasts with his proud neck, by a base fang lies low, an Afric lion, suffering the bloody bites of his bold lioness. – Why do ye summon me, saved only of my house, my kindred shades? Thee, father, do I follow, eye-witness of Troy’s burial; thee, brother, help of the Phrygians, terror of the Greeks, I see not in thine old-time splendour, or with thine hands hot from the burning of the ships, but mangled of limb, with those arms wounded by the deep-sunk thongs; thee, Troilus, I follow, to early with Achilles met; unrecognisable the face thou wearest, Deiphobus,70 the gift of thy new wife.71 ‘Tis sweet to fare along the very Stygian pools; sweet to behold Tartarus’ savage dog and the realms of greedy Dis! To-day this skiff of murky Phlegethon shall bear royal souls,72 vanquished and vanquisher. Ye shades, I pray; thou stream on which the gods make oath, thee no less I pray: for a little withdraw the covering of that dark world, that on Mycenae the shadowy throng of Phrygians may look forth. Behold, poor souls; the fates turn backward on themselves.

[759] They press on, the squalid sisters, their bloody lashes brandishing; their left hands half-burned torches bear; bloated are their pallid cheeks, and dusky robes of death their hollow loins encircle; the fearsome cries of night resound, and a huge body’s bones, rotting with long decay, lie in a slimy marsh.73 And see! that spent old man,74 forgetting thirst, no longer catches at the mocking waters, grieving at death75 to come; but father Dardanus exults and walks along with stately tread.

[775] Now has her rambling frenzy spent itself, and falls, as before the altar with sinking knees falls the bull, receiving an ill-aimed stroke upon his neck. Let us lift up her body. But lo! at last his own gods, wreathed with victorious bay, Agamemnon comes; his wife with joy has gone forth to meet him, and now returns, joining her steps in harmony with his.

[Enter AGAMEMNON. He has been met and greeted by his wife, who enters with him and goes on alone into the palace.]

[782] At length am I returned in safety to my father’s house. O dear land, hail! To thee many barbaric nations have given spoil, to thee proud Asia’s Troy, long blest of heaven, has yielded. – Why does the priestess76 there faint and fall tottering with drooping head? Slaves, lift her up, revive her with cool water. Now with languid gaze she again beholds the light. [To CASSANDRA.] Awake to life! that longed for haven from our woes is here; this is a festal day.

[791] ‘Twas festal,77 too, at Troy.

[792] Let us kneel before the altar.

[792] Before the altar my father fell.

[793] To Jove let us pray together.

[793] Hercean Jove?78

[794] Dost think thou lookst on Ilium?

[794] And Priam, too.

[795] Here is not Troy.

[795] Where a Helen79 is, I think is Troy.

[796] Fear thou no mistress, though a slave.

[796] Freedom is near at hand.

[797] Live on, secure.

[797] For me, death is security.

[798] For thee there is naught to fear.

[798] But much for thee.

[799] What can a victor fear?

[799] What he doth not fear.

[800] Ye faithful slaves, restrain her till she throw off the god,80 lest in her wild frenzy she do some harm. But thee, O father, who the dire thunder hurlest, and driv’st the clouds, who the stars and lands dost rule, to whom in triumph victors bring their spoils; and thee, sister of thine almighty lord, Argolian Juno, gladly with votive flocks, with gifts81 from Araby, and with suppliant offerings of entrails will I adore.
[Exit into the palace.]

[808] O Argos, ennobled by thy noble citizens, Argos, dear to the step-dame though enraged,82 ever mighty sons thou fosterest and hast made even83 the odd number of the gods. That hero of thine by his twelve labours earned the right to be chosen for the skies, great Hercules, for whom,84 the world’s law broken, Jove doubled the hours of dewy night, bade Phoebus more slowly drive his hastening car, and thy team to turn back with laggard feet, O pale Phoebe. Backward the star turned his steps, the star who changes from name to name,85 and marvelled still to be called Hesperus, evening star. Aurora stirred at the accustomed hour of dawn, but, sinking back, laid her head and neck upon the breast of her aged husband.86 The rising, yea, and the setting of the sun felt the birth of Hercules; a hero so mighty could not be begotten in a single night. For thee the whirling universe stood still, O boy, destined to mount the skies.

[829] The lightning-swift lion of Nemea felt thy power, crushed by thy straining arms, and the Parrhasian hind, the ravager87 of Arcady’s fields, felt thee, too, and loud bellowed the savage bull, leaving the fields of Crete. The hydra, fertile in death, he overcame and forbade new births from each neck destroyed;88 the mated89 brethren, springing three monsters from a single body, he crushed, leaping on them with his crashing club, and brought to the east the western herd, spoil of the three-formed Geryon. He drove the Thracian herd90 which the tyrant fed, not on the grass of the Strymon or on the banks of the Hebrus; cruel, he offered his savage horses the gore of strangers – and the blood of their driver91 was the last to stain red their jaws. Warlike Hippolyte saw the spoil92 snatched from about her breast; and by his shafts down from the riven sky from high heaven fell the Stymphalian bird. The tree, laden with golden fruit, shrank from his hands, unused to such plucking, and the bough, relieved of its burden, sprang into the air. The cold, sleepless guardian93 heard the sound of the clinking metal, only when heavy laden Alcides was leaving the grove all stripped of its tawny gold. Dragged to the upper world by triple fetters, the infernal dog was silent, nor with any mouth did he bay, shrinking from the hues of unexperienced light. Under thy leadership fell the lying house94 of Dardanus and suffered the arrows, once again95 to be feared; under thy leadership in as many days Troy fell as it took years thereafter.

[867] [Alone upon the stage.]96 A great deed is done within, a match for ten years of war. Ah! What is this? Rise up, my soul, and take the reward of thy madness – we are conquerors, we conquered Phrygians! ‘Tis well! Troy has risen again! In thy fall, O father, thou hast dragged down Mycenae; thy conqueror gives way! Never before did my mind’s prophetic frenzy give sight to mine eyes so clear; I see, I am in the midst of it, I revel in it; ‘tis no doubtful image cheats my sight; let me gaze my fill.

[875] A feast is spread within the royal house and thronged with guests, like that last banquet of the Phrygians; the couches gleam with Trojan purple, and their wine they quaff from the golden cups of old Assaracus. Lo, he himself97 in broidered vestments lies on lofty couch, wearing on his body the proud spoils of Priam. His wife bids him doff the raiment of his foe and don instead the mantle her own fond hands have woven – I shudder and my soul trembles at the sight! Shall an exile98 slay a king? an adulterer98 a husband? The fatal hour has come. The banquet’s close shall see the master’s blood, and gore shall fall into the wine. The deadly mantle he has put on delivers him bound treacherously to his doom; the loose, impenetrable folds refuse outlet to his hands and enshroud his head. With trembling right hand the half-man stabs at his side, but hath not driven deep; in mid stroke he stands as one amazed. But he, as in the deep woods a bristling boar, though with the net entangled, still tries for freedom, and by his struggling draws close his bonds and rages all in vain, – he strives to throw off the blinding folds all around him floating, and, though closely enmeshed, seeks for his foe. Now Tyndaris99 in mad rage snatches the two-edged axe and, as at the altar the priest marks with his eye the oxen’s necks before he strikes, so, now here, now there, her impious hand she aims. He has it!100 the deed is done! The scarce severed head hangs by a slender part; here blood streams o’er his headless trunk, there lie his moaning lips. And not yet do they give o’er; he attacks the already lifeless man, and keeps hacking at the corpse; she helps him in the stabbing. Each one in this dire crime answers to his own kin – he is Thyestes’ son, she, Helen’s sister. See, Titan, the day’s work done, stands hesitant whether his own or Thyestes’101 course to run.
[Remains beside the altar.]

[Enter ELECTRA, leading her young brother, ORESTES.]

[910] Fly, O sole avenger of our father’s death, fly and escape our enemies’ miscreant hands. O’erthrown is our house to its foundations, our kingdom fallen.

[913] But who is yonder stranger, driving his chariot at speed? Come brother, I will hide thee ‘neath my robe. Why, foolish heart, dost thou shrink away? Strangers dost fear? ‘Tis our home that must be feared. Put away now thy trembling dread, Orestes; the trusty protection of a friend I see.

[Enter STROPHIUS in a chariot, accompanied by his son PYLADES.]

[918] I, Strophius, had Phocis left, and now am home returning, made glorious by the Elean palm. The cause of my coming hither was to congratulate my friend, o’erthrown by whose hand and crushed by ten years of war has Ilium fallen. [He notices ELECTRA’s distress.] But who is that yonder, watering her sad face with tears, fear-struck and sorrowful? One of the royal house I recognize. Electra! What cause of weeping can be in this glad house?

[925] My father lies murdered by my mother’s crime; they seek the son to share in his father’s death; Aegisthus holds the throne by guilty love secured.

[928] Alas! no happiness if of lengthened stay.

[929] By the memory of my father I beseech thee, by his sceptre known to all the world, by the fickle gods:102 take this boy, Orestes, and hide the holy theft.

[932] Although murdered Agamemnon warns me to beware, I will brave the danger and gladly, Orestes, will I steal thee off. Good fortune asks for faith, adversity demands it. [Takes ORESTES into the chariot.] Take thou this crown,103 won in the games, as an ornament for thy head, and, holding this victor’s bough104 in thy left hand, shield thy face with its great branch, and may that palm, the gift of Pisaean Jove, afford thee at once a covering and an omen. And do thou, Pylades, who standest as comrade to guide thy father’s car, learn faith from the example of thy sire. And now, do you, my horses, whose speed all Greece has seen,105 flee from this treacherous place in headlong flight.
[Exeunt at great speed.]

[944] [Looking after them.] He has departed, gone, his car at a reckless pace has vanished from my sight. Now free from care shall I await my foes, and willingly oppose myself to death.

[947] [She sees CLYTEMNESTRA approaching.] Here is the bloody conqueror of her lord, with the signs of murder on her blood-stained robe. Her hands are still reeking with blood fresh-spilled, and her savage features bear tokens of her crime. I’ll take me to the altar. Let me be joined, Cassandra, with thy fillets,106 since I fear like doom with thee.


[953] Foe of thy mother, unfilial and froward girl, by what custom doest thou, a maid, seek public gatherings?

[955] Because I am a maid have I left the adulterer’s home.

[956] Who would believe thee maid?

[956] A child of thine?107

[957] More gently with thy mother!

[957] Dost thou teach piety?

[958] Thou hast a mannish soul, a heart puffed up; but, tamed by suffering, shalt thou learn to play a woman’s part.

[960] If perchance, I mistake not, a sword befits a woman.

[961] And thinkest thou, mad one, thou art a match for us?

[962] For you? What other Agamemnon is that of thine? Speak thou as widow; lifeless if thy lord.

[964] The unbridled tongue of an unfilial girl hereafter as queen I’ll check; meanwhile be quick and tell where is my son, where is thy brother.

[967] Far from Mycenae.

[967] Restore me now my son.

[968] And do thou restore my father.

[968] Where does he hide?

[969] In peace and safety, where he fears no new-made king; for a righteous mother ‘tis enough.

[970] But too little for an angry one. Thou shalt die this day.

[971] So but it be by this hand of thine. I leave the altar. If ‘tis thy pleasure in my throat to plunge the sword, I offer my throat to thee; of if, as men smite sheep, thou wouldst cut off my neck, my bent neck waits thy stroke. The crime is ready; thy right hand, smeared and rank with a husband’s slaughter, purge with this blood of mine.


[978] Thou partner equally in my perils and my throne, Aegisthus, come. My child undutifully insults her mother, and keeps her brother hidden.

[981] Mad girl, hold thy impious tongue, and speak not words unworthy of thy mother’s ears.

[983] Shall he e’en give instruction, the worker of an impious crime, one criminally begot, whom even his own parents cannot name, son of his sister, grandson of his sire?

[986] Aegisthus, why dost hesitate to strike off her wicked head with the sword? Let her at once give up her brother or her life.

[988] Mured in a dark, rocky dungeon shall she spend her life and, by all kinds of tortures racked, perchance she will consent to give back him she now conceals. Resourceless, starving, in prison pent, buried in filth, widowed ere wedded, in exile, scorned by all, denied the light of day, then will she, though too late, yield to her doom.

[994] Oh, grant me death.

[994] Shouldst plead against, I’d grant. An unskilled tyrant he who punishes by death.

[996] Is aught worse than death?

[996] Yes, life, if thou longest to die. Away, ye slaves, with this unnatural girl; far from Mycenae bear her, and in the remotest corner of the realm chain her immured in the black darkness of a cell, that prison walls may curb the unmanageable maid.
[ELECTRA is dragged away.]

[1001] [Indicating CASSANDRA.] But she shall pay her penalty with death, that captive bride, that mistress of the royal bed. Drag her away, that she may follow the husband whom she stole from me.

[1004] Nay, drag me not, I will precede your going. I hasten to be first to bear news unto my Phrygians – of the sea covered with the wrecks of ships, of Mycenae taken, of the leader of a thousand leaders (that so he might meet doom equal to Troy’s woes) slain by a woman’s gift – by adultery, by guile. Take me away; I hold not back, but rather give you thanks. Now, now ‘tis sweet to have outlived Troy, ‘tis sweet.

[1012] Mad creature, thou shalt die.

[1012] On you, as well, a madness is to come.108


1. He is reminded of his own horrid banquet in this very place.
2. Ixion.
3. Of Sisyphus.
4. Of Tityus.
5. Tantalus.
6. Pelops was slain by his father, Tantalus, and served as a banquet to the gods, but restored to life, and Tantalus punished.
7. Minos.
8. i.e. Thyestes.
9. i.e. Thyestes acted by direction of an oracle, which declared that by this means he might gain vengeance on Atreus’ line.
10. It will not be his branch of the family that shall suffer this time.

11. These and the remaining lines of the paragraph are addressed to Aegisthus, seemingly as if he were present.
12. i.e. the Northern constellations never set beneath the sea.
13. i.e. waged by one member of a royal house against another.
14. Medea.
15. Helen.
16. i.e. of Agamemnon’s vengeance.
17. Of Cassandra.
18. i.e. against lust.
19. i.e. the penalty.
20. Iphigenia.

21. i.e. Agamemnon.
22. Chryses, father of Chryseïs.
23. Cassandra, his second infatuation.
24. Calchas.
25. i.e. Agamemnon believed him when he demanded the death of Iphigenia, but not when he required the return of Briseïs.
26. Briseïs.
27. Cassandra.
28. i.e. I must take revenge on Agamemnon before he does the like to me.
29. i.e. Ajax son of Telamon in contradistinction to Ajax the son of Oileus, called Ajax “the Less.”
30. He was changed into a snow-white swan.

31. i.e. Agamemnon’s death will be as terribly avenged as was the injury to Helen.
32. i.e. the fall of Troy.
33. Cassandra.
34. Apollo.
35. i.e. in Menelaüs’ case his heart was not already hardened against his wife by another mistress, as is the case with Agamemnon.
36. i.e. you house. At the horrid feast of Thyestes the sun veiled his face in darkness that he might not see.
37. i.e. Diana.
38. Diana.
39. Niobe.
40. i.e. Phoebus and Phoebe (Diana).

41. Helen.
42. i.e. of Achilles, by which Hector’s body was dragged.
43. Priam was slain at the altar of Hercean Jove (Zeus Herkeios, protector of the courtyard) in the courtyard of his palace.
44. The dolphin is so called here in remembrance of the Tyrrhene pirates who under the wrath of Bacchus were changed to dolphins. See Oedipus, 449 ff.
45. This is one of numerous weather-signs.
46. The Syrtes were shallow sand-bars off the northern coast of Africa.
47. Every tenth wave was supposed to be the greatest and most destructive.
48. i.e. in safety. The contrast here is between timorous folk who have safely sailed the sea and these brave men who must perish in it and throw away their lives for no return.
49. i.e. the Trojans, on whose account, it is here assumed, the destructive storm ahs been sent upon the Greeks.
50. The shield (aegis) of Minerva was set with the terrifying Gorgon’s head given to her by Perseus.

51. i.e. Ajax “the Less,” son of Oileus. This scene recalls Vergil, Aen. 1. 41 ff.
52. Ajax apparently would have finished by saying – “his bolt, even then I would not fear.”
53. i.e. of the women who killed all their men, except that Hypsipyle saved her father, Thoas.
54. Patroclus.
55. i.e. at the death of Patroclus.
56. i.e. against Agamemnon.
57. i.e. by the trick of the wooden horse.
58. With this whole passage compare Vergil’s description, and especially Aen. ii. 239.
59. Polyxena.
60. Into which Philomela was changed.

61. The swallow (hirundo) into which Procne was changed.
62. Cycnus, son of Neptune, slain by Achilles and changed into a swan. Cycnus is here conceived of as swan rather than man.
63. Priests of Cybele.
64. Cybele.
65. Both her brother Polites and her father Priam had been slain at the altar of Hercean Jove. See Aen. ii. 526 ff.
66. Polyxena had been slain on Achilles’ tomb.
67. i.e. she was changed into a dog.
68. These words have no logical connection with her previous utterance, and are a dark allusion to Aegisthus.
69. She has a clairvoyant prevision of the act of Clytemnestra.
70. See Vergil, Aen. vi. 494 ff.

71. i.e. Helen.
72. Her own and Agamemnon’s.
73. If Seneca wrote lines 766-768, he may have had some definite reference in his mind unknown to us, or he may have meant merely to add further gruesome detail to the picture.
74. Tantalus.
75. i.e. of Agamemnon, great-grandson of Tantalus.
76. Cassandra.
77. See Vergil, Aen. ii. 249.
78. It was at the altar of Hercean Jove that Priam was slain (Aen. ii. 512 ff.).
79. i.e. an evil, adulterous woman such as Helen. Helen was not in Greece at this time. The reference is obviously to Clytemnestra.
80. Cassandra is supposed to be still under the influence of Apollo.

81. Incense.
82. i.e. to Juno, constantly angered by the children of Jove’s mistresses.
83. Farnabius thus explains this curious statement: the deification of Hercules (to which Juno at last consented) added to the number, not of the great gods, who were twelve in number, but of the gods of the second rank (diis communibus), three in number – Mars, Bellona, and Victoria – thus making even the number which had been odd.
84. i.e. for his begetting. See Herc. Fur. ll. 24 and 1158.
85. i.e. it is now called Lucifer and now Hesperus, according as it is morning or evening star.
86. Tithonus.
87. The Erymanthian boar.
88. It was the nature of the hydra that as each head was cut off two appeared in its place.
89. geminos here = trigeminos, referring to the triple-man monster, Geryon.
90. The man-eating horses of Diomedes, tyrant of Thrace.

91. i.e. Hercules gave Diomedes to his own horses to devour.
92. The famous golden girdle.
93. The dragon, set to guard the golden apples.
94. In the time of Laomedon.
95. The arrows of Hercules in the hands of Philoctetes assisted in the final fall of Troy under Priam.
96. She either stands where she can see the interior of the palace, and describes what is going on within, or else she sees it by clairvoyant power.
97. Agamemnon.
98. Aegisthus.
99. i.e. Clytemnestra, daughter of Tyndareus.
100. i.e. the wound. The formula is taken from the gladiatorial contests.

101. i.e. backward as on the occasion of Thyestes’ banquet on his own sons.
102. Who may bring quick downfall to thee also.
103. Of olive.
104. Of palm.
105. In the Olympic games.
106. i.e. let me join her who with the sacred fillets on her head has taken refuge at the altar.
107. i.e. surely no one, since I am thy child.
108. Referring to the madness of Orestes, who is later to slay both Aegisthus and Clytemnestra.