Iphigenia in Aulis: Section 1


Greek

ΑΓΑΜΕΜΝΩΝ

Ἐγένοντο Λήδᾳ Θεστιάδι τρεῖς παρθένοι,
Φοίβη Κλυταιμήστρα τ᾽, ἐμὴ ξυνάορος,
Ἑλένη τε· ταύτης οἱ τὰ πρῶτ᾽ ὠλβισμένοι
μνηστῆρες ἦλθον Ἑλλάδος νεανίαι.
δειναὶ δ᾽ ἀπειλαὶ καὶ κατ᾽ ἀλλήλων φόνος   5
ξυνίσταθ᾽, ὅστις μὴ λάβοι τὴν παρθένον.
τὸ πρᾶγμα δ᾽ ἀπόρως εἶχε Τυνδάρεῳ πατρί,
δοῦναί τε μὴ δοῦναί τε, τῆς τύχης ὅπως
ἅψαιτ᾽ ἄριστα. καί νιν εἰσῆλθεν τάδε·
ὅρκους συνάψαι δεξιάς τε συμβαλεῖν   10
μνηστῆρας ἀλλήλοισι καὶ δι᾽ ἐμπύρων
σπονδὰς καθεῖναι κἀπαράσασθαι τάδε·
ὅτου γυνὴ γένοιτο Τυνδαρὶς κόρη,
τούτῳ ξυναμυνεῖν, εἴ τις ἐκ δόμων λαβὼν
οἴχοιτο τόν τ᾽ ἔχοντ᾽ ἀπωθοίη λέχους,   15
κἀπιστρατεύσειν καὶ κατασκάψειν πόλιν
Ἕλλην᾽ ὁμοίως βάρβαρόν θ᾽ ὅπλων μέτα.

Commentary

Ἑλένη τε – Helen’s name is given prominence by being in enjambement (running over from the previous line and placed at the head of this line)

τὰ πρῶτ᾽ – emphasises that only the wealthiest wooed her, she was so special.

δειναὶ δ᾽ ἀπειλαὶ καὶ … φόνος– an expressive poetic device called a hendiadys (one through two): two nouns are used instead of a noun and adjective. Translate as ‘dreadful threats of death’ – the Greek is literally ‘dreadful threats and death’. It expresses well the effect Helen had on these princes that they were prepared to kill each other to get her.

ἀπόρως εἶχε – was perplexing. Tyndareus has a problem. All these aggressive suitors are in his palace and he must find a solution.

δοῦναί τε μὴ δοῦναί τε – to give or not to give; a clear expression of the dilemma, repeating the infinitive.

τῆς τύχης ὅπως ἅψαιτ᾽ – how he should lay hold of fortune. What this means is how he should exploit the situation to everyone’s advantage.

The oath (ὅρκους) is very formal and powerful: it consists of joining their right hands (δεξιάς τε συμβαλεῖν) , making burnt sacrifices (δι᾽ ἐμπύρων), pouring libations (σπονδὰς καθεῖναι) – a pouring of wine onto the ground for the gods.

Features of the oath:

• Whoever (ὅτου) became the husband of the daughter of Tyndareus (Helen)
• For this man (τούτῳ) the others would join in helping him (ξυναμυνεῖν – the ξυν- prefix, together, emphasises the cooperative nature of the promised undertaking).
• If anyone took her from her home and went off and so ousted (ἀπωθοίη) the husband from his marriage (λέχους).
• They would go on an expedition (ἐπιστρατεύσειν – Greek is κἀπιστρατεύσειν which is καὶ + ἐπιστρατεύσειν) and destroy (κατασκάψειν) his city, Greek or barbarian (foreigner) alike.

The language of this complex oath is made very clear with ὅτου (of whoever) at the head of line 13 picked up by τούτῳ (for this man) at the head of line 14.

English

AGAMEMNON

There were born to Leda, daughter of Thestius, three maidens,
Phoebe, my wife Clytemnestra,
and Helen. The young men who were considered the most
prosperous in Greece came as her suitors.
Dreadful threats and death arose from each
against the other, if he did not obtain the girl.
The matter was unmanageable for her father Tyndareus,
whether to give her away or not, how he might best
take hold of destiny. And this occurred to him:
that the suitors should take oaths and join their
right hands with each other, and through burnt-sacrifices
pour libations and swear this.
That they should assist the man whose wife the daughter of Tyndareus
becomes, if someone should take her from his home,
go off and drive her keeper out of the marriage bed,
and march against and destroy the city,
Greek or barbarian city alike, with arms.

Running vocab

Touch on the text to reveal vocabulary help and, if necessary, a translation.

ΑΓΑΜΕΜΝΩΝ

Ἐγένοντο Λήδᾳ Θεστιάδι τρεῖς παρθένοι,
Φοίβη Κλυταιμήστρα τ᾽, ἐμὴ ξυνάορος,
Ἑλένη τε·

γίγνομαι, γενήσομαι, ἐγενόμην

I am, become, am born

Θεστίας, -άδος (f.)

daughter of Thestius

παρθένος, -ου (f.)

young woman, maiden

ξυνάορος, -ον

joined in wedlock; husband, wife
Translation
There were born to Leda, daughter of Thestius, three maidens,
Phoebe, my wife Clytemnestra,
and Helen.


ταύτης οἱ τὰ πρῶτ᾽ ὠλβισμένοι
μνηστῆρες ἦλθον Ἑλλάδος νεανίαι.

τὰ πρῶτα

to the first, greatest extent

ὀλβίζω, ὀλβιζιῶ, ὤλβισα, ὠλβίσθην

I consider happy, prosperous

μνηστήρ, -ῆρος (m.)

suitor
Translation
The young men who were considered the most prosperous
in Greece came as her suitors.



δειναὶ δ᾽ ἀπειλαὶ καὶ κατ᾽ ἀλλήλων φόνος
ξυνίσταθ᾽, ὅστις μὴ λάβοι τὴν παρθένον.

ἀπειλή, -ῆς (f.)

boast, promise, threat

κατ᾽ ἀλλήλων

against each other

φόνος, -ου (m.)

murder, slaughter

ξυνίσταμαι, ξυστήσομαι, ξυνιστάμην (imperf.)

come together, arise

ὅστις, ἥτις, ὅ τι

whoever, whatever
Translation
Dreadful threats of death arose from each against
the other, if he should fail to take the girl.



τὸ πρᾶγμα δ᾽ ἀπόρως εἶχε Τυνδάρεῳ πατρί,
δοῦναί τε μὴ δοῦναί τε, τῆς τύχης ὅπως
ἅψαιτ᾽ ἄριστα. καί νιν εἰσῆλθεν τάδε·

πρᾶγμα, – ατος (n.)

deed, matter, affair

ἀπόρως ἔχειν

to be difficult, unmanageable

δοῦναί

to give

τε … τε …

(here) or …

ὅπως

how, in what way

ἅπτομαι, ἅψομαι, ἡψάμην (+ gen.)

take hold of, grasp

νιν (acc.)

him
Translation
The matter was unmanageable for her father Tyndareus,
whether to give her away or not, how he might best
take hold of destiny. And this occurred to him:



ὅρκους συνάψαι δεξιάς τε συμβαλεῖν
μνηστῆρας ἀλλήλοισι καὶ δι᾽ ἐμπύρων
σπονδὰς καθεῖναι κἀπαράσασθαι τάδε·

ὅρκος, -ου (m.)

oath

συνάπτω, συνάψω, συνῆψα

bind, clasp; take (an oath)

δεξιά, -άς (f.)

right hand

συμβάλλω, συμβάλω, σύμβαλον

bring together, join

ἔμπυρα, -ων (n. pl.)

burnt sacrifices

σπονδή, -ῆς (f.)

drink-offering, libation

καθίημι, καθήσω, καθῆκα

drop, let fall; pour out, forth

κἀπαράσασθαι

= καὶ ἐπαpάσασθαι

ἐπαράομαι, ἐπαpάσομαι

curse; swear, vow
Translation
that the suitors should take oaths and join their
right hands with each other, and through burnt-sacrifices
pour libations and swear this.



ὅτου γυνὴ γένοιτο Τυνδαρὶς κόρη,
τούτῳ ξυναμυνεῖν, εἴ τις ἐκ δόμων λαβὼν
οἴχοιτο τόν τ᾽ ἔχοντ᾽ ἀπωθοίη λέχους,

ὅτου

= gen. of ὅστις (whoever)

Τυνδαρὶς, – ίδος (f.)

daughter of Tyndareus

κόρη, -ης (f.)

daughter, maiden

ξυναμύνω, ξυναμυνῶ, ξυνήμυνα (+ dat.)

join in helping

δόμος, -ου (also in pl.)

house, home

οἴχομαι, οἰχήσομαι

go, am gone, depart

ἀπωθέω, ἀπωθώσω, ἀπωθέωσα

thrust away, drive out

λέχος, -ους (n.)

bed, marriage, wife
Translation
That they should assist the man whose wife the daughter of Tyndareus
becomes, if someone should take her from his home,
go off and drive her keeper out of the marriage bed.



κἀπιστρατεύσειν καὶ κατασκάψειν πόλιν
Ἕλλην᾽ ὁμοίως βάρβαρόν θ᾽ ὅπλων μέτα.

κἀπιστρατεύσειν

= καὶ ἐπιστρατεύσειν

ἐπιστρατεύω, ἐπιστρατεύσω

march against, make war upon

κατασκάπτω, κατασκάψω

destroy utterly, raze to the ground

ὁμοίως

alike, equally
Translation
and march against and destroy the city,
Greek or barbarian city alike, with arms.