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Last I will tell of the seventh champion, him at the seventh gate,1 your own brother, and of what fate he prays for and calls down on the city. His prayer is that after he mounts the battlements and is proclaimed king in the land, [635] and shouts the paian in triumph over its capture, he may then meet you in combat, and once he kills you, that he may perish at your side, or, if you survive, make you pay with banishment in the same way as you dishonored him with exile. Mighty Polynices shouts such threats and [640] invokes his native gods, the gods of his fatherland, to watch over his prayers in every way. He holds a shield, a perfect circle, newly-made, with a double symbol cleverly fastened on it: [645] a woman modestly walking in the fore leads a man in arms made, it appears, of hammered gold. She claims to be Justice, as the lettering indicates, “I will bring this man back and he will have his city and move freely in his father's halls.”

Such are the inventions fixed to their shields. [650] [Quickly determine yourself whom you think it best to send.] Know that you will find no fault with me in the substance of my report, but you yourself determine on what course to pilot the city.Exit.

O my family sired by Oedipus, steeped in tears, [655] driven to madness by the gods and by the gods detested! Ah, now indeed our father's curses are brought to fulfillment. But neither weeping nor wailing is proper for me now, lest a grief even harder to bear is brought to life. As for him whose name is so very fitting, Polynices, we shall know soon enough what the symbol on his shield will accomplish, [660] whether the babbling letters shaped in gold on his shield, together with his mind's wanderings, will bring him back. If Justice, Zeus's maiden daughter, were attending his actions and his thoughts, this might be so. But as it is, neither when he escaped the darkness of his mother's womb, [665] nor in childhood, nor at any point in his early manhood, nor when the beard first thickened on his cheek, did Justice acknowledge him and consider him worthy. And even now I do not think that she is standing by his side to aid the destruction of his fatherland. [670] Indeed, Justice would truly be false to her name, if she should ally herself with a man so utterly audacious in his plans. Trusting in this fact I will go and stand against him—I myself in person. Who else has a more just claim? Commander against commander, brother against brother, [675] enemy against enemy, I will take my stand. Quick, bring my greaves to protect against spears and stones!

No, son of Oedipus, most dear of our men, do not be like in temperament to him who is called by such an evil name. It is enough that Cadmeans [680] are advancing to close combat with Argives. That bloodshed can be expiated. But when men of the same blood kill each other as you desire, the pollution from this act never grows old.

If indeed a man should suffer evil, let it be without dishonor, since that is the only benefit for the dead. [685] But you cannot speak of any glory for happenings that are at once evil and held in dishonor.

1 The ominous “seventh” is substituted for “the Highest” (Ὕψισται).

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  • Commentary references to this page (3):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Oedipus at Colonus, 1306
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Antigone, 199
    • C.E. Graves, Commentary on Thucydides: Book 4, CHAPTER LXXIV
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (1):
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