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From the temple exit Maiden, one of the daughters of Heracles.

Strangers, please do not consider my coming out [475] to be overbold: this is the first indulgence I shall ask. I know that for a woman silence is best, and modest behavior, and staying quietly within doors. But since I heard your groans, Iolaus, I have come out. I have not, to be sure, been designated the most important member of the family, [480] but since I am in some way fit to hear this and since I care greatly about my brothers and myself, I wish to ask whether some new misfortune on top of our old troubles is gnawing at your mind.

My child, for a long time now I have been justified [485] in praising you more than any other of the children of Heracles. We thought that our course had gone well, but now we find that it has changed once more into trouble past all help. This man says that the chanters of oracles tell us to sacrifice not a bull or a calf [490] but a maiden of noble parentage to Demeter's daughter if we are to survive and this city likewise. This is our perplexity: the king says that he will not sacrifice either his own children or those of anyone else. And he tells me by hint and indirection that, [495] unless we find a way out of our difficulties, we must find some other land, since he desires to save this country.

Is it this prophecy that keeps us from being safe?

Yes, this prophecy. In all else our fortune is good.


[500] Then fear no more the Argive enemy's spear. For I am ready, old man, of my own accord and unbidden, to appear for sacrifice and be killed. For what shall we say if this city is willing to run great risks on our behalf, [505] and yet we, who lay toil and struggle on others, run away from death when it lies in our power to save them? It must not be so, for it deserves nothing but mockery if we sit and groan as suppliants of the gods and yet, though we are descended from that great man who is our father, [510] show ourselves to be cowards. How can this be fitting in the eyes of men of nobility? Much finer, I suppose, if this city were to be captured (God forbid!) and I were to fall into the hands of the enemy and then when I, daughter of a noble father, have suffered dishonor, go to my death all the same! [515] But shall I then accept exile from this land and be a wanderer? Shall I not feel shame if someone thereafter asks, [Why do you come here with your suppliant branches when you yourselves lack courage? Leave this land: for we do not give help to the base]?

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