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Orestes

Orestes
Old man, I am afraid to speak before you, [545] in a matter where I am sure to grieve you to the heart. I am unholy because I killed my mother, I know it, yet holy on another count, because I avenged my father. Only let your years, which frighten me from speaking, set no barrier in the path of my words, [550] and I will go forward; but now I fear your gray hairs.

What ought I to have done? Set one thing against another. My father begot me; your daughter gave me birth, being the field that received the seed from another; for without a father no child would ever be born. [555] So I reasoned that I ought to stand by the author of my being rather than the woman who undertook to rear me. Now your daughter—I am ashamed to call her mother—came to a man's bed in a private and unchaste wedding; I speak against myself when I speak [560] badly of her, yet I will speak. Aegisthus was her secret husband in the home; I killed him, and I sacrificed my mother, an unholy crime, no doubt, but done to avenge my father.

Now, as regards the reasons for which I deserve to be stoned as you threatened, [565] hear the service I am conferring on all Hellas. For if women become so bold as to murder their husbands, taking refuge in their children, hunting down pity with the breast, they would think nothing of destroying their husbands [570] on any charge whatsoever. But I, by a horrible crime, as you boast it to be, have put an end to this custom. I hated my mother and killed her justly. She was false to her husband when he was gone from his home to fight for all Hellas at the head of its armies, [575] and she did not keep his bed undefiled; and when her sin had found her out, she did not impose punishment on herself, but, to avoid paying the penalty to her husband, punished my father by death. By the gods! it is not a good time for me to mention the gods, [580] when defending the charge of murder; but if I consented by my silence to my mother's conduct, what would the murdered man have done to me? Would he not now in hatred be tormenting me with the Furies? Or does my mother have goddesses as allies, but he does not, in his deeper wrong? [585] You, yes! you, old man, have been my ruin by begetting a wicked daughter; for it was owing to her audacious deed that I lost my father and became my mother's murderer. You see, Telemachus did not kill the wife of Odysseus, because she did not marry husband upon husband, [590] but the marriage-bed remained untainted in her home.

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hide References (3 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Electra, 366
  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • Basil L. Gildersleeve, Syntax of Classical Greek, Tenses
  • Cross-references in notes to this page (1):
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