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Enter Athena, wearing the aegis.

Athena
From afar I heard the call of a summons, from the Scamander, while I was taking possession of the land, which the leaders and chiefs of the Achaeans assigned to me, a great portion of the spoil their spears had won, [400] to be wholly mine forever, a choice gift to Theseus' sons.1 From there I have come, urging on my tireless foot, without wings rustling the folds of my aegis, [yoking this chariot to colts in their prime.] 2 [405] As I see this strange company of visitors to my land, I am not afraid, but it is a wonder to my eyes. Who in the world are you? I address you all in common—this stranger sitting at my image, and you, who are like no race of creatures ever born, [410] neither seen by gods among goddesses nor resembling mortal forms. But it is far from just to speak ill of one's neighbor who is blameless, and Right stands aloof.

Chorus
Daughter of Zeus, you will hear it all in brief. [415] We are the eternal children of Night. We are called Curses in our homes beneath the earth.

Athena
I now know your family and the names by which you are called.

Chorus
You will soon learn my office.

Athena
I shall understand, if someone would tell the story clearly. [420]

Chorus
We drive murderers from their homes.

Athena
And where is the end of flight for the killer?

Chorus
Where joy is absent and unknown.3

Athena
And would you drive this man with your shrieks to such flight?

Chorus
Yes, for he thought it right to be his mother's murderer. [425]

Athena
Through other compulsions, or in fear of someone's wrath?

Chorus
Where is there a spur so keen as to compel the murder of a mother?

Athena
Two parties are present; only half the case is heard.

Chorus
But he will not receive an oath nor does he want to give one.

Athena
You want to be called just rather than to act justly. [430]

Chorus
How so? Teach me. For you are not poor in subtleties.

Athena
I say that oaths must not win victory for injustice.

Chorus
Well then, question him, and make a straight judgment.

Athena
Then would you turn over the decision of the charge to me?

Chorus
How not?—since we honor you because you are worthy and of worthy parentage. [435]

1 Athena confirms as ancient her possession of the district of Sigeum, which had been won from the Mityleneans by the Athenians early in the sixth century.

2 Line 405 “yoking this chariot to colts in their prime” contradicts the statement in the preceding verse, and may have been interpolated for a later representation of the play when Athena appeared on a chariot (Paley, Wilam.).

3 Literally “where joy (or the wordjoy) is nowhere in use.”

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  • Commentary references to this page (2):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Philoctetes, 676
    • W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus, 5.94
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