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Zeus gives greater honor to a father's death, according to what you say; [640] yet he himself bound his aged father, Cronus. How does this not contradict what you say? I call on you as witnessesturning to the judges to hear these things.

Oh, monsters utterly loathed and detested by the gods! Zeus could undo fetters, there is a remedy for that, [645] and many means of release. But when the dust has drawn up the blood of a man, once he is dead, there is no return to life. For this, my father has made no magic spells, although he arranges all other things, turning them up and down; [650] nor does his exercise of force cost him a breath.

See how you advocate acquittal for this man! After he has poured out his mother's blood on the ground, shall he then live in his father's house in Argos? Which of the public altars shall he use? [655] What purification rite of the brotherhoods1 will receive him?

I will explain this, too, and see how correctly I will speak. The mother of what is called her child is not the parent, but the nurse of the newly-sown embryo.2 The one who mounts is the parent, whereas she, as a stranger for a stranger, [660] preserves the young plant, if the god does not harm it. And I will show you proof of what I say: a father might exist without a mother. A witness is here at hand, the child of Olympian Zeus, who was not nursed in the darkness of a womb, [665] and she is such a child as no goddess could give birth to.

For my part, Pallas, as in all other matters, as I know how, I will make your city and people great; and I have sent this man as a suppliant to your sanctuary so that he may be faithful for all time, [670] and that you, goddess, might win him and those to come after him as a new ally and so that these pledges of faith might remain always, for the later generations of these people to cherish.

1 Kinsfolk, actual or fictitious, were united in phratriai, with common worship, offerings, and festivals.

2 This notion appears in Egypt (Diodorus Siculus 1. 80, whose source was Hecataeus, an older contemporary of Aeschylus) and in various Greek authors later than Aeschylus, e.g. Eur. Or. 552; Frag. 1064, the Pythagoreans cited by Stobaeus (Hense ii. 72). The passage in the play has been invoked as evidence that the Athenians of the fifth century B.C. were upholding, some the ancient mode of tracing descent from the mother (the argument of the Erinyes); others, the patrilinear theory advocated by Apollo.

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • James Adam, The Republic of Plato, 2.377E
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    • Euripides, Orestes, 552
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