“Speech from EuripidesHe wins men's hearts who with a ready hand
Confers his favors; he who in the doing
Delays and falters is less generous.
But I consent to give my child to die
For many reasons: first there is no state
I count more worthy to accept my gift
Than Athens, peopled by no alien race.
For we are of this soil, while other towns,
Formed as by hazard in a game of draughts,
Take their inhabitants from diverse parts.
He who adopts a city, having left
Some other town, resembles a bad peg
Fixed into wood of better quality,
A citizen in name but not in fact.
And secondly: it is that we may guard
Our country and the altars of the gods
That we get children for ourselves at all.
This city, though it bears a single name,
Holds many people in it. Should I then
Destroy all these, when it is in my power
To give one girl to die on their behalf?
The mere ability to count, and tell
The greater from the less, convinces me
That this, the ruin of one person's home,
Is of less consequence and brings less grief
Than would result if the whole city fell.
If I had sons at home instead of girls,
When hostile flames beset the city's walls,
Should I not send them forth into the fight,
Though fearing for them? May my children then
Fight also, vie with men, and not become
Mere shapes of vanity within the state.
And yet, when mothers send their sons to war
With tears, they often daunt them as they leave.
I hate the women who above all else
Prefer their sons to live and put this thought
Before their honor, urging cowardice.
But if they fall in battle they obtain
A common grave and glory which they share
With many others; whereas she, my child,
By dying for this city will attain
A garland destined solely for herself.
And she will save her mother and you too
And both her sisters. Is it right to scorn
Honors like these? Except in nature's way
This girl whom I shall give for sacrifice
To save her native land is not my own.
And if the city falls, what further chance
Shall I have left me to enjoy my child?
So far as rests with me, all shall be saved.
Let others rule in Athens; I will be
Her savior, and without my wish no man
Shall harm what most concerns our common good,
The ancient laws our fathers handed down.
Eumolpus and his slavish Thracian train
Shall set no trident in our midst or deck
It round with garlands, where the olive tree
And Gorgon's golden head have been revered;
Nor shall Athena meet with utter scorn.
Come, citizens, and use my travail's fruit
To save yourselves and conquer, knowing well
That I could never hesitate to save
This city for the sake of one poor life.
My country, were the love of all your sons
As great as mine! You could not suffer ill,
And we possessing you would live secure.
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1 The Erechtheusof Euripides is now lost. Apart from the passage quoted by Lycurgus, a few other fragments have been preserved, including one of 34 lines given by Stobaeus,Florileg. iii. 18.
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