οἱ πόνου πολλοῦ πλέῳ, the toiling “λαοί”, the born subjects of Menelaüs, who are bound to endure the labours of war in any field to which their lord calls them. Cp. Eur. Andr. 695“οὐ τῶν πονούντων τοὔργον ἡγοῦνται τόδε”, | “ἀλλ᾽ ὁ στρατηγὸς τὴν δόκησιν ἄρνυται”,—where “οἱ πονοῦντες” are the rank and file. The strangeness which has been felt in the phrase, “οἱ πόνου πολλοῦ πλέῳ”, will perhaps be lessened if we remember how habitually the Attic poets transfer the associations of their own time to the heroic age. In picturing the followers of the Spartan king, Sophocles may have had in mind the Perioeci who served as hoplites and the Helots who served as light-armed in the armies of their Spartan masters. Assuredly “οἱ πόνου πολλοῦ πλέῳ” does not mean ‘busybodies,’ “οἱ πολυπραγμονοῦντες”, as some have taken it,—supposing it to be said scornfully of “βασιλεῖς” tributary to Menelaüs and eager to display their zeal.
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