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Ajax
[430] Aiai! Who would ever have thought that my name would so descriptively suit my troubles? For well now may Ajax cry “Aiai”—yes, twice and three times. Such are the harsh troubles with which I have met. Look, I am one whose father's [435] prowess won him the fairest prize of all the army, whose father brought every glory home from this same land of Ida; but I, his son, who came after him to this same ground of Troy with no less might and proved the service of my hand in no meaner deeds, [440] I am ruined as you see by dishonor from the Greeks. And yet of this much I feel sure: if Achilles lived, and had been called to award the first place in valor to any claimant of his arms, no one would have grasped them before me. [445] But now the Atreidae have made away with them to a man without scruples and thrust away the triumphs of Ajax. And if these eyes and this warped mind had not swerved from the purpose that was mine, they would have never in this way procured votes in judgment against another man. [450] As it was, the daughter of Zeus, the grim-eyed, unconquerable goddess, tripped me up at the instant when I was readying my hand against them, and shot me with a plague of frenzy so that I might bloody my hands in these grazers. And those men exult to have escaped me— [455] not that I wanted their escape. But if a god sends harm, it is true that even the base man can elude the worthier.

And now what shall I do, when I am plainly hated by the gods, abhorred by the Greek forces and detested by all Troy and all these plains? [460] Shall I leave my station at the ships and the Atreidae to their own devices in order to go home across the Aegean? And how shall I face my father Telamon, when I arrive? How will he bear to look on me, when I stand before him stripped, without that supreme prize of valor [465] for which he himself won a great crown of fame? No, I could not bear to do it! But then shall I go against the bulwark of the Trojans, attacking alone in single combats and doing some valuable service, and finally die? But, in so doing I might, I think, gladden the Atreidae. [470] That must not happen. Some enterprise must be sought whereby I may prove to my aged father that in nature, at least, his son is not gutless. It is a stain upon a man to crave the full term of life, when he finds no variation from his ignominious troubles. [475] What joy is there in day following day, now advancing us towards, now drawing us back from the verge of death? I would not buy at any price the man who feels the glow of empty hopes. [480] The options for a noble man are only two: either live with honor, or make a quick and honorable death. You have heard all.

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  • Commentary references to this page (3):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Oedipus Tyrannus, 513-862
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Oedipus at Colonus, 1211
    • Basil L. Gildersleeve, Pindar: The Olympian and Pythian Odes, 4
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