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Are you helping our foes even after death, [495] trying to rescue and bury those whom their own acts of insolence have ruined? Was not Capaneus then rightly blasted by the thunderbolt, when he raised a ladder against our gates and swore he would sack our town, whether the god willed it or not? [500] Should not the yawning earth have snatched away the seer, opening wide her mouth to take his chariot and its horses in, while the other chieftains are stretched at our gates, their skeletons crushed to atoms beneath boulders? Either boast your wit transcends that of Zeus, [505] or else allow that gods are right to slay the ungodly. The wise should love their children first, next their parents and country, whose fortunes they ought to increase rather than break down. Rashness in a leader causes failure; the sailor of a ship is calm, wise at the proper time. [510] Yes, and forethought, this too is bravery.

Chorus Leader
The punishment Zeus has inflicted was surely enough; there was no need to heap this wanton insult on us.

Adrastus
Abandoned wretch!—

Theseus

Theseus
Peace, Adrastus! say no more; do not set your words before mine, [515] for it is not to you this fellow has come with his message, but to me, and I must answer him. Your first assertion I will answer first: I am not aware that Creon is my lord and master, or that his power outweighs mine, that so he should compel [520] Athens to act in this way; no! for then would the tide of time have to flow backward, if we are to be ordered, as he thinks. It is not I who choose this war, seeing that I did not even join these warriors to go unto the land of Cadmus; but still I think it right to bury the fallen dead, not injuring any state [525] nor yet introducing murderous strife, but preserving the law of all Hellas. What is not well in this? If you suffered anything from the Argives, they are dead; you took a splendid vengeance on your foes [530] and covered them with shame, and now your right is at an end. Let the dead now be buried in the earth, and each element return to the place from where it came to the body, the breath to the air, the body to the ground; for in no way did we get it [535] for our own, but to live our life in, and after that its mother earth must take it back again. Do you think it is Argos you are injuring in refusing burial to the dead? No! all Hellas has a share of this, if a man robs the dead of their due [540] and keeps them from the tomb; for, if this law is enacted, it will strike dismay into the stoutest hearts. And have you come to cast dire threats at me, while your own folk are afraid of giving burial to the dead? What is your fear? Do you think they will undermine your land [545] in their graves, or that they will beget children in a cavern of the earth, from whom shall come vengeance? A silly waste of words, in truth it was, to show your fear of paltry groundless terrors.

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