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Rising to his feet
My lord, since this is the law in your land, I have the right to hear and to speak in reply, and no one shall thrust me away before I am done, as they have elsewhere.

We have nothing to do with this man. [185] For since we no longer have a share in Argos and this has been voted, but are in exile from our native land, how can this man rightfully take us off as Mycenaeans, when they have banished us from the country? We are now foreigners. Or do you think it right that whoever is banished from Argos [190] should be banished from the whole Greek world? Not from Athens, at any rate: they shall not drive Heracles' children out of their land from fear of the Argives! This is not Trachis or some Achaean town, places from which you expelled these children, suppliants though they were and seated at the altar. You did not do this by any lawful plea [195] but by prating of Argos' importance, just as you are doing today. If that happens here and they judge your case the winner, Athens in my judgment is no longer free. But I know the nature and temper of these men. [200] They will be willing to die. For in the eyes of good men a sense of honor is more precious than life.

I have said enough to the city: excessive praise is hateful, and I myself know that I have been displeased at being overpraised. [205] But I want to say to you, my lord, that it is your duty as the city's leader to save these children. Pittheus was son of Pelops, and from his loins came Aethra, and from her was begotten your father Theseus. Now I shall give you these children's lineage. [210] Heracles was the son of Zeus and Alcmene, and she was daughter of Pelops. And so your father and theirs are the sons of full cousins.

This is your standing in kinship with these children, Demophon. But I shall tell you what you are obligated to render these children, apart from the tie of blood. It is my claim [215] that as right-hand man to Heracles I once sailed with Theseus to fetch the girdle, cause of many deaths, <belonging to Hippolyta. Heracles gave him as his reward the fair Antiope>1 and brought your father out of the dark recesses of Hades. All Hellas bears witness to this. [220] For these things his children here ask repayment [, not to be surrendered, not to be dragged off against the will of your gods and banished from the land. For this is a particular shame to you, and an evil in the eyes of the city, for suppliants, wanderers, kinsmen—alas for the pain, [225] look at them, look at them—to be dragged off by force].

Kneeling before Demophon as a suppliant
But I beg you and wreathe you in my suppliant grasp, do not—I entreat you by your chin—do not scorn to take the children of Heracles into your embrace. Be to them kinsman, be friend, [230] be father, brother, master: for all else is better than to fall under the power of the Argives.

1 The sense of the supplement is less clear even than usual. Hyginus 30 makes Heracles give Antiope, Hippolyta's daughter, to Theseus, and in Pindar, fr. 176 Sn, she is the mother of Demophon. But other supplements are also possible.

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    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Electra, 1340
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