Before the temple of Demeter at Eleusis. On the steps of the great altar is seated Aethra. Around her, in the garb of suppliants, is the Chorus of Argive mothers. Adrastus lies on the ground before the altar, crushed in abject grief. The children of the slain chieftains stand nearby. Around the altar are the attendants of the goddess.
Demeter, guardian of this Eleusinian land, and you servants of the goddess who attend her shrine, grant happiness to me and my son Theseus, to the city of Athens and the country of Pittheus,
where my father reared me, Aethra, in a happy home, and gave me in marriage to Aegeus, Pandion's son, according to the oracle of Loxias. This prayer I make, when I behold these aged women, who, leaving their homes in Argos,
now throw themselves with suppliant branches at my knees in their terrible trouble; for around the gates of Cadmus they have lost their seven noble sons, whom Adrastus, king of Argos, once led there,
eager to secure for exiled Polyneices, his son-in-law, a share in the heritage of Oedipus; so now their mothers would bury in the grave the dead, whom the spear has slain, but the victors prevent them and will not allow them to take up the corpses, holding the laws of the gods in no honor.
Here lies Adrastus on the ground with streaming eyes, sharing with them the burden of their prayer to me, and bemoaning the havoc of the sword and the sorry fate of the warriors whom he led from their homes. And he urges me to use entreaty to persuade my son
to take up the dead and help to bury them, either by winning words or force of arms, laying on my son and on Athens this task alone. Now it happened that I had left my house and come to offer sacrifice on behalf of the earth's crop
at this shrine, where first the fruitful corn showed its bristling shocks above the soil. And here at the holy altars of the two goddesses, Demeter and the Maiden, I wait, holding these sprays of foliage, a bond that does not bind, in compassion for
these childless mothers, gray with age, and in reverence for the sacred garlands. My herald has gone to the city, to call Theseus here, so that he may rid the land of that which grieves them, or loose these suppliant bonds,
with pious observance of the gods' will; for women should in all cases invoke the aid of men, women that are discreet.