“Heracles” by Euripides

A comic-tragic tale of the hero Heracles, who delivers his wife and children from his enemy by his heroics, only to slay them himself moments later in his madness. It is sobering to think how little separates a hero from a ruthless killer.



“The bravest man is he who relies ever on his hopes, but despair is the mark of a coward.”

“A man is a weakling, who never buckled shield to arm nor faced the spear, but with a bow, that coward’s weapon, was ever ready to run away. Archery is no test of manly bravery; no! he is a man who keeps his post in the ranks and steadily faces the swift wound the spear may plough.”

“A man who fights in line is a slave to his weapons, and if his fellow-comrades want for courage he is slain himself through the cowardice of his neighbors, ..  whereas [a man] armed with the trusty bow, standing at a distance keeps off the enemy, wounding them for all their watchfulness with invisible shafts, and never exposing himself to the foe, but keeping under cover; and this is by far the wisest course in battle, to harm the enemy and keep safe oneself, independent of chance.”

“Why are you desirous of slaying these children? What have they done to you? One piece of wisdom I credit you with, your coward terror of a brave man’s descendants.”

A Poet’s Lamentations and Songs

“To me a feeble friend you look, and I am empty sound and nothing more.”

“Never will I cease to link in one the Graces and the Muses, sweetest union. Never may I live among uneducated boors, but ever may I find a place among the crowned! Yes, still the aged singer lifts up his voice of bygone memories … so I with my old lips will cry aloud songs of joy at your palace-doors, like the swan, aged singer; for there is a good theme for minstrelsy; he is the son of Zeus; yet high above his noble birth tower his deeds of prowess, for his toil secured this life of calm for man, having destroyed all fearsome beasts.”

“Time takes little heed of preserving our hopes; and, when he has busied himself on his own business, away he flies.”


Neither ocean with its fiercely groaning waves, nor the earthquake, nor the thunderbolt with blast of agony shall be like the headlong rush I will make into the breast of Heracles;

O children! he who begot you, your own father, has been your destroyer, and you have had no profit of my triumphs, all my restless toil to win for you by force a fair name, a glorious advantage from a father. You too, unhappy wife, this hand has slain, a poor return to make you for preserving the honor of my bed so safely, for all the weary watch you long have kept within my house.



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