“Rhesus” by Euripides

Rhesus, King of Thrace, came to the aid of Hector near the end of the Trojay War, claiming that he would destroy the Greeks in one day though the Trojans had failed to defeat them after ten years. Ironically, he was killed in his sleep on that same day by Odysseus and Diomedes, who spied on the Trojan camp and stole his precious horses. His death caused distrust and strife between the Greeks and Thracians, the latter suspecting the former of foul play.

Quotes of Characters:

Son of that tuneful mother, one of the Muses, and of Thracian Strymon’s river, I love to speak plain truth always; nature did not give me a double tongue. Long, long ago should you have come and shared the labors of this land, and not allowed Troy for any help of yours to fall overthrown by hostile Argive spears. You can not say it was any want of invitation that kept you from coming with your help to visit us. What herald or embassy from Phrygia did not come to you, urgently requiring your aid for our city? What sumptuous presents did we not send to you? But you, brother barbarian though you were, pledged away to Hellenes us your barbarian brothers, for all the help you gave. Yet it was I with this arm that raised you from your paltry princedom to high lordship over Thrace, when I fell upon the Thracian chieftains face to face around Pangaeum in Paeonia’s land and broke their serried ranks, and gave their people up to you enslaved; but you have trampled on this great favor done you, and come with laggard step to give your aid when friends are in distress. While they, whom no natural tie of kin constrains, have long been here, and some are dead and in their graves beneath the heaped-up cairn, no mean proof of loyalty to the city; and others in arms and mounted on their chariots, with steadfast soul endure the icy blast and parching heat of the sun, not pledging one another on couches, as you do, in long deep draughts. This is the charge I bring against you and utter to your face, that you may know how frank is Hector’s tongue.

I too am just the same; straight to the point I cut my way; no shuffling nature is mine. My heart was wrung with sorer anguish than yours at my absence from this land; I fumed and chafed, but Scythian people, whose borders march with mine, made war on me on the very eve of my departure for Ilium; I had reached the strand of the Euxine sea, there to transport my Thracian army. Then my spear poured out over Scythia’s land great drops of bloody rain, and Thrace too shared in the mingled slaughter. This then was what chanced to keep me from coming to the land of Troy and joining your standard. But as soon as I had conquered these and taken their children as hostages and appointed the yearly tribute they should pay my house, I have come, sailing across the sea’s mouth, and on foot traversing the other borders of your land—not as you in your jeers at those carousals of my countrymen hint, nor sleeping soft in gilded palaces, but amid the frozen hurricanes that vex the Thracian sea and the Paeonian shores, learning as I lay awake what suffering is, this soldier’s cloak my only wrap. True my coming has tarried, but yet I am in time; ten years already have you been at the fray, and accomplished nothing yet; day in, day out, you fall, throwing the dice of war with Argives. But the light of one day will be enough for me to sack those towers and fall upon their anchored fleet and slay the Achaeans; and on the next day I will go home from Ilium , at one stroke ending all your toil. Let none of you lay hand to spear to lift it, for I, for all my late arrival, will with my lance make utter havoc of those vaunting Achaeans.



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