Hekaba 98-153

Hekaba, in haste I came aside to you,
having left the master’s tent,
where I was allotted and assigned,
as a slave, driven out of the city
of Ilios, at the point of a spearhead
hunted and chased by the Achaians,
and not to be set free from plights,
but rather I bring the great burden
of a message for you, lady, a herald of anguish.
For, at an assembly filled with Achaians,
decrees were stated that your daughter was to Achilleus
be made a sacrifice; he stepped upon his tomb
as you know, with golden arms,
he held the sea-going crafts,
though the sails pulled at their ropes,
He bawled out thus:
Whither, Danaids, with my tomb
undecorated, do you prepare to depart?
And a flood of great strife erupted,
opinion split in two among the Hellenes’
warrior host, for some to give
a sacrifice to the tomb, and others deemed not.
There was one urging your good,
holding to the marriage couch
of the frenzied prophetess1—Agamemnon;
The Theseids2, the boughs of Athens,
were orators of two-fold speeches;
they came together to one opinion,
that the tomb of Achilleus be encircled
by fresh blood, and that Kasandra’s
marriage couch, they said, shall never
be put ahead of the spear of Achilleus.
The exertions of words striving against them
were almost equal, until that shifty
prater, smooth-talking, rabble-rouser
son of Laertes3 persuades the army
not to drive away the best
of all Danaids on account of the sacrifice of a slave,
nor that anyone of those wasted away say,
standing before Persephona,
that Danaids were ungrateful to Danaids
who have departed on behalf of Hellenes,
when they disembarked from the fields of Troia.
Odyseus will come, he is as much as already here,
to drag away the foal from your breast,
to spur her from your aged hand.
But go to the inner temple, go to the raised altar,
sit at the knees of Agamemnon as a supplicant,
herald the gods of heaven
and those under the earth.
For either your entreaties will prevent you
from being orphaned your unhappy child,
or you must look upon, fallen on the tomb,
your maiden reddened by blood
from her golden-clad
neck, a dark-gleaming stream.

1. I’ve translated prophetess from Βάκχη (Bacche), a devotee of Bacchus. This refers to Cassandra.
2. That is, the sons of Theseus. Two of them.
3. The son of Laertes is Odysseus. The Greek uses the same form as with the sons of Theseus above, Λαερτιάδης, (Laertiades).

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