The matter is too great, if any mortal thinks
to sit in judgement on this; nor is it established custom for me
to decide trials of murder that being down quick anger;
especially as you, having performed everything required by law,
you come a suppliant, unstained, without harm to this house.
And these women have their lot, not easily dismissed,
and if they do not win the affair victorious—
to this land hereafter, the poison from their ill-will
falling to the earth will be an unbearable, everlasting sickness.
This is such as that: in both cases, to remain
and to send away, impossibly disastrous for me.
But since this matter is imposed,
nevertheless, I shall in this city select blameless
judges of murders, under solemn oath, with proper regard
for the law, I shall set this for all time.
And you, witnesses and evidence
do summon, as aid for supporting your case.
And once I have chosen the best from my townsmen
I shall come to decide this matter truthfully,
an oath none shall transgress with outlaw hearts.
Catastrophies, now, of customary
laws, if conquers
does the case, and harms,
that of this matricide.
And soon this deed shall toward
indifference adapt all mortals;
Much actual wound at children’s hand
and misfortune cleaves to those who
bore them from this point in time.
Nor shall the rancour
of these mortal-watching maenads,
steal upon any of these deeds;
for I shall leave off from all dooms.
Each shall enquire from the other,
anticipating the wickedness of neighbours,
the allotment and decrease of toils;
and no certain remedies does the
enduring man counsel in vain.
Announce, herald, and call the host to order,
to the sky the piercing Tyrrhenian
trumpet, filled with mortal breath,
send forth for the host its sound at full pitch.
For while the council-chamber fills,
it is good that they be silent and learn my customs,
both the whole city for time everlasting,
and these here, so that the case may be well observed.—
Lord Apollo, of what is yours, be yourself master.
What share have you of this matter? Do tell.
I have come both to be witness—for by law is
this man a suppliant, and at the hearth of my
house, and for him I am the purification of murder—
and also, I myself shall be his advocate; I bear the blame
for the murder of his mother. So prosecute,
and so far as you have ability, decide this case.
The floor is yours, I shall prosecute the case.
For he who first pursues from the beginning of the argument
would rightly be the instructor of the matter.
We are many, but we shall speak concisely;
respond, putting your word against our word in turn;
say first whether you killed your mother.
I killed her; of this there is no denial.
Here is one of three counts of the match.
You make a great boast to man not yet pinned.
Nevertheless, you must indeed say how you have killed.
I do say, by cutting against her throat with a drawn sword in my hand.
And by whom were you persuaded, and by whose plans?
By the divine decrees of this one; he is a witness for me.
Did the oracle lead the way for you to be a matricide?
And also hither, I do not ever censure fortune.
But if the ballot condemns you, you will quickly speak otherwise.
I remain convinced; My father sends succour from the grave.
You’ve killed your mother, now prevail upon the dead!
Indeed, for she had two touches of defilement.
How? Prove it to those in judgement here.
She was a manslayer, she killed my father.
And therefore you live, whereas she is free of murder.
Why didn’t you drive that woman into flight while she lived?
She was not same-blooded to the soul whom she killed.
But am I among the blood of my mother?
Indeed! How else did she nourish you, you blood-tainted man, within
her girdle? Would you wish away the dearest blood of your mother?
Be my witness now, lead the way for me
Apollo, whether I killed her with righteousness.
For that it was done, just as it is, we do not deny;
but whether righteous or not, in your mind
I do seem, judge this blood, as I will declare to these here.
I shall speak for you, on this, Athena’s great
custom, “righteousness”, and since I am a prophet, I shall not deceive.
In no way at all did I speak on my prophetic thrones,
not of men, not of women, not concerning the city,
which Zeus did not command, my father of Olympus.
To learn how great in strength this righteous thing is,
I declare that you pay heed to the counsel of my father.
For an oath is strong but not more than Zeus.
Did Zeus, as you say, grant this oracle
to tell Orestes here, for the murder of a father
committed but not of a mother, to dispense penalties?
Indeed, it is not the same thing, for a noble man to die,
honoured by the divine right of kings,
and this at the hands of a woman, not even by impetuous,
far-shooting bows, like those of the Amazon,
but so you may hear, Pallas, and those who sit with you,
to decide by ballot concerning this case.
Indeed, from the campaign, since he had fared
the greatest and best, she welcomed him in good cheer
< . . . >
while in his tub passing time in the bath-house and at the end
she spread a cloak around him like a tent, in an endless,
cunningly-wrought cloth having bound, him she smote the man.
This is declared for you the doom of the man,
the all-majestic, the commander of ships;
< . . . >
I describe this woman as this sort, so that the host might be stung,
the very host that was appointed to decide this case.