Aeschylus

Time waxing old can many a lesson teach.

Æschylus (525 BC – 456 BC) was a playwright of ancient Greece, the earliest of the three greatest Greek tragedians, the others being Sophocles and Euripides.

QuotesEdit

His resolve is not to seem, but to be, the best.
It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.
Of all the gods, Death only craves not gifts:
Nor sacrifice, nor yet drink-offering poured
Avails; no altars hath he, nor is soothed
By hymns of praise.
  • But when the dust has drunk the blood of men,
    No resurrection comes for one who's dead.
  • Success is man’s god.
    • Choephoræ, 59, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • So in the Libyan fable it is told
    That once an eagle, stricken with a dart,
    Said, when he saw the fashion of the shaft,
    "With our own feathers, not by others' hands,
    Are we now smitten."
    • Frag. 135 (trans. by Plumptre), reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • Of all the gods, Death only craves not gifts:
    Nor sacrifice, nor yet drink-offering poured
    Avails; no altars hath he, nor is soothed
    By hymns of praise. From him alone of all
    The powers of heaven Persuasion holds aloof.
    • Frag. 146 (trans. by Plumptre), reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • O Death the Healer, scorn thou not, I pray,
    To come to me: of cureless ills thou art
    The one physician. Pain lays not its touch
    Upon a corpse.
    • Frag. 250 (trans. by Plumptre), reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • A prosperous fool is a grievous burden.
    • Frag. 383, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • Bronze is the mirror of the form; wine, of the heart.
    • Frag. 384, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.
    • Frag. 385, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)

The SuppliantsEdit

  • I would far rather be ignorant than knowledgeable of evil.
    • l. 453, comparable to "where ignorance is bliss, ’T is folly to be wise", Thomas Gray, On a Distant Prospect of Eton College, Stanza 10
  • "Reverence for parents" stands written among the three laws of most revered righteousness.
    • l. 707. Alternately reported with "Honour thy father and thy mother" in place of "Reverence for parents", in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)

Prometheus BoundEdit

On me the tempest falls. It does not make me tremble. O holy Mother Earth, O air and sun, behold me. I am wronged.
  • Innumerable twinkling of the waves of the sea.
    • line 89
  • For somehow this is tyranny's disease, to trust no friends.
  • Variant translation: In every tyrant's heart there springs in the end this poison, that he cannot trust a friend.
    • line 224
  • Words are the physicians of a mind diseased.
    • line 378, comparable to "Apt words have power to suage / The tumours of a troubl’d mind", John Milton, Samson Agonistes
Chorus: Let not thy love to man o'erleap the bounds
Of reason, nor neglect thy wretched state:
So my fond hope suggests thou shalt be free
From these base chains, nor less in power than Jove.
Prometheus: Not thus — it is not in the Fates that thus
These things should end; crush'd with a thousand wrongs,
A thousand woes, I shall escape these chains.
Necessity is stronger far than art.
Chorus: Who then is ruler of necessity?
Prometheus: The triple Fates and unforgetting Furies.
Chorus: Must Jove then yield to their superior power?
Prometheus: He no way shall escape his destined fate.
Chorus: What, but eternal empire, is his fate?
Prometheus: Thou mayst not know this now: forbear to inquire.
Chorus: Is it of moment what thou keep'st thus close?
Prometheus: No more of this discourse; it is not time
Now to disclose that which requires the seal
Of strictest secresy; by guarding which I shall escape the misery of these chains.
  • lines 510 - 524; as translated by R. Potter (1860)
  • For it would be better to die once and for all than to suffer pain for all one's life.
    • line 750-1 Ἰώ: [...] κρεῖσσον γὰρ εἰσάπαξ θανεῖν // ἢ τὰς ἁπάσας ἡμέρας πάσχειν κακῶς.
    • Variant translations: Once to die is better than length of days in sorrow without end.
      • Life and life's sorrows? Once to die is better
        Than thus to drag sick life.
      • As translated by John Stuart Blackie (1850)
  • Time waxing old can many a lesson teach.
    • line 981; Variant translations: Time as he grows old teaches all things.
      Time brings all things to pass.
  • God's mouth knows not how to speak falsehood, but he brings to pass every word.
    • line 1030
  • On me the tempest falls. It does not make me tremble. O holy Mother Earth, O air and sun, behold me. I am wronged.
    • line 1089

AgamemnonEdit

He who learns must suffer
And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget
Falls drop by drop upon the heart,
And in our own despite, against our will,
Comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.
Only when man's life comes to its end in prosperity can one call that man happy.
Death is better, a milder fate than tyranny.
  • I pray the gods will give me some relief
    And end this weary job. One long full year
    I've been lying here, on this rooftop,
    The palace of the sons of Atreus,
    Resting on my arms, just like a dog.
    I've come to know the night [[sky], every star,
    The powers we see glittering in the sky,
    Bringing winter and summer to us all,
    As the constellations rise and sink.
    • l. 1
  • A great ox stands on my tongue.
    • l. 36
  • Wisdom comes through suffering.
    Trouble, with its memories of pain,
    Drips in our hearts as we try to sleep,
    So men against their will
    Learn to practice moderation.
    Favours come to us from gods.
    • Variant: He who learns must suffer
      And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget
      Falls drop by drop upon the heart,
      And in our own despite, against our will,
      Comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.
    • Historical Note: This was quoted by Robert F. Kennedy in his speech announcing the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on 4 April 1968. His version:
      Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
      falls drop by drop upon the heart
      until, in our own despair, against our will,
      comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.
    • l. 179
    • Unsourced variants:
    • The reward of suffering is experience.
    • Wisdom comes alone through suffering.
    • By suffering comes wisdom
  • She [Helen] brought to Ilium her dowry, destruction.
    • l. 406
  • Old men are always young enough to learn.
  • Learning is ever in the freshness of its youth, even for the old.
    • l. 584
  • It is in the character of very few men to honor without envy a friend who has prospered.
    • l. 832
  • Only when man's life comes to its end in prosperity can one call that man happy.
    • l. 928
    • Variant translations: Call no man happy till he is dead.
      • Also attributed to Sophocles in "Oedipus The King"
    • Hold him alone truly fortunate who has ended his life in happy well-being
  • Oh me, I have been struck a mortal blow right inside.
    • l. 1343
  • Death is better, a milder fate than tyranny.
    • Variant translation: Death is softer by far than tyranny.
    • l. 1364
  • Zeus, first cause, prime mover; for what thing without Zeus is done among mortals?
    • l. 1485
  • Do not kick against the pricks.
    • l. 1624

Libation BearersEdit

  • Good fortune is a god among men, and more than a god.
    • l. 59
    • Variant translation: Success is man’s god.
  • Destiny waits alike for the free man as well as for him enslaved by another's might.
    • l. 103
  • For a deadly blow let him pay with a deadly blow; it is for him who has done a deed to suffer.
    • l. 312
  • What is pleasanter than the tie of host and guest?
    • l. 702


MisattributedEdit

  • Appearances are a glimpse of the unseen.
  • Better to die on your feet than live on your knees.
    • This is usually attributed to Emiliano Zapata, but sometimes to Aeschylus, who is credited with expressing similar sentiments in Prometheus Bound: "For it would be better to die once and for all than to suffer pain for all one's life".
  • In war, truth is the first casualty.
    • This is often attributed to US Senator Hiram Johnson, but does not appear anywhere in his speeches. Arthur Ponsonby#Falsehood in Wartime (1928) quoted: "When war is declared, Truth is the first casualty", but the first recorded use seems to be by Philip Snowden in his introduction to Truth and the War, by E. D. Morel. London, July 1916: "'Truth,' it has been said, 'is the first casualty of war.'" Samuel Johnson#The Idler (1758-1760) expressed a similar idea: "Among the calamities of war may be justly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages."

Quotes about AeschylusEdit

  • Æschylus is above all things the poet of righteousness. "But in any wise, I say unto thee, revere thou the altar of righteousness": this is the crowning admonition of his doctrine, as its crowning prospect is the reconciliation or atonement of the principle of retribution with the principle of redemption, of the powers of the mystery of darkness with the coeternal forces of the spirit of wisdom, of the lord of inspiration and of light.

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Last modified on 8 April 2014, at 23:12