Eteocles Men of Cadmus's city, he who guards from the stern the concerns of the State and guides its helm with eyes untouched by sleep must speak to the point. For if we succeed, the responsibility is heaven's; 5but if—may it not happen—disaster is our lot, Eteocles would be the one name shouted many times throughout the city in the citizens' resounding uproars and laments. From these evils may Zeus the Defender, upholding his name, shield the city of the Cadmeans!
10But now you—both he who is still short of his youthful prime, and he who, though past his prime, still strengthens the abundant growth of his body, and every man still in his prime, as is fitting—you must aid the State and
15the altars of your homeland's gods so that their honors may never be obliterated. You must aid, too, your children, and
I myself have dispatched scouts and men to observe their army, and I am confident that their going is not in vain. Once I have heard their report, I will not be taken by any trickery.
Eteocles, mighty prince of the Cadmeans,
40I have returned with a sure report of the army outside the walls; I myself am an eyewitness of their actions. Seven warriors, fierce regiment-commanders, slaughtered a bull over a black shield, and then touching the bull's gore with their hands they swore an oath
45by Ares, by Enyo, [Note] and by Rout who delights in blood, that either they will level the city and sack the Cadmeans' town by force, or will in death smear this soil with their blood. And on Adrastus' chariot they were placing remembrances of themselves
50for their parents at home, and were shedding tears while so doing, but no piteous wailing escaped their lips. For their iron- hearted spirit heaved, blazing with courage, as of lions with war in their eyes. Your knowledge of these things was not delayed by fearfulness;
55for I left them casting lots to decide how each commander, his post assigned by chance, would lead his regiment against the gates. Therefore, choose the bravest men of the city and station them quickly at the outlets of the gates. For nearby already the
O Zeus and Earth, and gods that guard our city,
70and Curse, [Note] potent agent of my father's vengeance, do not destroy my city, ripping it up from its foundations, captive of the enemy, a city that speaks in
Chorus In terror I wail loud cries of sorrow. Their army is let loose! Leaving camp, 80—look!—the mounted throng floods swiftly ahead. The dust whirling in the air tells me this is so—its message is speechless, yet clear and true.
And now the plains of my native land under the blows of hooves send a roar to my ears; the sound flies 85and rumbles like a resistless torrent crashing down a mountainside.
Ah, ah, you gods and goddesses, raise your war cry over our walls to drive away the onrushing evil!
The army of the white shield, 90ready for battle, rushes at full speed against the city.
Who then will rescue us, which of the gods or goddesses will help?
Or shall I fall in supplication at the feet 95of our ancestral gods' statues?
Ah, blessed gods, firmly enthroned, the time has come to hold fast to your statues. Why do we delay, who are much to be lamented? 100Do you hear the clash of shields, or does it escape you? When, if not now, shall we place sacred robes and wreaths on the statues to accompany our prayers?
I see the clash—it is not the clatter of a single spear. What will you do? Will you betray
105your own land, Ares, where you have dwelt since long ago? God of the golden helmet, look, look upon the city that you once cherished!
Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes (English) (XML Header) [genre: poetry; drama; tragedy] [word count] [Aesch. Sept.].