Ritual


And there were young men on it and young girls, sought for their
beauty with gifts of oxen, dancing and holding hands at the wrist. These
wore, the maidens long light robes, but the men wore tunics
of finespun work and shining softly, touched with olive oil.
— Homer, Iliad, 593–596


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Teucer: Here, just in time for that, his wife and child
Are coming, to perform with kindred touch
The service due his pitiable body.
Come, little one, kneel down, as suppliants do,
Grasp your father, the creator of your life.
Hold in your hands this lock of mine
And hers,
And this, a third, your own
–a suppliant’s treasure.
Keep your station, and make your supplication.
And if anyone in the army tries to wrest you
Forcibly from this corpse, may his corpse be
Thrown out unburied from his land and home,
Wretchedly, as he is a wretch, cut off
At the root with all his race, even as I
Have cut this lock of hair.
Take it, dear child, and guard it, and let no one
Remove you, but cling fast, inclining over him.
— Sophocles, Ajax, 1169–1180


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


My children, latest-born wards of old Cadmus, why do you sit before me like this with wreathed branches of suppliants, while the city reeks with incense, rings with prayers for health and cries of woe? I thought it unbefitting, my children, to hear these things from the mouths of others, and have come here myself, I, Oedipus renowned by all. Tell me, then, venerable old man–since it is proper that you speak for these–in what mood you sit here, one of fear or of desire? Be sure that I will gladly give you all my help. I would be hard-hearted indeed if I did not pity such suppliants as these.
— Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus, 1–13


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
|| back to top ||


Krobylos is the same age as the locks of his hair
which the four-year-old shore for Phoibos the lyre-player
and therewith did the son of Hegesidikos sacrifice
a fighting cock and a cheese pie. Oh Apollo,
bring up Krobylos to perfect manhood
holding your hands over his home and his possessions.
— Theoharidas (Greek Anthology VI.155)


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Hermes: And he has lived a holy life until
This day, within the shrine.
Creusa, whose son
He is, has married Xuthus. This is how
The marriage occurred. A war was surging high
Between Chalcidians of Euboea and Athens,
Whose ally, Xuthus, helped to end the strife.
Though he was not a native, but Achaean,
Son of Aeolus, son of Zeus, the prize
He won was marriage to Creusa. But
In all these years no children have been born.
Desire for children is now bringing them
To Apollo’s shrine.
— Euripides, Ion, 57–67


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Ion: As for myself, mine is the task
I have always done since my childhood.
With these branches of bay and these sacred
Garlands I will brighten Apollo’s
Portals, cleanse the floor with
Sprinklings of water,
Put to flight with my arrows the birds
Who foul the offerings.
Since I have neither mother nor father,
I revere the temple of Phoebus
Where I have lived.
— Euripides, Ion, 102-111


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
|| back to top ||


Ion: And have you come alone or with your husband?
Creusa: With him. But he stayed at Trophonius’ shrine.
Ion: To see it or consult the oracle?
Creusa: To ask the same as he will ask of Phoebus.
Ion: Is it about your country’s crops—or children?
Creusa: Though married long ago, we have no children.
Ion: No children? You have never had a child?
Creusa: Apollo knows my childlessness.
Ion: Ah! That misfortune cancels all your blessings.
Creusa: And who are you? Your mother must be happy!
Ion: I am what I am called, Apollo’s slave.
Creusa: A city’s votive gift or sold by someone?
Ion: I only know that I am called Apollo’s.
Creusa: So now it is my turn to pity you!
Ion: Because my parents are unknown to me.
Creusa: You live inside the temple? Or at home?
Ion: Apollo’s home is mine, wherever I sleep.
Creusa: And did you come here as a child?
Ion: A child, they say who seem to know.
Creusa: What Delphian woman suckled you?
Ion: No breast fed me. But she who reared me–
Creusa: Yes, who, poor child?
A sorrow like my own.
(Aside) Ion: The prophetess, I think of her as mother.
Creusa: But what supported you as you grew up?
Ion: The altars and the visitors who came.
Creusa: And your unhappy mother! Who was she then?
Ion: My birth perhaps marked her betrayal.
— Euripides, Ion, 299-366


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Chorus Leader: That I cannot say.
But Xuthus, to tell you all I know, old man,
Has gone away unknown to her, his wife,
To offer in the consecrated tent
A birthday sacrifice, to pledge the bond
Of friendship in a banquet with his son.
— Euripides, Ion, 804–807


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Helen: Send an unmarried girl
on an errand in public?
Electra: It is her duty.
She owes it to my mother for bringing her up.
Helen: Quite right, my dear.
An excellent suggestion.
I’ll call her out.
Hermione, dear,
Come outside.
Now do exactly what I say.
Take this libation and these clippings of hair
and go to Clytemnestra’s grave. Stand there
and pour this mixture of honey, milk, and wine
over the grave and, as you pour, repeat
These words:
"Your loving sister Helen,
prevented by fear of the Argives from coming
to your grave in person, sends you these gifts."
Then implore her to be gracious to us all,
to my husband and me and these poor children
whom Apollo has destroyed. Promise her besides
that I will labor to perform, like a good sister,
all the dues and rites of the gods below.
Now go, dear. Hurry there, make your offering
and then come back as quickly as you can.
— Euripides, Orestes, 108–125


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Electra: This service is sweet, and I do it gladly,
nursing my brother with a sister’s love.
— Euripides, Orestes, 221–222


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Though his daughter had been dead just six days, before he had mourned and done what is customary he put on a wreath and white clothes and began making sacrifices, going against the law— even though he had lost the first and only one to call him "father." The man who hates children, the bad father, would never be a reliable leader of the people.
— Aeschines, Speeches, 3.77–78


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sources