Ajax 1044-1116

Noah Kulak /
  • Created on 2018-04-23 00:22:50
  • Modified on 2018-04-23 00:22:58
  • Translated by Noah Kulak
  • Aligned by Noah Kulak
Ἑλληνική Transliterate
English
Greek (Ajax 1044-1116)
English (Johnston Translation)
MENELAUS
You there—I order you
not to take up that corpse for burial .
Leave it where it is .

TEUCER
Why waste your words
with such an order ?

MENELAUS
I think it’s fitting , [ 1050 ]
as does the commander of our army .

TEUCER
Then would it bother you to tell me why
you issue this command ?

MENELAUS
The reason’s this :
we hoped that we were leading Ajax here ,
away from home , so he’d be our ally ,
someone friendly to the Argives , but instead ,
when we saw him more closely , we found out
he was more hostile than the Phrygians .
He planned to destroy our entire army
and set off at night to take us with his spear .
If some god had not frustrated his attempt ,
we would have met the same fate he did—
we’d be dead and lying there , struck down
by shameful fate , and he’d be still alive . [ 1060 ]
But now , it’s clear a god changed these events ,
and so the violence in his heart fell elsewhere ,
on sheep and cattle . And that’s the reason
there’s no one powerful enough right now
to take his corpse and set it in a grave .
Instead it will be tossed away somewhere
on the yellow sand , food for shore birds .
Remember that . Curb the anger in your heart .
If we could not control him when he lived ,
at least he will obey us now he’s dead .
Even if you don’t agree , our forceful hands
will take charge of him . When he was alive ,
Ajax never listened to a word I said . [ 1070 ]
And it’s a fact that when a common man
thinks it’s appropriate to disobey
those in command , he truly demonstrates
his worthless character . Within the city
the laws could never foster benefits
if there was no established place for fear .
Nor can one lead the troops with wise restraint
where there is neither fear or reverence
to act in their defence . So any man ,
no matter how powerful his body grows ,
must realize he’ll fall , even when
the harm to him seems trivial . A man
who has in him a sense of fear and shame
is quite secure—you can be sure of that— [ 1080 ]
but where there’s room for hostile arrogance
and men do what they want , consider how
a state like that , though it has raced ahead
with favouring winds , will , in the course of time ,
sink in the ocean depths eventually .
And so for me let fear be set in place
where it’s appropriate . Let’s not believe
we can just do whatever we desire
and not pay the painful consequence .
These matters fluctuate—Ajax was once
a man of fiery insolence , but now
it’s time for me to manifest my power .
And thus I warn you not to bury him . [ 1090 ]
If you do , you just might fall yourself
into your grave .

CHORUS LEADER
Menelaus ,
after setting out such well-thought precepts ,
do not become too arrogant yourself
in dealing with the dead .

TEUCER
Fellow soldiers ,
never again will I be much surprised
if someone born a nobody goes wrong ,
since those apparently of noble birth
can make so many errors when they speak .
Come , tell me once more from the beginning—
do you really think it was you personally
who led Ajax here an Argive ally ?
Did he not sail to Troy all on his own ,
under his own command ? In what respect
are you this man’s superior ? On what ground [ 1100 ]
do you have any right to rule those men
whom he led here from home ? You came to Troy
as king of Sparta . You do not govern us .
Under no circumstance did some right to rule
or give him orders lie within your power ,
just as he possessed no right to order you .
You sailed here a subordinate to others ,
not as commander of the entire force
who could at any time tell Ajax what to do .
Go , be king of those you rule by right—
use those proud words of yours to punish them .
But I will set this body in a grave ,
as justice says I should , even though you
or any other general forbids it .
I am not afraid of your pronouncements .
Ajax did not join the expedition
because that woman was a wife of yours ,
as did those toiling Spartan drudges—no—
but because he’d sworn an oath to do it .
You were no part of it . He never valued
men worth nothing . And so when you return ,
come back here and bring more heralds with you ,
as well as the commander . Your vain chat
is not something that really bothers me ,
not while you stay the kind of man you are .

CHORUS LEADER
When things go badly , I don’t like to hear
a tone like that . Even when it’s justified ,
harsh language stings .

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