Δήμητερ ἑστιοῦχ᾿ Ἐλευσῖνος χθονὸς τῆσδ᾿, οἵ τε ναοὺς ἔχετε πρόσπολοι θεᾶς, εὐδαιμονεῖν με Θησέα τε παῖδ᾿ ἐμὸν πόλιν τ᾿ Ἀθηνῶν τήν τε Πιτθέως χθόνα, 5ἐν ᾗ με θρέψας ὀλβίοις ἐν δώμασιν Αἴθραν πατὴρ δίδωσι τῷ Πανδίονος Αἰγεῖ δάμαρτα Λοξίου μαντεύμασιν. ἐς τάσδε γὰρ βλέψασ᾿ ἐπηυξάμην τάδε γραῦς, αἳ λιποῦσαι δώματ᾿ Ἀργείας χθονὸς 10ἱκτῆρι θαλλῷ προσπίτνουσ᾿ ἐμὸν γόνυ, πάθος παθοῦσαι δεινόν· ἀμφὶ γὰρ πύλας Κάδμου θανόντων ἑπτὰ γενναίων τέκνων ἄπαιδές εἰσιν, οὕς ποτ᾿ Ἀργείων ἄναξ
- 2αἵ Willink
Suppliant WomenWhen the action of the play begins, aethra is at an altar in front of the temple of Demeter, surrounded by the chorus, representing the mothers of the Seven against Thebes, who sit holding suppliant branches. On either side of the Chorus are their attendants. At the door of the temple lies the prostrate adrastus surrounded by young boys, the Sons of the Seven, who later form a second chorus.
Demeter, guardian of this land of Eleusis, and you servants of the goddess who keep her temple, I pray for prosperity for myself, my son Theseus, the city of Athens and Pittheus’ land! 1 It was in Trozen that Pittheus, my father, raised me, Aethra, in a prosperous house and gave me as wife to Pandion’s son Aegeus at the behest of Apollo’s oracles. 2
I make this prayer as I look upon these old women. They have left their homes in Argos and are falling with suppliant branches at my knees because of their terrible sufferings. They have lost their children: their seven noble sons perished before Cadmus’ gates, 3 men once led by
- 1Trozen, in the Peloponnesus. Pittheus was its king.
- 2In the usual version of the myth of Theseus’ parentage, Aegeus begets Theseus by a casual encounter with Aethra in Trozen. Theseus, when grown to manhood, makes his way to Athens and is united with his father, but Aethra remains in Trozen. Here she is made the wife of Aegeus—the marriage sanctione by Apollo—and occupies a position of importance in the Athenian state.
- 3Thebes is called “city of Cadmus” and the Thebans “Cadmeans” throughout this play.