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Aeschylus: Ares, father of tears, mows the field of man


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Aeschylus: The unpeopled land laments her youth


Translated by Philip Vellacott

From The Suppliants

Now hear my voice, you gods of heavenly birth,
While I pour out these offerings of prayer:
Never let flames leap and devour
In this Pelasgian city,
Nor lustful Ares raise his joyless clamor,
Who mows the field of man where others sowed.

Let eager prayer take wing,
That never may plague strip Argos of its men,
Nor civil war stain her soil,
With Argive blood shed by her own citizens,
Let her flower of youth grow unplucked;
Let not Ares, Aphrodite’s lover,
Man’s destroyer, cut off their prime.

May murder and devastation
Never come to tear this city,
To put a sword in the hand of Ares, father of tears…

The judge is Ares, who decides such causes, not
With damages in money, but with heavy toll
Of fallen men, and limbs convulsed in bloody death.


From Seven Against Thebes

Come, all you gods who guard the country;
See us, threatened with slavery, joining in supplication.
A surge of soldiers with slanting crests
Seethes around our city,
And the breath of Ares drives them on.

Men’s blood is Ares’ diet.

The madness of Ares masters men in masses,
And breathes defilement over all reverent feeling.

A din of shouting fills the streets;
The fence of bastions fails;
Man faces man and falls before the spear.
Stained with blood, mothers of new-born infants
Cry for their young slaughtered at the breast;
Roving bands tear apart those of the same family.

He has raised his battle-cry; Ares has entered into him;
A Bacchant, drunk with lust of war…

Antigone: If you gave wounds, you also received wounds.
Ismene: If you dealt death, you also suffered death.
Antigone: With the spear you killed –
Ismene: By the spear you died –
Antigone: Pitiful in inflicting.
Ismene: Pitiful in suffering.
Antigone: Let the cry rise –
Ismene: Let the tear fall –
Antigone: For you who died.
Ismene: For you who killed.
Antigone: My heart is wild with sobs.
Ismene: My soul groans in my body.
Antigone: Brother, whom I weep for –
Ismene: Brother, most pitiable –
Antigone: You were killed by your brother.
Ismene: You killed your brother.
Antigone: Twofold sorrow to tell of –
Ismene: Twofold sorrow to see –
Antigone: Sorrow at the side of sorrow!
Ismene: Sorrow brother to sorrow!

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