Enter Orestes, Pylades, and the old Slave. They stand before the central door of the stage building, which represents the palace of Mycenae. old SlaveSon of Agamemnon who once led the army before Troy, now you can gaze with your own eyes on what you have always longed to see! This is the ancient Argos for which you used to long, the precinct of the daughter of Inachus whom the gadfly stung; and this, Orestes, is the Lycean marketplace of the wolf-killing god;athis to the left is the famous temple of Hera; and at the place where we have arrived, you may say that you see Mycenae, rich in gold, and the house of the sons of Pelops here, rich in disasters, from which I once carried you, after your father’s murder, receiving you from your own sister, and kept you safe and raised you up to this stage of youthful vigour, to avenge your father’s murder. So now, Orestes, and you, dearest of hosts, Pylades, you must speedily decide what you must do; for already we hear the morning voices of the birds whom the bright beam of the sun is arousing, and the black night of stars has departed. So before any man leaves the house you must take counsel, since in this place this is no occasion to hesitate, but it is time to act.
Dearest of retainers, how clearly you show your loyalty to us! Just as a noble horse, even if he is old, does not lose his spirit in a time of danger, but pricks up his ear, just so do you urge us on and yourself are foremost in support. So I will explain my decisions, and do you lend a prompt ear to my words, and if I do not hit the mark, correct me! When I went to the Pythian oracle to learn how I might get vengeance for my father on his murderers, Phoebus gave me a prophecy which you shall soon hear; that alone, without the help of armed men or of an army, I should accomplish by cunning the slaughter done by a righteous hand. Then, since this is the nature of the oracle I heard, do you go into this house, when you have the chance to enter it, and find out everything that they are doing, so that you can report to us with certain knowledge. They will never know you, grizzled as you are with age and the passage of time, and they will not suspect you. Tell this story, that you are a foreigner come from Phanoteus the Phocian—for he is the greatest of their allies—and tell them, speaking on oath, that Orestes is dead by an accident, having fallen from his moving chariot in the Pythian games; let that be your tale! And we will first honour my father’s tomb, as the god commanded, with libations and with a tribute of luxuriant hair; then we will return once more, carrying in our hands the bronze urn which as you know is hidden in the bushes, so that we can deceive them with our story and bring them happy news, that my body has already been burnt to ashes. How can this hurt me, if I am dead in fiction, but in fact am safe and can win glory? I think, no word that brings you gain is bad. Yes, often in the past I have known clever men dead in fiction but not dead; and then when they return home the honour they receive is all the greater. Just so I believe that as a result of this story, alive, I shall shine like a star upon my enemies. But do you, my native land, and you, gods of the place, receive me in good fortune on this mission, and you, house of my fathers! For I come in justice to cleanse you, sped on my way by the gods. And do not send me from the land dishonoured, but let me control my riches and set my house upon its feet! That is my speech; and do you now, old man, make it your business to go and attend to what you have to do. And we two will be off; it is the moment, and the moment is the chief determiner of every action for men.
From inside the palace comes the voice of Electra
Ah me, ah me, alas!
old slaveWhy, I thought I heard one of the slaves behind the door groaning, my son!
orestesIs it the unfortunate Electra? Would you like us to stay here and listen to her laments?
old slaveBut no! Let us attempt nothing before obeying Loxias, and begin from that, pouring libations to your father; I say that that brings victory and success in what has to be done!
Exeunt by one of the side passages orestes, pylades, and the old slave. From the palace, enter electra.
ἀγγέλλω bear a message
ἀκμή point, edge
ἀναλάζομαι take again,
ἀνδρόω change into a man,
ἀριστερός left, on the left,
ἀρχέπλουτος rich from ancient times
ἄστρον the stars,
ἄστρον the star
ἄψορρος going back, backwards,
βλώσκω go or come
βουλευτέος one must take counsel
δέρκομαι see clearly, see,
δράω do, accomplish,
ἐκ from out of,
ἐκεῖνος the person there, that person
ἐκλείπω leave out, pass over,
ἐκσῴζω preserve from danger, keep safe,
ἐκτρέφω bring up from childhood, rear up
ἐν in, into.
ἔνδικος according to right, just, legitimate
ἐνταῦθα here, there,
ἔξεστι it is allowed, is possible,
ἐξοδοιπορέω go out of,
ἔργνυμι to confine
ἔργον work, deed
εὐφρόνη the kindly time
ἐφίημι send to
ἐχθρός hated, hateful
ἑῷος in or of the morning
ἥβη youthful prime, youth
ἦδος delight, pleasure
ἥκω to have come, be present
ἡλιόομαι live in the sun, be exposed to the sun
θεάομαι gaze at, behold
θεός God, the Deity
θνήσκω to die, be dying
ἵνα in that place, there
ἵστημι make to stand
καθαρτής cleanser, purifier
καιρός due measure, proportion, fitness
κἀν and if, even if, although
κατανθρακόομαι to be burnt to cinders
κινέω set in motion
κλεινός famous, renowned
κλέος rumour, report
κορέννυμι satiate, fill
κορέω sweep out
λαβή the part intended for grasping, a handle, haft
[PH2]This line is probably an actor’s interpolation. Meant to increase some star’s part. Quotations about the play in ancient literature start with line two. If you want to read more about the details: here
[PH12]οἰστροπλῆγος: noun sg fem gen agrees with Ἰνάχου κόρης.
[PH13]the whole region, regarded as ground which her story has made sacred
[PH14]The daughter of Inachos i.e. Io. His daughter Io, the first priestess of Hera, was loved by Zeus, and changed by the jealous goddess into a cow. The hundred-eyed Argus, charged by Hera to watch her, bound her to an olive-tree in the temenos of the Heraeum ( Apollod. 2. 1. 3). Hermes slew Argus; and Hera then sent the gad-fly which drove Io forth from Argolis on her wanderings.
[PH15]The ἀγορὰΛύκειος in Argos lay at the eastern foot of the Larisa, or citadel; as Livy (32. 25) describes it, “subiectumarciforum.” The temple of Apollo “Λύκειος” was probably on the north side of the agora, opposite to a temple of Zeus “Νεμεαῖος”. Before its eastern front stood a monument representing a wolf slaying a bull, in memory of the omen which had given the sovereignty to Danaüs ( Paus. 2. 19. 3).
[PH16]An infinitive used as an imperative.: “think that you see . . .”
[PH17]There is a strong contrast between πολυχρύσους [PH17] and πολύφθορόν [PH17]: the city is rich in gold but the palace is only rich in slaughter.
[PH18]‘desolated by many deaths’: Atreus and Thyestes slew their brother Chrysippus; Atreus slew his own son Pleisthenes, and then two sons of Thyestes; Aegisthus, son of Thyestes, slew Atreus and Agamemnon.