Aeschylus

Æschylus was a playwright of ancient Greece, the earliest of the three greatest Greek tragedians, the others being Sophocles and Euripides.

Sourced

  • His resolve is not to seem, but to be, the best.
    • Variant: To be rather than to seem.
    • Seven Against Thebes, l. 592

  • Success is man’s god.
    • Choephoræ, 59, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).

  • So in the Libyan fable it is told
    That once an eagle, stricken with a dart,
    Said, when he saw the fashion of the shaft,
    "With our own feathers, not by others' hands,
    Are we now smitten."
    • Frag. 135 (trans. by Plumptre), reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).

  • Of all the gods, Death only craves not gifts:
    Nor sacrifice, nor yet drink-offering poured
    Avails; no altars hath he, nor is soothed
    By hymns of praise. From him alone of all
    The powers of heaven Persuasion holds aloof.
    • Frag. 146 (trans. by Plumptre), reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).

  • O Death the Healer, scorn thou not, I pray,
    To come to me: of cureless ills thou art
    The one physician. Pain lays not its touch
    Upon a corpse.
    • Frag. 250 (trans. by Plumptre), reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).

  • A prosperous fool is a grievous burden.
    • Frag. 383, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).

  • Bronze is the mirror of the form; wine, of the heart.
    • Frag. 384, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).

  • It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.
    • Frag. 385, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).

The Suppliants

  • I would far rather be ignorant than knowledgeable of evil.
    • l. 453. Compare: "where ignorance is bliss, ’T is folly to be wise", Thomas Gray, On a Distant Prospect of Eton College, Stanza 10.

  • "Reverence for parents" stands written among the three laws of most revered righteousness.
    • l. 707. Alternately reported with "Honour thy father and thy mother" in place of "Reverence for parents", in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).

Prometheus Bound


  • Innumerable twinkling of the waves of the sea.
    • line 89

  • For somehow this is tyranny's disease, to trust no friends.
  • Variant translation: In every tyrant's heart there springs in the end this poison, that he cannot trust a friend.
    • line 224

  • Words are the physicians of a mind diseased.
    • line 378. Compare: "Apt words have power to suage / The tumours of a troubl’d mind", John Milton, Samson Agonistes.


Chorus: Let not thy love to man o'erleap the bounds
Of reason, nor neglect thy wretched state:
So my fond hope suggests thou shalt be free
From these base chains, nor less in power than Jove.
Prometheus: Not thus — it is not in the Fates that thus
These things should end; crush'd with a thousand wrongs,
A thousand woes, I shall escape these chains.
Necessity is stronger far than art.
Chorus: Who then is ruler of necessity?
Prometheus: The triple Fates and unforgetting Furies.
Chorus: Must Jove then yield to their superior power?
Prometheus: He no way shall escape his destined fate.
Chorus: What, but eternal empire, is his fate?
Prometheus: Thou mayst not know this now: forbear to inquire.
Chorus: Is it of moment what thou keep'st thus close?
Prometheus: No more of this discourse; it is not time
Now to disclose that which requires the seal
Of strictest secresy; by guarding which I shall escape the misery of these chains.
  • lines 510 - 524; as translated by R. Potter (1860)


  • For it would be better to die once and for all than to suffer pain for all one's life.
    • line 750

  • Time waxing old can many a lesson teach.
    • line 981; Variant translations: Time as he grows old teaches all things.
      Time brings all things to pass.

  • God's mouth knows not how to speak falsehood, but he brings to pass every word.
    • line 1030

  • On me the tempest falls. It does not make me tremble. O holy Mother Earth, O air and sun, behold me. I am wronged.
    • line 1089

Agamemnon

  • I pray the gods will give me some relief
    And end this weary job. One long full year
    I've been lying here, on this rooftop,
    The palace of the sons of Atreus,
    Resting on my arms, just like a dog.
    I've come to know the night sky, every star,
    The powers we see glittering in the sky,
    Bringing winter and summer to us all,
    As the constellations rise and sink.
    • l. 1

  • A great ox stands on my tongue.
    • l. 36

  • Wisdom comes through suffering.
    Trouble, with its memories of pain,
    Drips in our hearts as we try to sleep,
    So men against their will
    Learn to practice moderation.
    Favours come to us from gods.
    • Variant: He who learns must suffer
      And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget
      Falls drop by drop upon the heart,
      And in our own despite, against our will,
      Comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.
    • Historical Note: This was misquoted by Robert F. Kennedy in his speech announcing the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on 4 April 1968. It is the epitaph his family had enscribed on his grave marker in Arlington National Cemetery. His version:
    • In our sleep, pain which cannot beget
      falls drop by drop upon the heart
      until, in our own despair, against our will,
      comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.
      See : http://www.morec.com/rfk.htm, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPYNb4ex6Ko
    • l. 179

  • She [Helen] brought to Ilium her dowry, destruction.
    • l. 406

  • Learning is ever in the freshness of its youth, even for the old.
    • l. 584

  • It is in the character of very few men to honor without envy a friend who has prospered.
    • l. 832

  • Only when man's life comes to its end in prosperity can one call that man happy.
    • Variant translations: Call no man happy till he is dead.
      Hold him alone truly fortunate who has ended his life in happy well-being.
    • l. 928

  • Oh me, I have been struck a mortal blow right inside.
    • l. 1343

  • Death is better, a milder fate than tyranny.
    • Variant translation: Death is softer by far than tyranny.
    • l. 1364

  • Zeus, first cause, prime mover; for what thing without Zeus is done among mortals?
    • l. 1485

  • Do not kick against the pricks.
    • l. 1624

  • I know how men in exile feed on dreams of hope.
    • l. 1668

Libation Bearers

  • Good fortune is a god among men, and more than a god.
    • l. 59
    • Variant translation: Success is man’s god.

  • Destiny waits alike for the free man as well as for him enslaved by another's might.
    • l. 103

  • For a deadly blow let him pay with a deadly blow; it is for him who has done a deed to suffer.
    • l. 312

  • What is pleasanter than the tie of host and guest?
    • l. 702

Unsourced

  • Appearances are a glimpse of the unseen.

  • Every ruler is harsh whose laws is new.
    • Variant: The man whose authority is recent is always stern.

  • God is not averse to deceit in a holy cause.

  • God loves to help him who strives to help himself.
    • Variant: To the man who himself strives earnestly, God also lends a helping hand.
    • Variant: When one is willing and eager, the Gods join in.
    • Variant: When a man's willing and eager the gods join in.

  • Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times.

  • He who goes unenvied shall not be admired.

  • I think the slain care little if they sleep or rise again.

  • In war, truth is the first casualty.

  • It is a profitable thing, if one is wise, to seem foolish.

  • It is always in season for old men to learn.

  • It is easy when we are in prosperity to give advice to the afflicted.
    • Variant: It is an easy thing for one whose foot is on the outside of calamity to give advice and to rebuke the sufferer.

  • It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.

  • It is the nature of mortals to kick a fallen man.

  • So, in the Libyan fable it is told That once an eagle, stricken with a dart, Said, when he saw the fashion of the shaft, "With our own feathers, not by others' hand Are we now smitten."

  • The meaning I picked, the one that changed my life: Overcome fear, behold wonder.

  • The reward of suffering is experience.
    • Variant: Wisdom comes alone through suffering.
    • Variant: By suffering comes wisdom.

  • The wisest of the wise may err.

  • There are times when fear is good. It must keep its watchful place at the heart's controls.

  • There is no sickness worse for me than words that to be kind must lie.

  • To be fortunate is God, and more than God to mortals.

  • To be free from evil thoughts is God's best gift.

  • When a match has equal partners then I fear not.

  • Who, except the gods, can live time through forever without any pain?

Misattributed

  • Better to die on your feet than live on your knees.
    • This is usually attributed to Emiliano Zapata, but sometimes to Aeschylus, who is credited with expressing similar sentiments in Prometheus Bound: "For it would be better to die once and for all than to suffer pain for all one's life."

Quotes about Aeschylus

  • Æschylus is above all things the poet of righteousness. "But in any wise, I say unto thee, revere thou the altar of righteousness": this is the crowning admonition of his doctrine, as its crowning prospect is the reconciliation or atonement of the principle of retribution with the principle of redemption, of the powers of the mystery of darkness with the coeternal forces of the spirit of wisdom, of the lord of inspiration and of light.
    • Algernon Charles Swinburne in The Age of Shakespeare (1908)
 
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