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reverence the gods, for that alone can bring lasting happiness to mortals. Philoctetes then willingly accompanies Neoptolemus to the ship, with a grateful farewell to the scenes of his long banishment, saying,

'We leave you, yea, we leave at last,

Though small our hope in long years past;
Farewell, O plain of Lemnos' isle,

Around whose coast the bright waves smile;
Send me with prosperous voyage and fair

Where the great destinies may bear,

Counsels of friends, and Jove supreme in heaven,
Who all this lot of ours hath well and wisely given.'



SOPHOCLES Selected for this play the same story which had formed the theme of the famous trilogy of Eschylus, namely, the return of Orestes, and the retribution he executes on Clytemnestra and Ægisthus.

The scene is Agamemnon's palace at Argos, and two young men, Orestes and Pylades, enter. With them is an old servant, by whom, at the time of his father's murder, Orestes was saved, and afterwards tended till manhood, and who is now in attendance on him after his long exile. Orestes tells his friends he has come on a holy mission of vengeance, and instructs the servant that he must represent him to be a Phocian stranger, sent by a friend of the family with the news,—

'That some fell fate has brought Orestes death
In Pythian games ;'


'So I, from out this rumour of my death,

Shall, like a meteor, blaze upon my foes.'

As they retire to pour a libation at Agamemnon's tomb, Electra emerges from the train of Argive maidens.

'Gate of Lions,' followed by a She tells them that, although

many years have elapsed since her father was cut off in
his glory by the axe of Ægisthus, 'as the woodman fells
the oak tree in a forest,' she can neither forget nor forgive
the deed; that her incessant mourning, like the plaintive
strain of the nightingale, has provoked the hatred of
Clytemnestra and her paramour; and that, though she
prays continually that the crime may not go unpunished,
Orestes, for whose coming she had longed, comes not, and
she almost doubts the justice of the gods in still allowing
the guilty to flourish in their sin. The Chorus try in vain
to comfort her; and when her sister, Chrysothemis, comes
in with funeral offerings, she reproaches her with condoning
the offence by sitting at table with the murderers. Chryso-
themis explains that her mother has sent the libations,
because she has seen her husband in a dream, planting his
sceptre in the hearth, and branches issue from it bearing.
fruit. Electra wrathfully bids her not insult the dead
by obsequies from such a woman, but rather to offer her
own locks, with prayers for their brother's return. A grand
choral ode follows, in which the coming vengeance is fore-
shadowed; and, after a pause, Clytemnestra enters with
haughty and defiant mien, rebuking Electra, and vindicat-
ing her deed as a retaliation for the sacrifice of Iphegenia.
Electra reminds her that Agamemnon was forced to appease
the wrath of Diana, adding that, as to blood for blood, had
she but strength, her mother should be the next victim.
Clytemnestra appeals to Phoebus, and, as if in answer to her
prayer, the old servant arrives with the intelligence brought
by the disguised stranger. The queen is strangely moved,
but demands a full narration of the manner of her son's
death, which is given with the circumstantial minuteness of
an actual catastrophe. It was at a tournament of chariots,
on the second day of the games; six times they had passed
the goal, but in the last round some of the horses became
unmanageable, and dashed against the others, when lo,
A shriek, a shout! But yesterday such deeds,
To-day such doom.

All gory from the wheels
Released, and no man, not his nearest friends,
Could in that mangled corpse have traced Orestes.'

Lord Lytton.

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Even Clytemnestra is touched by the sudden end of one

'So young, so noble, so unfortunate ;'

and again she exclaims, with a touch of nature—

'Wondrous and strange the force of motherhood,

Though wronged, a mother cannot hate her children.' But her grief is soon forgotten in the sensation of triumph and relief, and she desires the messenger to follow her within the palace. Electra is in despair, notwithstanding that her sister comes to tell her she has found flowers, and a lock of hair like Orestes', at their father's tomb; for, she replies, he his dead, and let us undertake the retribution,

'So will all

Speak of us, that fame we shall not miss
Living or dying ;'

but Chrysothemis is too faint-hearted for such an enterprise.
Then Orestes enters and makes himself known.
bers, however, that

He remem

'Much speech might lose occasion's golden hour,'


on hearing from the servant that Clytemnestra is in the palace alone. Thither he and Pylades proceed, and presently her voice is heard, first calling for Ægisthus, and then entreating her son to have pity on her, followed by shrieks. Orestes and his friend come forth, carrying their swords wet with blood. At the same moment Ægisthus arrives, radiant with the good tidings from Phocis. reply to his question whether her brother is really dead, Electra replies, 'You may see the corpse.' He orders the palace doors to be thrown open, and a bier appears, covered with a veil. Orestes bids him lift the pall, and he recognises the body of the queen. He comprehends at once who stands before him, and pleads for one little word; but at Electra's instigation, Orestes drags him away, that he may die on the same spot where Agamemnon had fallen.


DIED B.C. 401.

HUCYDIDES was of Thracian descent, and is supposed to have been born about the year 471 B.C. He tells us he was possessed of some hereditary property, and is said to have studied rhetoric under Antiphon, the reputed inventor of oratory. It is, however, as the first of reliable historians that he holds his place in classical literature, and the value of his work is greatly enhanced by his having taken a personal share in most of the events of the great struggle between Athens and Sparta which he relates, and from his priding himself on making his history useful to posterity by simply recording what really happened, and carefully avoiding any of the fabulous embellishments indulged in by his contemporary Herodotus.

He begins with a brief summary of the early history of Greece, in which he accepts the siege of Troy as an historical fact, whose importance has been magnified by the poets, and as unworthy of comparison with the undertakings of later times. He also treats the still earlier legends as founded upon facts, but passes over in silence most of their improbable details. His own annals date from the return of the Greeks from Troy, which was followed by the Dorian migration into the Peloponnesus, and the settlement of Athenian colonies in the Archipelago. Then began the building of navies, the increase of wealth, and the rise of

despotism, until Sparta undertook the cause of liberty, and to put down the tyrants in the weaker states. Soon afterwards came the great Persian war, recorded by Herodotus, on which Thucydides does not linger, but notes that out of it sprung the jealousy between the Lacedemonians and Athenians, the one state being as superior by land as the other was by sea.

After the defeat of the Persians, the Spartans endeavoured to persuade the Athenians not to rebuild their fortifications, but Themistocles, their general, temporised with the ambassadors until the walls were restored, and so outwitted them. Then several of the minor states joined their ships to the Athenian navy, and submitted to be taxed towards its maintenance for the defence of Greece, which enabled Athens gradually to reduce them to a position of complete dependency; and thus were the seeds sown for the prolonged contest for supremacy which ensued between her and her formidale rival.

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Athens had rapidly grown in wealth and power, and, Thucydides adds, Pericles, her foremost citizen, had raised the material grandeur of the city to such a pitch, that, if the stranger of some distant future should come to gaze upon her ruins, he will estimate her power to have been even double what it was.' Corinth looked on with a jealous eye, for she had been the earliest naval power in Greece, and was now eclipsed. Her colonists at Corcyra had proved refractory, and had appealed to Athens, who sent a fleet thither, and, in a sea-fight which ensued, took part with them. She had also blockaded Potidea, another Corinthian settlement, on the pretence that it was meditating revolt, and thus provoked an appeal to Sparta, where a general congress was held, and Thucydides gives, at some length, the speeches delivered by the assembled representatives. When they had withdrawn, the Lacedemonians deliberated, and war was voted by a large majority. The oracle at Delphi was next consulted, and the reply was that, if they made war with all their might, the victory should be theirs. The confederated allies were then summoned, and undertook to furnish their contingents without delay.

A year, however, elapsed before the commencement of

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