Euripides, The Cretans, fr. 472e Kannicht = fr. 11 Page = fr. 82 Austin
(from Perg. Berol. 13217, lost)
Translation copyright 1998 P. T. Rourke; All rights reserved.
[. . .] She alone dared this crime
My Lord, you must think:
how can you hide it,
cover up these horrors
There is nothing to gain now by deceiving you;
what has happened is already too well known.
If I had sold the gifts of Kypris,
given my body in secret to some man,
you would have every right to condemn me
as a whore. But this was no act of the will;
I am suffering from some madness brought on
by a god.
It’s not plausible!
What could I have seen in a bull
to assault my heart with this shameful passion?
Did he look too handsome in his robe?
Did a sea of fire smoulder in his eyes?
Was it the red tint of his hair, his dark beard?
His body, so [different] from my husband’s? [. . .]
Are these the things that drew me to lie
in his bed, in my cowskin [. . .]?
I did not imagine that my lover
could give me children [. . .]
What diseased my mind?
Minos’ god afflicted me,
and Minos is more [guilty in this affair than I am.]
He prayed to his god of the sea, and swore
to sacrifice that portentous bull
and then he spared it from the slaughter.
No wonder Poseidon sought you out:
to punish you through this sick passion
in my heart.
And you would testify before the gods,
when your misdeeds have led to my disgrace.
As the innocent mother of this monster,
I tried to conceal the god’s assault;
but in your cruelty you put
your wife’s humiliation on display,
as if you’d have no share in it.
It is your fault, and my sickness,
my destruction, the result of your sin.
If you intend me to be killed at sea,
kill me now: you are an expert
in human sacrifice and acts of blood.
Do you crave the taste of my flesh?
Then prepare the feast, you cannibal!
Though I am free from all wrongdoing,
let my death pay your penances.
Surely this was brought about by the gods;
[do not indulge] your anger, my lord.
Is she muzzled yet? She bellows [. . .]
Come, [. . . weapons . . .]
Seize that thing — let her die miserably [. . . ]
Bring her accomplice as well — take them both
into the palace, cage them in the cells below
where they’ll never see the light of day again.
My lord, please reconsider this judgment;
mercilessness is never admirable.
My justice is resolved and cannot be postponed.
Translation copyright 1998 by P. T. Rourke
Euripides’ lost play The Cretans (Kretes) dramatized Pasiphae’s attempts to hide the birth of her monstrous son the Minotaur from her husband Minos, King of Crete, and Minos’ all-too-successful attempts to discover the secrets behind the Minotaur’s birth. Like the Hippolytus and many of Euripides’ other plays, The Cretans explored the experiences of women by focusing upon the extremes of emotion: guilt, desire, shame, and madness: Pasiphae’s desire for the bull, the madness that drove her to that desire, the shame attendent upon her conduct, and the guilt and shame resulting from the birth of her deformed child. Like the surviving Andromache and the lost Hypsipyle and Phaethon, The Cretans also portrays a woman threatened with what we today might describe as domestic violence.
Only 120 lines or parts of lines survive from the play — the Greek text of the fragments is now available with a prose translation in C. Collard, M. J. Cropp, and K. H. Lee’s Euripides: Selected Fragmentary Plays Volume I (Aris & Phillips, 1995), and the Greek text of the (now also lost) parchment containing this speech is printed with a prose translation in Denys Page’s Greek Literary Papyri (Loeb Classical Library, 1941). There is also a prose translation by Maureen B. Fant in Diotima‘s hypertext edition of Mary R. Lefkowitz and Maureen B. Fant’s Women’ s Life in Greece and Rome. In English, there is further discussion of the play in T. B. L. Webster’s The Tragedies of Euripides (Methuen, 1967).
This translation draws on several texts — particularly Page’s text, corrected by later reference to Austin’s text and Collard’s text and translation. The translator would also like to thank Diane Arnson Svarlien for her help and suggestions for improving the translation.
Austin, Colinus, ed., Nova Fragmenta Euripidea In Papyris Reperta, Berlin, 1968, pp. 49-58.
(Includes texts of following relevant passages: Hyginus 40; Apollodorus III.i.3; Ar. Ran. 849; Plut. vit. Thes. 15-16; Ioh. Malalas 86, 10; Libanius IV p. 467)
Collard, Christopher, ed. and tr., “Cretans” in Euripides: Selected Framgentary Plays, Volume I, edited with introductions, translations and commentaries by C. Collard, M.J. Cropp, and K.H. Lee. Warminster, 1995, pp. 53-78.
Page, D. L., ed. and tr., “Euripides: Cretans” in Select Papyri, Volume III: Literary Papyri, Poetry, texts, translations and notes by D. L. Page. London and Cambridge, Mass., 1941, pp. 70-75.
Webster, T. B. L., The Tragedies of Euripides, London, 1967, pp. 87-92.
Further bibliography available in Collard and Webster.
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