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23 Reading Passages: Classical

Reading Passages


1. Read the passages aloud in Greek.

2. Vocabulary and commentary is provided for each passage. For words that do not appear in the vocabulary, please use your dictionary.

3. Translate the passages. As you translate the sentences, pay careful attention to words that go together, such as prepositional phrases and relative clauses. Breaking the sentences up into logical units is oftentimes a better first approach than attempting to translate all the words in succession.

To download this assignment as a pdf, click here: AGE Readings 8.

Classical Reading

The specter of human sacrifice haunted ancient Greek mythology, especially when it was dramatized in the form of Greek tragedy. Among the more famous of these narratives was the story of Iphigenia, the oldest daughter of Agamemnon, the king who led the Greek forces to the Trojan War. He faced the divine command to sacrifice Iphigenia on the altar to the goddess Artemis in order get his troops to the war, a horror Euripides developed into a tragedy called Iphigenia at Aulis. In an earlier play, however, Euripides had made an adventure story out of a version of the myth where Iphigenia escapes the sacrifice and is transported to the far-off land of the Taurians. There she serves the goddess Artemis as a priestess. Many years later, her younger brother, Orestes, and his best friend, Pylades, arrive in the land of the Taurians, unaware that Iphigenia is even alive. Paradoxically, Iphigenia is supposed to make a human sacrifice of any foreigners to come to the temple. When she realizes that her newest victims are in fact fellow Greeks, she agrees to spare Pylades, so that he may deliver a message back to her family in Greece (not yet realizing that her own brother is right before her). To be sure that Pylades will in fact deliver her message, she demands that he swear an oath, and so begins one of the most famous recognition scenes in world literature:


ἦ κἀντιδώσεις τῷδε τοὺς αὐτοὺς λόγους;


τί χρῆμα δράσειν ἢ τί μὴ δράσειν; λέγε.


ἐκ γῆς ἀφήσειν μὴ θάνοντα βαρβάρου.

Iphigenia agrees. Orestes then asks whether the king of the Taurians will agree to the plan.


ναί· πείσω σφε…

Orestes then says that the swearing of the oath can go on. Iphigenia makes Pylades swear that he will give the messages to her friends.


τοῖς σοῖς φίλοισι γράμματ’ ἀποδώσω τάδε.


κἀγὼ σὲ σώσω…

Pylades then worries that if there is an accident and the letter is lost, he will not be able to deliver the message. He says in part, if there is a shipwreck:


…σῶμα δ’ ἐκσώσω μόνον.

Iphigenia then says she will read the letter aloud to Pylades, so that he can either deliver the letter or relay the message.


λόγῳ φράσω σοι πάντ’ ἀπαγγεῖλαι φίλοις…

τὸ σῶμα σώσας τοὺς λόγους σώσεις ἐμοί.

Iphigenia begins reading the letter aloud, a letter wherein she is writing to Orestes and explaining how she herself is still alive. At one point Orestes shouts out:


Πυλάδη, τί λέξω;

Iphigenia ignores the interruptions and insists on reading the letter to the end, at which point Pylades declares:


τὸν δ’ ὅρκον ὃν κατώμοσ’ ἐμπεδώσομεν. ἰδού, φέρω σοι δέλτον ἀποδίδωμί τε, Ὀρέστα, τῆσδε σῆς κασιγνήτης πάρα.

ἀπαγγεῖλαι (inf act) report

ἀντιδίδωμι -δώσω give in return

βαρβάρου (gen sg) ἡ foreign, barbarian (modifies γῆς)

γῆς (gen sg) ἡ earth, land

γράμμα –ατος τό letter, writing

δέλτον (acc sg) ἡ tablet

δράω, δράσω do

ἐγώ (nom sg) I

ἐκσώσω ~ σώσω

ἐμοί (dat sg) me

ἐμπεδόω –ώσω establish, accomplish

ἦ makes a yes/no question

θάνων –οντος ὁ dead

ἰδού Look!

κἀγώ = καὶ ἐγώ

κἀντιδώσεις = καὶ ἀντιδώσεις

κασιγνήτης (gen sg) ἡ sister

κατώμοσ’ (1st sg) swore

λέγω, λέξω say, talk

λέγε (a command, from λέγω)

λόγους (acc pl) λόγῳ (dat sg) ὁ word

μόνον only

ναί yes

Ὀρέστα (vocative case, indicating a direct form of address)

ὅρκον (acc sg) ὁ oath

πάντ’ = πάντα (acc pl) τό everything

πάρα = παρά (the shift in accent indicates that it is postpositive, i.e., the nouns that it governs precede, rather than follow, the preposition)

σέ (acc sg) σοι (dat sg) you

σῆς (gen sg) ἡ / σοῖς (dat pl) ὁ your

σφε (acc sg) him

σώσας (nom sg) by saving

φέρω carry

φίλοις/φίλοισι (dat pl) ὁ friends, family

φράζω -σω declare

selections from Euripides Iphigenia in Tauris 737-92


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Reading Passages: Classical by Wilfred E. Major and Michael Laughy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.