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79 Reading Passages: Classical

Classical Reading

 

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The oldest complete work to survive in Classical Attic Greek is also the oldest surviving complete script of a play in the world. Persians by Aeschylus was originally performed in 472 BCE. This tragedy dramatizes what it was like for Persian royalty to receive news of their defeats by the Greeks. This reading comes from a gripping report by a Persian messenger, who narrates the Battle of Salamis in 479 BCE, the decisive naval victory for the Greeks. Although written as if told by a Persian, Aeschylus himself had fought at this battle, so it seems that this is a rare first-hand account of one of the turning points in world history. The scene begins at dawn:

 

καὶ νὺξ ἐχώρει, κοὐ μάλ’ Ἑλλήνων στρατὸς

κρυφαῖον ἔκπλουν οὐδαμῆι καθίστατο·

ἐπεί γε μέντοι λευκόπωλος ἡμέρα πᾶσαν

κατέσχε γαῖαν εὐφεγγὴς ἰδεῖν, πρῶτον

μὲν ἠχῇι κέλαδος Ἑλλήνων πάρα

μολπηδὸν εὐφήμησεν, ὄρθιον δ’ ἅμα

ἀντηλάλαξε νησιώτιδος πέτρας

ἠχώ, φόβος δὲ πᾶσι βαρβάροις παρῆν

γνώμης ἀποσφαλεῖσιν· οὐ γὰρ ὡς φυγῇ

παιᾶν’ ἐφύμνουν σεμνὸν Ἕλληνες τότε,

ἀλλ’ ἐς μάχην ὁρμῶντες εὐψύχῳ θράσει.

σάλπιγξ δ’ ἀυτῇ πάντ’ ἐκεῖν’ ἐπέφλεγεν·

εὐθὺς δὲ κώπης ῥοθιάδος ξυνεμβολῇ

ἔπαισαν ἅλμην βρύχιον ἐκ κελεύματος.

θοῶς δὲ πάντες ἦσαν ἐκφανεῖς ἰδεῖν·

τὸ δεξιὸν μὲν πρῶτον εὐτάκτως κέρας

ἡγεῖτο κόσμῳ, δεύτερον δ’ ὁ πᾶς στόλος

ἐπεξεχώρει, καὶ παρῆν ὁμοῦ κλύειν

πολλὴν βοήν· Ὦ παῖδες Ἑλλήνων, ἴτε

ἐλευθεροῦτε πατρίδ’, ἐλευθεροῦτε δὲ

παῖδας γυναῖκας θεῶν τε πατρῴων ἕδη

θήκας τε προγόνων· νῦν, ὑπὲρ πάντων, ἀγών.

καὶ μὴν παρ’ ἡμῶν Περσίδος γλώσσης ῥόθος

ὑπηντίαζε, κοὐκέτ’ ἦν μέλλειν ἀκμή.

 

Aeschylus Persians 384-407

 

ἀκμή -ῆς ἡ peak, point, climax

ἅλμη –ης ἡ seawater

ἀνταλαλάζω shout back

ἀποσφάλλω stagger away from (+ gen.)

ἀυτή -ῆς ἡ shout, battle cry

βοή -ῆς ἡ shout, cry

βρύχιος –α –ον bellowing

γαῖα –ας ἡ earth

δεξιός –ά –όν right

ἕδος –ους τό seat, foundation

ἔκπλους –οῦς ὁ launch, a sailing out

ἐκφανής –ές visible

ἐλευθερόω free

ἐπεκχωρέω advance next

ἐπιφλέγω  inflame

εὐτάκτος –ον well-ordered, orderly

εὐφεγγής –ές very bright

εὐφημέω make a righteous sound

εὐψῦχος –ον spirited

ἐφυμνέω sing a hymn

ἡγέομαι lead

ἠχώ –οῦς ἡ echo

θήκη –ης ἠ case, tomb

θοός –ά –όν quick

θράσος –ους τὀ boldness

καὶ μὴν this phrase introduces a new topic in conversation 

κατα-έχω hold down, spread around

κέλαδος –ου ὁ noise

κέλευμα –ατος τό call

κέρας –ατος τό horn, wing

κλύω hear

κοὐκέτ’= καὶ οὐκέτι

κρυφαῖος –α –ον hidden

κώπη –ης ἡ handle (of an oar)

λευκόπωλος –ον white-horsed

μολπηδόν like a song

νησιώτης –δος ἡ islander

ξυνεμβολή -ῆς ἡ simutaneous throwing in

ὁμοῦ in the same place

παιάν -ᾶνος ὁ paean, a victory song to a god

ὄρθιος –α –ον straight up

ὁρμάω hurry

οὐδαμῇ nowhere, no way

παίω strike

πάρα As the accent indicates, this preposition takes a preceding object. 

πατρῷος –α –ον father’s, hereditary

Περσικός –σίς –ικόν Persian

πρόγονος –ου ὁ ancestor

ῥόθιος –ιάδος –ον rushing sound

ῥόθος –ου ὁ a rushing sound

σάλπιγξ –ιγγος ἡ trumpet

σεμνός –ή –όν sacred

στόλος –ου ὁ expedition, army

στρατός –οῦ ὁ army

ὑπαντιάζω encounter

φυγῇ in hasty retreat

χωρέω move

 

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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.