[518] Praefatio Gaspari Stiblini in Heraclidas
Preface to Heracleidae

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Haec Heraclidarum, id est de Herculis liberis profugis Fabula, quod ad oeconomiam et consilium poetae attinet, cum Supplicibus colludere videtur, quas supra diximus pertinere ad laudem Atheniensis reipub(licae). Sicut enim istic Theseus fortissimus Atheniensum princeps supplicantibus Argivis matribus caesos ante Thebas armis sepulturae asseruit: ita hic Demophon Thesei filius, non minore pietate quam virtute, afflictas et tota Graecia profligatas Herculis reliquias fortissime defendit Eurystheumque in exitium Heraclidarum natum cum omnibus fundit fugatque copiis. Insigne hoc est eulogium Atheniensis civitatis, cuius amplissima laus est, defendere supplices, miseros et oppressos adversus vim tueri, iustitiam absque omni respectu propugnare, malos persequi, pietatem colere, denique Rempublicam saluam ac florentem sine omni tyrannidis vel servitii metu continere. Sunt enim istae plane Heroicae virtutes in ducibus aut civitatum gubernatoribus, citra omnem vel commodi spem vel incommodi metum* apertam vim ab immerentibus propulsare aut dignos auxilio libere defendere ac tueri, etiamsi nulla obligatio officiorum aut cognatio generis aut foedus amicitiae intercesserit. Porro Eurystheus, cuius minae et fastus paulo ante intolerabiles erant, nunc autem captus et vinctus in manusque vetulae traditus ut eius arbitrio mactaretur, et Herculis liberi iam victores et praeter spem in libertatem asserti, quibus modo nullus locus per totam Graeciam satis tutus erat adversus vim Eurysthei insignia dant documenta inconstantiae ac imbecillitatis humanae felicitatis. De qua praeclara illa ex Valerio Maximo verba huc adscribam:** Caduca nimirum (inquit) et fragilia puerilibusque consentanea crepundiis sunt ista, quae vires atque opes humanae vocantur. Affluunt subito, repente dilabuntur, nullo in loco, nulla in persona, stabilibus nixa radicibus, consistunt, sed incertissimo flatu fortunae huc atque illuc acta, quos in sublime extulerunt, improviso recursu destitutos, in profundo cladium miserabiliter immergunt. Itaque neque debent existimari neque dici bona, quae inflictorum malorum amaritudinem desiderio sui duplicant. Hactenus ille. Insigni ergo hoc exemplo Poeta eos quibus animos ac spiritus addunt vel opes vel honores ad modestiam et moderationem animi vocat, cum istas res quas tanti faciunt tam subito eripi ac alio transferri videant. In Macaria pulcherrimum viraginis exemplum adumbratur, quae suae ipsius saluti fratrum vitam ac civitatis Atticae incolumitatem anteposuit ac ingenti animo ultro se mactandam obtulit. Praeterea in Eurystheo ignavi sed superbi ac caelum armis territantis effigiem videre licet, qui provocatus ad certamen singulare cum Hyllo recusavit congredi. Tandem autem in proelio ab Iolao captus ac ad Alcmenam perductus mulierculae fit ludibrio: Rex non ita pridem Argivorum, qui Herculi quoque negotia exhibuerat, fortissimo ignavissimus.

*[misprint metu corrected]

**[Valerius Maximus 6.9.7]

This drama of the Heracleidae, that is, concerning the fleeing children of Hercules, as far as the arrangement and the purpose of the poet are concerned, seems to fit with The Supplices, which, as we have said above, tends toward praise of the Athenian republic. For just as there Theseus, bravest leader of the Athenians, in response to the supplication of the Argive mothers ensured by force of arms burial for those slain before Thebes, thus here does Demophon the son of Theseus, with no less piety than virtue, very bravely defend the survivors of Hercules when they are persecuted and driven throughout all Greece, and he overthrows and puts to flight Eurystheus, who was born for the destruction of the Heracleidae, together with his whole army. This is a remarkable encomium of the Athenian city-state, whose greatest source of praise was their habit of defending supplicants, protecting the wretched and oppressed against violence, fighting for justice without any hesitation, punishing the wicked, cultivating piety, and, finally, maintaining the Republic safe and flourishing without fear of any tyrant or servitude. For these are clearly heroic virtues in the leaders or the governors of nations, to ward off, regardless of either every hope of advantage or fear of trouble, open violence from the innocent, or freely to defend and support those worthy of help, even if no obligation of services or blood relationship or treaty of friendship existed between them. Moreover, Eurystheus, whose threats and arrogance a short time before were intolerable, now, however, is captured and fettered and handed over into the hands of a little old woman that he might be slaughtered by her decision, and the children of Hercules are now the victors and set free beyond hope, for whom just before there was no place in all of Greece safe enough against the power of Eurystheus; these events give remarkable proof of the inconstancy and feebleness of human happiness. About which those famous words of Valerius Maximus I will add here: Fleeting indeed (he says) and fragile and suited to childish rattles are these things which are called human strength and power. Suddenly they flow in abundance, then they unexpectedly melt away; in no place, with no person, resting on stable roots, do they stand firm, but rather are driven here and there with the very uncertain breath of fortune: those whom they bore on high, abandoned in an unexpected retreat, they plunge miserably into the depths of disaster. And so they ought to be neither judged nor called goods, these things that double the bitterness of the inflicted evils with the sense of loss of themselves. Thus far that author’s words. Therefore, by this remarkable example, the Poet calls to modesty and moderation of spirit those to whom either wealth or honor adds pride and haughtiness, when they observe that these things which they value so highly can be so suddenly snatched away and transferred to another. In Macaria he depicts a very beautiful example of a heroine, who placed the life of her brothers and the safety of the Attic city-state before her own welfare and with great courage voluntarily offered herself for slaughter. In addition, in Eurystheus it is possible to see the image of one cowardly but proud and threatening heaven with his armed might, who, challenged to a single battle with Hyllus, refused to fight him. At last, however, captured in battle by Iolaus and led to Alcmena, he becomes an object of mockery for the little woman: he who was not so long ago King of the Argives, who had caused difficulties even for Hercules, the most cowardly for the most brave.

Argumentum Actus primi.

Prologus sub persona Iolai aperit argumentum Fabulae, quod est persecutio liberorum defuncti Herculis: quos Eurystheus odio Iunonis iniquae tota profligabat Graecia, ne quid Herculeae stirpis reliquum maneret. 2. Copreus praeco Eurysthei, vix tolerandae ferociae, etiam ab aris deorum per vim supplicem Iolaum cum Herculea prole abstrahere conatur. Cui rei Chorus senum Atheniensium intervenit ferocientemque distinet donec audito tumultu Demophon ipse dux causas utriusque partis audiat. 3. Contentio Coprei et Iolai apud iudicem Demophontem, quorum ille contendit sibi iure licere agere in Herculis liberos quae iussus fuerat ab Eurystheo. Hic contra defendit se confutatque argumenta adversarii.Vincit autem Iolaus: discedit praeco, superbe Atheniensibus bellum comminans. 4. Iolaus magna gratulatione Demophonti et civitati Atheniensium de se et filiis gratitudinem pro tanto conservationis beneficio pollicetur. Quae autem ad bellum administrandum pertinent, expediturus abit Demophon. 5. Chorus Copreo et Eurystheo iratus longe alium belli eventum ominatur quam ipsi sibi magnifice promitterent.

Argument of the First Act

The prologue by the character Iolaus reveals the plot of the story, which is the pursuit of the children of the dead Hercules, whom Eurystheus was persecuting in all of Greece because of the hatred of hostile Juno, lest any remnant of the Herculean race remain. 2. Copreus, a herald of Eurystheus, of scarcely tolerable savageness, tries to pull away by force even from the altars of the gods the suppliant Iolaus together with Hercules’ progeny. The Chorus of Athenian elders interrupts this act and restrains the raging man until, having heard the commotion, Demophon, the leader himself, hears the cases of each side. 3. The contest of Copreus and Iolaus in front of Demophon as judge, of whom the former maintains that he is legally entitled to act against the children of Hercules in the way he had been ordered by Eurystheus. The latter in opposition defends himself and refutes the arguments of his adversary. Iolaus, however, wins: the herald departs, haughtily threatening war for the Athenians. 4. Iolaus with a great sense of satisfaction promises to Demophon and the city of the Athenians on his own behalf and on behalf of the children gratitude for such a great favor of preservation. Demophon, however, goes away to prepare those things that pertain to managing war. 5. The Chorus, angry with Copreus and Eurystheus, predicts a far different outcome of the war than the one they splendidly promise to themselves.

[519] Argumentum Actus Secundi.

Demophon cognitis vatum responsis Iolao refert, non procul abesse Eurystheum:* sibi vero omnia quae necessaria ad bellum sint expedita esse. Deinde virginem ad victimam posci oraculis quae generoso sit patre nata: se autem neque suos neque alterius immolaturum liberos. Quare ipsum debere dispicere quomodo citra damnum et civitatis et suum Herculeis liberis consulat. 2. Iolaus repente commutatis rebus deplorat et se et suos, quos modo in portum navigare putabat. Sic lubricae spes mortalium sunt. Deinde se ipsum Eurystheo offerri cupit ut tantum salvi maneant parvi filioli Herculis. 3. Generosissima virgo Macaria ac plane Herculei sanguinis virago, cum audiret mortem nobilis puellae morari victoriam, ultro se offert victimam pro salute fratrum et civitatis contenditque mortem honestam praestabiliorem esse vita contempta et probrosa. Ac ibi demum epitasis procedit affectuumque δεινότης, dum eam Iolaus revocare studet a proposito, ut scilicet prius sortiretur cum reliquis sororibus: ipsa autem libere vitam suam impendere fratribus et Athenis statuit. Quibus valere cum sene iussis, eis et studium sapientiae et pietatem ac gratitudinem erga suos manes commendat. 4. Chorus memorabilem primum sententiam effert sive de fato, sive de varietate fortunae, quae duo inscrutabili ratione sursum deorsumque in morem euripi aestuariis vicib(us) res humanas iactent. Deinde consolatur senem, ut moderatius ferat gloriosam mortem Macariae, quam dii sic prouiderint.

*[misprint Eurystei corrected, already in Stephanus 1602]

[519] Argumentum of the Second Act

Demophon, after learning the responses of the seers, reports to Iolaus that Eurystheus is not far off, but he himself has prepared all things which are necessary for war. Then he tells him that the oracle demands as a victim a virgin who is born of a noble father: he, however, will sacrifice neither his own children nor the children of another. Wherefore (he says) Iolaus himself ought to consider how he may provide for the children of Hercules without incurring harm to the city or himself. 2. Iolaus, with the situation unexpectedly altered, despairs of himself and his family, whom he thought just now to be reaching a safe harbor. So slippery are the hopes of mortals. Then he wishes that he himself might be offered to Eurystheus so that at least the little sons of Hercules might remain safe. 3. Macaria, a very noble maiden and a heroine completely of Herculean blood, when she hears that the (need for the) death of a high-born girl delays victory, voluntarily offers herself as a victim for the safety of her brothers and the city and she contends that an honorable death is more distinguished than a despised and shameful life. And at this very point the epitasis (dramatic intensification) advances as well as the forcefulness of emotions, as Iolaus strives to call her back from her plan, so that, namely, first she might cast lots with her remaining sisters: she herself, however, decides to freely expend her own life for her brothers and Athens. After she has bidden farewell to her siblings together with the old man [Iolaus], she recommends to them both the pursuit of wisdom and piety and gratitude towards her Manes. 4. The Chorus first brings forth a memorable thought whether about fate or the variety of fortune, which both with inscrutable reasoning toss human affairs up and down in tidelike alternations in the manner of a narrow strait. Then it consoles the old man, that he might endure more moderately the glorious death of Macaria, which the gods have thus prepared.

[520] Argumentum Actus Tertii.

Famulus nuntii vices agens Alcmenae et Iolao refert Hyllum cum numerosis copiis adesse ac iam acies instructas aperto campo ad pugnam procedere. 2. Qua re cognita, senex miro studio ad proelium ipse contendit in effetoque corpore vim suscitat ira, frustra ipsum dehortante famulo pugnaeque inutilem dicente. Non autem absque ratione hoc senis, ita operose in proelium se adornantis, spectaculum hic insertum est: ne otiosa scena esset donec veniat nuntius qui eventum pugnae narret. 3. Chorus Iovem ac Minervam invocat ut a parte Atheniensium, quorum causa iustior sit quia supplices defendant, stent dextrique pugnaturis aspirent.

[520] Argumentum of the Third Act

A servant playing the role of messenger reports to Alcmena and Iolaus that Hyllus has arrived with numerous troops and now the battle lines, drawn up on the open field, advance toward combat. 2. Having learned this, the old man himself with amazing zeal strives to go to the battle, and anger rouses the strength in his exhausted body, as the servant tries in vain to dissuade him and calls him useless in battle. Not however without reason is this spectacle of the old man, thus laboriously equipping himself for battle, inserted here: lest the stage be lacking in excitement until the messenger comes who narrates the result of the battle. 3. The Chorus invokes Jupiter and Minerva that they might stand on the side of the Athenians, whose cause is more just because they are defending the suppliants, and propitiously favor those about to fight.

Argumentum Actus quarti.

Actus quartus nuntii narratione quae est de victoria Atheniensium et capto ab Iolao Eurystheo consumitur. Quo nuntio mirifice gaudet Alcmena sibique ac Herculis liberis gratulatur de reliquae vitae libertate. 2. Chorus ad laetitiam agitandum ex re bene gesta suscitatur. Docetque Eurysthei exemplum semper Deum adversari insolentibus ac superbis: contra, modestos quique moderata animis concipiant iuvare ac extollere. Deinde Herculem in deorum consortium ascitum esse manifestis argumentis liquere.

Argument of the Fourth Act

The fourth act is taken up by the narration of the messenger concerning the victory of the Athenians and the capture of Eurystheus by Iolaus. At which report Alcmena rejoices exceedingly and congratulates the children of Hercules and herself on the freedom of their future lives. 2. The Chorus is roused to express their happiness because of the successful battle. And the example of Eurystheus teaches that God is always against the immoderate and proud: on the other hand, he helps and raises up the modest, and those who conceive moderate intentions in their souls. Then (they say that) the fact that Hercules has been admitted into the society of the gods is made apparent with clear arguments.

Argumentum Actus quinti.

Nuntius adducit in scenam ad Alcmenam vinctum Eurystheum, cui anus amare insultat ac acerbissime exprobrat iniurias quibus ille tum ipsum Herculem, tum eius li[521]beros affecerat. Mortem denique diram dignamque meritis minatur. 2. Chorus dehortatur Alcmenam a caede Eurysthei, idque ex more civitatis, quo non solebant Athenienses captos in proelio necare. 3. Eurystheus nullam spem vitae esse reliquam videns minatur se etiam mortuum ut urbi Atheniensium salutatem sic Herculeae stirpi perniciosum fore. Talia iactantem Alcmena duci iubet.

Argument of the Fifth Act

The messenger leads on stage to Alcmena the bound Euystheus, whom the old woman insults bitterly and very severely accuses of the wrongs which he had inflicted at one time upon Hercules himself and now on his [521] children. She finally threatens him with an awful death, worthy of his offenses. 2. The Chorus dissuades Alcmena from the killing of Eurystheus, and that because of the custom of the city, by which the Athenians were not accustomed to kill those captured in battle. 3. Eurystheus, seeing that there is no hope of life left, threatens that, even dead, he will be both a source of safety to the city of the Athenians and destructive to the Herculean race. As he makes such boasts, Alcmena orders him to be led out.

Translation by Meghan Bowers

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