Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 918
In this passage, Cassandra the seer, daughter of Hecuba and Priam (erstwhile Queen and King of Troy), attempts to convince a group of women that Troy is better off than most Greek states. This seems at first to be a preposterous argument because Troy has just lost a decade-long war...
(The entire section contains 918 words.)
See This Study Guide Now
In this passage, Cassandra the seer, daughter of Hecuba and Priam (erstwhile Queen and King of Troy), attempts to convince a group of women that Troy is better off than most Greek states. This seems at first to be a preposterous argument because Troy has just lost a decade-long war that resulted in much bloodshed. Most of the Trojan heroes are dead, and all of the Trojan women have been enslaved. It is hard to imagine a state more wretched than Troy, and yet Cassandra, always someone who is disbelieved and treated as delusional, manages to offer some interesting arguments:
Instead I shall show that this city of ours is more fortunate than Greece is: although I am possessed by the god, yet to this extent I will step aside from my frenzy. In their quest for Helen the Greeks lost countless lives for the sake of one woman and one passion. Their general, so clever a man, destroyed what he loved best for the sake of what he hated most, surrendering to his brother his own pleasure in his children for a woman’s sake, and at that a woman who was abducted of her own free will, not forcibly.
When they came to the banks of the Scamander, they began to perish, though they had not been deprived of territory or of their homeland’s high towers. Those whom Ares slew did not see their children and were not clothed for burial by the hands of their wives but lie buried in foreign earth. Matters at home were just as bad: <wives were losing their valiant husbands> and dying in widowhood, while others died childless in their houses, having reared children all for nothing. There is no one who near their tombs will give the earth an offering of blood. [This is the praise the army deserves. Better to say nothing of disgraceful matters: may my Muse not be a singer who hymns disaster.]
As for the Trojans, in the first place—their greatest glory—they died on behalf of their country. Those who were slain by the spear were carried into the house by their kin and were covered with earth in the land of their fathers, and those who ought to do so dressed them for burial. Any Phrygians who were not killed in battle lived day by day with their wives and children, a pleasure the Greeks were denied. As for Hector’s fate, grievous in your eyes, hear how things stand. He perished after winning repute for the greatest valor, and it was the coming of the Greeks that brought this about. Had they stayed at home, his bravery would have gone unnoticed. Paris married Zeus’s daughter, and had he not done so, he would have had a wife in his house no one talked of.
These are Andromache's moving lines about death; her son is about to be murdered and her husband has already been slain. She seems to have lost all hope and embraces the prospect of death. She addresses these lines to Hecuba:
Never to have been born I count as death,
a death superior to a life of bitterness.
In death there is no pain, no awareness of struggle;
but one who falls from happiness to tragedy
is driven with regret and memories of blessedness.
In death it is as if Polyxena had never known the light
and nothing of her trials.
This is Hecuba addressing the Achaeans after they murder the young boy Astyanax, son of Hector and Andromache, by throwing him from the battlements of Troy:
Oh, you spear-mongering Greeks,
if only your intelligence could match your prowess!
This is a mindless murder—murder unmentionable.
What did you fear in this little child?
That he would raise up fallen Troy? . . .
So all your bravery of old was sham.
In this passage, Helen attempts to defend herself by blaming others for the Trojan war, while everyone else blames her:
First, it was this woman who gave birth to the first cause of our troubles when she bore Paris. Second, it was the old man who destroyed both Troy and me since he did not at the start kill the babe Alexandros, who so fatally resembled a torch. Next, listen to what followed after that. This man judged the trio of goddesses. Pallas Athena’s bribe to Alexandros was that he would lead the Phrygians in war and lay waste to Greece. Hera promised him that he would hold sway over both Asia and the bounds of Europe if he awarded her the victory. Cypris, admiring my beauty, promised she would give me to him if she defeated the other goddesses in the beauty contest. Now hear how the story goes after that. Cypris defeated the other goddesses, and my relations with Paris benefitted Greece to this extent: you are not ruled by barbarians, either because of a battle or by usurpation. But Hellas’ good fortune was my ruin: I was sold because of my beauty, and I am reproached for something for which I should have received a garland on my head.
You will claim that I am not yet talking about the obvious point, how I slipped secretly from your house. He came with no small goddess at his side to help him, that spirit sent to ruin this woman, call him Paris or Alexandros as you like. This man, you worthless creature, you left in your house and took ship from Sparta to Crete!