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III.— BEATITUDE AND INGRATITUDE IN THE PLAYS
Por some reason, modern literature treats ingratitude as the
most enormous of sins. To portray an act in the most unfavor-
able light and put it at once beyond the possibility of defense
it is enough to call it ungrateful. Consequently writers of our
time are apt to stigmatize as ingratitude acts which, while
doubtless unlovely, are yet primarily something else.
Certain periods of English literature have gone to great ex-
tremes in this direction. The English novel of the eighteenth
century depicts ad nauseam the " ingratitude " of the lady who
does not return her lover's affection, however unattractive he
may be in her eyes, and however disagreeable he may have ren-
dered himself to her.
Again, Shakespeare in particular, but modern literature in
general, lays great emphasis upon political ingratitude. The
Romans are called ungrateful in turning from Pompey to
Csesar, as well as in their treatment of the erring Coriolanus.
The conduct of those who violate the ties of kinship, especially
those who disregard the duty due to father or mother, is styled
ingratitude. Izaak Walton's Lives of five worthies of his time
is full of references to gratitude and ingratitude of one kind
and another, and throughout this period the mention of grati-
tude and ingratitude seems to have been a literary fashion.
It is perfectly natural, if at times a little overdone. A little
comparison with Greek literature, however, will make it clear
that the Greeks analyzed better than we and had not yet attained
our convenient inaccuracy and generalization. In their eyes
the ill treatment of a faithful lover is unfaithfulness, or
treachery; ill treatment of one's father is unfilial conduct and
the Greek needed to search no further for a term to bring out
its utter repulsiveness.
It may not be devoid of interest and profit to examine in the
light of these introductory remarks one of the principal Greek
poets. It is usual to speak of Euripides as the most modern of
the ancient dramatists. Both because of the relatively large
amount of his extant work and because of this modernness he
332 AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHILOLOGY.
forms a suitable subject for our study. With all his modern-
ness, we shall find that, while not avoiding entirely the mention
of gratitude and its opposite, he avoids very obvious opportuni-
ties for the employment of these motives. The plays vary
greatly in their employment of the motive which we are dis-
cussing. Some of them, the Bacchae, the Troades, and the
Cyclops, are practically free from it. This is because of their
subject, and the non-appearance of the motive has no signi-
In other plays, however, the poet fails to take advantage of
obvious opportunities. Andromache, 1 dying for her son, makes
no claim upon his gratitude, but is set upon being avenged by
his means, though not at his hands. In the Electra no one
expresses gratitude either to the peasant for his noble treat-
ment of his royal wife, or to the slave who on the night
of Agamemnon's murder had saved Orestes from death and
now offers to perform a service of some danger. Not even to
the trusty Pylades is any word of gratitude expressed. 2 In the
Helena, Theonoe receives no thanks from Menelaus. We ob-
serve, however, that his request to her had expressly been made,
not for a favor, but for an act of justice, so that any claim for
gratitude is perhaps discounted in advance. Helen had prom-
ised the chorus that for their generous conduct in aiding her
escape she would include them in the rescue, if it were con-
venient. It proves inconvenient and she leaves them behind.
But for this she incurs no word of criticism, and no charge of
ingratitude. Nor does the deceived Theoclymenus hint at any
ingratitude on her part, although she seems to make a promise
of gratitude to him. 3 In this play the conduct of Helen is not
resented at all. Certainly the poet does not utter any expression
of resentment and we are left to imagine how Theoclymenus
and the chorus viewed conduct which seems to us ungrateful.
In several of the plays, however, resentment for such conduct
finds expression, and it. is with these that we must pursue our
investigation. Does the expression of resentment issue in a
1 Andromache, 410 flf.
' Electra gives him a crown and wishes continued prosperity for him,
* 1420 — unless her words are a double entendre.
GRATITUDE AND INGRATITUDE IN EURIPIDES. 333
charge of ingratitude, or does it tend to assume some other
Hippolytus might fairly, it would seem, have reproached
Artemis with ingratitude. The ingratitude of the gods to their
worshipers is a note frequently struck in Greek literature, when
there is far less apparent justification for it than here. This
motive cannot arise until worship becomes more (or less) than
a duty and is considered a favor to the deity worshiped. Such
has been the worship Hippolytus has rendered to Artemis. He
has gone far beyond his strict duty and so the shabby conduct
of the goddess with her weak explanation for it savors of in-
gratitude. Euripides probably recognized, if he did not malic-
iously emphasize, the shallowness of Artemis' excuse for leaving
her dying votary. 4 But of any ingratitude of the deity there is
no hint. Hippolytus, somewhat disagreeably conscious of his
virtue, seems to feel that there is something wrong with "this
sorry scheme of things entire" when such a man as he is con-
demned to perish in such a way. He tells Zeus as much
(1363 ff.) but does not charge him with ingratitude. Still less
does his loyalty to Artemis permit him to bring such an indict-
ment against her. Indeed he does not even express resentment.
His father, Theseus, on the other hand does bitterly resent the
supposed conduct of Hippolytus but does not, as Lear might,
charge him with ingratitude. He upbraids him for his self-
conscious virtue and hints at the unfilial character of his con-
duct, but nothing more."
The two Iphigenia plays abound in unused opportunities to
express gratitude or bring a charge of ingratitude In the
Aulis play it would be natural to express gratitude to Achilles
for his help to Iphigenia and Clytemnestra and to Iphigenia
for her voluntary sacrifice. The former of these is, to say the
least, not emphasized. Achilles is rewarded only by the formal
remark that the stranger should be praised for his zeal in their
behalf (1371). 6 Nor is the second opportunity used any more
* Contrast the conduct and words of the human Theseus in Hercules
Furens 1233 ff.; 1400.
"The nearest approach to the mention of ingratitude — and it is not
very near — is the cry of Hippolytus that his accursed steeds, fed with
his own hand, have been the death of him (1355ff.).
"Praise, expressed by alveiv or by liraiveiv, is given to a messenger
334 AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHILOLOGY.
fully. Iphigenia fixes her attention on the glory she will gain
by her sacrifice rather than on any public gratitude from which
that glory might spring (1383 f., 1398 1). There is no mention
of the attitude of the state to her except in the promise of the
chorus (1504) that glory shall ever be hers.
Of the possible charges of ingratitude, that against Agamemnon
by his wife is only partially developed. She does begin an ac-
count of her faithfulness to him but instead of saying " Do not
make me such a poor return," she says rather, " Do not compel
me to be anything but good to you" (1183 f.) — a threat, dis-
tinct if veiled, and probably used with a view to the line of
argument she subsequently adopts to defend her conduct.
There is a hint that Agamemnon will be ungrateful to his
country if he fail to give it this precious sacrifice. Menelaus
reminds him (334 ff.) that when he aspired to command the
Greeks he was humble to all, but now that he is in a position of
command and actually able to save the army, he is not the same
man. To him is applied the epithet kokos (349), 7 which is else-
where used to characterize the ungrateful, but is of course a
broad and general term.
The clearest reference to gratitude is along a quite unex-
pected line. Iphigenia reminds Agamemnon how she used to
perch on his knee and ask " Shall I receive thee, father, when
thou art old, in the dear hospitality of my house?" iroWv
tiOtjvov} aTraSt&ovcrd voi Tpo<£a?; (1228 if.) — a reference to the
Tpo<j>tia, which Iphigenia acknowledges as her debt to her father.
The Iphigenia in Tauris affords four opportunities to empha-
size gratitude: (1) on the part of Orestes to Pylades for help
and support; (2) of Iphigenia to King Thoas; (3) of Iphigenia
to her chorus of attendants; (4) of Iphigenia for the good news
that Orestes is still alive. All these are touched but lightly.
When Pylades offers to remain and suffer in his friend's place,
Orestes emphasizes his refusal to consent by mentioning his
own deep obligation to Pylades. But it is not ingratitude of
for the news he brings (440) and to Iphigenia for a comforting word
to her father (655). Praise and gratitude are not necessarily the
same thing. See an editorial Praise vs. Gratitude in the New York
Times for March 17, 1922.
GRATITUDE AND INGRATITUDE IN EURIPIDES. 335
which he would be guilty if he fell in with Pylades' plans. Hia
conduct would be unjust (601), disgraceful (606), distressing
and reprehensible (Awrpov KairovtihuiTov, 689). To the Greek
there were lower depths than ingratitude. Similarly, Iphigenia
refuses to kill Thoas to aid her escape, not because she would
thus be ungrateful, but because she would violate the sacred tie
of hospitality (1021).
When the chorus consent at the risk of their own lives to
assist an escape in which they may not share, Iphigenia ex-
presses her gratitude only by a wish for their happiness (1078) ;
and when Athena commands Orestes to rescue them, the duty
is considered as an act, not of gratitude, but of justice (1469).
Whatever gratitude is involved in the transaction belongs to
Athena not to the chorus. "I saved you at the Areopagus"
she says, " now you do as much for them " — an approximation,
at least, to the Christian principle that gratitude to God may
find its best expression in service to men.
With less reason Iphigenia's act in aiding the robbery of the
Artemis temple is called a traitorous and forgetful return to
the goddess who had saved her at Aulis (1419). But there is
another side to this. Artemis had also destroyed her at Aulis.
The fourth opportunity is little emphasized. Thoas warns
Iphigenia that the strange tale she has heard may be nothing
but an invention of the two young men to earn her gratitude
and secure their safety (1184). But her gratitude is not appar-
ent either for the news or for the happy event itself. She
expresses no gratitude to any of the great gods, nor indeed to
any gods at all, unless by the "hearths of Mycenae and her
native land" (845 f.) are meant the gods of the Argolid, and
to these her gratitude is expressed for her birth and upbringing.
In the Alcestis the motive which we are discussing is handled
in a peculiarly interesting way. The play affords abundant
opportunity to introduce the motive of gratitude.
Admetus owes much to his wife and she properly demands
gratitude for it:
trv vvv fwi tS>v8' airofwriiTai X<*P"' (299).
Even if we render the words " remember the favor I do you,"
the implication is that gratitude will keep him true to his
336 AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHILOLOGY.
promise to marry no second wife. But when later in the play
the test comes, Admetus says that yielding to temptation would
be, not ingratitude, but treachery to his benefactor. The use
of the word 'benefactor' (1058) shows that, although the basic
thought is the oft-stressed idea of treachery to a lover, the idea
of ingratitude is present, if not fully expressed and isolated from
other elements. Vague and fleeting as it is, this is the only
hint that any gratitude is due from Admetus to the woman who
gave her life for his.
Admetus owes a great debt to Heracles. For this Heracles
receives no word of explicit thanks. Its place is taken, as often
in Euripides, by a wish for his prosperity (1137 f.) :
eiSeu/iovotV/s, Kai cr' 6 ^trvcras irarrjp
See also 1153.
In the unseemly altercation between father and son, it would
be a natural reply to the unreasonable demands of the son to
remind him of all his father had already done for him and
brand as ingratitude his forgetfulness of those benefits. Noth-
ing of the sort do we find, however. In the very act of remind-
ing his son that he had brought him up, Pheres expressly dis-
claims any merit whatever for that. He had done only his clear
duty, only what his own father had done for him. I have else-
where 8 called attention to the fact that the ancient was by no
means so sure as the modern seems to be that the son owes his
father a debt of gratitude for begetting him or even for bringing
him up to years of discretion. I believe it is Lowes Dickinson
who observes that the Greek made no attempt to obscure the
fact that he derived a real and tangible benefit from bringing a
son into the world. And if, as Seneca insists, one owes no
gratitude for a favor which it is not possible for him to refuse, 9
it is hard to see why a son need be grateful for what happened
before he was in a position to say anything about it. Curiously
enough, it is Admetus who reproaches his father with the
return he is receiving from his parents after being such a dutiful
son (658 fi\).
8 T. A. P. A., Vol. 48, p. 46.
"De Benefices 2, 18, 7.
GRATITUDE AND INGRATITUDE IN EURIPIDES. 337
So far as Admetus and Heracles are concerned, the latter
expresses more gratitude than the former. Hospitality under
such circumstances Heracles feels to be a real favor and his zeal
to repay it is not the least lovable element in his character
(8591, 1072 ff.). To a modern reader, at least, there is a sig-
nificant contrast between the reticence of Admetus in acknowl-
edging a large service and the readiness of Heracles to repay a
comparatively small one at fearful risk.
At the very end of the play (1154 ff.) Admetus gives orders
for a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the gods, a feature which is
comparatively rare in our poet and which I have shown else-
where 10 is much less common in the earlier Greek literature
than is usually supposed, certainly less common than I had
If the Alcestis presents an unusual view of the relation be-
tween father and son, the Medea and the Ion differ from modern
literature in their handling of ingratitude to a lover, married
I have already noted the excessive stress which English
writers, especially of the eighteenth century, laid upon the
" ingratitude " of a woman who refuses to consider the ad-
vances of a lover, or of a man who forsakes a woman that loves
him. From this point of view, Apollo is ungrateful to Creusa.
His conduct can scarcely be treated as an instance of ingratitude
of the gods to their worshipers ; it is clearly a matter of a lover's
ingratitude to his mistress. The divinity of the lover only ac-
centuates the enormity of his conduct. Yet, Apollo is accused,
not of ingratitude, but of injustice and rascality — and properly
enough, for whatever pleasure Creusa had given him was cer-
tainly not of her free volition and could hardly be a matter for
gratitude. 11 So the words of Creusa \£ktp<ov n-poSoVas ayapiuToi}*
(880) connote, perhaps, gracelessness rather than ingratitude.
The words are applied, however, not only to Apollo, but also to
her husband whom she now believes to have been untrue to her.
10 T. A. P. A. 43, 77 ff. There is a mention of gratitude in line 70 f.,
where Apollo says that if Death does not accede to his request,
oW ii trap' riiidv aoi yevfoerai %&pis — but these lines are rejected by
Dindorf, Kirchoff, Nauck and Prinz.
a But compare Hecuba 828 ff.
338 AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHILOLOGY.
In 912 ff. there is a hint that in her heart of hearts she thinks
of Apollo as an ingrate. She complains that Apollo has given
her husband a son, although he had received no favor from him
(and consequently owed him no gratitude). Her child, on the
other hand, Apollo had suffered to die unnoticed. The an-
tithesis would certainly be better if she meant that from her
Apollo had received a favor, in the form of pleasure or gratifi-
cation. In 1099 ff. she accuses Apollo of forgetfulness. Is it
of the pleasure he had received from her or of his duties as a
husband ? We cannot say that the notion of ingratitude is any-
where clearly expressed but sometimes Euripides seems on the
verge of expressing it.
Apollo's conduct is bad enough, but Jason's treatment of
Medea is even baser. To the Greek and to the modern his con-
duct cannot seem other than abominably ungrateful, but in this
play it is stigmatized under other names. It would be an inter-
esting study to trace in the various literary handlings of the
Medea story the development of the ingratitude motive. The
Medea of Euripides feels that Jason is making her a poor re-
turn for all she has done to help him (22 f., 476 ff., 1351 ff.,
but nowhere does she call his conduct ungrateful. She stig-
matizes it as perjury (1392, 439, 495), or as treachery (489,
578, cp. 606). Probably the wcn-piop voaw (1364) is marital
unfaithfulness rather than ingratitude, and in set terms Medea
taunts Jason with infidelity (489). His actions are called un-
just (578, 692), disgraceful (695), and inhospitable (1392).
All these reproaches are summed up in the word which the
Greeks often use where we would probably speak of ingratitude
(/caxos 84, 465, 488, 690). Medea does employ the word
dxapwrros, which became conventional to express ingratitude, but
as she uses* it (659, cp. Ion 880) it seems to mean rather
' graceless ' ( c devoid of worth '—Everyman translation) or pos-
sibly " ungraced." 12
In the Hecuba there appears a new element in our study, — a
conflict of gratitudes, a conflict on a less tragic plane than the
conflict of duties which confronted Orestes, but, equally with
that, a conflict between duty to the dead and duty to the living,
"Why not "unfriended," as Earle translates it?— C. W. E. M.
GRATITUDE AND INGRATITUDE IN EURIPIDES. 339
and with the same decision in favor of the departed. In her
dire straits Hecuba reminds Odysseus how she had saved him
when he came as a spy to Troy (251 if., 272 ft 2 .). Odysseus
answers by balancing her claim against that of the dead Achilles,
who had demanded as his right the immolation of Hecuba's
daughter, Polyxena, upon his tomb (299 fl\). There is no
definite statement that to decline his request would be ingrati-
tude but that such was the feeling is clear from lines 138 f.
a>S a^apuTTOl Aavaot Aavaois
rots ol^o/xivon inrtp *EXA.i;v<ov. ls
Hecuba has one other claim on the gratitude of a Greek
prince, this time a far more equivocal one. Despairingly she
brings it forward. Her daughter Cassandra is the concubine of
Agamemnon. Will he not grant to her, and through her to her
t£v ev eivrj <pi\T<xTti>v dairaoY&xTOH'
X a/Oiv TtV (829 ff.)?
Of course this appeal must fail where the more strongly founded
claim on Odysseus proved unavailing. 14
In the Medea the conflict of gratitudes is weakened to the
choice of gratitudes. When Medea details to Jason the services
she has rendered him he admits that he should be grateful for
his deliverance but declares that his gratitude shall be paid,
not to Medea who had saved him, but to Aphrodite under whose
inspiration Medea had been constrained to save him, whether
she would or not. These two gratitudes are not in opposition
as in the Hecuba. Both claims could be satisfied, but the small-
souled Jason confines himself to one, and, of the two, selects
that which costs him nothing to meet.
In the Orestes, Electra and her brother expect their uncle
Menelaus to save them from impending exile. Here the claim
of kinship might well have been made the basis of their ex-
33 Matthaei, Studies in Greek Tragedy, p. 131, emphasizes a bit too
much the idea of gratitude to a public benefactor. The point, it seems
to me, is not so much that he is a public benefactor, as that he is dead.
" Cp. Matthaei, Studies in Greek Tragedy, p. 148.
340 AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHILOLOGY.
pectation, but their request is based rather ou what one friend
owes another. Menelaus is asked to remember the favors which
he had received from Agamemnon. In his reply he ignores the
appeal to his gratitude and he is called kokuttc (719), a term
that is often applied to ingrates.
Now in contrast with the supineness of Menelaus the kinsman,
Euripides proceeds to portray the zeal of Pylades the friend.
In accepting the latter's assistance, Orestes (804 ff.) draws the
contrast explicitly and thus enhances the baseness of Menelaus.
Menelaus was their kinsman and had received favors from their
father. He proves recreant. Pylades was not a kinsman and
there had been accorded him no favors to inspire gratitude.
He offers his all. Agamemnon had a brother but lacked a
friend (721). Orestes, aglow with friendship, would like to
think of the relation between Agamemnon and Menelaus as
one of friendship and had tried to put the obligation on that
plane (740) ; but the logic of events is too much for him and
he is compelled to shift his ground to the lower plane of kinship
in contrast with the more perfect relation which subsists be-
tween himself and Pylades. Now it would seem that gratitude,
properly speaking, existed pre-eminently, if not exclusively, be-
tween friends. So Orestes calls the conduct of Menelaus treach-
ery to one's kin (1463). This it is with which he taunts Helen
as he prepares to slay her, and this he flings in the face of
Menelaus himself when he threatens to kill Hermione (1588).
Gratitude, then, is a higher motive than mere kinship. But
there is something higher yet. Gratitude itself, viewed as the
mere desire to return the favor one has received, perhaps in
order to get rid of the uncomfortable feeling of being under
obligation, falls short of real friendship, which transcends, if
it does not ignore, all considerations of gratitude. This is ex-
emplified in the Hercules Purens. The friendship of Heracles
and Theseus is a beautiful feature of this play. Theseus, it is
true, had received in past time a great favor from his friend,
but his own conduct in the play is based not so much on any
desire to return the favor as on the sublimer ground of friend-
ship, though the obligation of gratitude is expressly recognized
(1235, 1336). The feeling that Theseus voices is, in general,
pity rather than gratitude (1237 f.). Heracles, the original
GRATITUDE AND INGRATITUDE IN EURIPIDES. 341
benefactor, expresses his gratitude with a definiteness and
warmth that are unusual in our poet (1351 f.). 1
Two of our author's plays are definite pieces of war propa-
ganda. The Heraclidae puts the brand of infamy upon the
Argives, perhaps at the time when they broke their bond with
the Athenians and made peace with Sparta; the Supplices re-
minds the Argives once more what Athens had done for them
in times past.
Much has been made of political ingratitude both in ancient
and in modern times. Thucydides often refers to it. So do
Demosthenes, Aeschines and Isocrates, among the orators. The
motive of political gratitude has certainly been sadly overworked,
till men have expressed doubts whether, in the realm of the
state, gratitude has any place. It needs to be noted, however,
that, whereas in modern times much is made of the ingratitude
of a state to one of its citizens, in ancient Greek literature it is
more apt to be a question of the relation between one state and
another. Herodotus lets fall no. hint that Athens showed any
ingratitude to Miltiades when she punished him for his criminal
attempt upon Paros. Eeread the Coriolanus and you will see
what Shakespeare would have done with this theme.
The Heraclidae affords abundant opportunity to emphasize
gratitude. Iolaus appeals to Demophon not only as a suppliant
but on the ground of the service he and Heracles had rendered
in bringing Demophon's father back from Hades (215 ff.). To
Iolaus Demophon admits this claim, but when he refuses to
give up the Heraclidae to Copreus (the herald of Eurystheus),
he bases his refusal, not on the gratitude he owes their father,
but on the fact that they are suppliants at his altars. Perhaps
he feels that the finer and less familiar motive would not appeal
to a mind like that of Copreus. In return Iolaus conjures the
Heraclidae to deem the Athenians forever their saviours and
their friends and never to engage in war against them (312 ff.,
cp. 334). Their ancestral foe, Eurystheus, captured and doomed
to die to satisfy the vengeance of Alcmena, repays the city for
a rather spiritless and ineffectual defense of him by giving his
body as a palladium, so that even in death he will be a foe to
those who will ungratefully invade the Attic land (1035 f.).
1 Cf . the gratitude of Heracles in the Alcestis : see p. 337.
342 AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHILOLOGY.
The second part of the play offers an opportunity to express
the appreciation and gratitude of the state for Macaria's sacri-
fice of herself. She had decided to volunteer, not to await the
decision of the lot (547 ff.) :
ovk av Oavoi/u Trj tv^tj \a\ov(r' iy<a'
X<i/ois yap ov irpocrtcrTi'
Does this mean that the act would lose all its grace, or is there
an idea that the state owes gratitude for a voluntary sacrifice
as it would not for a death due under compulsion, — that the
death in battle of a volunteer is on a different basis from that
of a drafted man? Later (588) she asks to be interred as a
(Twrapa should be. No one, other than herself, expresses any
idea that gratitude is due her. 15
In the Supplices, the motive of gratitude, equally funda-
mental, is skilfully held in reserve. All through the play there
is abundant opportunity for its expression. But the Argives
are so overwhelmed with grief that they express no gratitude
until Theseus, their benefactor, himself demands it. The
chorus of mothers of the fallen Argive heroes sing of the friend-
ship Athens will win by helping Adrastus now (373 f.). The
terminology smacks of unequivocal gratitude. 16 They prophesy
rather than express gratitude however — emphasizing future con-
duct rather than present feeling. And after their dead have
been rescued and properly buried, they still express no gratitude
but remark that by such an act Athens has earned glory (779 ft).
But the political purpose of the poet in writing the play
demands something quite unequivocal. In 1169 ff. Theseus
makes explicit demand that the Argives hold in eternal re-
membrance the favor they have received from Athens. Adrastus
acknowledges their debt and their duty to repay it (1176 ff.).
"In the Phoenissae no gratitude is expressed to Menoeceus for his
sacrifice of himself. There is, however, a hint that Menoeceus feels
gratitude to the state and this feeling influences him to offer him-
self for its salvation. He cannot betray the land that gave him birth
(996). It would be cowardly to betray father and kin and town
18 x^-P 1 " %X el T °"' * s id (374). x6p tv %x eiv is probably the commonest
of the many ways in which the Greek can express gratitude.
GRATITUDE AND INGRATITUDE IN EURIPIDES. 343
Even this acknowledgement is not deemed sufficient for the
poet's purpose and, at the behest of Athena, Theseus exacts from
Adrastus an oath that the Argives not only will not attack
Athens but will defend it, if it be attacked by others (1185 ff.).
That is, the subsequent conduct of Argos, against which the
whole play is a protest, is put on the plane of perjury — to the
Greek a distinctly baser thing than ingratitude, — and the chorus
departs swearing eternal friendship to Theseus and his city for
the toils they have endured in behalf of Argos.
Joseph William Hewitt.