The difficulty of Aeschylus

I enjoy reading Greek even when it is difficult. Translating is a sort of mental exercise. I can’t read fluently. I often have to look up words or refer to a translation. Some authors are easy but some are difficult. Top of my list for difficulty is Aeschylus. He uses rare words, common words but with unusual meanings, unusual forms of words, difficult sentence structures and when you have got through all that sometimes he hardly seems to make sense, especially in the choruses.

I am currently reading the Eumenides in preparation for seeing an Ancient Greek production of the play later this month. I could pick any number of passages to illustrate my point but this is typical.

ἑκὼν δ᾽ ἀνάγκας ἄτερ δίκαιος ὢν
οὐκ ἄνολβος ἔσται:
πανώλεθρος δ᾽ οὔποτ᾽ ἂν γένοιτο.
τὸν ἀντίτολμον δέ φαμι παρβάταν
ἄγοντα πολλὰ παντόφυρτ᾽ ἄνευ δίκας
βιαίως ξὺν χρόνῳ καθήσειν
λαῖφος, ὅταν λάβῃ πόνος
θραυομένας κεραίας.

When a man is just of his own free will and without compulsion he is not unhappy nor would he ever be completely destroyed. But I declare that the bold transgressor who without justice gathers all types of things by force will in the fullness of time lower his sail when pain takes him as the yardarm breaks.

Aesch. Eum. 550

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