In The Suppliants, by ancient Greek playwright Euripides, a messenger reports the bravery of five exemplary soldiers who died while trying to take back the captured city of Thebes. All the men who died were not only great warriors, but they lived commendable lives of honour.
Hear, then. By granting me the privilege of praising friends, you meet my own desire to speak of them with justice and with truth. I saw the deeds–bolder than words can tell– by which they hoped to take the city.
Look: The handsome one is Capaneus. Through him the lightning went. A man of means, he never flaunted his wealth but kept an attitude no prouder than a poor man’s. He avoided people who live beyond their needs and load their table to excess. He used to say the good does not consist in belly food, and satisfaction comes from moderation. He was true in friendship to present and absent friends. Not many men are so. His character was never false; his ways were courteous; his word, in house or city, was his bond.
Second I name Eteoclus. He practiced another kind of virtue. Lacking means, this youth held many offices in Argos. Often his friends would make him gifts of gold, but he never took them into his house. He wanted no slavish way of life, haltered by money. He kept his hate for sinners, not the city; A town is not to blame if a bad pilot makes men speak ill of it.
Hippomedon, third of the heroes, showed his nature thus: While yet a boy he had the strength of will not to take the pleasures of the Muses that soften life; he went to live in the country, giving himself hard tasks to do, rejoicing in manly growth. He hunted, delighted in horses, and stretched the bow with this hands, to make his body useful to the city.
There lies the son of huntress Atalanta, Parthenopaeus, supreme in beauty. He was Arcadian, But came to Inachus’ banks and was reared in Argos. After his upbringing there, he showed himself as resident foreigners should, not troublesome or spiteful to the city, or disputatious, which would have made him hard to tolerate as citizen and guest. He joined the army like a born Argive, fought the country’s wars, was glad when the city prospered, took it hard if bad times came. Although he had many lovers, and women flocked to him, still he was careful to cause them no offense.
In praise of Tydeus I shall say much in little. He was ambitious greatly gifted, and wise in deeds, not words.
From what I have told you, Theseus, you should not wonder that these men dared to die before the towers. To be well brought up develops self-respect: anyone who has practiced what is good is ashamed to turn out badly. Manliness is teachable. Even a child is taught to say and hear what he does not understand; things understood are kept in mind til old age. So, in like manner, train your children well.