In Euripides’ Suppliant Women, a messenger reports the bravery of the seven men who died while trying to take back the city of Thebes. All the men who died were not only great warriors, but they lived exemplary lives of honorable manliness.
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.