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Hi Michael,

I'm trying to find an original word-for-word translation of one of my favourite lines from the ancient Greek tragedy "Agamemnon" written by Aeschylus. The lines is often quoted in English as:

"He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God."

Now obviously the above has been anglicised by use of the word God rather than Zeus and feels like it has had some artistic liberty taken with the wording - no direct translation would come across quite so polished as that in my opinion.

So I was wondering if you'd be able to help me find out the direct translation of this line from the original Greek? The translation I have found so far that seems most likely to be accurate is the following, but without being able to read Greek it is impossible for me to check it:

"Zeus, who has established as a fixed law that “wisdom comes by suffering.” But even as trouble, bringing memory of pain, drips over the mind in sleep, so wisdom comes to men, whether they want it or not. Harsh, it seems to me, is the grace of gods enthroned upon their awful seats."

A list of Greek editions can be found at this URL, on the left hand side of the table under "Aeschylus, Agamemnon":

Any help you could offer me in finding the most accurate meaning would be much appreciated!

Hello Clancy,

thank you for your inquiry. Okay, in my sources the lines are in verses 173-180 of the work.
If you translate it more closely to the original vocabulary you get the following (my version):

"Someone who willingly sings victorious songs to Zeus' will gain everything regarding knowledge;
(to Zeus) who established the human thinking and determined by law that there is a learning in every suffering. Pain of bitter memories drips in my heart, instead of sleep; he (Zeus) even corrects those who  don't want to be corrected. A strict grace of the gods who are seated on their thrones."

I hope that this helps. Have a good day!



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Michael Barkas


I provide assistance in linguistic, literary topics of Greek and Latin covering, thus, the following fields: translation, grammar, syntax, vocabulary, etymology, morphology, semantics and interpretations etc.


Studies: University of the Aegean, Dept Rhodes Friedrich Wilhelm Universität Bonn

Magister Artium (Archeology/Linguistics) Bachelor (Latin/English/Greek)

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