Only by fleeing did we avoid
being torn to pieces by the Bacchae,
but they attacked our grazing calves and not with swords in their hands.
You could have seen one of them, apart from the others, mauling with both hands
a young heifer with swelling udders, bellowing all the while;
and other women were ripping apart mature cows, shredding them up.
You could have seen ribs or a cleft hoof
being tossed up and down. Hanging from the fir trees
the ribs and hooves dripped bloody gore.
Bulls previously aggressive and tossing their horns in rage
now tumbled to the ground, their bodies dragged down
by the myriad hands of young women.
Their garments of flesh were ripped off
faster than you could have winked your royal eyes.

[ἡμεῖς μὲν οὖν φεύγοντες ἐξηλύξαμεν
βακχῶν σπαραγμόν, αἳ δὲ νεμομέναις χλόην
μόσχοις ἐπῆλθον χειρὸς ἀσιδήρου μέτα.
καὶ τὴν μὲν ἂν προσεῖδες εὔθηλον πόριν
μυκωμένην ἔχουσαν ἐν χεροῖν δίχα,
ἄλλαι δὲ δαμάλας διεφόρουν σπαράγμασιν.
εἶδες δ᾽ ἂν ἢ πλεύρ᾽ ἢ δίχηλον ἔμβασιν
ῥιπτόμεν᾽ ἄνω τε καὶ κάτω: κρεμαστὰ δὲ
ἔσταζ᾽ ὑπ᾽ ἐλάταις ἀναπεφυρμέν᾽ αἵματι.
ταῦροι δ᾽ ὑβρισταὶ κἀς κέρας θυμούμενοι
τὸ πρόσθεν ἐσφάλλοντο πρὸς γαῖαν δέμας,
μυριάσι χειρῶν ἀγόμενοι νεανίδων.
θᾶσσον δὲ διεφοροῦντο σαρκὸς ἐνδυτὰ
ἢ σὲ ξυνάψαι βλέφαρα βασιλείοις κόραις.]

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
Bacchæ [Βάκχαι], l. 734ff [Messenger/Ἄγγελος] (405 BC) [tr. Esposito (1998)]

Telling Pentheus of how the Bacchantes, led by his mother, Agave, slew a herd of cattle. (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

By hasty flight
From these infuriate Bacchanalian dames
We scap'd; but they our grazing herds invaded,
Tho' in their hands no steely weapon gleam'd:
You might have seen one seize and firmly hold
A fatted heifer, others rent the limbs
Of steers asunder; ribs and cloven hoofs
Were toss'd around, from branching pine distill'd
Morsels of flesh and intermingled gore.
The raging bulls , who menac'd with their horns,
Were in a moment stretch'd upon the ground
Assail'd by many a blooming maid: the Daughters
Of royal Cadmus from the flesh tore off
The hides, ere you could close your eyes.
[tr. Wodhull (1809)]

We fled and escaped from being torn apart by the Bacchae, but they, with unarmed hands, sprang on the heifers browsing the grass. and you might see one rending asunder a fatted lowing calf, while others tore apart cows. You might see ribs or cloven hooves tossed here and there; caught in the trees they dripped, dabbled in gore. Bulls who before were fierce, and showed their fury with their horns, stumbled to the ground, dragged down by countless young hands. The garment of flesh was torn apart faster then you could blink your royal eyes.
[tr. Buckley (1850)]

We fled amain, or by the Bacchanals
We had been torn in pieces. They, with hands
Unarmed with iron, rushed on the browsing steers.
One ye might see a young and vigorous heifer
Hold, lowing in her grasp, like prize of war.
And some were tearing asunder the young calves;
And ye might see the ribs or cloven hoofs
Hurled wildly up and down, and mangled skins
Were hanging from the ash boughs, dropping blood.
The wanton bulls, proud of their tossing horns
Of yore, fell stumbling, staggering to the ground,
Dragged down by the strong hands of thousand maidens.
And swifter were the entrails torn away
Than drop the lids over your royal eyeballs.
[tr. Milman (1865)]

In hurried flight we hardly could escape
The Bacchants' clutch. and then they wreaked their rage
Albeit unarmed, upon the browsing herds.
Here might one see the fatling heifer seized,
And lowing, torn to pieces in their hands,
While others rent the kids to fragments there.
There hurled about, the ribs and cloven hoofs
Lay scattered; others cast into the pines
The gory gobbets dripping down with blood.
The wanton bulls, striving in vain to butt,
Were thrust perforce and headlong on the ground,
Driven by the myriad force of girling hands.
More quickly they tore off the flesh than though
Could'st close thine eyelids on thy royal eyes.
[tr. Rogers (1872), l. 694ff]

Thereat we fled, to escape being torn in pieces by the Bacchantes; but they, with hands that bore no weapon of steel, attacked our cattle as they browsed. Then wouldst thou have seen Agave mastering some sleek lowing calf, while others rent the heifers limb from limb. Before thy eyes there would have been hurling of ribs and hoofs this way and that; and strips of flesh, all blood-bedabbled, dripped as they hung from the pine-branches. Wild bulls, that glared but now with rage along their horns, found themselves tripped up, dragged down to earth by countless maidens’ hands. The flesh upon their limbs was stripped therefrom quicker than thou couldst have closed thy royal eye-lids.
[tr. Coleridge (1891)]

O then we fled, and fleeing scantly 'scaped
The Bacchanals' rending grasp. Down swooped they then
Upon our pasturing kine with swordless hand.
Then hadst thou seen thy mother in her grip
Clutch a deep-uddered heifer bellowing loud:
And others rent the calves in crimson shreds.
Ribs hadst thou seen and cloven hoofs far hurled
This way and that, and flakes of flesh that hung
And dripped all blood-bedabbled 'neath the pines.
Bulls, chafing, lowering fiercely along the horn
Erewhile, were tripped and hurled unto the earth,
Dragged down by countless-clutching maiden hands.
More swiftly was the flesh that lapped their bones
Stripped, than thou couldst have closed thy kingly eyes.
[tr. Way (1898)]

Thereat, for fear they tear us, all we fled
Amazed; and on, with hand unweaponèd
They swept toward our herds that browsed the green
Hill grass. Great uddered kine then hadst thou seen
Bellowing in sword-like hands that cleave and tear,
A live steer riven asunder, and the air
Tossed with rent ribs or limbs of cloven tread,
And flesh upon the branches, and a red
Rain from the deep green pines. Yea, bulls of pride,
Horns swift to rage, were fronted and aside
Flung stumbling, by those multitudinous hands
Dragged pitilessly. And swifter were the bands
Of garbèd flesh and bone unbound withal
Than on thy royal eyes the lids may fall.
[tr. Murray (1902)]

At this we fled
and barely missed being torn to pieces by the women.
Unarmed, they swooped down, upon the herds of cattle
grazing there on the green of the meadow. And then
you could have seen a single woman with bare hands
tear a fat calf, still bellowing with fright,
in two, while others clawed the heifers to pieces.
There were ribs and cloven hooves scattered everywhere,
and scraps smeared with blood hung from the fir trees.
And bulls, their raging fury gathered in their horns,
lowered their heads to charge, then fell, stumbling
to the earth, pulled down by hordes of women
and stripped of flesh and skin more quickly, sire,
than you could blink your royal eyes.
[tr. Arrowsmith (1960)]

So we took to our heels and escaped
being torn to pieces by the bacchants; but they attacked the grazing
heifers, with hands that bore no steel.
And one you could have seen holding asunder in her hands
a tight-uddered, young, bellowing heifer;
while others were tearing full-grown cows to pieces.
You could have seen ribs, or a cloven hoof,
being hurled to and fro; and these hung
dripping under the fir trees, all mixed with blood.
Bulls that were arrogant before, with rage
in their horns, stumbled to the ground,
borne down by the countless hands of girls.
The garments of flesh were drawn apart more quickly
than you could close the lids over your royal eyes.
[tr. Kirk (1970)]

So we fled, and escaped being torn in pieces by these possessed women. But our cattle were feeding there on the fresh grass; and the Bacchae attacked them, with their bare hands. You could see Agauë take up a bellowing young heifer with full udders, and hold it by the legs with her two arms stretched wide. Others were tearing our cows limb from limb, and you could see perhaps some ribs or a cleft hoof being tossed high and low; and pieces of bloody flesh hung dripping on the pine-branches. And bulls, which one moment were savagely looking along their horns, the next were thrown bodily to the ground, dragged down by the soft hands of girls -- thousands of them; and they stripped the flesh off their bodies faster than you could wink your royal eyes.
[tr. Vellacott (1973)]

We changed roles and became the hunted,
Fleeing for sweet life. Another moment and
We would have been shredded like chaff.
Balked of their prey, the Maenads turned upon our herd.
Unarmed, they swooped down on our heifers grazing
In the meadows, nothing in their hands, nothing.
Their bare arms sufficed. They rent young, stocky
Heifers in two - you should have heard their death bellows,
Seen these frail-built creatures wrench
Full-grown cattle limb from limb, ribs, hooves
Spiral into he air, fall in torrents of blood,
Seen our dismembered livestock hang from branches
Blood spattering the leaves, seen wild bulls
With surging horns, unapproachable till now
Tripped, sprawled, full-length on the ground
Bellow in unaccustomed terror as girlish limbs
Tore them apart, flayed them living.
[tr. Soyinka (1973)]

Well, we escaped, and managed to avoid
the bacchae’s mangling; but the cattle grazing
in the grass they set upon with their bare hands:
one could be seen to take a well-uddered heifer
and pull it apart mooing in her hands;
others carried off calves and mangled them;
you might have seen a rib or cloven hoof
hurled helter-skelter; things hung
and dripped beneath the firs, befouled with blood;
bulls, violent and raging in their horns
before, were stumbling their forms upon the earth,
driven by thousands of maidenly hands,
that swifter stripped the garment of their flesh
than you could close your lids on kingly eyes.
[tr. Neuburg (1988)]

At this we fled
and barely escaped being torn to pieces
by these God-struck maenads.
But our cattle --
our herds grazing on the grassy slopes -- oh!
They fell upon them with their naked hands.
You could see a woman sink her nails into a cow,
with its udders full, and left it, bellowing, high above her head.
Others dragged young heifers, ripping them apart.
Everywhere you looked,
ribs and cloven hooves
were flying through the air.
And from the pine branches
dangled lumps of flesh that dripped with blood. Majestic bulls
one minute aiming their horns with all their furious pride,
the next were stumbling to the ground,
overwhelmed by the swarming hands of girls,
their bones stripped clean of all their flesh,
faster than you could blink your royal eyes.
[tr. Cacoyannis (1982)]

Then we fled to escape being torn
To pieces by them. Barehanded,
They attacked cattle grazing grass.
You could see one woman drawing
Apart a heifer, fat and bellowing,
Others tore and mangled grown heifers.
You could see ribs or a cloven hoof
Thrown up and down and, suspended
From fir trees, drip defiled, with blood.
Arrogant bulls too, rage once filling
Their horns, were tripped bodily to the ground
Ravaged by hundreds of young hands,
And were stripped of their garment of flesh
Before you could blink your royal eyes.
[tr. Blessington (1993)]

So we were the ones who ran away, to escape
being torn apart by the Bacchae. And they attacked
our livestock as they were grazing on new grass.
No sharp weapons, but you'd have seen one woman
tear apart a young cow with her bare hands --
it was bellowing, its udder was swollen with milk. Others
ripped grown cows to pieces. You'd see ribs and feet
hurled every which way, hooves flying, pieces hanging
in the pine trees, smeared with blood and ripping.
Bulls in all their pride stumbled headlong:
They once had rage tossing on their long horns;
now more hands than you can count pull
them down -- young girls' hands. And strip off the flesh
that covered them, faster than a king could wink one eye.
[tr. Woodruff (1999)]

We ran away from them -- to escape being torn
Apart by the maenads. But with their bare hands,
Not with weapons of iron, then they began
To attack the grazing herds. You would have seen
One woman by herself with just her hands
Pulling in two a big young heifer that
Had swelling udders and was bellowing,
And meanwhile others were dismembering
The full-grown cattle, flaying them to shreds.
You would have seen the ribs and hooves hurled up,
Thrown down, flying through the air, and pieces
Hanging from the trees, still dripping blood.
Even arrogant bulls were stumbling, forced
To the ground, the anger in their horns outweighed
By the countless hands of girls -- their rags of flesh
Were torn from them much faster than you could
Have blinked your royal eyes.
[tr. Gibbons/Segal (2000), l. 842ff]

We ran away and thereby escaped being torn to pieces by the bacchants. But they, with n iron weapons in their hands, attacked some grazing cattle. You could have seen one of the women tearing asunder a bellowing fatted calf with her hands, while others tore heifers to pieces. You could have seen their flanks and cloven hooves hurled this way and that: pieces, drenched with blood, hung dripping from the fir trees. Bulls that till then were violent, with anger in their horns, were thrown to earth, dragged by countless female hands: their covering of flesh was torn in pieces faster than your majesty could blink your royal eyes.
[tr. Kovacs (2002)]

We turned and ran for it, for we have heard
How the Bacchai, when their god is with them,
Will eat raw the flesh from still-living beasts.
We escaped but they found our grazing herds.
They slaughtered them with nothing but their hands.
One dragged a calf form its own mother's teat
And tore it, as it bellowed, clean in two,
While others pulled apart whole heifers.
The woods soon seemed a bloody abattoir.
Even one proud-horned bull was dragged to earth,
His flesh, by fingernails, scratched from his bones
And the scrag ends hurled high into the trees.
All done by the hands of girls and women,
And quicker than a wink from a royal eye.
[tr. Teevan (2002)]

Then seeing we had run out of reach, they fell in fury upon our flocks, tearing the heifers apart with bear hands. Great, large beasts ripped into little shreds of blood and gristle faster than the lids can fall over your royal eyes.
[tr. Rao/Wolf (2004)]

We just managed to run away and escape the slaughter but they threw themselves, with no spear nor sword, at the calves that were quietly grazing nearby. One of those women tore a poor, tiny calf away from its mother’s udder and others ripped calves to bloody pieces with their bare hands and then they began eating them raw. My Lord, you could see bits of flesh strewn all around the place. Whole sides of animals, legs, other chunks of animal flesh hanging from the fir trees, dripping blood. Huge bulls, my Lord which only a few minutes earlier stood tall and proud, the sort that if one got them angry they’d tear everything apart with their massive horns, well, now they dropped their bodies to the ground and straightaway countless girls dragged them about with their bare hands and ... and by the time you blinked your royal eye, my Lord, they’d have the skin torn off those massive carcasses of them bulls.
[tr. Theodoridis (2005)]

And so we ran away in fear and avoided being torn to
bits and eaten like deer by the bacchants; but they
attacked our cattle, barehanded, as they grazed
in the field, and you could see one grab and stretch
the legs of a young, pink-uddered calf, bellowing, as other
Maenads pulled and tore a full-grown heifer apart.
And you'd have seen ribs or cloven hooves thrown
up and down as they dripped, hanging from
fir tree branches, cover'd in blood.
The proud bulls, which moments before had been fully
ready to charge, dropped their body down to earth,
brought down by countless maidens' hands as they
stripped the poor beast's flesh right off like clothes
in the time it'd take you to blink your highness' eye.
[tr. Valerie (2005)]

We ran off, and so escaped being torn apart. But then those Bacchic women, all unarmed, went at the heifers browsing on the turf, using their bear hands. You should have seen one ripping a fat, young, lowing calf apart -- others tearing cows in pieces with their hands. You could've seen ribs and cloven hooves tossed everywhere -- some hung up in branches dripping blood and gore. And bulls, proud beasts till then, with angry horns, collapsed there on the ground, dragged down by the hands of a thousand girls. Hides covering their bodies were stripped off faster than you could wink your royal eye.
[tr. Johnston (2008)]

We fled.
They would have torn us to pieces, those Bacchae.
Instead, they turned -- bare-handed --
on our herd of grazing cattle.
A single woman pulled a mewling calf in two,
while others clawed apart a full-grown heifer.
There were spread ribs and broken hooves
flung everywhere,
and pieces of flesh hung
dripping from the trees.
Great bulls, their power and fury tightening in their horns,
lowered their heads to charge
but were wrestled to the ground
by countless female hands and flayed alive --
faster, sire, than a blink of your royal eyes.
[tr. Robertson (2014)]

We ran. And just avoided a shredding by the Bacchae.
And since they couldn’t have us ...
They got the grazing cows instead. Attacked them with nothing but their hands.
You’d have seen them tearing a fat calf in two, screaming in their grasp. Look another way and there they were, rending pieces off a heifer.
You would have seen ribs and cloven hooves thrown all over the place, blood-drenched ribbons hanging from the trees, still dripping. Proud bulls, tossing their horns in defiant rage, were driven to the ground, torn down by more women’s hands than I could count. Their hides were ripped from the meat in the blink of an eye, even your kingly eyes.
[tr. Pauly (2019)]

We fled and escaped being torn apart by the Bacchants, but they, unarmed, sprang on the heifers browsing the grass. You could have seen one rending asunder a fatted lowing calf, while others tore apart cows. You could have seen ribs or cloven hooves tossed all about; caught in the trees they dripped, dabbled in gore. Bulls who formerly with hubris showed their fury with their horns had their bodies cut to the ground, dragged down by the countless hands of young girls. The garment of flesh was torn apart faster then you could blink your royal eyes.
[tr. Buckley/Sens/Nagy (2020)]

Added on 4-Apr-23 | Last updated 11-Jul-23
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