Opening Statement By The Defense At The Impeachment Trial Of Atreus, King Of Mycenae

O men of Mycenae, gather together and hear this, the defense of our beloved King Atreus, he of unparalleled wisdom and loins like great pillars of marble. His accusers propose impeachment as the penalty. This should be no great surprise, as they have sought to depose him since the day of his coronation, simply for being a cursed psychopath who works unspeakable evils on his countrymen. 

My friends, it was no more than two years ago when we stood in this same amphitheater to discuss the removal of our noble warrior King. At that time, it was because of half-truths and unfounded accusations regarding the murder of his half-brother, Chrysippus. The cause was revealed to be a fraud, supported by naught but the testimony of seven men, a seer-woman, the vengeful ghost of Chrysippus himself, and the ineradicable bloodstains on our good King’s hands. Not a single god came to the aid of the accusers!

And what is the supposed crime that justifies his removal this time? Nothing more than convincing his brother, Thyestes, to eat a stew made from his own children. Impeachment for no more than this, I tell you, would needlessly divide Mycenae, this great nation, or nation-state, or city-state, or whatever it is presently. It is this division that is the true crime! 

Those seeking the removal of our great King at any cost, the “never-Atreus” men, would distract you with this trivial matter of butchering children in hopes that you do not notice this year’s harvest, which is most bountiful. Not only this, but the people see that Atreus is our best hope for ending the ceaseless conflict in the middle part of the eastern lands. His sons, the great Agamemnon and mighty Menelaus, though inclined to fly into murderous, naked, oily rage as much as the next Mycenaean, are, all told, cautious warrior-poets. These Atreidae are the kind who would shun protracted, pointless conflict, especially if such war were only to satiate the egos of a handful of men. The accusers of Atreus desperately crave the spoils of war, and so, alas! They hate our King. 

The accusers point again and again to some alleged misconduct by the King, and again and again to the curse on the House of Tantalus, which undoubtedly compels such misconduct. But I say to you that if this “curse” is such a great matter, then why do the accusers simply not let it run its course? Punishment, after all, is not the province of men. The Furies would surely drag such a man down if he were as bad as all that. I say: let the gods decide who should be King, according to their opaque, divine processes!

That brings me to the matter at hand. How is this matter different from the case of Chrysippus? What evidence is there that such a foul, wicked crime occurred here? Save adulterous Thyestes himself, there were no witnesses to the supposed crime. Yes, noble Atreus stood in the streets of our fair city, his garment rent and drenched in the blood of his nephews, his eyes wildly blazing like those of a trapped weasel. And certainly, he there confessed the crime to gods and men alike, and promised to do it again and again to his enemies, his political opponents, the Hittites, the Trojans, Apollo himself, and, for some reason, the Chinese. Of course he did not mean these things; these outbursts were just meant to inflame the passions of his accusers!

Further, I submit to you that no proof of any evil motive by our shining, godlike King can be discerned. And how can you remove a King without proof of motive? Indeed, we have heard nothing at all from the sons of Thyestes themselves; they have been absolutely silent on the matter. How do we know they did not consent to being eaten? How do we even know that I am here speaking? It is impossible to tell.

In any event, it is undisputed – undisputedthat the hands and feet which gentle Atreus taunted his adulterous brother with were left untouched by the cook’s flame. So it cannot truly be said that he cooked all of Thyestes’ children; only parts of them, at best. That the accusers call this a serious crime is laughable, dear friends.   

But may this great ox stand on my tongue no longer; I am frankly surprised that this, of all things, is what the King’s accusers have chosen to rest upon after the grand failure of the Chrysippus episode. After all, there is nothing inherently wrong with mincing up small boys, grilling their tender flesh, and putting them on a plate. It was Thyestes who chose to eat them! Why do the accusers not seek to impeach him? All our benevolent Lord sought to do was serve his dear brother a meal – a perfect meal. Will you remove him for that? Why, I suspect in five years’ time, all kings will be feeding their rivals gyros containing the delicious, roasted flesh of their own children, and we shall think nothing of it. The accusers should get over it. 

Gentlemen, I cannot expect fairness from this process, but rest assured that wise, brave Atreus will know what to do with those of you who see fit to convict him. Whatever is ordained to happen will happen, but let the good prevail!