Veteran’s Day with Greek Elegy

Simonides, Epigram (Greek Anthology,7.249): An Epitaph at Thermopylae

“Stranger, go tell the Spartans that we lie here
obedient to their commands.”

Ω ξεῖν’, ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις, ὅτι τῇδε
κείμεθα τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι.

Tyrtaeus, Fr. 10.1-2


“It is a fine thing when a noble man falls
In the first ranks while struggling for his country.”


τεθνάμεναι γὰρ καλὸν ἐνὶ προμάχοισι πεσόντα
ἄνδρ’ ἀγαθὸν περὶ ἧι πατρίδι μαρνάμενον·

Tytaeus, fr. 11.5-8

“Make your life hateful and make the dark fates
Of death as dear as the rays of the sun.
For you know the destructive deeds of much-wept Ares
And you have learned well the fury of fierce war.”

ἐχθρὴν μὲν ψυχὴν θέμενος, θανάτου δὲ μελαίνας
κῆρας αὐγαῖς ἠελίοιο φίλας.
ἴστε γὰρ ὡς ῎Αρεος πολυδακρύου ἔργ’ ἀΐδηλα,
εὖ δ’ ὀργὴν ἐδάητ’ ἀργαλέου πολέμου

Callinus 1. 12-21


“There’s no way for a man to avoid death once it is fated,
Not even if he is a descendent of the immortal gods.
Often when someone has fled strife and the din of spears
Death’s fate will find him at home.
The unsteady man isn’t dear to the people or longed for,
They grieve for him a little even if he suffers something great.
But the whole host misses a strong-hearted man when he dies
A man the equal of living heroes.
They look at him like a tower before their eyes_
He does work of many though he is just one.”


οὐ γάρ κως θάνατόν γε φυγεῖν εἱμαρμένον ἐστὶν
ἄνδρ’, οὐδ’ εἰ προγόνων ἦι γένος ἀθανάτων.
πολλάκι δηϊοτῆτα φυγὼν καὶ δοῦπον ἀκόντων
ἔρχεται, ἐν δ’ οἴκωι μοῖρα κίχεν θανάτου,
ἀλλ’ ὁ μὲν οὐκ ἔμπης δήμωι φίλος οὐδὲ ποθεινός
τὸν δ’ ὀλίγος στενάχει καὶ μέγας ἤν τι πάθηι·
λαῶι γὰρ σύμπαντι πόθος κρατερόφρονος ἀνδρὸς
θνήσκοντος, ζώων δ’ ἄξιος ἡμιθέων·
ὥσπερ γάρ μιν πύργον ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖσιν ὁρῶσιν·
ἔρδει γὰρ πολλὼν ἄξια μοῦνος ἐών.

Bonus Epigrams attributed to Simonides:

Simonides, Greek Anthology, 6.50

“Once, the Greeks obeyed the daring command of the soul
With strength of hand, Ares’ deed,
Drove out the Persians and laid this foundation:
Greece’s free reign, an altar to Zeus, god of Freedom.”

Τόνδε ποθ’ ῞Ελληνες ῥώμῃ χερὸς ἔργῳ ῎Αρηος,
εὐτόλμῳ ψυχῆς λήματι πειθόμενοι,
Πέρσας ἐξελάσαντες, ἐλεύθερον ῾Ελλάδι κόσμον
ἱδρύσαντο Διὸς βωμὸν ᾿Ελευθερίου.

Simonides, Greek Anthology, 7.248

“Here, once, four thousand from the Peloponnese
Fought against three hundred thousand.”

Μυριάσιν ποτὲ τῇδε τριηκοσίαις ἐμάχοντο
ἐκ Πελοποννάσου χιλιάδες τέτορες.

2 thoughts on “Veteran’s Day with Greek Elegy

  1. One cannot read the fragment of Tyrtaeus without thinking of Horace’s “dulce and decorum est pro patria mori” and then of Wilfred Owen’s description of gassing in the First World War. That soldiers do not always die noble deaths and wars are not always glorious makes remembrance even more important.

    If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.

Leave a Reply to platosparks Cancel reply