Drinking Songs for Harmodios and Aristogeiton

The Athenian democracy had a fraught history that included sometimes attractive ideas like ostracism and frighteningly volatile features that led them to vote for the destruction of Mytilene one day only to rescind the order the next. Just in case we forget it in our own fraught times, one of their founding narratives also included the near-beatification of the killers of the tyrant Hipparchus, Harmodios and Aristogeitôn.

The following poems are taken from traditions of drinking songs in their honor. As frightening as frustrating as our public discourse is and as alarming the rise of hatred and the quasi-normalized re-emergence of white supremacy is, I hope I don’t find myself wishing to sing songs such as these. Don’t get me wrong, we need to fight against these forces and stand together with those who are targeted by bigoted opportunists, cowards, and fools

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“I will wrap my sword in a crown of myrtle
As Harmodius and Aristogeiton did
When they killed the tyrant
And made the Athenians equal under the law.”

ἐν μύρτου κλαδὶ τὸ ξίφος φορήσω
ὥσπερ ῾Αρμόδιος καὶ ᾿Αριστογείτων
ὅτε τὸν τύραννον κτανέτην
ἰσονόμους τ’ ᾿Αθήνας ἐποιησάτην.

“Dearest Harmodius, you have never died,
But they say you live in the isles of the blest
Where swift-footed Achilles
And Tydeus’ fine son Diomedes are”

φίλταθ’ ῾Αρμόδι’, οὔ τί πω τέθνηκας,
νήσοις δ’ ἐν μακάρων σέ φασιν εἶναι,
ἵνα περ ποδώκης ᾿Αχιλεὺς
Τυδεΐδην τέ †φασι τὸν ἐσθλὸν† Διομήδεα.

“I will wrap my sword with a branch of myrtle,
Just as Harmodius and Aristogeiton did
When at the Athenian sacrifices
They killed the tyrant, a man named Hipparchus”

ἐν μύρτου κλαδὶ τὸ ξίφος φορήσω
ὥσπερ ῾Αρμόδιος καὶ ᾿Αριστογείτων
ὅτ’ ᾿Αθηναίης ἐν θυσίαις
ἄνδρα τύραννον ῞Ιππαρχον ἐκαινέτην.

“Fame will always be yours in this land,
Dearest Harmodios and Aristogeiton,
Because you killed the tyrant
And made the Athenians equal under the law.”

αἰεὶ σφῶιν κλέος ἔσσεται κατ’ αἶαν,
φίλταθ’ ῾Αρμόδιε καὶ ᾿Αριστόγειτον,
ὅτι τὸν τύραννον κτανέτην
ἰσονόμους τ’ ᾿Αθήνας ἐποιησάτην.

Classical literature, history and art are filled with objects of wonder and horror.

My deepest gratitude to to the executive committee of CAMWS for their clear and timely message today. I am also awed by the bravery, brilliance and clarity of Donna Zuckerberg who is taking too much abuse for making a stand for the rest of us.

Here is a nice article on the pair.

harmodius

One thought on “Drinking Songs for Harmodios and Aristogeiton

  1. Pingback: Another Tyrannocide | SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

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