Hate in the Heart, Love for the Dark: CAN’T LOSE

Tyrtaeus, Fr. 11 [=11 Stob. 4.9. 16]

This fragment is preserved in Stobaeus’ Anthology under the section “On War” [ΠΕΡΙ ΠΟΛΕΜΟΥ]. It is immediately preceded by a passage from Plato’s Menexenus that mentions that “it is offer the case that it is noble to die in war” [πολλαχῇ κινδυνεύει καλὸν εἶναι / τὸ ἐν πολέμῳ ἀποθνῄσκειν]. Not to quibble with Stobaeus’ choices, but Tyrtaeus fr. 10, starting τεθνάμεναι γὰρ καλὸν ἐνὶ προμάχοισι πεσόντα might have been better.

“You are the race of unconquerable Herakles!
Come, be brave–Zeus has not yet turned his head away.
Don’t fear the mob of men or think of running,
But let each man hold his shield directly against their front ranks,
Once you make your soul hateful and treat
The dark fates of death as dear as the rays of the sun.

You know the destructive tasks of much-wept Ares,
And you have learned well the fury of painful war;
You have been among the attackers and the retreat,
Young man, and you have had enough of both.

Those who stand at one another’s side dare
To enter the hand to hand fight in the front ranks
And fewer die–they save the army behind them.
When people run away, all excellence perishes.

No one could ever list in words each of the things
That someone suffers, all the evils a person sees in shame.
For it is terrible to stab a man in the back
As he flees in the middle of the enemy army.

It is shameful to see a body lying in the dust,
Driven through, a spear sticking out of its back.

Let everyone stand in place, setting feet firm,
Rooted into the earth, biting lips with teeth,
Covering thighs, shins below, chest and shoulders
With the bellow of a broad shield.

Shake your strong spear in your right hand,
Toss the helmet’s crest terribly on your head.

Learn how to fight from completing acts of strength–
Don’t just stand outside the range of the weapons
But move forward holding your shield,
Attack the enemy face-to-face with spear or sword.

Press foot against foot, shield against shield,
Helmet to helmet and crest to crest,
Fight against a man chest to chest,
Take the hilt of his sword or long spear.
You, light armed men, crouch behind shields
Moving from on to another, and hit the enemy
With huge stones; strike them with javelins,
Stand next to those in armor.

ἀλλ᾿, Ἡρακλῆος γὰρ ἀνικήτου γένος ἐστέ,
θαρσεῖτ᾿·—οὔπω Ζεὺς αὐχένα λοξὸν ἔχει—
μηδ᾿ ἀνδρῶν πληθὺν δειμαίνετε, μηδὲ φοβεῖσθε,
ἰθὺς δ᾿ ἐς προμάχους ἀσπίδ᾿ ἀνὴρ ἐχέτω,
ἐχθρὴν μὲν ψυχὴν θέμενος, θανάτου δὲ μελαίνας
κῆρας <ὁμῶς> αὐγαῖς ἠελίοιο φίλας.

ἴστε γὰρ ὡς Ἄρεος πολυδακρύου ἔργ᾿ ἀΐδηλα,
εὖ δ᾿ ὀργὴν ἐδάητ᾿ ἀργαλέου πολέμου,
καὶ μετὰ φευγόντων τε διωκόντων τ᾿ ἐγένεσθε,
ὦ νέοι, ἀμφοτέρων δ᾿ ἐς κόρον ἠλάσατε.
οἳ μὲν γὰρ τολμῶσι παρ᾿ ἀλλήλοισι μένοντες
ἔς τ᾿ αὐτοσχεδίην καὶ προμάχους ἰέναι,
παυρότεροι θνήσκουσι, σαοῦσι δὲ λαὸν ὀπίσσω·
τρεσσάντων δ᾿ ἀνδρῶν πᾶσ᾿ ἀπόλωλ᾿ ἀρετή.

οὐδεὶς ἄν ποτε ταῦτα λέγων ἀνύσειεν ἕκαστα,
ὅσσ᾿, ἢν αἰσχρὰ πάθῃ, γίνεται ἀνδρὶ κακά·
ἀργαλέον γὰρ ὄπισθε μετάφρενόν ἐστι δαΐζειν
ἀνδρὸς φεύγοντος δηΐῳ ἐν πολέμῳ·
αἰσχρὸς δ᾿ ἐστὶ νέκυς κατακείμενος ἐν κονίῃσι
νῶτον ὄπισθ᾿ αἰχμῇ δουρὸς ἐληλάμενος.

ἀλλά τις εὖ διαβὰς μενέτω ποσὶν ἀμφοτέροισι
στηριχθεὶς ἐπὶ γῆς, χεῖλος ὀδοῦσι δακών,
μηρούς τε κνήμας τε κάτω καὶ στέρνα καὶ ὤμους
ἀσπίδος εὐρείης γαστρὶ καλυψάμενος·

δεξιτερῇ δ᾿ ἐν χειρὶ τινασσέτω ὄβριμον ἔγχος,
κινείτω δὲ λόφον δεινὸν ὑπὲρ κεφαλῆς·
ἔρδων δ᾿ ὄβριμα ἔργα διδασκέσθω πολεμίζειν,
μηδ᾿ ἐκτὸς βελέων ἑστάτω ἀσπίδ᾿ ἔχων,
ἀλλά τις ἐγγὺς ἰὼν αὐτοσχεδὸν ἔγχεϊ μακρῷ
ἢ ξίφει οὐτάζων δήϊον ἄνδρ᾿ ἑλέτω,
καὶ πόδα πὰρ ποδὶ θεὶς καὶ ἐπ᾿ ἀσπίδος ἀσπίδ᾿ ἐρείσας,
ἐν δὲ λόφον τε λόφῳ καὶ κυνέην κυνέῃ
καὶ στέρνον στέρνῳ πεπληγμένος ἀνδρὶ μαχέσθω,
ἢ ξίφεος κώπην ἢ δόρυ μακρὸν ἑλών.

ὑμεῖς δ᾿, ὦ γυμνῆτες, ὑπ᾿ ἀσπίδος ἄλλοθεν ἄλλος
πτώσσοντες μεγάλοις βάλλετε χερμαδίοις
δούρασί τε ξεστοῖσιν ἀκοντίζοντες ἐς αὐτούς,
τοῖσι πανόπλοισιν πλησίον ἱστάμενοι.

Red figure vase with two sides of soldiers holding shields and spears facing each other. A double flute player is behind one side
Detail from the Chiggi Vase, c. 7th century CE

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