A Good Shared by the State and the People

Tyrtaeus 12 [= Stob. 4.10.1 (vv. 1–14) + 6 (vv. 15–44)]

“I wouldn’t celebrate or even mention a man
For the strength of his feet or his wrestling,
Not even if he had a Cyclopean size and strength
And could conquer the gods’ Thracian Northwind

And not even if he were better looking than Tithonos
And wealthier than Midas and Kinyras,
Not even if he were more royal than the Tantalid Pelops
And had a tongue more persuasive than Adrastus
And possessed fame for everything except rushing courage.

No man proves good in a war
If he cannot endure seeing bloody murder,
And can strike out while standing near the enemy.
This is virtue, this is the best prize among human beings,
The noblest thing for a young man to win.

This is a shared good for the whole state and the people,
When a man stands firm among the front ranks,
Relentless, completely forgetful of shameful retreat,
Offering up his life and enduring heart,
Ready with an encouraging word for the man next to him.
This man proves to be good in war.

Then he quickly turns aside the threatening ranks
Of the enemy soldiers and the battle’s wave is fueled by his passion.
And should he fall among the first ranks, losing his life,
He brings fame to his city, people, and father,
Stabbed through many times around the chest
And embossed shield, straight through his armor.

The young and the old mourn for him alike
And the whole city feels harsh grief from longing,
Yet his grave and children are well known to all
Along with his children’s children and generations to come.

His noble fame will never die, nor his name
But he will be immortal even though under the earth,
Whoever the man is raging Ares slays in his moment of excellence
As he stands fast and struggles for his land and children.

But if he escapes the fate of a sorrowful death,
And claims victory to vouchsafe his boastful spear,
Everyone will honor him, the young and the old alike,
And he will go to Hades, after living life well.
He will be prominent among his people as he ages,
No one will dream of slighting his respect and due:
All the young men give their places at the bench to him,
And yield to him, along with his peers and elders.
May everyone now try to reach the peak
Of that virtue, never giving up in war.

οὔτ᾿ ἂν μνησαίμην οὔτ᾿ ἐν λόγῳ ἄνδρα τιθείμην
οὔτε ποδῶν ἀρετῆς οὔτε παλαιμοσύνης,
οὐδ᾿ εἰ Κυκλώπων μὲν ἔχοι μέγεθός τε βίην τε,
νικῴη δὲ θέων Θρηΐκιον Βορέην,
οὐδ᾿ εἰ Τιθωνοῖο φυὴν χαριέστερος εἴη,
πλουτοίη δὲ Μίδεω καὶ Κινύρεω μάλιον,
οὐδ᾿ εἰ Τανταλίδεω Πέλοπος βασιλεύτερος εἴη,
γλῶσσαν δ᾿ Ἀδρήστου μειλιχόγηρυν ἔχοι,
οὐδ᾿ εἰ πᾶσαν ἔχοι δόξαν πλὴν θούριδος ἀλκῆς·

οὐ γὰρ ἀνὴρ ἀγαθὸς γίνεται ἐν πολέμῳ
εἰ μὴ τετλαίη μὲν ὁρῶν φόνον αἱματόεντα,
καὶ δηίων ὀρέγοιτ᾿ ἐγγύθεν ἱστάμενος.
ἥδ᾿ ἀρετή, τόδ᾿ ἄεθλον ἐν ἀνθρώποισιν ἄριστον
κάλλιστόν τε φέρειν γίνεται ἀνδρὶ νέῳ.

ξυνὸν δ᾿ ἐσθλὸν τοῦτο πόληί τε παντί τε δήμῳ,
ὅστις ἀνὴρ διαβὰς ἐν προμάχοισι μένῃ
νωλεμέως, αἰσχρῆς δὲ φυγῆς ἐπὶ πάγχυ λάθηται,
ψυχὴν καὶ θυμὸν τλήμονα παρθέμενος,
θαρσύνῃ δ᾿ ἔπεσιν τὸν πλησίον ἄνδρα παρεστώς·
οὗτος ἀνὴρ ἀγαθὸς γίνεται ἐν πολέμῳ.

αἶψα δὲ δυσμενέων ἀνδρῶν ἔτρεψε φάλαγγας
τρηχείας, σπουδῇ δ᾿ ἔσχεθε κῦμα μάχης.
αὐτὸς δ᾿ ἐν προμάχοισι πεσὼν φίλον ὤλεσε θυμόν,
ἄστυ τε καὶ λαοὺς καὶ πατέρ᾿ εὐκλεΐσας,
πολλὰ διὰ στέρνοιο καὶ ἀσπίδος ὀμφαλοέσσης
καὶ διὰ θώρηκος πρόσθεν ἐληλαμένος.

τὸν δ᾿ ὀλοφύρονται μὲν ὁμῶς νέοι ἠδὲ γέροντες,
ἀργαλέῳ δὲ πόθῳ πᾶσα κέκηδε πόλις,
καὶ τύμβος καὶ παῖδες ἐν ἀνθρώποις ἀρίσημοι
καὶ παίδων παῖδες καὶ γένος ἐξοπίσω·

οὐδέ ποτε κλέος ἐσθλὸν ἀπόλλυται οὐδ᾿ ὄνομ᾿αὐτοῦ,
ἀλλ᾿ ὑπὸ γῆς περ ἐὼν γίνεται ἀθάνατος,
ὅντιν᾿ ἀριστεύοντα μένοντά τε μαρνάμενόν τε
γῆς πέρι καὶ παίδων θοῦρος Ἄρης ὀλέσῃ.

εἰ δὲ φύγῃ μὲν κῆρα τανηλεγέος θανάτοιο,
νικήσας δ᾿ αἰχμῆς ἀγλαὸν εὖχος ἕλῃ,
πάντες μιν τιμῶσιν, ὁμῶς νέοι ἠδὲ παλαιοί,
πολλὰ δὲ τερπνὰ παθὼν ἔρχεται εἰς Ἀΐδην,
γηράσκων δ᾿ ἀστοῖσι μεταπρέπει, οὐδέ τις αὐτὸν
βλάπτειν οὔτ᾿ αἰδοῦς οὔτε δίκης ἐθέλει,
πάντες δ᾿ ἐν θώκοισιν ὁμῶς νέοι οἵ τε κατ᾿ αὐτὸν
εἴκουσ᾿ ἐκ χώρης οἵ τε παλαιότεροι.
ταύτης νῦν τις ἀνὴρ ἀρετῆς εἰς ἄκρον ἱκέσθαι
πειράσθω θυμῷ μὴ μεθιεὶς πολέμου.

Black vase with red warrior holding shield and spear. Right knee is raised.
ed figure lekythos, Tithonos Painter, aroud 470 BC. Archaeological Museum of Syracuse.

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