Pindar: When Men Shine

Pindar. Pythian Odes. 8. 88-97.

A man fresh from some handsome win
In a time of plenty,
Takes flight, hope-propelled,
On wings of manly accomplishment.
He’s intent on more than riches.

Men’s joy swells fast, and fast it falls to earth
Disturbed by an adverse pronouncement.

Beings for a day. What is anyone?
What is someone not? A shadow’s dreaming,
That’s man. Yet, when the light of Zeus issues,
Men shine radiant and life is kind.

ὁ δὲ καλόν τι νέον λαχὼν
ἁβρότατος ἔπι μεγάλας
ἐξ ἐλπίδος πέταται
ὑποπτέροις ἀνορέαις, ἔχων
κρέσσονα πλούτου μέριμναν. ἐν δ᾽ ὀλίγῳ βροτῶν
τὸ τερπνὸν αὔξεται: οὕτω δὲ καὶ πίτνει χαμαί,
ἀποτρόπῳ γνώμᾳ σεσεισμένον.

ἐπάμεροι: τί δέ τις; τί δ᾽ οὔ τις; σκιᾶς ὄναρ
ἄνθρωπος. ἀλλ᾽ ὅταν αἴγλα διόσδοτος ἔλθῃ,
λαμπρὸν φέγγος ἔπεστιν ἀνδρῶν καὶ μείλιχος αἰών.

Black vase with a white square for the painting. An Athlete in simple lines carries a tripod on his head
Greek terracotta amphora depicting an athlete
carrying off his prize (a tripod).
c.550 B.C.
Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at

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