Be Excellent, Just Don’t Try To Become A God

Pindar, Olympian 5.16

“Toil and expense always reach for excellence
In an act veiled in risk.
Those who do well seem to be wise
To their fellow citizens.

Zeus, savior in the high clouds, living on Kronos’ hill
Honoring the wide flowing Alphaeos and Idaios’ holy cave,
I come to you as a suppliant, chanting over Lydian pipes,

Begging you to glorify this city with famous deeds.
And you, Olympian victor, turn a satisfied heart toward
The end of old age, taking pleasure in Poseidon’s horses,
As your sons stand ready around you, Psaumis.

When someone strives for healthy happiness,
Their possessions are enough, especially when a good reputation is added.
Don’t let them try to become a god.”

αἰεὶ δ᾿ ἀμφ᾿ ἀρεταῖσι πόνος δαπάνα τε μάρναται πρὸς ἔργον
κινδύνῳ κεκαλυμμένον· εὖ δὲ τυχόν-
τες σοφοὶ καὶ πολίταις ἔδοξαν ἔμμεν.
Σωτὴρ ὑψινεφὲς Ζεῦ, Κρόνιόν τε ναίων λόφον
τιμῶν τ᾿ Ἀλφεὸν εὐρὺ ῥέοντα Ἰδαῖόν τε σεμνὸν ἄντρον,
ἱκέτας σέθεν ἔρχομαι Λυδίοις ἀπύων ἐν αὐλοῖς,

αἰτήσων πόλιν ἐυανορίαισι τάνδε κλυταῖς
δαιδάλλειν, σέ τ᾿, Ὀλυμπιόνικε, Ποσειδανίοισιν ἵπποις
ἐπιτερπόμενον φέρειν γῆρας εὔθυμον ἐς τελευτάν
υἱῶν, Ψαῦμι, παρισταμένων. ὑγίεντα δ᾿ εἴ τις ὄλβον ἄρδει,
ἐξαρκέων κτεάτεσσι καὶ ἐυλογίαν
προστιθείς, μὴ ματεύσῃ θεὸς γενέσθαι.

Fragmentary black figure vase. Partial figure of Zeus sitting on thrown with eagles behind him
Zeus on throne, accompanied by a raven. Laconian kylix, around 530 BC. The Archaeological Museum of Olympia. K 1292.


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