The Lifespan of Happiness

Pindar, Isthmian 3

“If some person has been lucky
Either with glorifying contests or
By dint of wealth and still subdues wretched excess in their thoughts,
Then they are worthy to receive their fellow citizens’ praise.

Zeus, great kinds of excellence come to mortals from you!
And happiness lives longer when people revere the gods.
But it does not bloom for nearly as long
When it is mixed with crooked thoughts.

It’s my job to sing of a noble person
In exchange for well-famed deeds–
But it is also my task to praise them with kind verses,
While they revel through the street.

Melissos has the good luck of twin prizes
To turn his heart to sweet joy–
He received crowns in the Isthmian groves
And in the deep valley of the barrel-chested lion
He had Thebes announced as eminent,
By mastering the chariot race.

He brings no shame to his ancestors,
Surely, you must have heart of the ancient fame
If Kleonymos for his chariots,
And his cousins on his mothers side among the Labdakids,
They applied their wealth to the work of the four-horsed races.

Life turns one way and another as the days roll by–
But the gods’ children stay unharmed.”

Εἴ τις ἀνδρῶν εὐτυχήσαις
ἢ σὺν εὐδόξοις ἀέθλοις
ἢ σθένει πλούτου κατέχει φρασὶν αἰανῆ κόρον,
ἄξιος εὐλογίαις ἀστῶν μεμίχθαι.
Ζεῦ, μεγάλαι δ᾿ ἀρεταὶ θνατοῖς ἕπονται
ἐκ σέθεν· ζώει δὲ μάσσων
ὄλβος ὀπιζομένων, πλαγίαις δὲ φρένεσσιν
οὐχ ὁμῶς πάντα χρόνον θάλλων ὁμιλεῖ.
εὐκλέων δ᾿ ἔργων ἄποινα
χρὴ μὲν ὑμνῆσαι τὸν ἐσλόν,
χρὴ δὲ κωμάζοντ᾿ ἀγαναῖς χαρίτεσσιν βαστάσαι.
ἔστι δὲ καὶ διδύμων ἀέθλων Μελίσσῳ
μοῖρα πρὸς εὐφροσύναν τρέψαι γλυκεῖαν
ἦτορ, ἐν βάσσαισιν Ἰσθμοῦ
δεξαμένῳ στεφάνους, τὰ δὲ κοίλᾳ λέοντος
ἐν βαθυστέρνου νάπᾳ κάρυξε Θήβαν

ἱπποδρομίᾳ κρατέων· ἀνδρῶν δ᾿ ἀρετάν
σύμφυτον οὐ κατελέγχει.
ἴστε μὰν Κλεωνύμου
δόξαν παλαιὰν ἅρμασιν·
καὶ ματρόθε Λαβδακίδαισιν σύννομοι
πλούτου διέστειχον τετραοριᾶν πόνοις.
αἰὼν δὲ κυλινδομέναις ἁμέραις ἄλλ᾿ ἄλλοτ᾿ ἐξ
ἄλλαξεν. ἄτρωτοί γε μὰν παῖδες θεῶν.

Reconstruction from clay fragments of a toy or model charioteer with a horse. Rough figures.
Chariot and Charioteer. Reconstructed from fragments. Offerings from funeral pyre. 725 BC.

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