Athlete and Singer

Pindar. Olympian 11: For Hagesidamus of Western Locri.

There’s a time when people most need wind.
And a time when they most need heavenly waters,
The rainy offspring of clouds.
But if with hard work someone succeeds,
Then sweet-voiced hymns, the ground of future fame
And a true pledge of great achievement, rise up.

This hymn is full-throated praise for Olympic victors.
My tongue wants to preserve their achievements,
But only through a god does a man brim with the skill.
This is true for Olympic victors too.

Know this, Hagesidamus, son of Archestratus,
Your boxing is the reason I will descant sweet song,
Ornament for your golden-olive crown,
And tribute to the Western-Locrian tribe.

Join the celebrations there, O Muses.
I promise you will find a people not hostile to guests
And not unfamiliar with beauty, but wise and warlike.
Believe what I say, for neither fire-colored fox
Nor loud-roaring lions change character.

Comment:

It’s only when Pindar addresses Hagesidamus by name is the hymn unambiguously concerned with the athlete and not the singer himself.

After all, the composition of a hymn is as much the product of a singer’s hard work as it is a reward for the athlete’s. The hymn supports both a singer’s and an athlete’s future renown. And, Pindar tells us, athletes and singers have an identical reliance on the god.

The blending of singer and athlete goes on. I render Pindar’s line as “my tongue wants to preserve their achievements,” but the Greek ambiguously says, “preserve it” (τὰ . . . ποιμαίνειν). “It” could be (as I’ve interpreted the word) the athletic feat, but equally it could be Pindar’s own hymn.

The word I render as “to preserve,” ποιμαίνειν, literally means “to shepherd.” I follow the scholiast in assuming that Pindar uses “shepherd” to mean something like “protect.” But “to shepherd” also means “to guide,” or “to be responsible for.” If we interpret “to shepherd” in one of these other senses, we can read Pindar as saying he wishes he were responsible for (and not just singing about) Olympic victories.

And so when Pindar says his praise of athletes is ἀφθόνητος, “without envy” (I render it “full-throated”), he might be signaling just the opposite.

ἔστιν ἀνθρώποις ἀνέμων ὅτε πλείστα
χρῆσις, ἔστιν δ᾽ οὐρανίων ὑδάτων,
ὀμβρίων παίδων νεφέλας.
εἰ δὲ σὺν πόνῳ τις εὖ πράσσοι, μελιγάρυες ὕμνοι
ὑστέρων ἀρχὰ λόγων
τέλλεται καὶ πιστὸν ὅρκιον μεγάλαις ἀρεταῖς.
ἀφθόνητος δ᾽ αἶνος Ὀλυμπιονίκαις
οὗτος ἄγκειται. τὰ μὲν ἁμετέρα
γλῶσσα ποιμαίνειν ἐθέλει:
ἐκ θεοῦ δ᾽ ἀνὴρ σοφαῖς ἀνθεῖ πραπίδεσσιν ὁμοίως.
ἴσθι νῦν, Ἀρχεστράτου
παῖ, τεᾶς, Ἁγησίδαμε, πυγμαχίας ἕνεκεν
κόσμον ἐπὶ στεφάνῳ χρυσέας ἐλαίας
ἁδυμελῆ κελαδήσω,
Ζεφυρίων Λοκρῶν γενεὰν ἀλέγων.
ἔνθα συγκωμάξατ᾽: ἐγγυάσομαι
ὔμμιν, ὦ Μοῖσαι, φυγόξενον στρατὸν
μηδ᾽ ἀπείρατον καλῶν,
ἀκρόσοφον δὲ καὶ αἰχματὰν ἀφίξεσθαι. τὸ γὰρ
ἐμφυὲς οὔτ᾽ αἴθων ἀλώπηξ
οὔτ᾽ ἐρίβρομοι λέοντες διαλλάξαντο ἦθος.

Pierre Bonnard. The Boxer (Self Portrait). 1931.

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 featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

Nothing But a Shadow: Some Words on Censure and Envy

Dio Chrysostom, 76.3

“One will say goodbye to honors and slights or to censure and praise from simple-minded persons, even if they happen to be many or few, and even if they are the strong and the wealthy. Instead, one will consider what is called “opinion” to be nothing different from a shadow, by observing that opinion often makes little of important matters and much of minor ones. And, often, it makes a big deal at sometimes and then less at another of the same affairs!”

Χαίρειν οὖν ἐάσει τιμὰς καὶ ἀτιμίας καὶ ψόγον τε καὶ ἔπαινον τὸν παρὰ τῶν ἠλιθίων ἀνθρώπων, ἐάν τε πολλοὶ τύχωσιν ὄντες ἐάν τε ὀλίγοι μὲν ἰσχυροὶ δὲ καὶ πλούσιοι. τὴν δέ γε καλουμένην δόξαν ἡγήσεται μηδὲν διαφέρειν σκιᾶς, ὁρῶν ὅτι γίγνεται τῶν μεγάλων μικρὰ καὶ τῶν μικρῶν μεγάλη· πολλάκις δὲ καὶ τῶν αὐτῶν ὁτὲ μὲν πλείων, ὁτὲ δὲ ἐλάττων.

Plutarch, On Envy and Hate 537 c-d

“Envy certainly never develops towards anyone justly—for no one commits injustice in being happy and it is for happiness that people are envied. Many are hated justly—like those we consider “worthy of hate” with the result that we find fault with others when they don’t avoid people like this or fail to find them despicable and annoying.”

Ἔτι τοίνυν τὸ μὲν φθονεῖν πρὸς οὐδένα γίνεται δικαίως (οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἀδικεῖ τῷ εὐτυχεῖν, ἐπὶ τούτῳ δὲ φθονοῦνται)· μισοῦνται δὲ πολλοὶ δικαίως, ὡς οὓς ἀξιομισήτους καλοῦμεν, ὥστε καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις ἐγκαλοῦμεν ἂν μὴ φεύγωσι τοὺς τοιούτους μηδὲ βδελύττωνται καὶ δυσχεραίνωσι.

Propertius, Elegies 1.8b

‘Here she will be! Here she has sworn to stay! Fuck the haters!
we have won…”

Hic erit! hic iurata manet! rumpantur iniqui!
vicimus

Scrovegni, Invidia

Nothing But a Shadow: Some Words on Censure and Envy

Dio Chrysostom, 76.3

“One will say goodbye to honors and slights or to censure and praise from simple-minded persons, even if they happen to be many or few, and even if they are the strong and the wealthy. Instead, one will consider what is called “opinion” to be nothing different from a shadow, by observing that opinion often makes little of important matters and much of minor ones. And, often, it makes a big deal at sometimes and then less at another of the same affairs!”

Χαίρειν οὖν ἐάσει τιμὰς καὶ ἀτιμίας καὶ ψόγον τε καὶ ἔπαινον τὸν παρὰ τῶν ἠλιθίων ἀνθρώπων, ἐάν τε πολλοὶ τύχωσιν ὄντες ἐάν τε ὀλίγοι μὲν ἰσχυροὶ δὲ καὶ πλούσιοι. τὴν δέ γε καλουμένην δόξαν ἡγήσεται μηδὲν διαφέρειν σκιᾶς, ὁρῶν ὅτι γίγνεται τῶν μεγάλων μικρὰ καὶ τῶν μικρῶν μεγάλη· πολλάκις δὲ καὶ τῶν αὐτῶν ὁτὲ μὲν πλείων, ὁτὲ δὲ ἐλάττων.

Plutarch, On Envy and Hate 537 c-d

“Envy certainly never develops towards anyone justly—for no one commits injustice in being happy and it is for happiness that people are envied. Many are hated justly—like those we consider “worthy of hate” with the result that we find fault with others when they don’t avoid people like this or fail to find them despicable and annoying.”

Ἔτι τοίνυν τὸ μὲν φθονεῖν πρὸς οὐδένα γίνεται δικαίως (οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἀδικεῖ τῷ εὐτυχεῖν, ἐπὶ τούτῳ δὲ φθονοῦνται)· μισοῦνται δὲ πολλοὶ δικαίως, ὡς οὓς ἀξιομισήτους καλοῦμεν, ὥστε καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις ἐγκαλοῦμεν ἂν μὴ φεύγωσι τοὺς τοιούτους μηδὲ βδελύττωνται καὶ δυσχεραίνωσι.

Propertius, Elegies 1.8b

‘Here she will be! Here she has sworn to stay! Fuck the haters!
we have won…”

Hic erit! hic iurata manet! rumpantur iniqui!
vicimus

Scrovegni, Invidia

On Knowledge, Wealth and Fortune

Bacchylides Epinicia, fr. 10.38-53

“Human knowledge has countless forms—
whether learned in some prophetic art
or allotted the Graces’ honor,
the wise man certainly flourishes with golden hope.

Another man aims his dabbled bow at boys.
Others fortify their hearts in the field
Or with herds of cattle.
But the future bears ends that make the path of fortune
unmeasurable.

This thing is best: to be a noble man
envied by many men.

I know something about wealth’s great power:
It makes even the most useless man useful.

But why do I pilot my great tongue so
and drive off the road?
When the moment of victory is appointed for mortals,
only then the wise man must…[ ]
With flutes [pay back the favor of the gods]
And mingle [among those who may envy]

… Μυρίαι δ’ ἀνδρῶν ἐπιστᾶμαι πέλονται·
ἦ γὰρ σ[ο]φὸς ἢ Χαρίτων τιμὰν λελογχὼς
ἐλπίδι χρυσέᾳ τέθαλεν
ἤ τινα θευπροπίαν ἰ-
δώς· ἕτερος δ’ ἐπὶ παισὶ
ποικίλον τόξον τιταίνει·
οἱ δ’ ἐπ’ ἔργοισίν τε καὶ ἀμφὶ βοῶν ἀ[γ]έλαις
θυμὸν αὔξουσιν. Τὸ μέλλον
δ’ ἀκρίτους τίκτει τελευτάς,
πᾶ τύχα βρίσει. Τὸ μὲν κάλλιστον, ἐσθλὸν
ἄνδρα πολλῶν ὑπ’ ἀνθρώπων πολυζήλωτον εἶμεν·
οἶδα καὶ πλούτου μεγάλαν δύνασιν,
ἃ καὶ τ[ὸ]ν ἀχρεῖον τί[θησ]ι
χρηστόν. Τί μακρὰν γ̣[λ]ῶ[σ]σαν ἰθύσας ἐλαύνω
ἐκτὸς ὁδοῦ; Πέφαται θνατοῖσι νίκας
[ὕστε]ρον εὐφροσύνα,
αὐλῶν []
μειγν[υ]

χρή τιν[]

The last few lines of this poem are completely fragmentary. In italics I put in something just to complete the sentence. I think that the reference to flutes probably indicates some ritual celebration, but I also wanted the end to repeat the note of warning about the mutability of fortune. Any other suggestions?

The Jealousy and Play of Alexander the Great

Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, 7.4.277a

“Chares the Mytilenaian claims that when Alexander found the most beautiful apples in the land of Babylon, he had his ships filled with them and put on an “apple war” from the ships that was a great delight to see.”

Χάρης δ᾽ ὁ Μυτιληναῖος ἱστορεῖ ὡς κάλλιστα μῆλα εὑρὼν ὁ ᾽Αλέξανδρος περὶ τὴν Βαβυλωνίαν χώραν τούτων τε πληρώσας τὰ σκάφη μηλομαχίαν ἀπὸ τῶν νεῶν ἐποιήσατο, ὡς τὴν θέαν ἡδίστην γενέσθαι.

Gnomologium Vaticanum, 78; 10, p. 3

“Alexander, after he arrived at Troy and looked upon the tomb of Achilles, said as he stood there: “Achilles, you obtained the magnificent herald, Homer, because you were so great.” Anaximenes, who was nearby, responded, “King, I too will make you famous”. And Alexander responded, “By the gods, I would prefer to be Homer’s Thersites instead of an Achilles for you.”

ὁ αὐτὸς (sc. ᾽Αλέξανδρος) ἐλθὼν εἰς ῎Ιλιον καὶ θεασάμενος τὸν ᾽Αχιλλέως τάφον στὰς εἶπεν· «ὦ ᾽Αχιλλεῦ, ὡς σὺ μέγας ὢν μεγάλου κήρυκος ἔτυχες ῾Ομήρου». παρόντος δὲ ᾽Αναξιμένους καὶ εἰπόντος· «καὶ ἡμεῖς σε, ὦ βασιλεῦ, ἔνδοξον ποιήσομεν», «ἀλλὰ νὴ τοὺς θεούς», ἔφη, «παρ᾽ ῾Ομήρωι ἐβουλόμην ἂν εἴναι Θερσίτης ἢ παρὰ σοὶ ᾽Αχιλλεύς».

Image result for alexander the great

On Rivers and Poets: Quintilian And Callimachus

Quintilian, An Orator’s Education 10.1.47

“Hence, as Aratus believes that we must begin with Zeus, we think that it is right to begin with Homer. For, truly, just as what he says about the ocean, which he says is the source and the force of every river and stream, so too does Homer furnish the model and origin for every type of eloquence. No one has exceeded him for sublimity in the large themes or quiet sense in the personal ones. At the same time he is ebullient and terse, joyful and severe, a source of wonder for his expansions and his brevity—preeminent by far for both his poetic and rhetorical mastery.”

Igitur, ut Aratus ab Iove incipiendum putat, ita nos rite coepturi ab Homero videmur. Hic enim, quem ad modum ex Oceano dicit ipse 〈omnium〉 amnium fontiumque cursus initium capere, omnibus eloquentiae partibus exemplum et ortum dedit. Hunc nemo in magnis rebus sublimitate, in parvis proprietate superaverit. Idem laetus ac pressus, iucundus et gravis, tum copia tum brevitate mirabilis, nec poetica modo sed oratoria virtute eminentissimus.

Callimachus, Hymn to Apollo 2.108-112

“Envy spoke surreptitiously into Apollo’s ears:
“I don’t love the singer who doesn’t sing as wide as the sea”
Apollo then kicked Envy with his foot and said this:
“The flowing of the Assyrian river is huge, but it carries a great deal
Of trash from the earth and hauls garbage with its water.
The bees do not carry water from just anywhere to Demeter
But only that which is clean and unmixed and flows down
From a sacred fountain, a little stream from a high peak.”

ὁ Φθόνος ᾿Απόλλωνος ἐπ’ οὔατα λάθριος εἶπεν·
‘οὐκ ἄγαμαι τὸν ἀοιδὸν ὃς οὐδ’ ὅσα πόντος ἀείδει.’
τὸν Φθόνον ὡπόλλων ποδί τ’ ἤλασεν ὧδέ τ’ ἔειπεν·
‘᾿Ασσυρίου ποταμοῖο μέγας ῥόος, ἀλλὰ τὰ πολλά
λύματα γῆς καὶ πολλὸν ἐφ’ ὕδατι συρφετὸν ἕλκει.
Δηοῖ δ’ οὐκ ἀπὸ παντὸς ὕδωρ φορέουσι μέλισσαι,
ἀλλ’ ἥτις καθαρή τε καὶ ἀχράαντος ἀνέρπει
πίδακος ἐξ ἱερῆς ὀλίγη λιβὰς ἄκρον ἄωτον.’

Image result for Okeanos ancient Greek

Nothing But a Shadow: Some Words on Censure and Envy

Dio Chrysostom, 76.3

“One will say goodbye to honors and slights or to censure and praise from simple-minded persons, even if they happen to be many or few, and even if they are the strong and the wealthy. Instead, one will consider what is called “opinion” to be nothing different from a shadow, by observing that opinion often makes little of important matters and much of minor ones. And, often, it makes a big deal at sometimes and then less at another of the same affairs!”

Χαίρειν οὖν ἐάσει τιμὰς καὶ ἀτιμίας καὶ ψόγον τε καὶ ἔπαινον τὸν παρὰ τῶν ἠλιθίων ἀνθρώπων, ἐάν τε πολλοὶ τύχωσιν ὄντες ἐάν τε ὀλίγοι μὲν ἰσχυροὶ δὲ καὶ πλούσιοι. τὴν δέ γε καλουμένην δόξαν ἡγήσεται μηδὲν διαφέρειν σκιᾶς, ὁρῶν ὅτι γίγνεται τῶν μεγάλων μικρὰ καὶ τῶν μικρῶν μεγάλη· πολλάκις δὲ καὶ τῶν αὐτῶν ὁτὲ μὲν πλείων, ὁτὲ δὲ ἐλάττων.

Plutarch, On Envy and Hate 537 c-d

“Envy certainly never develops towards anyone justly—for no one commits injustice in being happy and it is for happiness that people are envied. Many are hated justly—like those we consider “worthy of hate” with the result that we find fault with others when they don’t avoid people like this or fail to find them despicable and annoying.”

Ἔτι τοίνυν τὸ μὲν φθονεῖν πρὸς οὐδένα γίνεται δικαίως (οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἀδικεῖ τῷ εὐτυχεῖν, ἐπὶ τούτῳ δὲ φθονοῦνται)· μισοῦνται δὲ πολλοὶ δικαίως, ὡς οὓς ἀξιομισήτους καλοῦμεν, ὥστε καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις ἐγκαλοῦμεν ἂν μὴ φεύγωσι τοὺς τοιούτους μηδὲ βδελύττωνται καὶ δυσχεραίνωσι.

Propertius, Elegies 1.8b

‘Here she will be! Here she has sworn to stay! Fuck the haters!
we have won…”

Hic erit! hic iurata manet! rumpantur iniqui!
vicimus

Scrovegni, Invidia

On Rivers and Poets: Quintilian And Callimachus

Quintilian, An Orator’s Education 10.1.47

“Hence, as Aratus believes that we must begin with Zeus, we think that it is right to begin with Homer. For, truly, just as what he says about the ocean, which he says is the source and the force of every river and stream, so too does Homer furnish the model and origin for every type of eloquence. No one has exceeded him for sublimity in the large themes or quiet sense in the personal ones. At the same time he is ebullient and terse, joyful and severe, a source of wonder for his expansions and his brevity—preeminent by far for both his poetic and rhetorical mastery.”

Igitur, ut Aratus ab Iove incipiendum putat, ita nos rite coepturi ab Homero videmur. Hic enim, quem ad modum ex Oceano dicit ipse 〈omnium〉 amnium fontiumque cursus initium capere, omnibus eloquentiae partibus exemplum et ortum dedit. Hunc nemo in magnis rebus sublimitate, in parvis proprietate superaverit. Idem laetus ac pressus, iucundus et gravis, tum copia tum brevitate mirabilis, nec poetica modo sed oratoria virtute eminentissimus.

Callimachus, Hymn to Apollo 2.108-112

“Envy spoke surreptitiously into Apollo’s ears:
“I don’t love the singer who doesn’t sing as wide as the sea”
Apollo then kicked Envy with his foot and said this:
“The flowing of the Assyrian river is huge, but it carries a great deal
Of trash from the earth and hauls garbage with its water.
The bees do not carry water from just anywhere to Demeter
But only that which is clean and unmixed and flows down
From a sacred fountain, a little stream from a high peak.”

ὁ Φθόνος ᾿Απόλλωνος ἐπ’ οὔατα λάθριος εἶπεν·
‘οὐκ ἄγαμαι τὸν ἀοιδὸν ὃς οὐδ’ ὅσα πόντος ἀείδει.’
τὸν Φθόνον ὡπόλλων ποδί τ’ ἤλασεν ὧδέ τ’ ἔειπεν·
‘᾿Ασσυρίου ποταμοῖο μέγας ῥόος, ἀλλὰ τὰ πολλά
λύματα γῆς καὶ πολλὸν ἐφ’ ὕδατι συρφετὸν ἕλκει.
Δηοῖ δ’ οὐκ ἀπὸ παντὸς ὕδωρ φορέουσι μέλισσαι,
ἀλλ’ ἥτις καθαρή τε καὶ ἀχράαντος ἀνέρπει
πίδακος ἐξ ἱερῆς ὀλίγη λιβὰς ἄκρον ἄωτον.’

Image result for Okeanos ancient Greek

Archilochus, Fr. 15: I don’t need Money, Gods or Politics

Archilochus declares his lack of concern for most things in one fragment:

 

“Wealthy Gyges’ stuff doesn’t matter to me.
Jealousy never holds me and I don’t wonder
at the works of the gods. I don’t seek some great tyranny.
These things are far from my eyes.”

 

οὔ μοι τὰ Γύγεω τοῦ πολυχρύσου μέλει,
οὐδ’ εἷλέ πώ με ζῆλος, οὐδ’ ἀγαίομαι
θεῶν ἔργα, μεγάλης δ’ οὐκ ἐρέω τυραννίδος·
ἀπόπροθεν γάρ ἐστιν ὀφθαλμῶν ἐμῶν.

 

But what is it that he wants?  Maybe he just wants to be left alone:

 

Archilochus, Fragment 14

“No one ever got much pleasure from listening to the public complain”

 

Αἰσιμίδη, δήμου μὲν ἐπίρρησιν μελεδαίνων
οὐδεὶς ἂν μάλα πόλλ’ ἱμερόεντα πάθοι.

 

 

Or maybe he just doesn’t want to be one of the monkeys who lose out to the fox:

 

Archilochus, fab 81 (Fox and the Monkey)

“After he danced at a gathering of unreasoning animals and earned a reputation, a monkey was elected their king.”

 

ἐν συνόδῳ τῶν ἀλόγων ζῴων πίθηκος ὀρκησάμενος καὶ εὐδοκιμήσας βασιλεὺς ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν ἐχειροτονήθη

Bacchylides Epinicia, fr. 10.38-53: On Knowledge, Wealth and Fortune

“The knowledge of man has countless forms—
whether learned in some prophetic art
or allotted the Graces’ honor,
the wise man certainly flourishes with golden hope.
Another man aims his dabbled bow at boys.
Others fortify their hearts in the field
Or with herds of cattle.
But the future bears ends that make the path of fortune
unmeasurable.
This thing is best: to be a noble man
envied by many men.
I know something about wealth’s great power:
It makes even the most useless man useful.
But why do I pilot my great tongue so
and drive off the road?
When the moment of victory is appointed for mortals,
only then the wise man must…[ ]
With flutes [pay back the favor of the gods]
And mingle [among those who may envy]

… Μυρίαι δ’ ἀνδρῶν ἐπιστᾶμαι πέλονται·
ἦ γὰρ σ[ο]φὸς ἢ Χαρίτων τιμὰν λελογχὼς
ἐλπίδι χρυσέᾳ τέθαλεν
ἤ τινα θευπροπίαν ἰ-
δώς· ἕτερος δ’ ἐπὶ παισὶ
ποικίλον τόξον τιταίνει·
οἱ δ’ ἐπ’ ἔργοισίν τε καὶ ἀμφὶ βοῶν ἀ[γ]έλαις
θυμὸν αὔξουσιν. Τὸ μέλλον
δ’ ἀκρίτους τίκτει τελευτάς,
πᾶ τύχα βρίσει. Τὸ μὲν κάλλιστον, ἐσθλὸν
ἄνδρα πολλῶν ὑπ’ ἀνθρώπων πολυζήλωτον εἶμεν·
οἶδα καὶ πλούτου μεγάλαν δύνασιν,
ἃ καὶ τ[ὸ]ν ἀχρεῖον τί[θησ]ι
χρηστόν. Τί μακρὰν γ̣[λ]ῶ[σ]σαν ἰθύσας ἐλαύνω
ἐκτὸς ὁδοῦ; Πέφαται θνατοῖσι νίκας
[ὕστε]ρον εὐφροσύνα,
αὐλῶν []
μειγν[υ]

χρή τιν[]

The last few lines of this poem are completely fragmentary. In italics I put in something just to complete the sentence. I think that the reference to flutes probably indicates some ritual celebration, but I also wanted the end to repeat the note of warning about the mutability of fortune. Any other suggestions?