A Hodgepodge of Myths for a Song

Suda, K 2087

“Korinna was the daughter of Akheloodoros and Prokatia. She was from Thebes or Tanagra. She was a student of Myrtis and was nicknamed “Fly”. She was a lyric poet who is said to have defeated Pindar five times. She wrote five books along with epigrams and lyric nomes.”

Κόριννα, Ἀχελῳοδώρου καὶ Προκατίας, Θηβαία ἢ Ταναγραία, μαθήτρια Μύρτιδος· ἐπωνόμαστο δὲ Μυῖα· λυρική. ἐνίκησε δὲ πεντάκις ὡς λόγος Πίνδαρον. ἔγραψε βιβλία ε΄ καὶ ἐπιγράμματα καὶ νόμους λυρικούς.

Plutarch, On the Glory of Athens 4. 347f–348a 

“When Pindar was young and still flashing his wit all around, Korinna warned him that he was uninspired because he didn’t compose with myth, which was the proper focus of poetry, but instead relied on strange diction, metaphors, songs and rhythms, and all kinds of decorations for his work. Pindar took her seriously and composed his famous song:

“Shall we sing of Ismenos or gold-staffed Melia
Or Kadmos, or the sacred race of the Sown-Men
Or Dark-cowled Thebe
Or the super-bold strength of Herakles
Or the many-pained honor of Dionysus.”

When he showed the song to Korinna, she laughed and said that he needed to sow with one hand not the whole bag! In truth, Pindar had mixed up and bundled together a hodgepodge of myths and poured it into a song.”

ἡ δὲ Κόριννα τὸν Πίνδαρον, ὄντα νέον ἔτι καὶ τῇ λογιότητι σοβαρῶς χρώμενον, ἐνουθέτησεν ὡς ἄμουσον ὄντα μὴ ποιοῦντα μύθου ὃ τῆς ποιητικῆς ἔργον εἶναι συμβέβηκε, γλώσσας δὲ καὶ καταχρήσεις καὶ μεταφορὰς καὶ μέλη καὶ ῥυθμοὺς ἡδύσματα τοῖς πράγμασιν ὑποτιθέντα. σφόδρ᾿ οὖν ὁ Πίνδαρος ἐπιστήσας τοῖς λεγομένοις ἐποίησεν ἐκεῖνο τὸ μέλος (fr. 29 Snell)·
Ἰσμηνὸν ἢ χρυσαλάκατον Μελίαν
ἢ Κάδμον ἢ Σπαρτῶν ἱερὸν γένος ἀνδρῶν
<ἢ τὰν κυανάμπυκα Θήβαν>
ἢ τὸ πάντολμον σθένος Ἡρακλέος
ἢ τὰν <Διωνύσου πολυγαθέα τιμὰν> . . .
δειξαμένου δὲ τῇ Κορίννῃ γελάσασα ἐκείνη τῇ χειρὶ δεῖν ἔφη σπείρειν ἀλλὰ μὴ ὅλῳ τῷ θυλάκῳ. τῷ γὰρ ὄντι συγκεράσας καὶ συμφορήσας πανσπερμίαν τινὰ μύθων ὁ Πίνδαρος εἰς τὸ μέλος ἐξέχεεν.

Aelian, Varia Historia 13.25

“When Pindar was competing in Thebes he encountered unlearned audiences and was defeated by Korinna five times. When he was trying to refute his own lack of poetic ability [amousia], he used to call Korinna a pig.”

Πίνδαρος ὁ ποιητὴς ἀγωνιζόμενος ἐν Θήβαις ἀμαθέσι περιπεσὼν ἀκροαταῖς ἡττήθη Κορίννης πεντάκις. ἐλέγχων δὲ τὴν ἀμουσίαν αὐτῶν ὁ Πίνδαρος σῦν ἐκάλει τὴν Κόρινναν.

in the middle is a ‘Twist and Twirl’ coleus, surrounded by six ‘Figaro Yellow Shades’ dahlias. On the edges are two ‘Silver Sand’ silver bushes, two ‘Nicoletta’ plectranthus and two ‘Silver Falls’ dichondra.

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.

A Hero For Our Times

“Elon Musk says Twitter deal on hold . . . Shares plunge 18%”

-CNBC, 13 May 2022

Pindar. Olympian 2. 51-56.

“Experiencing success
Relieves the stress of struggle.
The fact is, wealth garnished with fame
Makes pretty much anything possible,
And it underwrites an extreme and savage ambition.
It’s a conspicuous star, wealth.
It’s this man’s true light.”

. . . τὸ δὲ τυχεῖν
πειρώμενον ἀγωνίας δυσφρονᾶν παραλύει.
ὁ μὰν πλοῦτος ἀρεταῖς δεδαιδαλμένος φέρει τῶν τε καὶ τῶν
καιρόν βαθεῖαν ὑπέχων μέριμναν ἀγροτέραν,
ἀστὴρ ἀρίζηλος, ἐτήτυμον
ἀνδρὶ φέγγος . . .

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.

Glory and Worthless Wealth

Bacchylides, Odes 1. 159-172

“I claim and I will always claim
That excellence has the greatest glory.
Wealth will flock to worthless people
And always tends to swell a person’s thoughts.
But the one who does well for the gods
Has more glorious hopes
To settle their heart.

But if someone has health
Even if mortal
And can live through their own household
They rival the best.

Truly, all pleasure
In a person’s life
Comes apart from disease
And a poverty with no cure.

Rich people desire big things
No less than the poor something smaller,
And there’s nothing sweet for mortals
In being able to get everything at all
Because they’re always straining to catch
Whatever is getting away.”

φαμὶ καὶ φάσω μέγιστον
κῦδος ἔχειν ἀρετάν· πλοῦ-
τος δὲ καὶ δειλοῖσιν ἀνθρώπων ὁμιλεῖ,
ἐθέλει δ᾿ αὔξειν φρένας ἀνδρός·
ὁ δ᾿ εὖ ἔρδων θεούς
ἐλπίδι κυδροτέραι
σαίνει κέαρ. εἰ δ᾿ ὑγιείας
θνατὸς ἐὼν ἔλαχεν
ζώειν τ᾿ ἀπ᾿ οἰκείων ἔχει,
πρώτοις ἐρίζει· παντί τοι
τέρψις ἀνθρώπων βίωι
ἕπεται νόσφιν γε νόσων
πενίας τ᾿ ἀμαχάνου.
ἶσον ὅ τ᾿ ἀφνεὸς ἱμείρει
μεγάλων ὅ τε μείων
παυροτέρων· τὸ δὲ πάντων
εὐμαρεῖν οὐδὲν γλυκύ
θνατοῖσιν, ἀλλ᾿ αἰεὶ τὰ φεύγοντα
δίζηνται κιχεῖν.

Raphaelle Peale, “Melons and Morning Glories” 1813

The Fruitless Toil of Worry: Two Passages on Happiness

Horace, Odes 2.16 25-32

“The spirit which is happy for a single day
Has learned not to worry about what remains
And tempers bitter tastes with a gentle smile—
Nothing is blessed through and through.

A swift death stole famed Achilles away;
Drawn-out old age wore Tithonos down.
Perhaps some hour will hand to me
Whatever it has refused to you.”

laetus in praesens animus quod ultra est
oderit curare et amara lento
temperet risu; nihil est ab omni
parte beatum.

abstulit clarum cita mors Achillem,
longa Tithonum minuit senectus,
et mihi forsan, tibi quod negarit,
porriget hora.

Bacchylides, Processionals fr. 11-12

“There is one border, a single path to happiness for mortals—
When a person is able to keep a heart free of grief
Until the end of life. Whoever keeps ten thousand
Affairs in their thoughts
Whoever tortures their heart
Night and day over what may come,
Has toil which brings no profit.”

εἷς ὅρος, μία βροτοῖσίν ἐστιν εὐτυχίας ὁδός,
θυμὸν εἴ τις ἔχων ἀπενθῆ δύναται
διατελεῖν βίον· ὃς δὲ μυρία
μὲν ἀμφιπολεῖ φρενί,
τὸ δὲ παρ᾿ ἆμάρ τε <καὶ> νύκτα μελλόντων
χάριν αἰὲν ἰάπτεται
κέαρ, ἄκαρπον ἔχει πόνον.

Image result for medieval manuscript happiness
BLMedieval Sloane MS 278, 1280-1300

Blessed Weddings and Cursed Children: Pindar on Peleus and Cadmus

Pindar, Pythian 3.86–115

“Neither Aiakos’s son Peleus
Nor godlike Kadmos had a secure life
For of all mortals they are said to have
Have received the highest blessing of mortals
Since they listened to the Muses with golden-headbands
Singing on the mountain and in seven-gated Thebes
When one married ox-eyed Harmonia
And the other married Thetis, the famous child of wise-counseled Nereus.
The gods feasted with both of them
And they say the kingly sons of Kronos
On golden seats, and accepted from theme
Bride-gifts. Thanks to Zeus,
They made their hearts straight again
From their previous suffering.

In time, however, [Kadmos’] three daughters
Stripped him of his share of joy
with piercing pains—
even though father Zeus went to the desirable bed
of white-armed Thuonê.

And Peleus’s child, the only one immortal Thetis
Bore in Phthia, raised the mourning cry
From the Danaans as he was burned
On the pyre, after he lost his life
To war’s arrows.

If any mortal keeps
The road of truth in mind
He must suffer and obtain well
From the gods. But from the high winds
Different breaths blow different ways.

Human happiness does not last long
safe, when it turns after bringing great abundance.
I will be small in small times and then great
In great ones. I will work out the fate
That comes to me always in my thoughts, ministering to it with my own devices.
But if god were to grant me great wealth,
I have hope that I would find the highest fame afterwards.
Nestor and Lycian Sarpedon, we know from the stories of men
From honeyed words which skilled artisans
Fit together. Virtue grows eternal through famous songs.
But few find this easy to do.”

…. αἰὼν δ’ ἀσφαλής
οὐκ ἔγεντ’ οὔτ’ Αἰακίδᾳ παρὰ Πηλεῖ
οὔτε παρ’ ἀντιθέῳ Κάδμῳ· λέγονται γε μὰν βροτῶν
ὄλβον ὑπέρτατον οἳ σχεῖν, οἵτε καὶ χρυσαμπύκων
μελπομενᾶν ἐν ὄρει Μοισᾶν καὶ ἐν ἑπταπύλοις
ἄϊον Θήβαις, ὁπόθ’ ῾Αρμονίαν γᾶμεν βοῶπιν,
ὁ δὲ Νηρέος εὐβούλου Θέτιν παῖδα κλυτάν,
Ε′ καὶ θεοὶ δαίσαντο παρ’ ἀμφοτέροις,
καὶ Κρόνου παῖδας βασιλῆας ἴδον χρυ-
σέαις ἐν ἕδραις, ἕδνα τε
δέξαντο· Διὸς δὲ χάριν
ἐκ προτέρων μεταμειψάμενοι καμάτων
ἔστασαν ὀρθὰν καρδίαν. ἐν δ’ αὖτε χρόνῳ
τὸν μὲν ὀξείαισι θύγατρες ἐρήμωσαν πάθαις
εὐφροσύνας μέρος αἱ
τρεῖς· ἀτὰρ λευκωλένῳ γε Ζεὺς πατήρ
ἤλυθεν ἐς λέχος ἱμερτὸν Θυώνᾳ.
τοῦ δὲ παῖς, ὅνπερ μόνον ἀθανάτα
τίκτεν ἐν Φθίᾳ Θέτις, ἐν πολέμῳ τό-
ξοις ἀπὸ ψυχὰν λιπών
ὦρσεν πυρὶ καιόμενος
ἐκ Δαναῶν γόον. εἰ δὲ νόῳ τις ἔχει
θνατῶν ἀλαθείας ὁδόν, χρὴ πρὸς μακάρων
τυγχάνοντ’ εὖ πασχέμεν. ἄλλοτε δ’ ἀλλοῖαι πνοαί
ὑψιπετᾶν ἀνέμων.
ὄλβος δ’ οὐκ ἐς μακρὸν ἀνδρῶν ἔρχεται
σάος, πολὺς εὖτ’ ἂν ἐπιβρίσαις ἕπηται.
σμικρὸς ἐν σμικροῖς, μέγας ἐν μεγάλοις
ἔσσομαι, τὸν δ’ ἀμφέποντ’ αἰεὶ φρασίν
δαίμον’ ἀσκήσω κατ’ ἐμὰν θεραπεύων μαχανάν.
εἰ δέ μοι πλοῦτον θεὸς ἁβρὸν ὀρέξαι,
ἐλπίδ’ ἔχω κλέος εὑρέσθαι κεν ὑψηλὸν πρόσω.
Νέστορα καὶ Λύκιον Σαρπηδόν’, ἀνθρώπων φάτις,
ἐξ ἐπέων κελαδεννῶν, τέκτονες οἷα σοφοί
ἅρμοσαν, γινώσκομεν· ἁ δ’ ἀρετὰ κλειναῖς ἀοιδαῖς
χρονία τελέθει· παύροις δὲ πράξασθ’ εὐμαρές.

 

The Nature of a Kind

Pindar, Olympian 11: For Hagêsidamos, Winner of Boy’s Boxing, 476BCE

“There is a season when people have the greatest need
For winds and there is a season for water from the sky,
The pouring offspring of clouds.
But if someone should ever find success through toil,
Then honey-sweet hymns form the foundation
For future tales and offer certain promise for great accomplishments.

The praise for Olympic victors is not limited
By envy. My tongue is ready to shepherd
These words. A man similarly prospers through wise thoughts
thanks to divine assistance.
Know this now, son of Arkhestratos,
Hagêsidamos: thanks to your boxing
I will sing a sweet-songed adornment
For your crown of golden olive,
Without neglecting the race of Western Lokrians.

Join us in the revel there—Muses, I pledge
That you will visit no country who rejects a guest
a people who are ignorant of noble things,
But you will find wise spearmen there.
For not even the fire-red fox nor the roaring lions
Could change the nature of their kind.”

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.
ἵσθι νῦν, Ἀρχεστράτου
παῖ, τεᾶς, Ἁγησίδαμε, πυγμαχίας ἕνεκεν
κόσμον ἐπὶ στεφάνῳ χρυσέας ἐλαίας
ἁδυμελῆ κελαδήσω,
Ζεφυρίων Λοκρῶν γενεὰν ἀλέγων.
ἔνθα συγκωμάξατ᾿· ἐγγυάσομαι
μή μιν, ὦ Μοῖσαι, φυγόξεινον στρατόν
μηδ᾿ ἀπείρατον καλῶν
ἀκρόσοφόν τε καὶ αἰχματὰν ἀφίξε-
σθαι. τὸ γὰρ ἐμφυὲς οὔτ᾿ αἴθων ἀλώπηξ
οὔτ᾿ ἐρίβρομοι λέοντες διαλλάξαιντο ἦθος.

Bodleian Library, MS. Ashmole 1462, Folio 50v

Shining Fame and Deceptive Tales: Pindar’s First Olympian

N. B. This is a guest post from Larry Benn, who has a fine site already and offers translations and other posts.

Pindar, Olympian  1 (go here for original post)

water is best,
although gold is like fire blazing in the night:
it stands out, the most eye-catching of great-man wealth.
but if you wish to sing of the athletic games,
my dear heart, look no further than the sun for a more warming star
shining in the day through the lonely aether,

and let us not proclaim a contest greater than Olympia.
it is from there comes the famous ode encircling
the thoughts of the skillful artists
who have come to praise the son of Kronos
at the rich blessed hearth of Hieron,
the man who wields the scepter of law in sheep-rich Sicily,
plucking the best of every excellent thing,
and as such he delights in the best of music,
such as we men often play
around his welcoming table.

take the Dorian lyre from the peg
if the beauty of Pisa and Pherenicus
placed your mind under the sweetest musings
when his horse rushed along the Alpheus
giving itself to the race without need of the spur,
and it wedded victory to its master,
the horse-loving king of Syracuse!

fame shines for him in the populous colony of Lydian Pelops,
he for whom mighty Earth-bearer Poseidon lusted
when Klotho lifted him from the immaculate cauldron,
his shoulder, fitted with ivory, gleaming.
true, there are many wonders;
yet it cannot be doubted
what men say is also,
to some degree,
beyond the factual account.

stories embroidered with intricately woven falsehoods deceive.
but grace, which presents all things to mortals as pleasant,
by bestowing honor oftentimes makes even the unreliable become the trusted thing.
but, the days to come are the wisest witnesses.

it is proper for a man to speak well of the gods
as it lessens their negative judgment.
but son of Tantalus, contrary to my predecessors, I will tell you:
when your father summoned to that well-ordered feast and to dear Sipylus,
offering the gods a meal in return for theirs,
it was then that Radiant-Trident grabbed you,
overwhelmed by his soul’s desire
to carry you off on golden horses
up to the loftiest home of widely honored Zeus.
there, at a later time,
Ganymede also went to Zeus
for the same purpose.
but when you disappeared,
and the men searching hard did not fetch you to your mother,
one of the envious neighbors at once whispered
that with a knife they cut you limb from limb
into water at boil on the fire,
and around the tables,
for the last course,
they divided and ate your flesh.
impossible—for me to call any of the blessed ones gluttonous!
I will stay away from that.
privation often makes off with slanderous men.

if indeed the keepers of Olympus
honored any mortal man, it was this Tantalus.
but as he was unable to stomach his great good fortune,
for his insolence a punishment seized on the overweening man
in the form of a huge stone which his father hung over him.
always needing to swat it away from his head,
he was banished from joy.
he bore this unmanageable, ever-distressing life with its three labors—
and a fourth: for stealing from the immortals nectar and ambrosia
with which they had made him deathless,
and which he gave to his drinking companions.
if any man supposes he conceals what he’s doing from the gods,
he’s mistaken.

this is why the immortals sent his son back
among the short-lived race of men again.
when nearing the age of youth’s blossoming,
the first showings of a beard covering his chin with black,
he, the son, pondered how to win marriage–
already planned by her Pisan father–
to famous Hippodameia.
drawing near the grey sea,
alone in the dark of night,
he called out to the loud-roaring Trident-Bearing One,
who then appeared, right by his foot.
he said to him: “if the beloved gifts of Cypris
end in any gratitude, Poseidon, come!
stay Oinomaos’s bronze spear;
carry me into Elis in the swiftest chariots;
and draw me close to victory.
seeing that he’s killed thirteen men (the suitors),
he’s putting off his daughter’s marriage.
the great undertaking does not possess a weak man.
but since to die is destiny for men,
why would one nurse an undistinguished old age,
idling in the shadow lacking purpose,
having no share in all that is noble?
no, this struggle will be my future.
bestow on me a pleasing success!”
thus he spoke and had not fixed on fruitless words.
indeed, honoring him,
the god bestowed a golden chariot
and untiring winged horses as well.

and so he defeated strong Oinomaos
and took the maiden as his consort.
he fathered sons striving for glory;
first in rank among men.
and now he is included in the splendid blood rites
as he reclines by the stream of the Alpheus.
his well-attended tomb is beside the altar most often visited by strangers.
the glory of Pelops shine from afar
in the racecourses of the Olympic festivals
where there are contests in swiftness of foot
and grueling efforts of strength.

for the remainder of his life the winner of the contests has sweet tranquility,
as far as games can provide.
in contrast, the highest blessing comes to all men,
all of the time in the daily course of things.
still, I’m obliged to crown that man
with the equine tune in Aeolian song.
I’m sure there isn’t some other host
experienced in noble things
and more distinguished in power (today at any rate)
to embroider in the splendid folds of hymns.
a god, being a guardian,
attends to your ambitions, Hieron.
this he has as a concern.
if, as I hope, he does not depart in a rush,
I expect to celebrate your even sweeter ambition with the swift chariot,
finding the road an ally of words as I come to the sunny hill of Kronos.
although the Muse jealously guards a most potent dart for me,
and different people are great at different things,
it is with kings the peak caps itself!
look no further.
may you walk your time on high
and may I consort with victors just as long,
far-famed for wisdom among the Hellenes everywhere.

File:Vatican G 23 Group - Black-figure Pseudo-Panathenaic Amphora - Walters 482105 - Detail B.jpg
Black-figure Pseudo-Panathenaic Amphora https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vatican_G_23_Group_-_Black-figure_Pseudo-Panathenaic_Amphora_-_Walters_482105_-_Detail_B.jpg

Olympian 1 ΙΕΡΩΝΙ ΣΥΡΑΚΟΥΣΙΩι ΚΕΛΗΤΙ

ἄριστον μὲν ὕδωρ, ὁ δὲ χρυσὸς αἰθόμενον πῦρ
ἅτε διαπρέπει νυκτὶ μεγάνορος ἔξοχα πλούτου:
εἰ δ᾽ ἄεθλα γαρύεν
ἔλδεαι, φίλον ἦτορ,
5μηκέθ᾽ ἁλίου σκόπει
[10] ἄλλο θαλπνότερον ἐν ἁμέρᾳ φαεννὸν ἄστρον ἐρήμας δι᾽ αἰθέρος,
μηδ᾽ Ὀλυμπίας ἀγῶνα φέρτερον αὐδάσομεν:
ὅθεν ὁ πολύφατος ὕμνος ἀμφιβάλλεται
σοφῶν μητίεσσι, κελαδεῖν
10Κρόνου παῖδ᾽ ἐς ἀφνεὰν ἱκομένους
μάκαιραν Ἱέρωνος ἑστίαν,
θεμιστεῖον ὃς ἀμφέπει σκᾶπτον ἐν πολυμάλῳ
[20] Σικελίᾳ, δρέπων μὲν κορυφὰς ἀρετᾶν ἄπο πασᾶν,
ἀγλαΐζεται δὲ καὶ
15μουσικᾶς ἐν ἀώτῳ,
οἷα παίζομεν φίλαν
ἄνδρες ἀμφὶ θαμὰ τράπεζαν. ἀλλὰ Δωρίαν ἀπὸ φόρμιγγα πασσάλου
λάμβαν᾽, εἴ τί τοι Πίσας τε καὶ Φερενίκου χάρις
[30] νόον ὑπὸ γλυκυτάταις ἔθηκε φροντίσιν,
20ὅτε παρ᾽ Ἀλφεῷ σύτο, δέμας
ἀκέντητον ἐν δρόμοισι παρέχων,
κράτει δὲ προσέμιξε δεσπόταν,
Συρακόσιον ἱπποχάρμαν βασιλῆα. λάμπει δέ οἱ κλέος

ἐν εὐάνορι Λυδοῦ Πέλοπος ἀποικίᾳ:
25τοῦ μεγασθενὴς ἐράσσατο γαιάοχος
[40] Ποσειδᾶν, ἐπεί νιν καθαροῦ λέβητος ἔξελε Κλωθὼ
ἐλέφαντι φαίδιμον ὦμον κεκαδμένον.
ἦ θαυματὰ πολλά, καί πού τι καὶ βροτῶν φάτις ὑπὲρ τὸν ἀλαθῆ λόγον
δεδαιδαλμένοι ψεύδεσι ποικίλοις ἐξαπατῶντι μῦθοι
30Χάρις δ᾽, ἅπερ ἅπαντα τεύχει τὰ μείλιχα θνατοῖς,
[50] ἐπιφέροισα τιμὰν καὶ ἄπιστον ἐμήσατο πιστὸν
ἔμμεναι τὸ πολλάκις:
ἁμέραι δ᾽ ἐπίλοιποι
μάρτυρες σοφώτατοι.
ἔστι δ᾽ ἀνδρὶ φάμεν ἐοικὸς ἀμφὶ δαιμόνων καλά: μείων γὰρ αἰτία.
υἱὲ Ταντάλου, σὲ δ᾽, ἀντία προτέρων, φθέγξομαι,
[60] ὁπότ᾽ ἐκάλεσε πατὴρ τὸν εὐνομώτατον
ἐς ἔρανον φίλαν τε Σίπυλον,
ἀμοιβαῖα θεοῖσι δεῖπνα παρέχων,
40τότ᾽ Ἀγλαοτρίαιναν ἁρπάσαι
δαμέντα φρένας ἱμέρῳ χρυσέαισί τ᾽ ἀν᾽ ἵπποις
ὕπατον εὐρυτίμου ποτὶ δῶμα Διὸς μεταβᾶσαι,
ἔνθα δευτέρῳ χρόνῳ
[70] ἦλθε καὶ Γανυμήδης
45Ζηνὶ τωὔτ᾽ ἐπὶ χρέος.
ὡς δ᾽ ἄφαντος ἔπελες, οὐδὲ ματρὶ πολλὰ μαιόμενοι φῶτες ἄγαγον,
ἔννεπε κρυφᾶ τις αὐτίκα φθονερῶν γειτόνων,
ὕδατος ὅτι σε πυρὶ ζέοισαν εἰς ἀκμὰν
μαχαίρᾳ τάμον κάτα μέλη,
50[80] τραπέζαισί τ᾽, ἀμφὶ δεύτατα, κρεῶν
σέθεν διεδάσαντο καὶ φάγον.

ἐμοὶ δ᾽ ἄπορα γαστρίμαργον μακάρων τιν᾽ εἰπεῖν. ἀφίσταμαι.
ἀκέρδεια λέλογχεν θαμινὰ κακαγόρους.
εἰ δὲ δή τιν᾽ ἄνδρα θνατὸν Ὀλύμπου σκοποὶ
55ἐτίμασαν, ἦν Τάνταλος οὗτος: ἀλλὰ γὰρ καταπέψαι
μέγαν ὄλβον οὐκ ἐδυνάσθη, κόρῳ δ᾽ ἕλεν
[90] ἄταν ὑπέροπλον, ἅν οἱ πατὴρ ὑπερκρέμασε καρτερὸν αὐτῷ λίθον,
τὸν αἰεὶ μενοινῶν κεφαλᾶς βαλεῖν εὐφροσύνας ἀλᾶται.

ἔχει δ᾽ ἀπάλαμον βίον τοῦτον ἐμπεδόμοχθον,
60μετὰ τριῶν τέταρτον πόνον, ἀθανάτων ὅτι κλέψαις
ἁλίκεσσι συμπόταις
[100] νέκταρ ἀμβροσίαν τε
δῶκεν, οἷσιν ἄφθιτον
θῆκαν. εἰ δὲ θεὸν ἀνήρ τις ἔλπεταί τι λαθέμεν ἔρδων, ἁμαρτάνει.

τοὔνεκα προῆκαν υἱὸν ἀθάνατοί οἱ πάλιν
μετὰ τὸ ταχύποτμον αὖτις ἀνέρων ἔθνος.
πρὸς εὐάνθεμον δ᾽ ὅτε φυὰν
[110] λάχναι νιν μέλαν γένειον ἔρεφον.
ἑτοῖμον ἀνεφρόντισεν γάμον
70Πισάτα παρὰ πατρὸς εὔδοξον Ἱπποδάμειαν
σχεθέμεν. ἐγγὺς ἐλθὼν πολιᾶς ἁλὸς οἶος ἐν ὄρφνᾳ
ἄπυεν βαρύκτυπον
Εὐτρίαιναν: ὁ δ᾽ αὐτῷ
πὰρ ποδὶ σχεδὸν φάνη.

[120] τῷ μὲν εἶπε: ‘φίλια δῶρα Κυπρίας ἄγ᾽ εἴ τι, Ποσείδαον, ἐς χάριν
τέλλεται, πέδασον ἔγχος Οἰνομάου χάλκεον,
ἐμὲ δ᾽ ἐπὶ ταχυτάτων πόρευσον ἁρμάτων
ἐς Ἆλιν, κράτει δὲ πέλασον.
ἐπεὶ τρεῖς τε καὶ δέκ᾽ ἄνδρας ὀλέσαις
80ἐρῶντας ἀναβάλλεται γάμον
[130] θυγατρός. ὁ μέγας δὲ κίνδυνος ἄναλκιν οὐ φῶτα λαμβάνει.
θανεῖν δ᾽ οἷσιν ἀνάγκα, τί κέ τις ἀνώνυμον
γῆρας ἐν σκότῳ καθήμενος ἕψοι μάταν,
ἁπάντων καλῶν ἄμμορος; ἀλλ᾽ ἐμοὶ μὲν οὗτος ἄεθλος
85ὑποκείσεται: τὺ δὲ πρᾶξιν φίλαν δίδοι.’

ὣς ἔννεπεν: οὐδ᾽ ἀκράντοις ἐφάψατ᾽ ὦν ἔπεσι. τὸν μὲν ἀγάλλων θεὸς
[140] ἔδωκεν δίφρον τε χρύσεον πτεροῖσίν τ᾽ ἀκάμαντας ἵππους.
ἕλεν δ᾽ Οἰνομάου βίαν παρθένον τε σύνευνον:
τέκε τε λαγέτας ἓξ ἀρεταῖσι μεμαότας υἱούς.
90νῦν δ᾽ ἐν αἱμακουρίαις
ἀγλααῖσι μέμικται,
Ἀλφεοῦ πόρῳ κλιθείς,
[150] τύμβον ἀμφίπολον ἔχων πολυξενωτάτῳ παρὰ βωμῷ. τὸ δὲ κλέος
τηλόθεν δέδορκε τᾶν Ὀλυμπιάδων ἐν δρόμοις
95Πέλοπος, ἵνα ταχυτὰς ποδῶν ἐρίζεται
ἀκμαί τ᾽ ἰσχύος θρασύπονοι:

ὁ νικῶν δὲ λοιπὸν ἀμφὶ βίοτον
ἔχει μελιτόεσσαν εὐδίαν
[160] ἀέθλων γ᾽ ἕνεκεν. τὸ δ᾽ αἰεὶ παράμερον ἐσλὸν
100ὕπατον ἔρχεται παντὶ βροτῶν. ἐμὲ δὲ στεφανῶσαι
κεῖνον ἱππίῳ νόμῳ
Αἰοληΐδι μολπᾷ
χρή: πέποιθα δὲ ξένον

μή τιν᾽, ἀμφότερα καλῶν τε ἴδριν ἁμᾷ καὶ δύναμιν κυριώτερον,
105τῶν γε νῦν κλυταῖσι δαιδαλωσέμεν ὕμνων πτυχαῖς.
[170] θεὸς ἐπίτροπος ἐὼν τεαῖσι μήδεται
ἔχων τοῦτο κᾶδος, Ἱέρων,
μερίμναισιν: εἰ δὲ μὴ ταχὺ λίποι,
ἔτι γλυκυτέραν κεν ἔλπομαι
110σὺν ἅρματι θοῷ κλεΐξειν, ἐπίκουρον εὑρὼν ὁδὸν λόγων
[180] παρ᾽ εὐδείελον ἐλθὼν Κρόνιον. ἐμοὶ μὲν ὦν
Μοῖσα καρτερώτατον βέλος ἀλκᾷ τρέφει:
ἐπ᾽ ἄλλοισι δ᾽ ἄλλοι μεγάλοι. τὸ δ᾽ ἔσχατον
κορυφοῦται βασιλεῦσι. μηκέτι πάπταινε πόρσιον.
115εἴη σέ τε τοῦτον ὑψοῦ χρόνον πατεῖν, ἐμέ τε τοσσάδε νικαφόροις
ὁμιλεῖν, πρόφαντον σοφίᾳ καθ᾽ Ἕλλανας ἐόντα παντᾷ.

Larry Benn as 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.

The Fruitless Toil of Worry: Two Passages on Happiness

Horace, Odes 2.16 25-32

“The spirit which is happy for a single day
Has learned not to worry about what remains
And tempers bitter tastes with a gentle smile—
Nothing is blessed through and through.

A swift death stole famed Achilles away;
Drawn-out old age wore Tithonos down.
Perhaps some hour will hand to me
Whatever it has refused to you.”

laetus in praesens animus quod ultra est
oderit curare et amara lento
temperet risu; nihil est ab omni
parte beatum.

abstulit clarum cita mors Achillem,
longa Tithonum minuit senectus,
et mihi forsan, tibi quod negarit,
porriget hora.

Bacchylides, Processionals fr. 11-12

“There is one border, a single path to happiness for mortals—
When a person is able to keep a heart free of grief
Until the end of life. Whoever keeps a ten thousand
Affairs in their thoughts
Whoever tortures their heart
Night and day over what may come,
Has toil which brings no profit.”

εἷς ὅρος, μία βροτοῖσίν ἐστιν εὐτυχίας ὁδός,
θυμὸν εἴ τις ἔχων ἀπενθῆ δύναται
διατελεῖν βίον· ὃς δὲ μυρία
μὲν ἀμφιπολεῖ φρενί,
τὸ δὲ παρ᾿ ἆμάρ τε <καὶ> νύκτα μελλόντων
χάριν αἰὲν ἰάπτεται
κέαρ, ἄκαρπον ἔχει πόνον.

Image result for medieval manuscript happiness
BLMedieval Sloane MS 278, 1280-1300

A Lyric Take on the Death of Agamemnon

Pind. Pyth. 11.17-37

“The nurse Arsinoe took [Orestes]
from his father murdered
by the strong hands of Klytemnestra
by the grievous trick
when she sent the Dardanian girl, Kassandra,
with Agamemnon’s soul by means of grey bronze
to the dusty banks of Acheron,
the pitiless woman.

Was it Iphigenia, slaughtered
far away from her home near the Euripos
that moved her to heavy-handed rage?
Or was she overwhelmed by another bed,
made crazy by their nightly ‘sharing’?
This is the most hateful mistake
of young brides
and it is impossible to keep from other people’s tongues.
Citizens are vile-gossips.

Prosperity brings with it an equal-sized envy;
while the man who breathes close to the ground moves by unseen.
The hero son of Atreus himself died
when he came after a long time to famous Amyklai.
And he destroyed the prophetic girl too
after he despoiled the homes of the Trojans, burned for Helen.”

agdeath

Β′ τὸν δὴ φονευομένου πατρὸς ᾿Αρσινόα Κλυταιμήστρας
χειρῶν ὕπο κρατερᾶν
ἐκ δόλου τροφὸς ἄνελε δυσπενθέος,
ὁπότε Δαρδανίδα κόραν Πριάμου
Κασσάνδραν πολιῷ χαλκῷ σὺν ᾿Αγαμεμνονίᾳ
ψυχᾷ πόρευ’ ᾿Αχέροντος ἀκτὰν παρ’ εὔσκιον
νηλὴς γυνά. πότερόν νιν ἄρ’ ᾿Ιφιγένει’ ἐπ’ Εὐρίπῳ
σφαχθεῖσα τῆλε πάτρας
ἔκνισεν βαρυπάλαμον ὄρσαι χόλον;
ἢ ἑτέρῳ λέχεϊ δαμαζομέναν
ἔννυχοι πάραγον κοῖται; τὸ δὲ νέαις ἀλόχοις
ἔχθιστον ἀμπλάκιον καλύψαι τ’ ἀμάχανον
ἀλλοτρίαισι γλώσσαις·
κακολόγοι δὲ πολῖται.
ἴσχει τε γὰρ ὄλβος οὐ μείονα φθόνον·
ὁ δὲ χαμηλὰ πνέων ἄφαντον βρέμει.
θάνεν μὲν αὐτὸς ἥρως ᾿Ατρεΐδας
ἵκων χρόνῳ κλυταῖς ἐν ᾿Αμύκλαις,
Γ′ μάντιν τ’ ὄλεσσε κόραν, ἐπεὶ ἀμφ’ ῾Ελένᾳ πυρωθέντας
Τρώων ἔλυσε δόμους.