No False Report of Myth

IG IX,1 658, Ithaka c. 2nd Century BCE

“This is the stone is the memorial for Euthudamas, stranger
Who once was first in sea-girt Ithaka
In both counsel and hands for war. To his child Timeas
He left his possessions and undying glory.”

τήνω τοι τόδε σᾶμα τὸ λάϊνον, ὦ <ξ>έν’, Εὐθυδάμ[ω],
ὅς ποκ’ ἐν ἀμφιάλωι πρᾶτος ἔ<γ>ε<ν>τ’ Ἰθάκαι
καὶ βουλᾶι καὶ χερσὶν ἐς Ἄρεα. Τιμέαι δὲ παιδὶ
ἔλλιπε καὶ κτῆσιν καὶ κλέος ἀθάνατον.

IG IX,1² 2:408, Akarnia, Stratos 2nd Century BCE

“The fame of the excellence of those who have past shines bright–
Their countless victories of unconquered spear remains through their deeds.

No false report of myths pours over them, but instead the cast of
Recognizable bronze. Pantaleon son of Agemos.

This gift from Sosander, which was dedicated for Pantaleon,
Commander of the lovely footrace of the youths
God, for this is right, amplify them, bestow a
Name upon the man and kind ends to his life.”

[κ]αὶ φθιμένων ἀρετᾶς λάμπε[ι] κ̣λέος, οἷσ[ι] δ̣ι’ ἔργων
[μ]υρί’ ἀνικάτου μίμνει ἄεθλα δορός·

οὐ ψευδὴς μύθων κέχυται φάτις, ἀλλ[ὰ] τυπωθεὶς
χαλκὸς ἀρίγνωτος· [Π]α[νταλέω]ν̣ Ἀγέμ[ου].

Σωσάνδρου δώρημα, τ̣ὸ [θ]ήκ[ατο] Πανταλέ[ωνι]
ἀρχεύσας ἐρατῆς γυμν[άδο]ς ἠιθέων.
τῶι καὶ, δαῖμον, ἄεξε ——τὸ γὰρ [θ]έμις—— [ο]ὔνομα κλῄζω̣[ν]
ἀνέρα καὶ βιότου πείρατα κεδνὰ πόροις.

 

4 lines of greek inscribed on stone. black and white photograph
A different inscription from https://books.openedition.org/enseditions/docannexe/image/5816/img-1.jpg

The Last Infirmity

Here are two lyric expressions (Sappho and Callimachus) of the Greek idea that poetry in some fashion bestows immortality, or at least compensates for the ineluctable fact of mortality.

(Milton, for all his attachment to Greek things, dismissed the desire for poetic fame as “that last infirmity of noble mind.”)

Sappho Fr. 55.

Once you die, there you will lie, forgotten.
There will be no lasting longing for you.
The Pierian roses were not your thing;
So, as a no-body in Hades’ demesne
You will move among the obscure dead–
Once, as I say, you have flown away.

κατθάνοισα δὲ κείσῃ οὐδέ ποτα μναμοσύνα σέθεν
ἔσσετ’ οὐδὲ πόθα εἰς ὔστερον· οὐ γὰρ πεδέχῃς βρόδων
τὼν ἐκ Πιερίας, ἀλλ’ ἀφάνης κἀν Ἀίδα δόμῳ
φοιτάσῃς πεδ’ ἀμαύρων νεκύων ἐκπεποταμένα.

Callimachus 2. (Gow-Page 34)

Heraclitus, someone spoke of your death.
It made me cry to recall all the times
Our tête-à-têtes brought on sunset.
O my Halicarnassian friend,
You have been ashes a long long while,
But your nightingales still live!
Hades (Universal Thief) will not touch them.

εἶπέ τις, Ἡράκλειτε, τεὸν μόρον, ἐς δέ με δάκρυ
ἤγαγεν, ἐμνήσθην δ᾽ ὁσσάκις ἀμφότεροι
ἥλιον ἐν λέσχῃ κατεδύσαμεν: ἀλλὰ σὺ μέν που,
ξεῖν᾽ Ἁλικαρνησεῦ, τετράπαλαι σποδιή:
αἱ δὲ τεαὶ ζώουσιν ἀηδόνες, ᾗσιν ὁ πάντων
ἁρπακτὴς Ἀίδης οὐκ ἐπὶ χεῖρα βαλεῖ.

“Remember my name!
Fame!
I’m going to live forever!
I’m going to learn how to fly!”

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.