In Exchange for Pain, Sometimes Good

Pindar, Olympian 12.1-12a

“I am begging you, child of Zeus-who-Frees,
Savior Chance, safeguard mighty Himera.
For you direct swift ships on the sea,
And fast wars on land,
And  counsel-bringing assemblies too.
Human hopes rise up and then back down
As they turn, traversing pointless lies.

No mortal has yet discovered a trustworthy sign,
From the gods about deeds still to come.
Plans for the future remain in the dark.

Humans experience many things against their expectations–
Sometimes, it’s the opposite of pleasure, but in others
Those who have faced great storms receive profound good for their pain
In a short time.”

Λίσσομαι, παῖ Ζηνὸς Ἐλευθερίου,
Ἱμέραν εὐρυσθενέ᾿ ἀμφιπόλει, σώτειρα Τύχα.
τὶν γὰρ ἐν πόντῳ κυβερνῶνται θοαί
νᾶες, ἐν χέρσῳ τε λαιψηροὶ πόλεμοι
κἀγοραὶ βουλαφόροι, αἵ γε μὲν ἀνδρῶν
πόλλ᾿ ἄνω, τὰ δ᾿ αὖ κάτω
ψεύδη μεταμώνια τάμνοισαι κυλίνδοντ᾿ ἐλπίδες·
σύμβολον δ᾿ οὔ πώ τις ἐπιχθονίων
πιστὸν ἀμφὶ πράξιος ἐσσομένας εὗρεν θεόθεν,
τῶν δὲ μελλόντων τετύφλωνται φραδαί·
πολλὰ δ᾿ ἀνθρώποις παρὰ γνώμαν ἔπεσεν,
ἔμπαλιν μὲν τέφψιος, οἱ δ᾿ ἀνιαραῖς
ἀντικύρσαντες ζάλαις
ἐσλὸν βαθὺ πήματος ἐν μικρῷ πεδάμειψαν χρόνῳ.

Seated Marble sculpture. Female figure in draped clothing looking right, hand on chin
Seated Muse or Nymph on Rock (Adaptation of Urania Type), Walters Art Museum

The Good Deeds of Fantasy

Pindar, Olympian 8.72-3

“A man who has done proper things,
Certainly forgets about Hades.”

Ἀίδα τοι λάθεται
ἄρμενα πράξαις ἀνήρ.

Schol. ad Pin. Ol. 8.72

“He certainly forgets about Hades.” For every man who has accomplished fitting things obtains forgetfulness of Hades by his own choice, and this in fact means death. For, I guess, this is naturally just the thought of those who are troubled: for this sort of thing is the fine action of a fantasy for those who do well.”

 ᾿Αίδα τοι λάθεται: πᾶς γὰρ ἀνὴρ ἁρμόδια πράξας τῇ ἑαυτοῦ προαιρέσει ῞Αιδου, τουτέστι τοῦ θανάτου, λήθην λαμβάνει· ἤ πού γε τῶν ἁπλῶς κατὰ φύσιν ὀχλούντων οἱονεὶ τὸ φρόνημα· τοιαύτη γὰρ ἡ τῆς φαντασίας εὐπραξία τοῖς εὖ πράττουσιν.

Somewhat impressionist Oil painting with a disintegrating figure on the left foreground turning back towards a doorway and garden images in the background the palate is mostly orange and brown

Witold Wojtkiewicz (1879–1909), “Fantasy”. Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowie; ;MNK II-b-205;;fot. Pracownia Fotograficzna MNK

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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Intelligence, Strength, and Good Fortune: Some Greek Proverbs for this Evening’s Festivities

from Diogenianus

“We who were conquering were taken.” Applied to those who hoped to conquer someone and then who were taken by them”

Αἱροῦντες ᾑρήμεθα: ἐπὶ τῶν ἐλπισάντων τινὰς νικᾶν, εἶθ’ ὑπ’ ἐκείνων ἁλόντων.

“A tearless war: a proverb applied to those who overcome affairs easily and beyond hope. For an oracle was given to the Spartans that they would win a “tearless war”—and in this no one of them died then.”

῎Αδακρυς πόλεμος: ἐπὶ τῶν ῥᾷστα καὶ παρ’ ἐλπίδα τὰ πράγματα κατορθούντων. Χρησμὸς γὰρ ἐδόθη Λακεδαιμονίοις, ἄδακρυν μάχην νικῆσαι· ὅθεν οὐδὲ εἷς τηνικαῦτα τούτων ἀπέθανεν.

“Fight with silver lances and you will win everything”: This is applied to situations where you conquer everything through money”.

᾿Αργυραῖς λόγχαις μάχου, καὶ πάντων κρατήσεις: ἀντὶ τοῦ, διὰ χρυσοῦ πάντας νικήσεις..

“The one who conquered is weeping and the one who was defeated has died.
Κλαίει ὁ νικήσας, ὁ δὲ νικηθεὶς ἀπόλωλεν

“You sing the praise before the victory!” A proverb applied to those who take outcomes for granted.

Πρὸ τῆς νίκης τὸ ἐγκώμιον ᾄδεις: ἐπὶ τῶν προλαμβανόντων τὰ πράγματα.

“An old fox is not captured”. A Proverb applied to those who have not fallen or been conquered for a long time thanks to deception.

Γέρων ἀλώπηξ οὐχ ἁλίσκεται: ἐπὶ τῶν διὰ πλήθους χρόνου μὴ περιπιπτόντων ἢ νικωμένων ἀπάτῃ.

from Zenobius

“The owl flies”: The flight of the owl is an omen of victory among the Athenians
Γλαῦξ ἵπταται: ἡ πτῆσις τῆς γλαυκὸς νίκης σύμβολον τοῖς ᾿Αθηναίοις ἐνομίζετο.

“A Cadmeian victory.” A proverb about which people say various things. Some say that it is applied to profitless victories as when Eteokles and Polyneices fought in single combat and both died…”

Καδμεία νίκη: περὶ ταύτης τῆς παροιμίας ἄλλοι ἄλλως λέγουσιν. ᾿Αποδιδόασι δὲ ταύτην ἐπὶ τῆς ἀλυσιτελοῦς νίκης, οἱ μὲν, ὅτι [ἐπεὶ] ᾿Ετεοκλῆς καὶ Πολυνείκης μονομαχοῦντες ἀμφότεροι ἀπώλοντο·

from Michael Apostolios

“there are three parts of excellence: intelligence, strength, and good fortune.”
᾿Αρετὴ τριὰς, σύνεσις καὶ κράτος καὶ τύχη

“The vote of the greater number conquers”

Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora

Τῶν πλειόνων ἡ ψῆφος νικᾷ.

Batrakhomuomakhia, 170-171: A Monument to the Murder of Mice

During the assembly to face the murine-menace, the king of the frogs, Bellowmouth, announces his plan and his expected victory:

“As we drown those unaccustomed to the water in this way

We will happily dedicate a trophy to the murder of mice.”

οὕτω γὰρ πνίξαντες ἐν ὕδασι τοὺς ἀκολύμβους

στήσομεν εὐθύμως τὸ μυοκτόνον ὧδε τρόπαιον