PINDAR · SELECTED ODES
These translations are taken from the superb version by Frank J. Nisetich entitled Pindar¹s Victory Songs (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins 1980). I strongly recommend purchase of this book, not least for its substantial introduction to the world of the text, the nature of Greek poetry generally, and the study of Pindar in particular.
Noting the following sigla in the text will help you to read more thoughtfully:
* The English translation is glossed (to the right) with the original Greek
¶ Indicates a gnômê or proverbial saying
§ Indicates a priamel
+ Indicates a metaphor or simile
[Hieron of Syracuse, race for single horse, 476 BCE]
TURN 1 [1-11]
§ Water is preeminent and gold, + like a fire
burning in the night, outshines
all possessions that magnify men¹s pride.
But if, my soul,* you yearn [philon êtor]
to celebrate great games,
look no further
for another star
shining through the deserted ether
brighter than the sun, or for a contest
mightier than Olympia — + where the song [hothen ho poluphatos humnos amphiballetai
has taken its coronal [sophôn mêtiessi
design of glory, plaited
in the minds of poets*
as they come, calling on Zeus's name,
to the rich radiant hall of Hieron
COUNTERTURN 1 [12-22]
who wields the scepter of justice in Sicily,
reaping the prime of every distinction.
And he delights in the flare of music,
the + brightness of song circling [mousikas en aôtôi]
his table from man to man.
Then take the Dorian lyre
down from its peg
if the beauty of Pisa
and of Pherenikos
somehow cast your mind
under a gracious spell,
when by the stream
of Alpheos, keeping his flanks
ungrazed by the spur, he sped
and put his lord in the embrace of power —
STAND 1 [23-29]
Syracusan knight and king, blazoned
with glory in the land of Pelops:
Pelops, whom earth-cradling Poseidon loved,
since Klotho had taken him
out of the pure caldron, his ivory shoulder
gleaming in the hearth-light.
Yes! Marvels are many,* stories [ê thaumata polla]
starting from mortals somehow
stretch truth to deception
woven cunningly on the loom of lies.* [dedaidalmenoi pseudesi poikilois]
TURN 2 [30-40]
Grace,* the very one who fashions every delight [Kharis]
for mortal men, by lending her sheen
to what is unbelievable, often makes it believed.
¶ but the days to come
are the wisest witness.
¶ It is proper for a man
to speak well of the gods —
the blame will be less.
Pelops, I will tell your story
differently from the men of old. Your father Tantalos
had invited the gods to banquet
in his beloved Sipylos, providing
a stately feast in return
for the feast they had given him.
It was then Poseidon seized you,
COUNTERTURN 2 [41-51]
overwhelmed in his mind with desire, and swept you
on golden mares to Zeus's glorious palace
on Olympos, where, at another time, Ganymede came also
for the same passion in Zeus.
But after you had disappeared
again and again
returned to your mother
without you, then one of the neighbors,
invidious, whispered that the gods has sliced you
limb by limb into the fury
of boiling water,
and then they passed
morsels of your flesh
around the table, and ate them.
STAND 2 [52-58]
No! I cannot call any of the blessed gods
a savage:* I stand apart. [gastrimargon]
¶ disaster has often claimed the slanderer.
If ever the watchlords of Olympos
honored a man, this was Tantalos.
But he could not digest
his great bliss* — in his fullness he earned the doom [olbon]
that the father poised above him, the looming
boulder which, in eternal
distraction, he strains to heave from his brow.
TURN 3 [59-69]
Such is the misery upon him, a fourth affliction
among three others, because he robbed
the immortals — their nektar and ambrosia,
which had made him deathless,
he stole and gave to his drinking companions.
¶ But a man who hopes
to hide his doings from the gods
For this they hurled his son Pelops back among the short-lived
generations of men.
But when he grew
toward the time of bloom* [euanthemon ... phuan]
and black down curled upon his cheeks,
he thought of a marriage there for his seeking —
COUNTERTURN 3 [70-80]
to win from her Pisan father the girl Hippodameia.
going down by the dim sea,
alone in the dark, he called on the god
of the trident, loud pounding
Poseidon, who appeared
and stood close by.
'If in any way,'
Pelops said to him,
'the gifts of Aphrodite
count in my favor, + shackle the bronze spear* of Oinomaos, [pedason egkhos ...khalkeon]
bring me on the swiftest chariot
to Elis, and put me
within the reach
of power, for he has slain
thirteen suitors now, and so he delays
STAND 3 [81-87]
his daughter¹s marriage. ¶ Great danger
does not come upon
the spineless man, and yet, if we must die,
why squat in the shadows, coddling a bland
old age, with no nobility, for nothing?
As for me, I will undertake this exploit,
and you — I beseech you: let me achieve it.'
He spoke, and his words found fulfillment:
the god made him glow with gifts —
a golden chariot and winged horses never weary.
TURN 4 [88-98]
He + tore the strength from Oinomaos* and took [helen d'Oinomaou bian]
the maiden to his bed.
She bore him six sons, leaders of the people,
intent on prowess.
Now in the bright blood rituals
Pelops has his share, reclining
by the ford of Alpheos.
Men gather at his tomb, near the crowded altar.
The glory of the Olympiads
shoots its rays afar in his races, where speed
and strength are matched
in the bruise of toil.
But the victor,
for the rest of his life,
enjoys days of contentment,
COUNTERTURN 4 [99-109]
as far as contests can assure them.
¶ A single day's blessing
is the highest good a mortal knows.
I must crown him now
to the horseman's tune,
in Aiolian rhythms,
for I believe
the + shimmering folds of my song* [klutaisai ... humnôn ptukhais]
shall never embrace* [daidalôsemen]
a host more lordly in power or perception of beauty.
Hieron, a god is overseer
to your ambitions, keeping watch,
cherishing them as his own.
If he does not abandon you soon,
still sweeter the triumph I hope
STAND 4 [110-116]
will fall to your speeding chariot,
and may I be the one to praise it,
riding up the sunny Hill of Kronos!
The Muses is + tempering her mightiest arrow for me.* [karterôtaton belos alkai trephei]
¶ Men are great in various ways, but in kingship
the ultimate crest is attained.
Peer no farther into the beyond.
For the time we have, may you continue to walk on high,
and may I for as long consort with victors,
conspicuous for my skill among Greeks everywhere.
[Thêrôn of Akragas, chariot race, 476 BCE]
TURN 1 [1-7]
Songs, lords of the lyre, [anaxiphormigges humnoi]
what god, what hero, what man
shall we celebrate?
§ Pisa belongs to Zeus,
Herakles founded the Olympian Games,
firstfruits of war.
And Theron must be proclaimed
for his chariot victory — Theron, true host of strangers,
bulwark of Akragas, exalter of his city,
noblest scion of noble ancestors
COUNTERTURN 1 [8-14]
who suffered much
to win their sacred home
by the river, and they became
the light of Sicily,
their fated course
bringing wealth and honor
to match their inborn greatness.
But O Kronian son of Rhea, lord of Olympos' throne,
of Alpheus' crossing and the greatest of contests:
moved by my song, preserve their native land to them
STAND 1 [15-20]
and their posterity. ¶ What has been done
with justice or without
not even time the father of all* [Khronos ho pantôn patêr]
can undo. But with good luck
oblivion may come,* for ¶ malignant pain [latha de potmôi sun eudaimoni genoit'an]
perishes in noble joy, confounded
TURN 2 [21-27]
whenever a fate from the gods
raises happiness on high.
So the royal daughters of Kadmos
but their sorrows
fell before mightier blessings.
Long-haired Semela, dying in the thunder roar,
lives among the Olympians, beloved of Pallas and Zeus
and ever beloved of Dionysos, her son,
COUNTERTURN 2 [28-34]
and they say that in the sea
with the daughters of Nereus
for all time
imperishable life embraces Ino.
¶ Truly, mortals have no way
of knowing the bounds of death,* [peiras outi thanatou]
nor even whether we shall finish
a day, a sun's child, with cheer unblemished.
¶ The shifting tides of good and evil
beat incessantly upon mankind.
STAND 2 [35-40]
Thus the fate* that guards the ancestral fortune [Moir']
of these men, bringing them happiness* secured [sun olbôi]
by the gods, has also sent them affliction,* sure [pêm']
to abate in its turn, from the moment
Laios' tragic son, crossing his father's path,
killed him and fulfilled the oracle spoken of old at Pytho.
TURN 3 [41-47]
And sharp-eyed Erinys saw and slew
his warlike children at each other's hands.
Yet Thersandros survived
fallen Polyneikes and won honor
in youthful contests
and the brunt of war, a scion of aid
to the house of Adrastos; and his seed lives on
in Theron, son of Ainesidamos, who deserves
to enjoy the lyre* and the song of praise. [luran]
COUNTERTURN 3 [48-54]
For he himself took the prize at Olympia,
while at Pytho and Isthmos too
kindred Graces* brought his brother, [Kharites]
paired with him in destiny, garlands
for the four horses driven
twelve times around the post.
¶ A man forgets the strain of contending
when he triumphs. And wealth, uplifted by nobility,
gives scope for actions of every kind,
kindling the heart with zeal for achievement,
STAND 3 [55-60]
a star far-seen, a man's truest beacon-light.
And if, possessing it, one knows what must befall —
that of those who die here, the arrogant
are punished without delay, for someone under the earth
weighs transgressions in this realm of Zeus,
and there is iron compulsion in his word.* [logon phrasais anagkai]
TURN 4 [61-67]
But with equal nights
and equal days,
possessing the sun forever,
the noble enjoy an easy existence, troubling
neither earth nor the sea's waters
in might of hand
for an empty living,
but with the gods they honored, all who delight in oath-keeping
abide free of affliction, while the others
go through pain not to be looked at.
COUNTERTURN 4 [68-74]
And those who have endured
three times in either realm
to keep their souls untainted
by any injustice, travel
Zeus' road to the tower of Kronos,
where ocean-born breezes blow around
the island of the blest
and sprays of gold flower from the earth and from the sea —
with these they wreathe their hands
and crown their heads,
STAND 4 [75-80]
obeying the high decrees of Rhadamanthys,
who sits, a ready companion, beside
the great Father, consort of Rhea throned on high.
Among them dwell the heroes Peleus and Kadmos
and Achilleus, whom Thetis, moving Zeus' heart with prayer,
brought to their company, her son
TURN 5 [81-87]
who smote Hektor to the ground, + Troy's
invincible, unyielding bastion,* [Troias | amakhon astrabê kiona]
and consigned to death
Kyknos and Memnon, child of the Dawn.
+ There are in my quiver
many swift arrows, striking
to the wise,* but the crowd need interpreters. [phônaenta sunetoisin]
The man of discernment knows much by nature.* [sophos ho polla eidôs phuai]
Let those who have acquired their knowledge
chatter in vain, + unruly jackdaws* bickering [korakes]
COUNTERTURN 5 [88-94]
at the majestic eagle of Zeus.
It is time we took aim, my heart:
whom are we hitting
again, letting fly
the arrows of glory
from the string of gentle thoughts?
Aiming at you, Akragas,
I swear with true mind, no city in a hundred years
has reared a man more liberal in thought
or lavish of hand
STAND 5 [95-100]
Than Theron. But praise falls in with surfeit
and is muted, not in justice
but because of boisterous men, whose noise
would obscure beauty, for ¶ [+] sands cannot be counted,
and how many joys
this man has brought his fellows, who can say?
[Alkimedon of Aigina, boys' wrestling, 460 BCE]
TURN 1 [1-7]
+ Mother of contests for the golden crown,* [matêr ô khrusostephanôn aethlôn]
queen of truth, Olympia,
where men of prophecy,
consulting Zeus' sacrificial fire,
probe his will!
God of the white-flashing bolt,
what has he to say
of the contenders, struggling
for glory,* breathless until they hold it? [mainomenôn megalan| aretan thumôi labein]
COUNTERTURN 1 [8-14]
Prayers are answered in return for reverence.
O thickly-wooded grove
above Alpheos, receive
this chorus and the crown it brings:
the fame* your shining garland gives [kleos]
is great and lives forever.
Yet there are other forms of fortune,
and many are the roads
success travels in a god's companionship.
STAND 1 [15-22]
Timosthenes, it is your lot to have
Zeus in your ancestry. He made you shine
at Nemea, and by the Hill of Kronos
he made your brother, Alkimedon, an Olympian victor.
Handsome in appearance, he cast no shame on his looks
in action: he triumphed in wrestling
and had his home proclaimed —
Aigina, haven of long-oared ships
and harbor of Justice, Lady of Salvation,* [sôteira ... Themis]
who sits by Zeus, god of strangers,* and is honored there [Dios xeniou]
TURN 2 [23-29]
more than anywhere. ¶ For whatever has much weight
swaying in the balance
is hard to determine
with fair mind
and by strict standard.
Yet some divine decree —
may future time* preserve it — [ho d'epantellôn khronos]
has reared this + column
of light* for every stranger, this sea-rounded land [kiona daimonian]
COUNTERTURN 2 [30-36]
governed by Dorian folk since Aiakos' day:
Aiakos, whom Leto's child
lord of the tide,
summoned to help them
+ crown Troy with her ring of walls,* [Iliôi mellontes epi stephanon teu|xai]
because it was her doom
to sink in the tumult of war,
gasping billows of black smoke.
STAND 2 [37-44]
Serpents, three serpents with cold
green in their eyes, sprang
at her newly built tower. Two fell down
stunned, spitting their life-breath out,
while the third landed hissing
upon it. Apollo marked the wonder
and said to Aiakos: 'In the place
where your hands have worked
Pergamos is taken. So I read
this omen sent by Zeus the thunderer,
TURN 3 [45-51]
and she will fall through battle-might of yours,
beginning with the first
and ending with the third
in your line.'
So the god spoke, clearly,
and rode full-speed for Xanthos,
to the Amazons and the Danube,
while Poseidon steered for Isthmos,
bringing Aiakos to Aigina on golden mares,
COUNTERTURN 3 [52-58]
then on to Corinth, famed for its festival.
But nothing brings the same delight to all.
And if in my song
I have magnified
as a trainer of youths,
+ let no resentment strike me
with a foul stone,* for I will also sing [mê baletô me lithôi trakhei phthonos]
of his triumph over the youths at Nemea, and mention next
STAND 3 [59-66]
his victory against the men
in pankration. ¶ To teach, then,
is easier for one who knows.
The man of no foresight
gives a fool's lesson, for the thoughts of inexperience
have no weight. Melesias will tell you
better than anyone how to train
a man bent on taking
glory from contests. And now Alkimedon
is his pride, and his thirtieth triumph:
TURN 4 [67-73]
with fortune from god and his own courage
he threw his four opponents
and laid upon their limbs
a hateful homecoming,
while in his father's father he inspired
new strength against old age:
man's noble deeds put Hades out of mind.
COUNTERTURN 4 [74-80]
But I must waken memory and tell
how the hands of the Blepsiadai
have flowered in victory:
the sixth crown* [stephanos]
falls to them now
in contests for garlands.
And the dead, too, have a share
in a rite's due performance.
The dust does not hide their kinsman's glory.
STAND 4 [81-88]
Iphion will hear the voice
of Hermes' daughter, Angelia,
and pass on her message
to Kallimachos, the shining adornment
Zeus gives his kin at Olympia. I pray
that he give good upon good
and brush away sting of sickness
or any second thoughts in his bounty.
let there be painless life for them
and sure exaltation for their city.
[Hagesidamas of Western Lokroi, boys' boxing, 460 BCE]
§ Sometimes men need the winds most,
at other times
waters from the sky,
+ rainy descendants of the cloud,* [ombriôn paidon nephelas]
and when a man has triumphed
and put his toil behind,
it is time for melodious song
to arise, laying the foundation of future glory,
a sworn pledge securing proud success.
For Olympian victors, such acclaim
is laid in store
without limit, and I
am eager to + tend * it with my song. [glôssa poimainein ethelei]
¶ For a man flourishes
in wise understanding,* [sophais ... prapidessin]
as in all things,
through a god's favor.* Know now, son of Archestratos, [ek theou]
Hagesidamos, because of your boxing victory
I will sing, and + my song will be
an added adornment
to your gold olive crown,* [epi stephanôi khruseas elaias]
shining with love for Western Lokroi. Go there
and join the revels, Muses. By my bond,
you will not find a people indifferent to strangers
or blind to beauty, but men of keenest discernment
and courage in war. ¶ For the crimson fox
and thunderous lion cannot change their inborn ways.
[Hieron of Syracuse, race for single horse, 474 (?) BCE]
TURN 1 [1-7]
If I were permitted
to utter the prayer
in everyone's mind,
I would wish that Chiron,
son of Philyra and sovereign Kronos,
a dear friend of mankind,
now dead and gone,
were living still and that he ranged
the ridges of Pelion, even as he was
when he raised Asklepios,
the gentle hero, craftsman
in remedies for the limbs of men tormented by disease.
COUNTERTURN 1 [8-14]
Before his mother,
daughter of Phlegyas the rider,
could bring him to birth,
before Eleithyia could ease her pangs,
she sank to the house of Death,* [eis Aïda domon]
stricken in her chamber
by the gold arrows of Artemis
at the urging of Apollo: the wrath of gods
finds fulfillment. In her folly,* [amplakiaisi phrenôn]
she had slighted him, consenting —
without her father's knowledge —
to another union though she had lain before with Apollo
STAND 1 [15-23]
and bore the god's pure seed within her.
She did not wait for her marriage feast,
the high cries of Hymen! Hymen!
such as girls of her age, maiden companions,
echo in song, bantering the bride
with girlhood names on her wedding night.
No: like many another, she hungered
for things remote.* ¶ There are some, utterly [ta porsô]
shiftless, who always look ahead,
scorning the present, hunting the wind of doomed hopes.
TURN 2 [24-30]
Eager Koronis, fond of gay clothing, [eskhe toi tautan megalan auatan
was wholly taken [kallipeplou lêma Korônidos
with this infatuation — she lay
in the arms of a stranger
who came from Arkadia,
but she did not escape her watcher:
Loxias the king,
in his temple at Delphi, heard what had happened,
informed by his surest confidant, his all-knowing mind* [panta isanti noôi]
impervious to lies,
beyond the reach of mortal [kleptei te min ou theos ou
or immortal deception, of fraud planned or perpetrated.* [brotos ergois oute boulais
COUNTERTURN 2 [31-37]
He saw her then,
lying in bed with Ischys,
son of Elatos —
he saw her blasphemous deceit
and sent down Artemis
raging with anger
to Lakereia, for the maidens dwelled
on the banks of Lake Boibias. An evil power [daimôn d'heteros
possessed and destroyed her* and many others [es kakon trepsais edamassato nin
were involved in her ruin.
¶ Though but a spark of fire
fall on the mountain, the thick trees blaze and are gone.
STAND 2 [38-46]
Only when her kinsmen had placed the girl
on a wooden mound and the grim glare of flame
ran crackling around her did Apollo relent:
'I cannot kill my own child, trapped
in the doom of its ruined mother,'
he said, and strode into the blaze.
The fire hid nothing from him: in one step
he found the corpse, tore the infant from it,* [paid'ek nekrou harpase]
and carried it to Chiron in Thessaly
to be taught the art of medicine. [iasthai nosous]
TURN 3 [47-53]
And those who came to him
with flesh-devouring sores,
with limbs gored by gray bronze
or crushed beneath flung stones,
all those with bodies broken,
sun-struck or frost-bitten,
he freed of their misery,
each from his ailment, and led them forth —
some to the lull of soft spells,* others by potions,* [epaoidais] [prosanea pinontas]
still others with bandages
steeped in medications* [guiois peraptôn ... pharmaka]
culled from all quarters, and some he set right through surgery.* [tomais]
COUNTERTURN 3 [54-60]
But ¶ + even wisdom* feels [sophia]
the lure of gain* — gold glittered in his hand, [kerdei]
and he was hired
to retrieve from death
a man already forfeit:
the son of Kronos hurled
and drove the breath, smoking from both their chests —
savior and saved alike speared by lightning flash.
¶ From the gods we must expect
things that suit our mortal minds,
aware of the here and now, aware of our allotment.* [aisas]
STAND 3 [61-69]
+ Do not yearn, O my soul, for immortal life!* [mê, phila psukha, bion athanaton|speude]
Use to the utmost the skill* that is yours. [makhanan]
Yet if wise Chiron still haunted his cave,
if my singing* had worked upon his mood [humnoi | hameteroi]
like a soothing drug,* I would have moved him [philtron ... meligarues]
to rear another healer,* a son of Leto [iatêra]
or of Zeus, a hero to relieve good men
of the blaze of fever. And I would have come,
cleaving the Ionian Sea on ship,
to Arethusa's fountain and my Aitnaian host
TURN 4 [70-76]
who holds the throne of Syracuse,
a king gentle to his citizens
and generous to his nobles,
a father to arriving strangers.
If I had stepped from ship
bringing this double grace to him,
golden health and a revel-song
to brighten his triumphs, the Pythian garlands
Pherenikos took at Kirrha once, beating all contenders:
I say I would have crossed
the deep sea
+ like a radiance reaching farther than a heavenly star.
COUNTERTURN 4 [77-83]
But I wish to make my prayer
to the sacred Mother Goddess [Matri]
whom Theban maidens celebrate
all the night through,
singing of her and of Pan
not far from where I dwell.
If, Hieron, you understand,
recall the proverb now: ¶ the deathless gods
dole out to death-bound men two pains for every good.
Fools make nothing of either.
The noble turn both to advantage,
folding pain within, and showing beauty without.
STAND 4 [84-92]
You have a share of happiness — on you, [tin de moir'eudaimonias hepetai]
if on any man, great destiny* has smiled, [ho megas potmos]
for you are a master *of a people. Still, [turannon]
¶ no life was ever safe from falling: not even Peleus,
the son of Aiakos, or Kadmos, the god's double,
knew perfect bliss,* though men account them [olbon hupertaton]
blest with the highest joy — they heard the Muses singing
on the mountain and in seven-gated Thebes,
when Kadmos married dark-eyed Harmonia
and Peleus married Thetis, the glorious daughter of Nereus,
TURN 5 [93-99]
and the gods feasted
in their company,
the children of Kronos,
kings on golden thrones:
they beheld them
and received their wedding gifts.
So Zeus blessed them with a change
from former troubles, and their hearts were high.
But in time again Kadmos lost his share of bliss:* [euphrosunas meros]
three of his daughters destroyed it
and yet the fourth,
white-armed lovely Thyona, welcomed Zeus to her bed.
COUNTERTURN 5 [100-106]
And the only child
of Peleus and immortal Thetis,
felled by an arrow in war
and leaving life behind,
stirred the lament of the Danaans
a he burned on the pyre.
¶ It is proper that a mortal man,
knowing the way of truth, prosper from the gods
when he has the chance. ¶ Winds soar on high —
one is a blessing, another is not.
¶ Happiness that wafts a man
in full sail will not sustain him long.
STAND 5 [107-115]
I will be small among the small,
great among the great. The spirit embracing me
from moment to moment I will cultivate,
as I can and as I ought. And if the gods bestow
abundant wealth* on me, then I will hope [plouton habron]
to find high glory* in days to come. [kleos hupsêlon]
We know of Nestor and Lykian Sarpedon
from resonant words, such as skilled craftsmen of songs
have welded together. It is radiant poetry* [kleinais aoidais]
that makes virtue long-lived, but for few is the making easy.
[Hippokleas of Pelinna, double race for boys, 498 BCE]
TURN 1 [1-6]
Lakedaimon is happy,
Thessaly is blest:
both have their kings descended from one father,
Herakles, prince of battle.
Why am I declaiming
in this way?
Pytho and Pelinna exhort me,
and the sons of Aleuas, eager
that I bring to Hippokleas
the voices of the men singing in glorious revel.
COUNTERTURN 1 [7-12]
For he enjoys the + taste of victory:* [geuetai gar aethlôn]
the throng of surrounding people
heard Parnassos Valley
proclaim him best
of the youths in the double race.
¶ The end and the beginning,
O great Apollo, ripen into + sweetness* for men [gluku ... telos arkha]
when a god urges them on.* [daimonos ornuntos]
He has done what he has done
in accordance, surely, with your plans.
But he has also + walked in the footsteps of his father,* [embebaken ikhnesin patros]
STAND 1 [13-18]
twice victorious at Olympia,
in the battle-worn gear of Ares. And in the contest
in the deep meadow under Kirrha's crags,
Phrikias prevailed in speed of foot.
May father and son behold their wealth's
proud flower bloom tomorrow as today.
TURN 2 [19-24]
Having no small share
of the good things in Hellas,
may they encounter
no reversal of fortune
from the jealous gods.
¶ The gods may feel no sorrow,
but a man
should be accounted happy
and worthy of song
if boldness and power have gained him
the greatest prize for might of hand or speed of foot,
COUNTERTURN 2 [25-30]
and if he's also lived to see
his young son
with Pythian garlands.
¶ The bronze sky is beyond
his reach forever, but he has found
all the happiness
our mortal race can come to.
For neither on shipboard
nor by any journey made on foot
would you ever discover the miraculous way to the Hyperboreans.
STAND 2 [31-36]
With them Perseus, lord of the People, once feasted,
entering their houses. He had come upon them
while they were offering
hekatombs of asses to glorify Apollo,
who delights in their perpetual feasts and hymns
and is amused by the shrill impiety of their brutes.
TURN 3 [37-42]
And the Muse has never traveled
from their midst.
To the strumming
of harp-strings* [luran te boai]
and the piping of oboes,* [kanakhai t'aulôn]
their maiden choruses
whirl, dancing everywhere.
They wreathe their hair in golden laurel
and regale themselves.
+ The cup of age and sickness
has not been poured for them. Free of toil and battle
COUNTERTURN 3 [43-48]
they live, escaping the rigid
rule of Nemesis.
Into their blissful company
came the son of Danaä,
bold of heart,
for Athena was his guide.
He slew the Gorgon then,
and brought her head
decked in serpent curls,
+ a stony death* [lithinon thanaton pherôn]
to the men of Seriphos. ¶ No miracle is too great
STAND 3 [49-54]
for my belief, when the gods
bring it to pass. + Stay the oars now!
Heave the anchor overboard
before we splinter
on the bristling reef.
+ For the song of praise
darts from theme to theme, like a bee.
TURN 4 [55-60]
And I hope — while the Ephyraians
+ pour forth the honey
of my singing
along the banks of the Peneios —
that this music for his crowns
will make Hippokleas
still more admired
among his peers and elders and keep him
in the thoughts of young maidens.
§ ¶ Desire for one thing
moves one heart, a different passion excites another:
COUNTERTURN 4 [61-66]
but if a man attains his wish
let him cling to it and not let it go
for something far off.
¶ There is no telling
what will be
a year from now.* [ta d'eis eniauton atekmarton pronoêsai]
I put my trust
in the warm friendship of Thoras —
it is he who has + yoked this four-horse chariot* [harma ... tetraoron]
of the Muses, eagerly tending my song,* [eman poipnuôn kharin]
loving one who loves him back,* each taking the other's hand. [phileôn phileont']
STAND 4 [67-72]
¶ Gold and a straight mind show what they are
on the touchstone. Let us praise
his brave brothers too, because
they bear on high the ways of Thessaly
and bring them glory. In their hands
belongs the + piloting of cities, their fathers' heritage.
[Khromios of Aitna, chariot race, 476 (?) BCE]
TURN 1 [1-7]
O sacred ground, where Alpheos + breathes again!* [Ampneuma semnon Alpheou]
Ortygia, scion of glorious Syracuse!
+ Bed of Artemis
and + sister of Delos,
from you the music has its source,
sounding high praise of horses + with storm in their speed,* [aellopodôn ... hippôn]
glory to Zeus of Aitna!
The chariot of Chromios
bid me + harness deed to song in praise of victory.
COUNTERTURN 1 [8-14]
The foundations have been laid — with the gods
and Chromios' inspired exploits.
+ The peak of perfect glory
appears in triumph,
for the Muse
loves to dwell on mighty contests. Let her radiance
stream upon this island now,
Persephone's gift from Zeus,
lord of Olympos, who bent his brow
and promised to exalt her over the fruitful earth,
STAND 1 [15-18]
Sicily, teeming with cities supreme in wealth.
And the son of Kronos dowered her
with a people enamored of bronze war
and of horses, a people often crowned
with the gold leaves of Olympian olive. I have touched on a theme [pollôn epeban|kairon
rich in opportunity and founded in truth.* [ou pseudei balôn
TURN 2 [19-25]
At the courtyard doors of a liberal host, I stand
singing his noble deeds
here, where a brilliant banquet has been laid out for me.
Indeed, this house has often been
no stranger to guests from abroad.
¶ For those who criticize the noble are doomed
to carry water against smoke!
¶ Different men have different skills.
One must take
the straight path: fight with what one has by nature.
COUNTERTURN 2 [26-32]
¶ Action is the way of strength; [prassei men ergôi men sthenos,
stratagem the way of council,* in those [boulaisi de phrên
endowed with the gift of foresight.
Son of Hagesidamos, thanks to you
I have a wide range of themes.
I love not to keep great wealth buried deep in hall,
but to make good use of what I own
and be of good repute
among my friends.
¶ For all men are alike in expectation, [koinai gar erkhont'elpides | poluponôn andrôn]
STAND 2 [33-36]
born to endure.* But when I move among the heights
of triumph, Herakles comes to mind. I embrace him
eagerly, + stirring to life again the ancient story,* [arkhaion otrunôn logon]
how that child of Zeus, having survived
the throes of birth and come with his twin brother
from his mother's womb into the sudden wondrous light,
TURN 3 [37-43]
did not escape the notice of Hera
when he was laid
in purple swaddling bands.
Stung to the heart with wrath,* [sperkhtheisa thumôi]
the Queen of the gods
dispatched a pair of serpents.* Through the open doors [drakontas]
into the wide inner chambers they glided,
to wind themselves around the babes,
eager to snatch them in their jaws.
But Herakles raised his head and made first trial of battle.
COUNTERTURN 3 [44-50]
gripping both snakes by their throats,
one in each unshakable hand.
+ Moment by moment,* [agkhomenois de khronos |
strangling, [psukhas anepneusen meleôn aphatôn
fled their hideous coils. Unbearable terror + struck
the women in attendance on Alkmena.
She herself, leaping to her feet
just as she was, in her bed-clothes,
had tried to keep monsters at bay.
STAND 3 [51-54]
And the chiefs of the Kadmeians arrived together
in haste, with a rattle of bronze arms,
Amphitryon among them, sword in hand,
+ shaken with anxiety.* ¶ For every man + feels the weight [oxeiais aniaisi tupeis]
of sorrows at home, while troubles elsewhere
do not hold the heart for long.
TURN 4 [55-61]
He stood there, wavering
between terror and delight,
for he could see the unearthly
strength and power of his son.
The immortal gods had turned
the messengers' report from bad to good.
He summoned his townsman, great
prophet of Zeus on high,
unerring Teiresias, who told him
and the entire company what lay in wait for Herakles —
COUNTERTURN 4 [62-68]
how many savage beasts he would slay
on land and sea, beasts
with no sense of justice;* [aïdrodikas]
how he would put an end
to a certain creature,
loathsome, lurching with perverse glut of men.
And when the gods should face the giants
in battle on Phlegra's plain, he spoke
of bright hair fouled in the dust
beneath the arrows sprung from Herakles' bow;
STAND 4 [69-72]
and prophesied he would enjoy unbroken peace
for all time, repose in the gods' blissful hall,
a perfect reward for his vast labors,
with lovely Hebe for his bride;
and that, having celebrated his wedding at the side
of Zeus, son of Kronos, he would praise the sacred law.
[Aristokleidas of Aigina, pankration, 475 (?) BCE]
TURN 1 [1-8]
O lady Muse, my mother! [Ô potnia Moisa, mater hametera, lissomai]
Come, I beseech you,*
in the sacred Nemean month
to Dorian Aigina, island haven
of the wide world: by the waters of Asopos
the young men wait,
+ builders of sweet revel-songs,* [meligaruôn tektones | kômôn]
eager for your voice. Other deeds
have other + thirsts,* but victory [dipsêi]
+ yearns for music,* [aethlonikia de malist' aoidan philei]
the perfect + attendant* to its crown and its valor. [opadon]
COUNTERTURN 1 [9-16]
Let it tend upon us now, welling
from my mind: begin, daughters of Zeus,
the hymn of glory to the ruler
of the sky, deep in cloud,
and I will entrust the words to the young men's voices
and to the lyre.* It will be a pleasant task [lurai]
to adorn this country, home
of the Myrmidons of old, whose fabled assembly
Aristokleidas did not disgrace —
with your help, he kept his nerve in the brutal
STAND 1 [17-21]
pankration contest. His triumph in the deep fields of Nemea
+ soothes the pain* of blows endured. But if [akos hugiêron ... pherei]
this son of Aristophanes — handsome in looks
and deeds to match — has reached the peak of manliness,* [anoreais hupertatais]
to go on from there is no light matter, crossing
the pathless sea beyond the Pillars of Herakles,
TURN 2 [22-29]
which that hero-god set up in glory
to mark the limits of our voyaging — Herakles, who overcame
the monsters of the deep and, on his own,
explored the shallow straits, his journey's end
and turning point: he had shown
the world's boundary. But O my heart!* [thume]
+ to what foreign beach are you blown off course?
I bid you summon the Muse to Aiakos and his race:
for though the essence of justice
appear in the maxim + Praise the noble,
COUNTERTURN 2 [30-37]
¶ longing for another's glory is not the better way:
look closer to home.
Here you have honors
worthy of noble utterance: lord Peleus
rejoiced in deeds of valor
long ago, when he cut his peerless spear.
He stormed Iolkos alone, without an army,
and pinned down Thetis of the sea,
for all her struggles. And mighty Telamon
crushed Laomedon — he stood by Iolaus then
STAND 2 [38-42]
and went with him once against the fierce Amazons
armed with brazen bows — man-quelling terror never stopped him.
¶ There is great weight in inherited glory,
while mere instruction leaves a man a thing of shadows: puffing
here and there, he never comes down with sure foot
but savors endless exploits in his futile thoughts.
TURN 3 [43-50]
Blond Achilleus, while still a child
at play about Philyra's house, performed
deeds of might: often brandishing
his iron javelin, swift as the wind,
he battled savage lions to their deaths
and slew boars, dragging
their bodies, trembling
in their last grasp, to Chiron the centaur;
this from the time he was six and ever after.
Artemis was amazed
and bold Athena marveled to see him
COUNTERTURN 3 [51-58]
killing stags without the help of hounds
or traps: he ran them down
on foot. And men of old tell how
shrewd Chiron raised Jason also,
in his house of stone, and reared Asklepios,
whom he taught the mild-handed use
of salves and drugs.* [ton pharmakôn didaxe malakokheira nomon]
And it was Chiron who saw to the wedding
of Nereus' radiant daughter and brought up
her dread child Achilleus,
raising his thoughts in all things noble
STAND 3 [59-63]
that he might go on the sea-winds' blast
to Troy of the clashing spears, endure
the cries of Lykians and Phrygians, the shrill
Dardan battle-shout, and then, hand to hand against
the spearmen of Ethiopia, determine that their prince,
fiery Memnon, cousin of Helenos, would never go home again.
TURN 4 [64-71]
From Troy the fame of Aiakos' sons
+ burns like a beacon, seen
afar and forever, O Zeus!
it is your blood
in their veins, your contest that the young men hail
as they proclaim Aigina's victory.
Aristokleidas deserves the jubilant
reception of song for having bathed
this island in the speech of renown* [eukleï prosethêke logoi]
and Apollo's Thearion in the brightness
of hopes.* But trial alone reveals innate superiority [aglaaisi merimnais]
COUNTERTURN 4 [72-79]
in the youth among youths, the man
among men, the elder
among elders, each lot
as we inherit it, we —
a perishable race. Yet our mortal life
brings with it four virtues* also, [tessaras aretas]
and bids us heed what lies at hand.
In these you are not lacking. Hail, friend!
I send you this + blend of honey and white milk
bubbling at the brim,
a + draft of music breathed through Aiolian flutes,* [pom'aoidimon Aiolissin en pnoaisin aulôn]
STAND 4 [80-84]
late, surely, and yet, among birds, + the eagle
is swift: though he swoop from afar, he has his prey,
spattered with blood, in his claws, while + the crows
chatter, grazing the lower air. In you the brilliance
of a contending spirit, lit by Kleo's grace,
has shone forth from Nemea and Epidauros and Megara!
[Pytheas of Aigina, boys' pankration, 483 (?) BCE]
TURN 1 [1-6]
I am no sculptor, fashioning statues
to stand motionless, fixed to the same base.
No, + on every merchant ship,
on every boat I bid my song
go forth from Aigina,
spreading abroad the news
that Lampon's mighty son Pytheas,
his cheeks not yet darkened
by late summer, + mother
of delicate bloom, has taken
the crown for pankration in the Nemean games,
COUNTERTURN 1 [7-12]
bringing honor to the heroic spearmen
sprung from Kronos, Zeus,
and the golden Nereids:
the sons of Aiakos and their mother city,
a land dear to strangers,
destined to be strong
in her people and famed
for her ships, from the moment the glorious
sons of Endaïs stood at the altar
of Zeus Hellanios and prayed for her,
raising their hands to heaven with Phokos lord of might,
STAND 1 [13-18]
Phokos, whom the goddess Psamatheia bore
where the sea-waves break. I hesitate to speak [aideomai mega eipein |
of a fateful act, not ventured in justice* — [en dikai te mê kekinduneumenon
how they fled the famous island, and what god
drove those men of power from Oinona, I will refrain:
¶ not every truth, you know, is the better
for showing its face in the light, and keeping silence
is often the wisest thing for a man to appreciate.
TURN 2 [19-24]
But if praising wealth or might of hand
or iron war is the order of the day,
let someone + dig me a wide jumping space
right here: there's a light
spring in my knees, and + eagles
swoop beyond the sea.
Why, in honor of these people,
even the brilliant chorus of the Muses
sang eagerly on Mount Pelion.
And, as they sang, Apollo's
golden plectrum swept
the lyre's seven strings,* [phormigg' ... heptaglôsson]
COUNTERTURN 2 [25-30]
leading the way through every hymn.
They began with Zeus and went on to sing
of sacred Thetis and of Peleus —
and how the wanton Hippolyta, daughter of Kretheus,
yearned to entangle him
in guile,* persuading [dolôi pedasai]
her husband Akastons,
lord of the Magnetes, to join her
in her cunning plans:* for she had framed [poikilois bouleumasin]
a false, fabricated story,* [pseustan de poiêton sunepaxe logon]
that Peleus had attempted to embrace her in Akaston's own
STAND 2 [31-36]
wedding bed. The opposite was the case: repeatedly,
with all her will, she had entreated him, but the mere
suggestion had roused his anger — he had spurned her,
dreading Zeus' wrath, god of guests. And the lord
of the storm-cloud, king of the immortal gods,
took note of it on high, bending his brows
in promise to Peleus that he would quickly win
a Nereid with golden distaff for his bride,* [khrusalakatôn tina Nê |reïdôn]
TURN 3 [37-42]
obtaining the consent of her brother-in-law
Poseidon, who often goes from Aigai
to the glorious Dorian Isthmos,
where festal throngs receive him as a god
to the piping of flutes,
and hold the rugged contest
for might of limb.
¶ Birth and destiny determine the outcome [Potmos de krinei suggenês ergôn péri |
of every deed.* You, Euthymenes, [pantôn
twice taken into the arms of Victory
at Aigina, have known the + embrace of elaborate song.
COUNTERTURN 3 [43-48]
Yes, Pytheas, even now your mother's brother
follows upon you, honoring the race
born in the line of Aiakos.
Nemea is true to him and the sacred month
He vanquished those of his age
who came against him, at home
and in the lovely arms of Megara.
I rejoice, that this whole city strives for honor.
Fortunate in Menandros' help,
you've won yourself a share in the + sweet
STAND 3 [49-54]
recompense* of toil. It is only right [glukeian ... amoiban]
that a trainer of athletes hail from Athens.
But if you come to sing of Themistios, + warm to the strain!* [mêketi rhigei]
let loose your voice, + unfurl the sails:
proclaim him a boxer; add that he took a second glory,
winning in pankration at Epidauros, and with crowns
of plaited grass and flowers in your hands, join
the shining Graces on their way to Aiakos' shrine!
[Strepsiadas of Thebes, pankration, 454 BCE]
TURN 1 [1-5]
§ In which of the ancient glories
of this country
do you most delight your heart,
O blessed Theba?
Was it when you raised into the light
comrade of Demeter
for whom bronze cymbals clash?
Or when you welcomed
in the dead of night
the mightiest of gods,
a + snow of gold* — [ê khrusôi mesonuktion | neiphontadexamena ton phertaton theôn]
COUNTERTURN 1 [6-10]
when, having stood in the doorway,
he came to the wife
and begot Herakles?
Or is it the + deep mind of Teiresias?* [amphi puknais Teiresiao boulais]
skilled with horses?
Or the Sown Men, relentless
with their spears?
Or when from the dread
din of battle you sent
Adrastos away, deprived
STAND 1 [11-17]
of all his allies, fleeing to Argos,
nurse of horses? Or when you established
on a secure footing
the Dorian colony of the Lakedaimonians,
and the sons of Aigeus, your descendants,
took Amyklai? But the grace of old
drops to sleep, and + mortal men forget
TURN 2 [18-22]
whatever has not intermingled
in the + glorious streams of verses,* [klutais epeôn rhoaisin]
and come to flower
through a poet's skill.
Then sing the sweet-voiced song
for Strepsiadas too —
victorious in pankration at Isthmos,
he is awesome in strength
and handsome to see,
nor does the distinction
he has achieved
put his looks to shame.
COUNTERTURN 2 [23-27]
The dark-haired Muses make him glow.
To his maternal uncle and namesake
he has given
a flowering garland
to possess in common —
for whom brazen Ares mixed
the + draft of death: but ¶ honor
rewards the brave.
Let him, who in the storm's onset
turns the hail of blood
from his dear country,
STAND 2 [28-34]
hurling havoc amid the enemy host,
know well that in his life
and in his death, he magnifies
his city's glory more than any. And you, son of Diodotos,
in emulation of warlike Meleagros,
of Hektor and Amphiaraos, in the + flower of your strength
breathed out the breath of life,* [euanthe'apepneusas halikian]
TURN 3 [35-39]
fighting in the forefront
where the best men
stayed the strife of battle
+ at the edge of hope.* [eskhatais ep'elpesin]
Unspeakable is the sorrow I have borne.* [etlan de penthos ou phaton.]
But now Poseidon has calmed the storm,
and I will sing,
fitting my head with garlands.
May no envy
of the gods
fall upon me
COUNTERTURN 3 [40-44]
that in pursuit of delight
as it comes each day,
I go in peace
toward old age
and the mortal limit of life:
for ¶ we all perish,
though our luck varies.
¶ If a man gazes in the distance,
he is too short
to reach the bronze-paved
home of the gods:* [brakhus exikesthai khalkopedon theôn |hedran]
winged Pegasos shook from his back
STAND 3 [45-51]
Bellerophon, his rider, striving
to enter the dwellings of the sky
and join Zeus' company.
¶ + Most bitter is the end
of a sweetness not our right.
For myself, O Loxias, I wish another
flourishing garland, from your games at Pytho!
[Kleandros of Aigina, boys' pankration, 478 BCE]
STROPHE 1 [1-10]
For Kleandros and his youth, let someone go
to the bright doors of Telesarchos, his father,
+ rousing the revel song* in glorious recompense for his struggles, [anegeiretô | kômon]
+ to pay him for his triumph at Isthmos* [Isthmiados te ni|kas apoina]
and for showing his might in the Nemean games.
And therefore I too, though grieved at heart,
have been requested to summon the golden Muse.
And having been delivered from great sorrows,
let us not go ungarlanded —
do not nurse your own troubles.
No, turning away from intractable evils,
let us perform a song especially sweet after our toil.
For some god has turned aside
the stone of Tantalos
that loomed over our heads,
STROPHE 2 [11-20]
an unbearable strain for Hellas. But now
it is gone, and my strong anxiety is at an end.
¶ It is always better to heed the present.
The future is deceptive —
it hovers before us, full of distortions.
Yet mortals can recover even from this, if they are free.
A man must be hopeful.
A man raised in seven-gated Thebes
must make first offering
of the Graces' finest song to Aigina,
for she and Theba were born twin daughters of Asopos,
youngest of his children.
And they found favor with Zeus the King,
who made one to dwell by the bright spring of Dirka,
+ mistress of a chariot-loving city;
STROPHE 3 [21-30]
but you he brought to the island of Oinopia,
and the bed of love.
You bore him a son, dearest of mortal men
to the deep-thundering father:
divine Aiakos, who settled disputes even among gods,
whose godlike sons and warrior grandsons
were supreme in courage,
confronting the brazen throng of battle rich in groans.
And they were wise and prudent of heart.* [sôphrones t' ... pinutoi te thumon]
Even the assembly of the gods took note of this,
when Zeus and gleaming Poseidon clashed
over the wedding of Thetis, each desiring
to make her his beautiful bride, for passion possessed them.
But the immortal minds of the gods
did not fulfill that marriage,
STROPHE 4 [31-40]
once they heard the oracles —
wise Themis in their midst proclaimed it fated
that the goddess of the sea
bear a son mightier than his father,
a lord who would speed from his hand
another weapon, more powerful than thunder
or Poseidon's relentless trident,
if she joined in love with Zeus or Zeus' brother:
'But let it not be so! Let her marry a mortal instead
and see her son killed in battle,
a son + equal to Ares* in might of hand [Areï t'en|aligkion]
or to the lightning bolt in speed of foot.
It is my counsel to give her as a wedding prize
to Aiakos' son Peleus, reputed to be
the most righteous man the plain of Iolkos has reared.
STROPHE 5 [41-50]
Let the announcement go at once
to Chiron in his immortal cave —
and let not the daughter of Nereus
put into our hands again + the leaves of strife.* [neikeôn petala]
May she + loosen the bridle of her virginity* [luoi ken khalinon ...parthenias]
in the hero's arms on the evening of full moon.'
So the goddess urged the children of Kronos
who bent immortal brows, assenting.
And + the fruit of her words did not perish,* [epeôn de karpos | ou katephthine]
for they say that even Lord Zeus joined
in honoring the wedding of Thetis. And there
the songs of skilled poets revealed to those who knew it not
the young valor of Achilleus,
who stained the vine-clad Mysian plain
with the black blood of Telephos,
STROPHE 6 [51-60]
and + bridged a return* for the sons of Atreus, [gephurôse ...noston]
and freed Helen,
cleaving the sinews of Troy with his spear —
all those who strove to keep him
from marshaling the deadly work of war upon the plain:
the proud strength of Memnon, and Hektor,
and others of the best men for whom Achilleus, Aiakid champion,
showed the way to Persephone's house
and so brought glory to Aigina and his lineage.
Nor did + songs abandon him even in death,* [oude thanont'aoidai epelipon]
but the maidens of Helikon stood at his pyre
and beside his tomb, + pouring upon it the dirge of glory:* [epi thrênon ... ekhean]
thus the immortals themselves chose to make
even a man who had perished
a theme for the hymns of goddesses.
STROPHE 7 [61-70]
And there is a reason for it still —
the Muses in their chariot hasten to proclaim
the memory of Nikokles, the boxer: glorify him,
who gained the Dorian garland in the grove at Isthmos;
he too once vanquished
those who lived in the surrounding country,
confounding them with inescapable blows.
And his cousin, Kleandros, does not disgrace him.
Let one of the youths plait him
a garland of myrtle for his pankration victory,
and because of the gathering of Alkathoös
and the young men at Epidauros
welcomed him in triumph before.
We may praise him justly, for he has not consigned
his youth to oblivion, bereft of noble deeds.