THE EXTANT ODES OF PINDAR
FOR HERODOTOS OF THEBES.
WINNER IN THE CHARIOT-RACE.
* * * * *
The date of this ode is unknown. We gather from the first strophe that Pindar was engaged at the time to write an ode in honour of the Delian Apollo to be sung at Keos, but that he put this off in order first to write the present ode in honour of a victory won for his own native state of Thebes.
* * * * *
O mother, Thebe of the golden shield, thy service will I set even above the matter that was in my hand. May rocky Delos, whereto I am vowed, be not therefore wroth with me. Is there aught dearer to the good than noble parents?
Give place O Apollonian isle: these twain fair offices, by the grace of God, will I join together in their end, and to Phoibos of the unshorn hair in island Keos with men of her sea-race will I make my choral song, and therewithal this other for the sea-prisoning cliffs of Isthmos.
For six crowns
hath Isthmos given from her games to the people of
But I for Herodotos' praise am fain to do honour unto his four-horsed car, and to marry to the strain of Kastoreian or Iolaic song the fame that he hath earned, handling his reins in his own and no helping hand.
For these Kastor and Iolaos were of all heroes the mightiest charioteers, the one to Lakedaimon, the other born to Thebes. And at the games they entered oftenest for the strife, and with tripods and caldrons and cups of gold they made fair their houses, attaining unto victorious crowns: clear shineth their prowess in the foot-race, run naked or with the heavy clattering shield; and when they hurled the javelin and the quoit: for then was there no five-fold game, but for each several feat there was a prize. Oft did they bind about their hair a crowd of crowns, and showed themselves unto the waters of Dirke or on Eurotas' banks, the son of Iphikles a fellow-townsman of the Spartoi's race, the son of Tyndareus inhabiting the upland dwelling-place of Therapna among the Achaians.
So hail ye and farewell: I on Poseidon and holy Isthmos, and on the lake-shores of Onchestos will throw the mantle of my song, and will among the glories of this man make glorious also the story of his father Asopodoros' fate, and his new country Orchomenos, which, when he drave ashore on a wrecked ship, harboured him amid his dismal hap. But now once more hath the fortune of his house raised him up to see the fair days of the old time: and he who hath suffered pain beareth forethought within his soul.
If a man's desire be wholly after valour, and he give thereto both wealth and toil, meet is it that to such as attain unto it we offer with ungrudging heart high meed of praise. For an easy gift it is for a son of wisdom, by a good word spoken in recompense for labour manifold to set on high the public fame. For diverse meeds for diverse works are sweet to men, to the shepherd and to the ploughman, to the fowler and to him whom the sea feedeth—howbeit all those strive but to keep fierce famine from their bellies; but whoso in the games or in war hath won delightful fame, receiveth the highest of rewards in fair words of citizens and of strangers.
Us it beseemeth to requite the earth-shaking son of Kronos, who is also neighbour unto us, and to sound his praise as our well-doer, who hath given speed to the horses of our car, and to call upon thy sons, Amphitryon, and the inland dwelling of Minyas, and the famous grove of Demeter, even Eleusis, and Euboia with her curving race-course. And thy holy place, Protesilas, add I unto these, built thee at Phylake by Achaian men.
But to tell over all that Hermes lord of games hath given to Herodotos by his horses, the short space of my hymn alloweth not. Yea and full oft doth the keeping of silence bring forth a larger joy.
Now may Herodotos, up-borne upon the sweet-voiced Muse's shining wings, yet again with wreaths from Pytho and choice wreaths from Alpheos from the Olympian games entwine his hand, and bring honour unto seven-gated Thebes.
Now if one at home store hidden wealth, and fall upon other men to mock them, this man considereth not that he shall give up his soul to death having known no good report.
[Footnote 1: The Pentathlon. See
Introduction to Ol. xiii, and note on
[Footnote 2: Rivers were [Greek: kourotrophoi] (nurturers of youth), and thus young men who had achieved bodily feats were especially bound to return thanks to the streams of their native places.]
[Footnote 3: In Lakonia.]
[Footnote 4: Asopodoros seems to have been banished from Thebes and kindly received in his banishment by Orchomenos.]
[Footnote 5: Here, as elsewhere probably in the special sense of a poet.]
[Footnote 6: Herakles and Iolaos.]
[Footnote 7: Orchomenos.]
FOR XENOKRATES OF AKRAGAS,
WINNER IN THE CHARIOT-RACE.
* * * * *
This is the same winner for whom the sixth Pythian ode was written. Its date would seem to be 476, while that of the sixth Pythian was 494. Yet the opening passage of this ode seems to imply that Xenokiates' son Thrasyboulos was still little more than a boy, whereas in 494 he had been old enough to be his father's charioteer, and this would be eighteen years later. But perhaps the passage is only an allusion to Thrasyboulos' boyhood as a time past. And certainly both Xenokrates and his brother Theron seem to be spoken of in this ode as already dead, and we know that Theron did not die till 473. Perhaps therefore Thrasyboulos was celebrating in 472 the anniversary of his deceased father's victory, four years after the victory itself.
* * * * *
The men of old, Thrasyboulos, who went up into the Muse's car to give welcome with the loud-voiced lyre, lightly for honour of boys shot forth their honey-sounding songs, whensoever in one fair of form was found that sweetest summer-bloom that turneth hearts to think on fair-throned Aphrodite.
For then the Muse was not yet covetous nor a hireling, neither were sweet lays tender-voiced sold with silvered faces by Terpsichore of honeyed speech. But now doth she bid heed the word of the Argive man which keepeth nigh to the paths of truth:
'Money, money maketh man,' he said, when robbed of goods at once and friends.
Forasmuch as thou art wise it is nothing hidden to thee that I sing, while I do honour to the Isthmian victory won by speed of horses, which to Xenokrates did Poseidon give, and sent to him a wreath of Dorian parsley to bind about his hair, a man of goodly chariot, a light of the people of Akragas.
Also at Krisa did far-prevailing Apollo look upon him, and gave him there too glory: and again when he attained unto the crowns of the Erectheidai in shining Athens he found no fault in the chariot-saving hand of the man Nikomachos who drave his horses, the hand wherewith in the instant of need he bare on all the reins.
Moreover the heralds of the seasons, the Elean truce-bringers of Zeus the son of Kronos, recognized him, having met belike with hospitality from him, and in a voice of dulcet breath they gave him greeting for that he had fallen at the knees of golden Victory in their land which men call the holy place of Olympic Zeus, where the sons of Ainesidamos attained unto honour everlasting.
For no stranger is your house, O Thrasyboulos, to pleasant shouts of triumph, neither to sweet-voiced songs. For not uphill neither steep-sloped is the path whereby one bringeth the glories of the Helikonian maidens to dwell with famous men.
By a far throw of the quoit may I hurl even so far as did Xenokrates surpass all men in the sweetness of his spirit. In converse with citizens was he august, and upheld horse-racing after the Hellenes' wont: also worshipped he at all festivals of the gods, nor ever did the breeze that breathed around his hospitable board give him cause to draw in his sail, but with the summer-gales he would fare unto Phasis, and in his winter voyage unto the shores of Nile.
Let not Thrasyboulos now, because that jealous hopes beset the mind of mortals, be silent concerning his father's prowess, nor from these hymns: for not to lie idle have I devised them. That message give him, Nikesippos, when thou comest unto my honoured friend.
[Footnote 1: Aristodemos.]
[Footnote 2: I. e. either tightened the near or slackened the off reins to the utmost in turning the goal, or perhaps, gave full rein to his horses between each turn or after the final one.]
[Footnote 3: The heralds who proclaimed throughout Hellas the approach of the Olympic games, and an universal solemn truce during their celebration.]
[Footnote 4: Theron, the tyrant of Akragas, and Xenokrates.]
[Footnote 5: Metaphorically, in the extent of his hospitality.]
FOR MELISSOS OF THEBES,
WINNER IN THE PANKRATION.
* * * * *
The date of this ode is uncertain, though some on the hypothesis that the battle alluded to is the battle of Plataiai, have dated it 478 or 474. In this battle, whatever it was, the Kleonymid clan to which Melissos belonged had lost four men. The celebrity of the clan in the games seems to have been eclipsed for some time, but Melissos revived it by a chariot-victory at Nemea and this pankration-victory at the Isthmus, won in spite of his small stature which might have seemed to place him at a disadvantage. The ode compares his match against his antagonists with that of Herakles against the African giant Antaios.
Very probably this ode was sung at a night meeting of the clan, while the altars of Herakles were blazing.
* * * * *
If any among men having good fortune and dwelling amid prizes of renown or the power of wealth restraineth in his heart besetting insolence, this man is worthy to have part in his citizens' good words.
But from thee, O Zeus, cometh all high excellence to mortals; and longer liveth their bliss who have thee in honour, but with minds perverse it consorteth never steadfastly, flourishing throughout all time.
In recompense for glorious deeds it behoveth that we sing the valiant, and amid his triumphal company exalt him with fair honours. Of two prizes is the lot fallen to Melissos, to turn his heart unto sweet mirth, for in the glens of Isthmos hath he won crowns, and again in the hollow vale of the deep-chested lion being winner in the chariot-race he made proclamation that his home was Thebes.
Thus shameth he not the prowess of his kinsmen. Ye know the ancient fame of Kleonymos with the chariot: also on the mother's side being akin to the Labdakidai his race hath been conversant with riches, and bestowed them on the labours of the four-horse car.
But time with rolling days bringeth changes manifold: only the children of gods are free of wounds.
By grace of God I have ways countless everywhere open unto me: for thou hast shown forth to me, O Melissos, in the Isthmian games an ample means to follow in song the excellence of thy race: wherein the Kleonymidai flourish continually, and in favour with God pass onward through the term of mortal life: howbeit changing gales drive all men with ever-changing drift.
These men verily are spoken of as having honour at Thebes from the beginning, for that they cherished the inhabitants round about, and had no part in loud insolence; if there be borne about by the winds among men aught of witness to the great honour of quick or dead, unto such have they attained altogether. By the brave deeds of their house they have touched the pillars of Herakles, that are at the end of things. Beyond that follow thou no excellence.
Horse-breeders moreover have they been, and found favour with mailed Ares; but in one day the fierce snow-storm of war hath made a happy hearth to be desolate of four men.
But now once more after that wintry gloom hath it blossomed, even as in the flowery months the earth blossometh with red roses, according to the counsels of gods.
For the Shaker of Earth who inhabiteth Onchestos and the Bridge between seas that lieth before the valley of Corinth, now giveth to the house this hymn of wonder, and leadeth up out of her bed the ancient glory of the famous deeds thereof: for she was fallen on sleep; but she awaketh and her body shineth preeminent, as among stars the Morning-star.
For in the land of Athens proclaiming a victory of the car, and at Sikyon at the games of Adrastos did she give like wreaths of song for the sons of Kleonymos that then were. For neither did they refrain to contend with the curved chariot in the great meetings of the people, but they had delight to strive with the whole folk of Hellas in spending their wealth on steeds.
Touching the unproven there is silence, and none knoweth them: yea and even from them that strive Fortune hideth herself until they come unto the perfect end; for she giveth of this and of that.
The better man hath been ere now overtaken and overthrown by the craft of worse. Verily ye know the bloody deed of Aias, that he wrought beneath the far-spent night, when he smote himself through with his own sword, whereby he upbraideth yet the children of the Hellenes, as many as went forth to Troy.
But lo! Homer hath done him honour among men, and by raising up his excellence in the fulness thereof hath through the rod of his divine lays delivered it to bards after him to sing.
For the thing that one hath well said goeth forth with a voice unto everlasting: over fruitful earth and beyond the sea hath the light of fair deeds shined, unquenchable for ever.
May we find favour with the Muses, that for Melissos too we kindle such beacon-blaze of song, a worthy prize of the pankration for this scion of Telesias' son.
He being like unto the roaring lions in courage taketh unto him their spirit to be his own in the struggle: but in sleight he is as the fox that spreadeth out her feet and preventeth the swoop of the eagle: for all means must be essayed by him that would prevail over his foe. For not of the stature of Orion was this man, but his presence is contemptible, yet terrible is he to grapple with in his strength.
And verily once to the house of Antaios came a man to wrestle against him, of short stature but of unbending soul, from Kadmean Thebes even unto corn-bearing Libya, that he might cause him to cease from roofing Poseidon's temple with the skulls of strangers—even the son of Alkmene, he who ascended up to Olympus, after that he had searched out the surface of the whole earth and of the crag-walled hoary sea, and had made safe way for the sailing of ships. And now beside the aegis-bearer he dwelleth, possessing happiness most fair, and hath honour from the immortals as their friend, and hath Hebe to wife, and is lord of a golden house, and husband of Hera's child.
Unto his honour upon the heights Elektrai we of this city prepare a feast and new-built altar-ring, where we offer burnt sacrifice in honour of the eight mail-clad men that are dead, whom Megara, Kreon's daughter, bore to be sons of Herakles.
To them at the going down of the day there ariseth a flame of fire and burneth all night continually, amid a savoury smoke hurling itself against the upper air: and on the second day is the award of the yearly games, a trial of strength.
Therein did this our man, his head with myrtle-wreaths made white, show forth a double victory, after another won already among the boys, for that he had regard unto the many counsels of him who was the pilot of his helm. And with Orseas' name I join him in my triumphal song, and shed over them a glory of delight.
[Footnote 1: 'Many themes on which I can justly praise the clan.']
[Footnote 2: The Isthmus.]
[Footnote 3: The rod or staff carried anciently by poets and reciters of poems.]
[Footnote 4: I. e. throwing herself on her back with feet upward. If it is meant that she counterfeits death, then of course the parallel with the pankratiast will only hold good to the extent of the supine posture.]
[Footnote 5: His trainer, Orseas.]
FOR PHYLAKIDAS OF AIGINA,
WINNER IN THE PANKRATION.
* * * * *
This Phylakidas was a son of Lampon, and a brother of the Pytheas for whom the fifth Nemean was written. This ode must have been written shortly after the battle of Salamis, probably B.C. 478, and was to be sung at Aigina, perhaps at a festival of the goddess Theia who is invoked at the beginning. She, according to Hesiod, was the mother of the Sun, the Moon, and the Morning, and was also called [Greek: Euruphaessa] and [Greek: chruse], from which latter name perhaps came her association with gold and wealth.
* * * * *
Mother of the Sun, Theia of many names, through thee it is that men prize gold as mighty above all things else: for ships that strive upon the sea and horses that run in chariots, for the honour that is of thee, O queen, are glorified in swiftly circling struggle.
And that man also hath won longed-for glory in the strife of games, for whose strong hand or fleet foot abundant wreaths have bound his hair. Through God is the might of men approved.
Two things alone there are that cherish life's bloom to its utmost sweetness amidst the fair flowers of wealth—to have good success and to win therefore fair fame. Seek not to be as Zeus; if the portion of these honours fall to thee, thou hast already all. The things of mortals best befit mortality.
For thee, Phylakidas, a double glory of valour is at Isthmos stored, and at Nemea both for thee and for Pytheas a pankratiast's crown.
Not without the sons of Aiakos will my heart indite of song: and in company of the Graces am I come for sake of Lampon's sons to this commonwealth of equal laws. If then on the clear high road of god-given deeds she hath set her feet, grudge not to mingle in song a seemly draught of glory for her toil.
For even the great men of old that were good warriors have profited of the telling of their tale, and are glorified on the lute and in the pipe's strains manifold, through immeasurable time: and to the cunning in words they give matter by the grace of Zeus.
Thus by their
worship with the blaze of burnt-offerings among
But in Oinone the great souls of Aiakos and his sons, who after much fighting twice sacked the Trojans' town, first when they went with Herakles, and again with the sons of Atreus.
Now drive me upward still; say who slew Kyknos, and who Hektor, and the dauntless chief of Ethiop hosts, bronze-mailed Memnon. What man was he who with his spear smote noble Telephos by Kaïkos' banks? Even they whose home my mouth proclaimeth to be Aigina's glorious isle: a tower is she, builded from long ago, to tempt the climb of high-adventuring valour.
Many arrows hath my truthful tongue in store wherewith to sound the praises of her sons: and even but now in war might Aias' city, Salamis, bear witness thereto in her deliverance by Aigina's seamen amid the destroying tempest of Zeus, when death came thick as hail on the unnumbered hosts. Yet let no boast be heard. Zeus ordereth this or that, Zeus, lord of all.
Now in pleasant song even these honours also of the games welcome the joy for a fair victory. Let any strive his best in such, who hath learnt what Kleonikos' house can do. Undulled is the fame of their long toil, nor ever was their zeal abated by any counting of the cost.
Also have I praise for Pytheas, for that he guided aright the course of Phylakidas' blows in the struggle of hands that bring limbs low, an adversary he of cunning soul.
Take for him a crown, and bring the fleecy fillet, and speed him on his way with this new winged hymn.
[Footnote 1: Aigina.]
[Footnote 2: Poets.]
[Footnote 3: Meleager and his brothers.]
[Footnote 4: Pytheas had given his brother example, and very probably precept also, in the pankration.]
FOR PHYLAKIDAS OF AIGINA,
WINNER IN THE PANKRATION.
* * * * *
This ode seems to be of earlier date than the last, though placed after it in our order. The occasion is similar. Probably it was sung at a banquet at Lampon's house.
* * * * *
As one may do amid merry revel of men, so mingle we a second time the bowls of Muses' melody in honour of Lampon's athlete progeny.
Our first, O Zeus, was unto thee, when at Nemea we won thy excellent crown, and now is this second unto the lord of Isthmos and unto the fifty daughters of Nereus, for that Phylakidas the youngest son is winner in the games. And be it ours to make ready yet a third for the Saviour, the Olympian one, and in honour of Aigina make libation of our honey-speaking song.
For if a man rejoice to suffer cost and toil, and achieve god-builded excellence, and therewithal fate plant for him fair renown, already at the farthest bounds of bliss hath such an one cast anchor, for the glory that he hath thereby from God. With such desires prayeth the son of Kleonikos that he may fulfil them ere he meet death or hoary eld.
Now I call on high-throned Klotho and her sister Fates to draw nigh unto the praying of the man I love.
And upon you also, golden-charioted seed of Aiakos, I say it is clear law to me to shed the dew of my good words, what time I set my foot upon this isle.
For innumerable hundred-foot straight roads are cleft for your fair deeds to go forth, beyond the springs of Nile, and through the Hyperboreans' midst: neither is any town so barbarous and strange of speech that it knoweth not the fame of Peleus, that blissful son-in-law of gods, or of Aias son of Telamon, and of Aias' sire; whom unto brazen war an eager ally with Tirynthian men Alkmene's son took with him in his ships to Troy, to the place of heroes' toil, to take vengeance for Laomedon's untruth.
There did Herakles take the city of Pergamos, and with help of Telamon slew the nations of the Meropes, and the herdsman whose stature was as a mountain, Alkyoneus whom he found at Phlegrai, and spared not of his hands the terrible twanging bowstring.
But when he went to call the son of Aiakos to the voyage he found the whole company at the feast. And as he stood there in his lion's skin, then did Telamon their chief challenge Amphitryon's son of the mighty spear to make initiative libation of nectar, and handed on unto him the wine-cup rough with gold.
And Herakles stretched forth to heaven his invincible hands and spake on this wise: 'If ever, O father Zeus, thou hast heard my prayer with willing heart, now, even now, with strong entreaty I pray thee that thou give this man a brave child of Eriboia's womb, that by award of fate my friend may gain a son of body as staunch as this hide that hangeth about me, which was of the beast that I slew at Nemea, first of all my labours; and let his soul be of like sort.'
And when he had thus spoken, the god sent forth the king of birds, a mighty eagle, and sweet delight thrilled him within, and he spake aloud as a seer speaketh: 'Behold, the son whom thou askest shall be born unto thee, O Telamon:' also after the bird's name that had appeared unto them he said that the child's name should be the mighty Aias, terrible in the strife of warring hosts: so he spake, and sate him down straightway.
But for me it were long to tell all those valiant deeds. For for Phylakidas am I come, O Muse, a dispenser of thy triumphal songs, and for Pytheas, and for Euthymenes; therefore in Argive fashion my tale shall be of fewest words.
Three victories have they won in the pankration of Isthmos, and others at leafy Nemea, even these noble sons and their mother's brother: how fair a portion of song have they brought to light! yea and they water with the Charites' delicious dew their clan of the Psalychidai, and have raised up the house of Themistios, and dwell here in a city which the gods love well.
And Lampon, in that he bestoweth practice on all he doth, holdeth in high honour the word of Hesiod which speaketh thereof, and exhorteth thereunto his sons, whereby he bringeth unto his city a general fame: and for his kind entreating of strangers is he loved, to the just mean aspiring, to the just mean holding fast; and his tongue departeth not from his thoughts: and among athlete men he is as the bronze-grinding Naxian whetstone amid stones.
Now will I give him to drink of the holy water of Dirke, which golden-robed Mnemosyne's deep-girdled daughters made once to spring out of the earth, beside the well-walled gates of Kadmos.
[Footnote 1: I. e. Pytheas. See Nem. v.]
[Footnote 2: Poseidon.]
[Footnote 3: [Greek: Zeus Sotaer], to whom the third cup at a feast was drunk. He is here invoked also to give a third victory to the family at the Olympic games.]
[Footnote 4: Lampon.]
[Footnote 5: Figuratively said, as elsewhere.]
[Footnote 6: A hundred feet wide, seemingly.]
[Footnote 7: Not 'invulnerable.' A magic invulnerability was only attributed to heroes by later legend.]
[Footnote 8: From [Greek: aietos] an eagle.]
[Footnote 9: Maternal uncle of Pytheas and Phylakidas.]
[Footnote 10: [Greek: melete de ergon ophellei]. Opp. 411.]
[Footnote 11: I. e. he stimulates their zeal and skill. The Naxian whetstone seems to be emery.]
FOR STREPSIADES OF THEBES,
WINNER IN THE PANKRATION.
* * * * *
The date of this ode is not fixed, but it has been supposed that the battle referred to—apparently a defeat—in which the winner's uncle was killed was the battle of Oinophyta, fought B.C. 457. But this, and the notion that the democratic revolution at Thebes is referred to, are only conjectures.
* * * * *
Wherewithal of the fair deeds done in thy land, O divine Thebe, hath thy soul had most delight? Whether when thou broughtest forth to the light Dionysos of the flowing hair, who sitteth beside Demeter to whom the cymbals clang? or when at midnight in a snow of gold thou didst receive the mightiest of the gods, what time he stood at Amphitryon's doors and beguiled his wife, to the begetting of Herakles? Or when thou hadst honour in the wise counsels of Teiresias, or in Iolaos the cunning charioteer, or the unwearied spears of the Spartoi? or when out of the noise of the strong battle-cry thou sentest Adrastos home to horse-breeding Argos, of his countless company forlorn? or when thou madest the Dorian colony of the men of Lakedaimon stand upright upon its feet, and the sons of Aigeus thy progeny took Amyklai, according to the oracles of Pytho?
Nay, but the glory of the old time sleepeth, and mortals are unmindful thereof, save such as married to the sounding stream of song attaineth unto the perfect meed that wisdom giveth. New triumph now lead for Strepsiades with melodious hymn: for at Isthmos hath he borne away the pankratiast's prize. Wondrous in strength is he, and to look upon of goodly shape, and his valour is such as shameth not his stature.
So shineth he forth by grace of the Muses iris-haired, and to his uncle of like name hath he given to share his crown, for albeit bronze-shielded Ares gave him over unto death, yet remaineth there for the valiant a recompense of renown. For let whoso amid the cloud of war from his beloved country wardeth the bloody shower, and maketh havoc in the enemy's host, know assuredly that for the race of his fellow-citizens he maketh their renown wax mightily, yea when he is dead even as while he was yet alive.
So didst thou, son of Diodotos, following the praise of the warrior Meleagros, and of Hektor, and of Amphiaraos, breathe forth the spirit of thy fair-flowering youth amid the company of fighters in the front, where the bravest on slenderest hopes bare up the struggle of war.
Then suffered I a pang unspeakable, but now hath the earth-grasper granted unto me a calm after the storm: I will set chaplets on my hair and sing. Now let no jealousy of immortals mar whatever sweet thing through a day's pursuit I follow, as it leadeth on up to old age, and unto the term of life appointed.
For all we in like manner die, albeit our lots be diverse. If any lift up his eye to look upon things afar off, yet is he too weak to attain unto the bronze-paved dwelling of the gods. Thus did winged Pegasos throw his lord Bellerophon, when he would fain enter into the heavenly habitations and mix among the company of Zeus. Unrighteous joyance a bitter end awaiteth.
But to us, O
Loxias of the golden-flowing hair, give also at thy
[Footnote 1: The Theban Aigidai
helped the mythical 'return of the
[Footnote 2: Wisdom of bards.]
[Footnote 3: Strepsiades the uncle.]
[Footnote 4: Poseidon.]
FOR KLEANDROS OF AIGINA,
WINNER IN THE PANKRATION.
* * * * *
All that we can be certain of as to the date of this ode is that it was written soon after the final expulsion of the Persians. From the first strophe we learn that Kleandros had won a Nemean as well as an Isthmian victory, and perhaps this ode really belongs to the former. It was to be sung, it seems, before the house of Telesarchos the winner's father, at Aigina.
* * * * *
For Kleandros in his prime let some of you, ye young men, go stand before the shining portal of his father Telesarchos, and rouse a song of triumph, to be a glorious recompense of his toils, for that he hath achieved reward of victory at Isthmos, and hath showed his strength in the games of Nemea.
For him I also, albeit heavy at heart, am bidden to call upon the golden Muse. Yea since we are come forth from our sore troubles let us not fall into the desolation of crownlessness, neither nurse our griefs; but having ease from our ills that are past mending, we will set some pleasant thing before the people, though it follow hard on pain: inasmuch as some god hath put away from us the Tantalos-stone that hung above our heads, a curse intolerable to Hellas.
But now hath the passing of this terror ended my sore disquietude, and ever it is better to look only on the thing hard by. For the guile of time hangeth above the heads of men, and maketh the way of their life crooked, yet if Freedom abide with them, even such things may mortals cure.
But it is meet that a man cherish good hope: and meet also that I, whom seven-gated Thebes reared, proffer chiefly unto Aigina the choicest of the Graces' gifts, for that from one sire were two daughters born, youngest of the children of Asopos, and found favour in the eyes of the king Zeus.
One by the fair stream of Dirke he set to be the queen of a city of charioteers, and thee the other he bare to the Oinopian isle, and lay with thee, whence to the sire of great thunderings thou didst bear the godlike Aiakos, best of men upon the earth.
This man even among divinities became a decider of strife: and his godlike sons and his sons' sons delighting in battle were foremost in valour when they met in the ringing brazen melley: chaste also were they approved, and wise of heart.
Thereof was the god's council mindful, what time for the hand of Thetis there was strife between Zeus and glorious Poseidon, each having desire that she should be his fair bride, for love had obtained dominion over them.
Yet did not the wisdom of the immortal gods fulfil for them such marriage, when they had heard a certain oracle. For Themis of wise counsels spake in the midst of them of how it was pre-destined that the sea-goddess should bear a royal offspring mightier than his father, whose hand should wield a bolt more terrible than the lightning or the dread trident, if she came ever into the bed of Zeus, or of brethren of Zeus.
'Cease ye herefrom: let her enter a mortal's couch and see her son fall in war, who shall be as Ares in the might of his hands, and as the lightning in the swiftness of his feet. My counsel is that ye give her to be the heaven-sent prize of Peleus son of Aiakos, whom the speech of men showeth to be their most righteous, an offspring of Iolkos' plain. Thus straightway let the message go forth to Cheiron's cave divine, neither let the daughter of Nereus put a second time into your hands the ballot-leaves of strife. So on the evening of the mid-month moon shall she unbind for the hero the fair girdle of her virginity.'
Thus spake the goddess her word to the children of Kronos, and they bowed their everlasting brows. Nor failed her words of fruit, for they say that to Thetis' bridals came those twain kings even with the rest.
Out of the mouths of the wise hath the young valour of Achilles been declared to them that beheld it not. He it was who stained the vine-clad Mysian plain with the dark blood of Telephos that he shed thereon, and made for the sons of Atreus a safe return across the sea, and delivered Helen, when that he had cut asunder with his spear the sinews of Troy, even the men who kept him back as he plied the work of slaughterous battle on the plain, the strength of Memnon and high-hearted Hektor, and other chiefs of pride. Unto all these did Achilles, champion of the Aiakid race, point the way to the house of Persephone, and thereby did he glorify Aigina and the root whence he was sprung.
Neither in death was he of songs forsaken, for at his funeral pyre and beside his tomb stood the Helikonian maiden-choir, and poured thereon a dirge of many melodies. For so the immortals willed, to give charge unto the songs of goddesses over that valorous man even in his death.
And now also holdeth such charge good, and the Muses' chariot speedeth to sound the glories of Nikokles the boxer. Honour to him who in the Isthmian vale hath won the Dorian parsley: for he even as Achilles overcame men in battle, turning them to confusion, with hand from which flight was vain. Him shameth not this kinsman of his father's noble brother. Wherefore let some one of the young men his fellows twine for Kleandros a wreath of tender myrtle for his pankratiast victory. For the games whose name is of Alkathoos, and the youth of Epidauros, have ere now entertained him with good hap. To praise him is given unto the good: for in no hidden corner quenched he his youth, unproven in honourable deeds.
[Footnote 1: Because, though the
Persians had been defeated, Thebes,
[Footnote 2: Thebe and Aigine.]
[Footnote 3: Uncle of the winner.]
[Footnote 4: A son of Pelops: he slew the lion of Kithairon.]
[Footnote 5: The Epidaurian games were in honour of Asklepios.]