Odes of Pindar (Myers)/Nemean Odes/11

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XI.


FOR ARISTAGORAS OF TENEDOS,


ON HIS ELECTION TO THE PRESIDENCY OF THE SENATE.




This ode again was written neither for a Nemean nor for any other athletic victory, but for the εἰσιτήρια or initiatory ceremonies at the election of a new πρύτανις of Tenedos. The Prytanis would seem to have been a kind of President of the Senate. The date is unknown.




Daughter of Rhea, who hast in thy keeping the city halls[1], O Hestia! sister of highest Zeus and of Hera sharer of his throne, with good-will welcome Aristagoras to thy sanctuary, with goodwill also his fellows[2] who draw nigh to thy glorious sceptre, for they in paying honour unto thee keep Tenedos in her place erect, by drink-offerings glorifying thee many times before the other gods, and many times by the savour of burnt sacrifice; and the sound of their lutes is loud, and of their songs: and at their tables never-failing are celebrated the rites of Zeus, the stranger's friend.

So with fair fame and unvexed heart may Aristagoras fulfil his twelve-month term.

Blessed among men I count[errata 1] his father Arkesilas, and himself for his splendid body and his heritage of a dauntless heart.

But if any man shall possess wealth, and withal surpass his fellows in comely form, and in games have shown his strength to be the best, let such an one remember that his raiment is upon mortal limbs, and that the earth shall be his vesture at the end.

Yet in good words of his fellow-citizens is it meet that his praise be told, and that we make his name comely with notes of honey-sounding song.

Now among the neighbouring peoples sixteen illustrious victories have crowned Aristagoras and his famous clan in the wrestling-match and in the pankration of weighty honour. But hopes too diffident of his parents kept back the might of their son from essaying the Pythian or Olympian strife: yet verily by the God of Truth I am persuaded that both at Castaly and at the tree-clad hill of Kronos, had he gone thither, he should have turned back home with more honour than any of his rivals who had striven with him, when that he had kept the fifth year's feast[3] ordained of Herakles with dance and song, and with the shining shoots had bound his hair.

But thus among mortals is one cast down from weal by empty boasts, while another through overmuch mistrusting of his strength is robbed of his due honours, for that a spirit of little daring draggeth him backward by the hand.

This were an easy thing to divine, that Peisander's[4] stock was from Sparta in the time of old (for from Amyklai he came[5] with Orestes, bringing hither an army of Aiolians in bronze mail): and also that the blood of his mother's brother Melanippos was blended with Ismenos' stream[6].

The virtues of an old descent repeat their vigour uncertainly in the generations of men. Neither doth the black-soiled tilth bring forth fruit continually, neither will the trees be persuaded to bear with every year's return a fragrant flower of equal wealth, but in their turns only.

Thus also doth destiny lead on the race of mortals. From Zeus there cometh no dear sign to men: yet nevertheless we enter on high counsels, and meditate many acts: for by untameable hope our bodies are enthralled: but the tides of our affairs are hidden from our fore-knowledge. Meet is it to pursue advantage moderately: fiercest is the madness that springeth from unappeasable desires.




  1. The sacred fire of the state, over which Hestia watched, was kept in the Prytaneion.
  2. The other Senators.
  3. The Olympic.
  4. Ancestor of Aristagoras and head of his clan.
  5. 'In the loins of his father.'
  6. I. e. a Theban alliance.


Errata:

  1. Original: court was amended to count: detail