Odes of Pindar (Myers)/Olympian Odes/11

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The Extant Odes of Pindar, translated into English  (1874)  by Pindar, translated by Ernest Myers
Olympian Ode XI.




It would seem by his own confession that Pindar did not remember till long afterwards the promise he made to Agesidamos in the last ode. We do not know how long afterwards this was written, but it must have been too late to greet the winner on his arrival in Italy; probably it was to be sung at the anniversary or some memorial celebration of his victory.

Read me the name of the Olympic winner Archestratos' son that I may know where it is written upon my heart: for I had forgotten that I owed him a sweet strain.

But do thou, O Muse, and thou Truth, daughter of Zeus, put forth your hands and keep from me the reproach of having wronged a friend by breaking my pledged word. For from afar hath overtaken me the time that was then yet to come, and hath shamed my deep debt.

Nevertheless from that sore reproach I may be delivered by payment with usury: behold how[1] the rushing wave sweepeth down the rolling shingle, and how we also will render for our friend's honour a tribute to him and to his people.

Truth inhabiteth the city of the Lokrians of the West, and Kalliope they hold in honour and mailëd Ares; yea even conquering Herakles was foiled by that Kykneän combat[2].

Now let Agesidamos, winner in the boxing at Olympia, so render thanks to Ilas[3] as Patroklos of old to Achilles. If one be born with excellent gifts, then may another who sharpeneth his natural edge speed him, God helping, to an exceeding weight of glory. Without toil there have triumphed a very few.

Of that light in the life of a man before all other deeds, that first of contests, the ordinances of Zeus[4] have stirred me to sing, even the games which by the ancient tomb of Pelops the mighty Herakles founded, after that he slew Kleatos, Poseidon's goodly son, and slew also Eurytos, that he might wrest from tyrannous Augeas against his will reward for service done[5].

Lying in ambush beneath Kleonai did Herakles overcome them on the road, for that formerly these same violent sons of Molos made havoc of his own Tirynthian folk by hiding in the valleys of Elis. And not long after the guest-betraying king of the Epeans saw his rich native land, his own city, beneath fierce fire and iron blows sink down into the deep moat of calamity. Of strife against stronger powers it is hard to be rid. Likewise Augeas last of all in his perplexity fell into captivity and escaped not. precipitate death.

Then the mighty son of Zeus having gathered together all his host at Pisa, and all the booty, measured a sacred grove for his sovereign Father; and having fenced round the Altis he marked the bounds thereof in a clear space, and the plain encompassing it he ordained for rest and feasting, and paid honour to the river Alpheos together with the twelve greatest gods. And he named it by the name of the Hill of Kronos; for theretofore it was without name, when Oinomaos was king, and it was sprinkled with much snow[6].

And at this first-born rite the Fates stood hard at hand, and he who alone proveth sure truth, even Time. He travelling onward hath told us the clear tale of how the founder set apart the choicest of the spoil for an offering from the war, and sacrificed, and how he ordained the fifth-year feast with the victories of that first Olympiad.

Who then won to their lot the new-appointed crown by hands or feet or chariot, setting before them the prize of glory in the games, and winning it by their act? In the foot-race down the straight course of the stadion was Likymnios' son Oionos first, from Nidea had he led his host: in the wrestling was Tegea glorified by Echemos: Doryklos won the prize of boxing, a dweller in the city of Tiryns, and with the four-horse chariot, Samos of Mantinea, Halirrhothios' son: with the javelin Phrastor hit the mark: in distance Enikeus beyond all others hurled the stone with a circling sweep, and all the warrior company thundered a great applause.

Then on the evening the lovely shining of the fair-faced moon beamed forth, and all the precinct sounded with songs of festal glee, after the manner which is to this day for triumph.

So following the first beginning of old time, we likewise in a song named of proud victory will celebrate the thunder and the flaming bolt of loud-pealing Zeus, the fiery lightning that goeth with all victory[7].

And soft tones to the music of the flute shall meet and mingle with my verse, which beside famous Dirke hath come to light after long time.

But even as a son by his lawful wife is welcome to a father who hath now travelled to the other side of youth, and maketh his soul warm with love—for wealth that must fall to a strange owner from without is most hateful to a dying man—so also, Agesidamos, when a man who hath done honourable deeds goeth unsung to the house of Hades, this man hath spent vain breath, and won but brief gladness for his toil.

On thee the pleasant lyre and the sweet pipe shed their grace, and the Pierian daughters of Zeus foster thy wide-spread fame.

I with them, setting myself thereunto fervently, have embraced the Lokrians' famous race, and have sprinkled my honey upon a city of goodly men: and I have told the praises of Archestratos' comely son, whom I beheld victorious by the might of his hand beside the altar at Olympia, and saw on that day how fair he was of form, how gifted with that spring-tide bloom, which erst with favour of the Cyprian queen warded from Ganymede unrelenting death.

  1. Reading ὁρᾶτ᾽ ὧν ὅπα.
  2. This Kyknos seems to have been a Lokrian freebooter, said to have fought with success against Herakles.
  3. His trainer.
  4. Probably because Zeus was especially concerned, both with the fulfilment of promises and with the Olympic games.
  5. For the story of these Moliones see Nestor's speech, Hom. Il. xi. 670–761.
  6. Perhaps this implies a tradition of a colder climate anciently prevailing in Peloponnesos: perhaps the mention of snow is merely picturesque, referring to the habitual appearance of the hill in winter, and the passage should then rather be rendered 'when Oinomaos was king its snow-sprinkled top was without name.'
  7. The Lokrians worshipped Zeus especially as the Thunderer, as certain coins of theirs, stamped with a thunderbolt, still testify.