Odes of Pindar (Myers)/Pythian Odes/11

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




The date of this victory was B. C. 478, nearly two years after the battle of Plataea, and the deliverance of Thebes from Persian influence and the sway of a tyrannous oligarchy. But beyond this we have nothing certain to which we can refer the allusions to Theban affairs, public and private, which we have reason to think present in the ode.

Daughters of Kadmos, thou Semele whose goings are with the queens of Olympus, and thou Ino Leukothea who housest with the Nereids of the sea, come ye up with the mother[1] of a mighty son, even of Herakles, unto the temple of Mĕlia[2] and into the holy place of the golden tripods, which beyond all others Loxias hath honoured, and named it the shrine Ismenian, a truthful seat of seers; where now, O children of Harmonia, he calleth the whole heroic sisterhood of the soil to assemble themselves together, that of holy Themis and of Pytho and the Earth-navel of just judgments ye may sing at early evening, doing honour to seven-gated Thebes, and to the games at Kirrha, wherein Thrasydaios hath made his father's house glorious by casting thereon a third wreath for his victory in the rich cornlands[3] of Pylades, who was the host of Lakonian Orestes.

Orestes, on the murder of his father, Arsinoë his nurse saved from the violent hands of Klytaimnestra and out of the ruinous treason, what time the daughter of Dardanid Priam, Kassandra, was by the glittering bronze in company with Agamemnon's soul sped to the shadowy shore of Acheron by the woman who had no pity.

Did then the slaughter of Iphigenia far from her own land on Euripos' shore so sting her mother to the arousal of a wrath of grievous act? Or had nocturnal loves misguided her, in thraldom to a paramour's embrace? a sin in new-wed brides most hateful, and that cannot be hidden for the talk of stranger tongues: for the citizens repeat the shame. For prosperity must sustain an envy equalling itself: but concerning the man of low place the rumour is obscure.

Thus died the hero himself[4], the son of Atreus, when after long time he came unto famous Amyklai, and drew down with him to death the maiden prophetess[5], after that he consumed with fire the Trojans' habitations of softness.

And thus Orestes, in the tenderness of his youth, came and was the guest of the old man Strophios, who dwelt at the foot of Parnassos: but with long-tarrying sword he slew his mother, and left Aigisthos' body in its blood.

Verily, my friends, by triple roads of interchanging ways I have wound about, though heretofore I had kept on a straight track. Or hath some wind blown me out of my course, as when it bloweth a boat upon the sea? But thine it is, my Muse, since thou for reward didst promise the loan thereof, to raise thy voice for silver now on this tale, now on that, so that for this time at least it is on behalf either of Thrasydaios or of his sire who conquered at Pytho: for of both are the joy and glory burning lights.

Of old for victories in the chariot-race they had bright glory at Olympia in the famous games for the swiftness of their steeds: and now have they gone down among the naked runners in the stadion, and have put to rebuke the host of the Hellenes by their speed.

God grant me to desire things honourable, seeking things possible in my life's prime.

The middle course I find to prosper most enduringly in the commonwealth, and a state of tyranny I condemn. On well-doing for the common good[6] I bestow my pains: so are the envious baffled, if one hath excelled in such acts to the uttermost, and bearing it modestly hath shunned the perilous reproach of insolence: so also at the end shall he find black death more gracious unto him, to his dear children leaving the best of possessions, even the glory of an honourable name.

This it is that beareth abroad the name of Iolaos in song, and the names of the mighty Kastor and of thee, king Polydeukes, ye sons of gods, who one day in Therapnai and the next in Olympus have your dwelling-place.

  1. Alkmene.
  2. Mother of Ismenios and Teucros, by Apollo.
  3. In Phokis.
  4. Agamemnon. It is a strange variety of the tale that he is spoken of as having been murdered at Amyklai and not at Argos or Mykenai. So above Orestes is called Lakonian.
  5. Kassandra.
  6. (Not for a party.)