Pindar and Anacreon/Pindar/Nemean Odes/10

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Addressing this ode to Thiæus, who had conquered at Argos in the Hecatombæa, or Herea, games sacred to Juno, the poet begins by recounting the ancient histories, and celebrating the heroes and other noted characters connected with that ancient city of Danaus, Perseus, Medusa, Epaphus, Hypermnestra, Diomedes, Amphiaraus, Amphitryo, and Hercules.—Recalls himself to his subject, and enumerates the various triumphs of the victor, as well as those which have at different times graced his family.—From the mention of Pamphaes, one of his maternal ancestors, who hospitably entertained Castor and Pollux, he is led to relate the history of the Dioscuri, with which he concludes the ode.

Argos, old Danaus' towering seat,
And fifty high-throned daughters' home,
Where rises Juno's stately dome,
Graces, with hymns of triumph greet;
Whose deeds her shining glories raise 5
With endless arguments of praise.
Long is the tale how Perseus sped
With dire Medusa's gorgon head;
And how o'er Egypt's land appear'd
The towns by Epaphus uprear'd; 10
Or Hypermnestra pure remain'd,
Whose sheath alone the sword retain'd. 11

The goddess of the azure eye
Immortal Diomedes made;
And pierced by Jove's artillery, 15
The Theban earth's funereal shade
Received Œclides, hapless seer, [1]
Who urged the stormy war's career,
Nor less in nymphs with lovely hair
Refulgent shines the city's fame. 20
This Jupiter's descents proclaim
To Danae and Alcmena fair:
He who to harmony inclined
Adrastus' sire and Lynceus' mind; [2] 22

And rear'd Amphitryo to the fight; 25
But he who rules supreme in might
Grafted upon the parent tree
His own immortal progeny:
For when in brazen armour dight
He the repulsed Teleboans slew, 30
His hall th' immortal ruling god,
Robed in the hero's likeness, trod,
Bearing the intrepid seed to view
Herculean—him whose youthful bride,
Fairest among the goddess train, 35
Walks by the genial mother's side,
Throughout Olympus' high domain. 34

Brief my song's limits to declare
What Argos holds of good and fair;
And hard the labour to control 40
In man satiety of soul.
But the well-chorded lyre awake,
And as a theme the wrestling take.
Oft as adjudged the brazen prize
Draws crowds to Juno's sacrifice. 45
Whence Ulias' son twice victor bore
Oblivion of his labours o'er. 45


At Pytho, from the Grecian train
Of old he bore the meed away.
With like success on Nemea's plain 50
He strove, and in the Isthmian fray,
And to the muses gave to sow
The wreaths that should adorn his brow.
Three the sea's narrow portals yield,
And three the venerable field 55
That owns Adrastus' sway.
Oh Jove! his tongue will not declare [3]
The object of his mental prayer.
Yet never with a slothful heart
Thy grace he begs thee to impart, 60
Since his own boldness will the glory share. 56

Known to the god the truths I sing:
And he who soars on venturous wing,
In the high contest to prevail,
Can verify o'er all my tale. 65
Pisa the highest honour claims,
Alcides rules her sacred games.
Him the sweet intervals of song
Have twice proclaimed in Athens' festal throng.
In earth concocted by the flame, 70
To Juno's manly people came, [4]
The sacred olive's produce, brought
In vessels with devices wrought. 68

Glories thy steps, Thiæus, trace
From thy maternal uncles' race, 75
Whose honours make the Graces fair
And high Tyndaridæ their care.
Were I in kindred's social chain
To Thrasyclus and Antias bound,
In Argos never would I deign 80
To hide my free looks on the ground.
How many triumphs shed renown
On Prœtus' steed-producing town!
As well in Corinth's narrow strand,
As four times o'er the Cleonæan band. 79 85

From Sicyon came in bright array
They who the silver bowls convey;
And from Pellene's walls in vest
Of the sheep's downy softness dress'd:
But never could my hasty verse 90
The brazen ornaments rehearse,
Since to complete this arduous task
Would more extended leisure ask;
Which near the altars of Lycæan Jove
Achaia's lofty cities place, 95
While Tegea and Clitorium strove,
The first in speed of foot and strength of hand to grace. 90

To Pamphaes when Castor came,
His hospitable board to share,
And first in pugilistic fame 100
His brother Pollux tarried there,
No wondering doubts the mind should move
That athletes they by nature prove,
Guardians of Sparta's wide domain,
With Hercules' and Hermes' aid, 105
Since they the contest's laws maintain,
Whose bright success themselves have made;
And ever faithful to their trust,
The race divine protect the just.
Now with alternate change they move, [5] 110
One day to spend with Father Jove,
And one below earth's secret breast,
Within Therapne's cave to rest.
Fulfilling thus an equal fate;
Since Pollux, scorning to remain, 115
For ever with the heavenly train,
Sharing his much-loved Castor's state,
Redeem'd his life in battle slain. 111

Him for his lost herds furious made,
Idas transfix'd with deadly stroke, 120
Aim'd by his spear of brazen head,
Whom, seated on a trunk of oak,
He from Taïgetus survey'd, whose ken
In lynx-eyed sharpness conquer'd mortal men.
Then straight, devising deeds of might, 125
Approach'd with rapid step and light
The sons of Aphareus, whom heaven's high sire
Chastised with hands that sent afflictions dire;
For Leda's offspring swift in flight pursued,
While near their father's tomb the brothers stood;

And, snatching thence a polish'd stone [6] 131
With Pluto's effigy impress'd,
They aim'd the massy fragment, thrown
With force that stirr'd not Pollux' breast,
Nor to a backward step could move 135
The hero who with deadly blow
Against the sides his javelin drove,
Impetuous of the wary foe;
While Jove who dwells on Ida's head
Brandish'd his bolt of smoky red, 140
And fired the hapless pair.
Mortals in arduous strife engage,
Who with superior force to wage
Unequal contest dare. 136

To aid his fainting brother's might 145
Tyndarides resumed his flight;
And found him not subdued by death,
But gasping out his fitful breath.
Then pouring forth a fervid tide
Of tears, with mingled sighs he cried, 150
"Saturnian father! what relief
Shall terminate my bitter grief?
The stroke, oh king, that slays my friend
At thy behest on me descend!
He whom the social train have left, 155
Of honour is at once bereft;
And few of mortals will sustain
A faithful share in others' pain." 147

He said—when Jove his form display'd,
And this consoling answer made: 160
"Thou art my son; while of terrestrial race [7]
He to a hero must his lineage trace:
Then take the proffer'd boon, for I
Give thee detested age and death to fly:
To dwell with Pallas on Olympus' height, 165
And Mars, who shakes his sable spear in fight. 158

This choice is thine: but if the strife
Still arm thee for thy brother's life,
And strong affection move thy heart
To grant of all an equal part, 170
Beneath the earth thy half breath draw,
And by the same impartial law,
Half in the golden domes of heaven."
'Twas thus the immortal father spoke;
Nor could weak doubts his mind provoke 175
To slight the generous offer given.
The god anew the eye and voice unbound
Of Castor, with his brazen helmet crown'd. 170


  1. The death of Amphiaraus, which story might perhaps be founded on some vague tradition of the similar fate of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, was related in the last ode, (l. 57, et seq.)
  2. The cause of strife between Lynceus, who had succeeded his father-in-law Adrastus, and Talaus, the father of Adrastus, was related in Nem., ix., 35, et seq.
  3. I. e., He is not so presumptuous as openly to express a wish to conquer in the Olympic games.
  4. Pindar here alludes to the custom of carrying before the victor at the Panathenaic games a sculptured earthenware vase, filled with oil from the sacred olive tree.
  5. See the conclusion of the eleventh Pythian ode.
  6. This stone, which the sons of Aphareus hurl with such impotent force against the breast of Pollux, was perhaps part of the decoration of a stony sepulchre, not a statue, for this was prior to the age of statuary. Sudorius, in his metrical paraphrase, calls It a funereal or deadly stone:—

    "Immane saxum funereum manu
    Audace vibravere duri
    In stomachum medium Laconis."

    Theocritus, who relates the same story in his twenty-second idyllium, calls the stone σταλαν.

    The passage describing the vain and impious attack of Idas is thus translated by Polwhele:—

    "Vindictive of his brother's doom,
    He tore a column from Aphareus' tomb,
    Aiming its massy vengeance at the foe,
    With wild uplifted arm, in act to throw;
    Heaven's sovereign lord elanced a flaming brand
    That dash'd the shatter'd marble from his hand!"

  7. Pollux and Helen were the reputed children of Jupiter; Castor and Clytemnestra the offspring of Tyndarus.