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I.


FOR CHROMIOS OF AITNA,


WINNER IN THE CHARIOT-RACE.




This Chromios was a son of Agesidamos and brother-in-law of Hieron, and the same man for whom the ninth Nemean was written. He had become a citizen of Hieron's new city of Aitna, and won this victory B. C. 473.

This ode seems to have been sung before his house in Ortygia, a peninsula on which part of Syracuse was built, and in which was the fountain Arethusa. The legend of Arethusa and Alpheos explains the epithets of Ortygia with which the ode opens. The greater part of the ode is occupied with the story of Herakles, perhaps because Chromios was of the Hyllean tribe and thus traced his descent to Herakles.




O resting-place august of Alphĕos, Ortygia, scion of famous Syracuse, thou that art a couch of Artemis and a sister of Delos[1], from thee goeth forth a song of sweet words, to set forth the great glory of whirlwind-footed steeds in honour of Aitnaian Zeus.

For now the car of Chromios, and Nemea, stir me to yoke to his victorious deeds the melody of a triumphal song. And thus by that man's heaven-sped might I lay my foundations in the praise of gods. In good fortune men speak well of one altogether: and of great games the Muse is fain to tell.

Sow then some seed of splendid words in honour of this isle, which Zeus, the lord of Olympus, gave unto Persephone, and bowed his hair toward her in sign that this teeming Sicily he would exalt to be the best land in the fruitful earth, with gorgeous crown of citadels. And the son of Kronos gave unto her a people that wooeth mailëd war, a people of the horse and of the spear, and knowing well the touch of Olympia's golden olive-leaves. Thus shoot I arrows many, and without falsehood I have hit the mark.

And now at the doors of the hall of a hospitable man I stand to sing a goodly song, where is prepared for me a friendly feast, and not unwonted in that house are frequent stranger-guests: thus hath he found good friends to pour a quenching flood on the mouldering fire of reproach.

Each hath his several art: but in straight paths it behoveth him to walk, and to strive hard wherein his nature setteth him. Thus worketh strength in act, and mind in counsels, when one is born to foresee what shall come after. In thy nature, son of Agesidamos, are uses both for this and that.

I love not to keep hidden in my house great wealth, but to have joy of that I have, and to have repute of liberality to my friends: for the hopes of much-labouring men seem to me even as mine.

Now I to Herakles cleave right willingly, among high deeds of valour rousing an ancient tale; how that when from his mother's womb the son of Zeus escaping the birth-pang came quickly into the glorious light with his twin-brother, not unobserved of Hera did he put on the saffron swaddling bands ; but the queen of gods in the kindling of her anger sent presently the two snakes, and they when the doors were opened went right on into the wide bedchamber, hasting to entwine the children, that they should be a prey to their fierce teeth.

But the boy lifted up his head upright and was first to essay the fight, seizing with unescapeable grasp of both his hands the two serpents by the necks, and time, as he strangled them, forced the breath out of their monstrous forms.

But a shock unendurable startled the women about Alkmene's bed, yea and herself too started to her feet from the couch half-robed, and would fain have beaten back the fierce beasts' violence.

And quickly ran thronging thither with bronze arms the captains of the sons of Kadmos; and brandishing in his hand his sword bare of its sheath came Amphitryon smitten with sharp pain; for everyone alike is grieved by the ills of his own house, but the heart is soon quit of sorrow that careth but for another's care.

And he stood in amazement, and gladness mingled with his fear; for he saw the marvellous courage and might of his son, since the immortals had made the saying of the messengers unto him to be false.

Then he called a man that lived nigh to him, a chosen prophet of the most high Zeus, Teiresias the true seer: and he set forth to him and to all his company with what manner of fortune should the child have his lot cast, how many lawless monsters on the dry land, how many on the sea he should destroy.

Others moreover, of men the hatefullest, who walked in guile and insolence, he prophesied that he should deliver over unto death: saying that when on Phlegra's plain the gods should meet the giants in battle, beneath the rush of his arrows their bright hair should be soiled with earth; but he in peace himself should obtain a reward of rest from his great toils throughout all time continually within the house of bliss, and after that he had received fair Hebe to be his bride, and made his marriage-feast, should remain beside Zeus, the son of Kronos, well-pleased with his dwelling-place divine.




  1. I.e. so honoured by Artemis as to rank with her native Delos.