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This ode, like the last, is improperly called Nemean. It commemorates a victory won at the feast of the Hekatombaia at Argos. The date is unknown.

The city of Danaos and of his fifty bright-throned daughters, Argos the home of Hera, meet abode of gods, sing Graces! for by excellencies innumerable it is made glorious in the deeds of valiant men.

Long is the tale of Perseus[1], that telleth of the Gorgon Medusa: many are the cities in Egypt founded by the hands of Epaphos[2]: neither went Hypermnestra's choice astray when she kept sheathed her solitary sword[3].

Also their Diomedes did the grey-eyed goddess make incorruptible and a god: and at Thebes, the earth blasted by the bolts of Zeus received within her the prophet[4], the son of Oikleus, the storm-cloud of war.

Moreover in women of beautiful hair doth the land excel. Thereto in days of old Zeus testified, when he followed after Alkmene and after Danaë.

And in the father of Adrastos and in Lynkeus did Argos mingle ripe wisdom with upright justice: and she reared the warrior Amphitryon. Now he came to the height of honour in his descendants, for in bronze armour he slew the Teleboai, and in his likeness the king of the immortals entered his hall, bearing the seed of fearless Herakles, whose bride in Olympos is Hebe, who by the side of her mother, the queen of marriage, walketh of all divinities most fair.

My tongue would fail to tell in full the honours wherein the sacred Argive land hath part: also the distaste[5] of men is ill to meet. Yet wake the well-strung lyre, and take thought of wrestlings; a strife for the bronze shield stirreth the folk to sacrifice of oxen unto Hera and to the issue of games, wherein the son of Oulias, Theaios, having overcome twice, hath obtained forgetfulness of the toils he lightly bore.

Also on a time at Pytho he was first of the Hellenic host, and won crowns at Isthmos and at Nemea, led thither by fair hap, and gave work for the Muses' plough by thrice winning at the Gates[6] of the Sea and thrice on the famous plains in the pastures of Adrastos' home[7]. Of that he longeth for, O Father Zeus, his mouth is silent, with thee are the issues of deeds: but with a spirit strong to labour and of a good courage he prayeth thy grace. Both Theaios, and whosoever struggleth in the perfect consummation of all games, know this, even the supremacy of the ordinance of Herakles that is holden at Pisa[8]: yet sweet preluding strains are those that twice have welcomed his triumph at the festival of the Athenians: and in earthenware baked in the fire, within the closure of figured urns, there came among the goodly folk of Hera[9] the prize of the olive fruit[10].

On the renowned race of thy mother's sires there waiteth glory of games by favour of the Graces and the sons of Tyndareus together. Were I kinsman of Thrasyklos and Antias I would claim at Argos not to hide mine eyes. For with how many victories hath this horse-breeding city of Proitos flourished! even in the Corinthian corner and from the men of Kleonai[11] four times, and from Sikyon they came laden with silver, even goblets for wine, and out of Pellene clad in soft woof of wool[12]. But to tell over the multitude of their prizes of bronze is a thing impossible—to count them longer leisure were needed—which Kleitor and Tegea and the Achaians' high-set cities and the Lykaion set for a prize by the race-course of Zeus for the conquerors by strength of hands or feet.

And since Kastor and his brother Polydeukes came to be the guests of Pamphaes[13], no marvel is it that to be good athletes should be inborn in the race. For they[14] it is who being guardians of the wide plains of Sparta with Hermes and Herakles mete out fair hap in games, and to righteous men they have great regard. Faithful is the race of gods.

Now, changing climes alternately, they dwell one day with their dear father Zeus, and the next in the secret places under the earth, within the valleys of Therapnai, fulfilling equal fate: because on this wise chose Polydeukes to live his life rather than to be altogether god and abide continually in heaven, when that Kastor had fallen in the fight.

Him did Idas, wroth for his oxen, smite with a bronze spearhead, when from his watch upon Taÿgetos Lynkeus had seen them sitting beneath an oak-stump; for he of all men walking the earth had keenest eyes. So with swift feet they were straightway come to the place, and compassed speedily a dreadful deed[15].

But terrible also was the vengeance which by the devising of Zeus those sons[16] of Aphareus suffered: for on the instant came Leto's son[17] in chase of them: and they stood up against him hard by the sepulchre of their father. Thence wrenched they a carved headstone that was set to glorify the dead, and they hurled it at the breast of Polydeukes. But they crushed him not, neither made him give back, but rushing onward with fierce spear he drave the bronze head into Lynkeus' side. And against Idas Zeus hurled a thunderbolt of consuming fire.

So were those brothers in one flame[18] burnt unbefriended: for a strife with the stronger is grievous for men to mix in.

Then quickly came back the son of Tyndareus[19] to his great brother, and found him not quite dead, but the death-gasp rattled in his throat. Then Polydeukes wept hot tears, and groaned, and lifted up his voice, and cried: 'Father Kronion—ah! what shall make an end of woes? Bid me, me also, O king, to die with him. The glory is departed from a man bereaved of friends. Few are they who in a time of trouble are faithful in companionship of toil.'

Thus said he, and Zeus came, and stood before his face, and spake these words: 'Thou art my son: but thy brother afterward was by mortal seed begotten in thy mother of the hero that was her husband. But nevertheless, behold I give thee choice of I these two lots: if, shunning death and hateful old age, thou desirest for thyself to dwell in Olympus with Athene and with Ares of the shadowing spear, this lot is thine to take: but if in thy brother's cause thou art so hot, and art resolved in all to have equal share with him, then half thy time thou shalt be alive beneath the earth, and half in the golden house of heaven.'

Thus spake his father, and Polydeukes doubted not which counsel he should choose. So Zeus unsealed the eye, and presently the tongue also, of Kastor of the brazen mail.

  1. Son of the Argive Danaë.
  2. Son of the Argive Io.
  3. Or perhaps: 'Neither were Hypermnestra's story misplaced here, how she, &c.'
  4. Amphiaraos.
  5. Disgust at hearing anything profusely praised.
  6. At Corinth, in the Isthmian games.
  7. Nemea.
  8. The Olympic games.
  9. The Argives.
  10. The Athenian prize seems to have been an olive-bough in a vase of burnt clay.
  11. Near Nemea.
  12. I.e. with prizes of cloaks.
  13. An ancestor of Theaios. Probably he had given Theoxenia. See Olympic Odes/3|Ol. III.
  14. Kastor and Polydeukes.
  15. They slew Kastor.
  16. Idas and Lynkeus.
  17. Polydeukes.
  18. Either of the thunderbolt, or of a funeral-pile.
  19. Both brothers were nominally sons of Tyndareus, but really only Kastor was: Polydeukes was a son of Zeus.