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II.


FOR THERON OF AKRAGAS,


WINNER IN THE CHARIOT-RACE.




Theron's ancestors the Emmenidai migrated from Rhodes to Sicily and first colonized Gela and then Akragas (the Latin Agrigentum and Italian Girgenti). His chariot won this victory B. C. 476.




Lords of the lute[1], my songs, what god, what hero, or what man, are we to celebrate[2]? Verily of Zeus is Pisa the abode, of Herakles the Olympian feast was founded from the chief spoils of war, and Theron's name must we proclaim for his victory with the four-horse-car, a righteous and god-fearing host, the stay of Akragas, of famous sires the flower, a saviour of the state.

They after long toils bravely borne took by a river's side a sacred dwelling place, and became the eye of Sicily, and a life of good luck clave to them, bringing them wealth and honour to crown their inborn worth.

O son of Kronos and of Rhea, lord of Olympus' seat, and of the chief of games and of Alpheos' ford, for joy in these my songs guard ever graciously their native fields for their sons that shall come after them.

Now of deeds done whether they be right or wrong not even Time the father of all can make undone the accomplishment, yet with happy fortune forgetfulness may come. For by high delights an alien pain is quelled and dieth, when the decree of God sendeth happiness to grow aloft and widely.

And this word is true concerning Kadmos' fair-throned daughters, whose calamities were great, yet their sore grief fell before greater good. Amid the Olympians long-haired Semele still liveth, albeit she perished in the thunder's roar, and Pallas cherisheth her ever, and Father Zeus exceedingly, and her son, the ivy-bearing god. And in the sea too they say that to Ino, among the sea-maids of Nereus, life incorruptible hath been ordained for evermore.

Ay but to mortals the day of death is certain never, neither at what time we shall see in calm the end of one of the son's children, the Days, with good thitherto unfailing; now this way and now that run currents bringing joys or toils to men.

Thus destiny which from their fathers holdeth the happy fortune of this race[3], together with prosperity heaven-sent bringeth ever at some other time better reverse: from the day when Laïos was slain by his destined son[4] who met him on the road and made fulfilment of the oracle spoken of old at Pytho. Then fierce Erinys when she saw it slew by each other's hand his warlike sons: yet after that Polyneikes fell Thersander[5] lived after him and won honour in the Second Strife[6] and in the fights of war, a saviour scion to the Adrastid house.

From him they have beginning of their race: meet is it that Ainesidamos receive our hymn of triumph on the lyre. For at Olympia he himself received a prize and at Pytho, and at the Isthmus to his brother of no less a lot did kindred Graces bring crowns for the twelve rounds of the four-horse chariot-race.

Victory setteth free the essayer from the struggle's griefs, yea and the wealth that a noble nature hath made glorious bringeth power for this and that, putting into the heart of man a deep and eager mood, a star far seen, a light wherein a man shall trust, if but[7] the holder thereof knoweth the things that shall be, how that of all who die the guilty souls pay penalty, for all the sins sinned in this realm of Zeus one judgeth under earth, pronouncing sentence by unloved constraint.

But evenly ever in sunlight night and day an unlaborious life the good receive, neither with violent hand vex they the earth nor the waters of the sea, in that new world; but with the honoured of the gods, whosoever had pleasure in keeping of oaths, they possess a tearless life: but the other part suffer pain too dire to look upon.

Then whosoever have been of good courage to the abiding steadfast thrice on either side of death and have refrained their souls from all iniquity, travel the road of Zeus unto the tower of Kronos: there round the islands of the blest the Ocean-breezes blow, and golden flowers are glowing, some from the land on trees of splendour, and some the water feedeth, with wreaths whereof they entwine their hands: so ordereth Rhadamanthos' just decree, whom at his own right hand hath ever the father Kronos, husband of Rhea, throned above all worlds[8].

Peleus and Kadmos are counted of that company; and the mother of Achilles, when her prayer had moved the heart of Zeus, bare thither her son, even him who overthrew Hector, Troy's unbending invincible pillar, even him who gave Kyknos to death and the Ethiop son[9] of the Morning.

Many swift arrows have I beneath my bended arm within my quiver, arrows that have a voice for the wise, but for the multitude they need interpreters. His art is true who of his nature hath knowledge; they who have but learnt, strong in the multitude of words, are but as crows that chatter vain things in strife against the divine bird of Zeus.

Come bend thy bow on the mark, O my soul—at whom again are we to launch our shafts of honour from a friendly mind? At Akragas will I take aim, and will proclaim and swear it with a mind of truth, that for a hundred years no city hath brought forth a man of mind more prone to well-doing towards friends or of more liberal mood than Thero.

Yet praise is overtaken of distaste, wherewith is no justice, but from covetous men it cometh, and is fain to babble against and darken the good man's noble deeds.

The sea-sand none hath numbered; and the joys that Theron hath given to others—who shall declare the tale thereof?




  1. In Hellenic music the accompaniment was deemed subordinate to the words.
  2. Here are three questions and three answers.
  3. The Emmenidai.
  4. Oedipus.
  5. Son of Polyneikes. Theron traced his descent from him.
  6. The War of the Epigonoi against Thebes.
  7. Reading εἴ γέ μιν ἔχων. The old readings were εἰ δέ μιν ἔχων and εἰ δέ μιν ἔχει; εὖ δέ μιν ἔχων has also been suggested; but of these three none seems to me to be at all satisfactory. In the reading I suggest the change is very slight, and it makes good sense.
  8. For Pindar's ideas as to a future life see especially the fragments of his Dirges which remain to us. He seems to have been influenced by Pythagoreanism.
  9. Memnon.