FOR AGESIAS OF SYRACUSE,
WINNER IN THE MULE-CHARIOT-RACE.
One of the Iamid clan, to which belonged hereditary priestly functions in Arcadia and at Olympia, had come with the first colonists to Syracuse, and from him the present victor Agesias was descended. Thus the ode is chiefly concerned with the story of his ancestor Iamos. Agesias was a citizen of Stymphalos in Arcadia, as well as of Syracuse, where he lived, and the ode was sung by a chorus in Stymphalos, B.C. 468.
Golden pillars will we set up in the porch of the house of our song, as in a stately palace-hall; for it beseemeth that in the fore-front of the work the entablature shoot far its splendour.
Now if one be an Olympian conqueror and treasurer to the prophetic altar of Zeus at Pisa, and joint founder of glorious Syracuse, shall such an one hide him from hymns of praise, if his lot be among citizens who hear without envy the desired sounds of song? For in a sandal of such sort let the son of Sostratos know that his fortunate foot is set. Deeds of no risk are honourless whether done among men or among hollow ships; but if a noble deed be wrought with labour, many make mention thereof.
For thee, Agesias, is that praise prepared which justly and openly Adrastos spake of old concerning the seer Amphiaraos the son of Oikleus, when the earth had swallowed him and his shining steeds. For afterward, when on seven pyres dead men were burnt, the son of Talaos spake on this wise: 'I seek the eye of my host, him who was alike a good seer and a good fighter with the spear.'
This praise also belongeth to the Syracusan who is lord of this triumphal song. I who am no friend of strife or wrongful quarrel will bear him this witness even with a solemn oath, and the sweet voice of the Muses shall not say me nay.
O Phintis yoke me now with all speed the strength of thy mules that on the clear highway we may set our car, that I may go up to the far beginning of this race. For those mules know well to lead the way in this course as in others, who at Olympia have won crowns: it behoveth them that we throw open to them the gates of song, for to Pitane by Eurotas' stream must I begone betimes to-day.
Now Pitane, they say, lay with Poseidon the son of Kronos and bare the child Euadne with tresses iris-dark. And her maiden travail she hid by her robe's folds, and in the month of her delivery she sent her handmaids and bade them give the child to the hero son of Elatos to rear, who was lord of the men of Arcady who dwelt at Phaisane, and had for his lot Alpheos to dwell beside.
There was the child Euadne nurtured, and by Apollo's side she first knew the joys of Aphrodite.
But she might not always hide from Aipytos the seed of the god within her; and he in his heart struggling with bitter strain against a grief too great for speech betook him to Pytho that he might ask of the oracle concerning the intolerable woe.
But she beneath a thicket's shade put from her her silver pitcher and her girdle of scarlet web, and she brought forth a boy in whom was the spirit of God. By her side the gold-haired god set kindly Eleutho and the Fates, and from her womb in easy travail came forth Iamos to the light. Him in her anguish she left upon the ground, but by the counsel of gods two bright-eyed serpents nursed and fed him with the harmless venom of the bee.
But when the king came back from rocky Delphi in his chariot he asked all who were in the house concerning the child whom Euadne had born; for he said that the sire whereof he was begotten was Phoibos, and that he should be a prophet unto the people of the land excelling all mortal men, and that his seed should be for ever.
Such was his tale, but they answered that they had neither seen nor heard of him, though he was now born five days. For he was hidden among rushes in an impenetrable brake, his tender body all suffused with golden and deep purple gleams of pansy-flowers; wherefore his mother prophesied saying that by this holy name of immortality he should be called throughout all time.
But when he had come to the ripeness of golden-crowned sweet youth, he went down into the middle of Alpheos and called on wide-ruling Poseidon his grandsire, and on the guardian of god-built Delos, the bearer of the bow, praying that honour might be upon his head for the rearing of a people; and he stood beneath the heavens, and it was night.
Then the infallible Voice of his father answered and said unto him: Arise, my son, and come hither, following my voice, into a place where all men shall meet together.
So they came to the steep rock of lofty Kronion; there the god gave him a twofold treasure of prophecy, that for the time then being he should hearken to his voice that cannot lie; but when Herakles of valorous counsels, the sacred scion of the Alkeidai, should have come, and should have founded a multitudinous feast and the chief ordinance of games, then again on the summit of the altar of Zeus he bade him establish yet another oracle, that thenceforth the race of Iamidai should be glorious among Hellenes.
Good luck abode with them; for that they know the worth of valour they are entered on a glorious road.
The matter proveth the man, but from the envious calumny ever threateneth them on whom, as they drive foremost in the twelfth round of the course, Charis sheddeth blushing beauty to win them fame more fair.
Now if in very truth, Agesias, thy mother's ancestors dwelling by the borders of Kyllene did piously and oft offer up prayer and sacrifice to Hermes, herald of the gods, who hath to his keeping the strife and appointment of games, and doeth honour to Arcadia the nurse of goodly men,—then surely he, O son of Sostratos, with his loud-thundering sire, is the accomplisher of this thy bliss.
Methinks I have upon my tongue a whetstone of loud sounding speech, which to harmonious breath constraineth me nothing loth. Mother of my mothers was Stymphalian Metope of fair flowers, for she bare Thebe the charioteer, whose pleasant fountain I will drink, while I weave for warriors the changes of my song.
Now rouse thy fellows, Ainĕas, first to proclaim the name of maiden Hera, and next to know for sure whether we are escaped from the ancient reproach that spake truly of Bœotian swine. For thou art a true messenger, a writing-tally of the Muses goodly-haired, a bowl wherein to mix high-sounding songs.
And bid them make mention of Syracuse and of Ortygia, which Hieron ruleth with righteous sceptre devising true counsels, and doth honour to Demeter whose footsteps make red the corn, and to the feast of her daughter with white steeds, and to the might of Aetnaean Zeus. Also he is well known of the sweet voices of the song and lute. Let not the on-coming time break his good fortune. And with joyful welcome may he receive this triumphal song, which travelleth from home to home, leaving Stymphalos' walls, the mother-city of Arcadia, rich in flocks.
Good in a stormy night are two anchors let fall from a swift ship. May friendly gods grant to both peoples an illustrious lot: and thou O lord and ruler of the sea, husband of Amphitritë of the golden distaff, grant this my friend straight voyage and unharmed, and bless the joyous flower of my song.
- Agesias is so called because an Iamid ancestor of his had gone with Archias when he planted the Corinthian colony of Syracuse.
- Phintis was Agesias' charioteer.
- I.e. the nymph who gave her name to the place.
- Iamos, from ἴον: the pansy was considered a symbol of immortality.
- His father, Apollo.
- At Olympia.
- The course in the chariot-race was twelve times round the Hippodrome.
- The nymph of the lake Metopë near Stymphalos.
- Hera was worshipped in her prenuptial as well as her postnuptial state.
- It was a custom between correspondents who wished for secrecy to have duplicate σκυτάλαι, or letter-sticks. The writer wrote on a roll wrapt round his stick, and the receiver of the letter read it wrapt similarly on his. And thus Ainĕas the bearer of this ode would teach the chorus of Stymphalians how rightly to sing and understand it. See σκυτάλη in Dict. Ant.
- I. e. of Stymphalos and Syracuse. Agesias was a citizen of both, and thus his two homes are compared to two anchors.