For Hieron of Syracuse
Chariot-Race at Olympia
468 B. C.
, giver of sweet gifts, sing the praises of the mistress of most fertile Sicily
, Demeter, and of her violet-garlanded daughter, and of Hieron's swift horses, racers at Olympia
for they sped with majestic Victory and with Aglaia by the wide-whirling Alpheus, where they made the son of Deinomenes a prosperous man, a victor winning garlands.
And the ... people shouted,
“Ah! thrice-blessed man! Zeus has granted him the honor of ruling most widely over the Greeks, and he knows not to hide his towered wealth under black-cloaked darkness.”
The temples teem with cattle-sacrificing festivities; the streets teem with hospitality. Gold flashes and glitters, the gold of tall ornate tripods standing
before the temple, where the Delphians administer the great precinct
of Phoebus beside the Castalian stream. A man should honor the god, for that is the greatest prosperity.
For indeed, once the ruler of horse-taming Lydia
Croesus—when Zeus was bringing about the decreed fate, and Sardis
was being sacked by the Persian army—Croesus was protected by the god of the golden lyre,
Apollo. When he had come to that unexpected day,
Croesus had no intention of waiting any longer for the tears of slavery. He had a pyre built before his bronze-walled courtyard,
and he mounted the pyre with his dear wife and his daughters with beautiful hair;
they were weeping inconsolably. He raised his arms to the steep sky
and shouted, “overweening deity, where is the gratitude of the gods? Where is lord Apollo?
The palace of Alyattes falls into ruins ... countless ...
... city ... the Pactolus whirling with [gold runs red with blood],
women are brutally led out of the well-built halls.
What was hated is loved. To die is sweetest.” So he spoke, and he bid the slave with the delicate step to kindle the wooden structure. His daughters cried out,
and threw their arms out towards their mother;
for death is most hateful to mortals when it is right before their eyes. But when the flashing force of terrible fire began to shoot through the wood,
Zeus set a dark rain-cloud over it, and began to quench the golden flame.
Nothing is unbelievable which is brought about by the gods' ambition. Then Apollo, born on Delos
, brought the old man to live among the Hyperboreans,
along with his slender-ankled daughters,
because of his piety, since of all mortals he sent the greatest gifts to holy Pytho
. And of all mortal men who live in Greece
, not one, o greatly-praised Hieron, will be willing
to say that he has sent more gold than you to Loxias. Every man who does not fatten himself with envy may praise a ... warlike man, a lover of horses,
who has the scepter of ... Zeus,
and a share of the violet-haired Muses. ... once ... ephemeral ... you consider; [life is] brief.
But winged hope loosens the wits of ephemeral creatures. Lord Apollo ... said to the son of Pheres: “Being a mortal, you must cultivate twin
thoughts: that tomorrow will be the last day you see
the sun's light, and that you will complete another fifty years of life deep in wealth. Cheer your spirit with pious deeds, for this is the highest of profits.”
To the thoughtful, what I sing is intelligible. The deep air is undefiled. The water of the sea does not decay. Gold is a delight. It is not lawful for a man to bypass gray
old age, and recover flourishing youth.
And yet the gleam of a mortal's excellence does not diminish along with the body—no, the Muse nurtures it. Hieron, you
have displayed to mortals the most beautiful flowers of prosperity.
Silence is no ornament for a successful man. With remembrance of fine deeds a man will also sing the gracious recompense made by the honey-voiced Cean nightingale.