For Hieron of Aetna
470 B. C.
Golden lyre, rightful joint possession of Apollo and the violet-haired Muses, to which the dance-step listens, the beginning of splendid festivity; and singers obey your notes, whenever, with your quivering strings, you prepare to strike up chorus-leading preludes.
You quench even the warlike thunderbolt of everlasting fire. And the eagle sleeps on the scepter of Zeus, relaxing his swift wings on either side,
the king of birds; and you pour down a dark mist over his curved head, a sweet seal on his eyelids. Slumbering, he ripples his liquid back,
under the spell of your pulsing notes. Even powerful Ares, setting aside the rough spear-point, warms his heart in repose; your shafts charm the minds even of the gods, by virtue of the skill of Leto's son and the deep-bosomed Muses.
But those whom Zeus does not love are stunned with terror when they hear the cry of the Pierian Muses, on earth or on the irresistible sea;
among them is he who lies in dread Tartarus, that enemy of the gods, Typhon with his hundred heads. Once the famous Cilician cave nurtured him, but now the sea-girt cliffs above Cumae
, and Sicily
too, lie heavy on his shaggy chest. And the pillar of the sky holds him down,
snow-covered Aetna, year-round nurse of bitter frost,
from whose inmost caves belch forth the purest streams of unapproachable fire. In the daytime her rivers roll out a fiery flood of smoke, while in the darkness of night the crimson flame hurls rocks down to the deep plain of the sea with a crashing roar.
That monster shoots up the most terrible jets of fire; it is a marvellous wonder to see, and a marvel even to hear about when men are present.
Such a creature is bound beneath the dark and leafy heights of Aetna and beneath the plain, and his bed scratches and goads the whole length of his back stretched out against it. Grant that we may be pleasing to you, Zeus,
you who frequent this mountain, this brow of the fruitful earth, whose namesake city near at hand was glorified by its renowned founder, when the herald at the Pythian racecourse proclaimed the name of Aetna, announcing Hieron's triumph
with the chariot. For seafaring men, the first blessing at the outset of their voyage is a favorable wind; for then it is likely that
at the end as well they will win a more prosperous homecoming. And that saying, in these fortunate circumstances, brings the belief that from now on this city will be renowned for garlands and horses, and its name will be spoken amid harmonious festivities. Phoebus, lord of Lycia
, you who love the Castalian spring of Parnassus
may you willingly put these wishes in your thoughts, and make this a land of fine men.
All the resources for the achievements of mortal excellence come from the gods; for being skillful, or having powerful arms, or an eloquent tongue. As for me, in my eagerness to praise that man, I hope that I may not be like one who hurls the bronze-cheeked javelin, which I brandish in my hand, outside the course,
but that I may make a long cast, and surpass my rivals. Would that all of time may, in this way, keep his prosperity and the gift of wealth on a straight course, and bring forgetfulness of troubles.
Indeed he might remember in what kind of battles of war he stood his ground with an enduring soul, when, by the gods' devising, they found honor such as no other Greek can pluck,
a proud garland of wealth. But now he has gone to battle in the manner of Philoctetes; and under compulsion even a haughty man fawned on him for his friendship. They say that the god-like heroes went to bring from Lemnos
that man afflicted with a wound,
the archer son of Poeas, who sacked the city of Priam and brought an end to the toils of the Danaans;
he went with a weak body, but it was fated. In such a way may a god be the preserver of Hieron for the time that is still to come, giving him the opportunity for all he desires. Muse, hear me, and beside Deinomenes sing loud praises for the reward of the four-horse chariot. The joy of his father's victory is not alien to him.
Come, let us devise a friendly song for the king of Aetna,
for whom Hieron founded that city with god-built freedom, in accordance with the laws of the rule of Hyllus. The descendants of Pamphylus, and, truly, of the Heracleidae also, dwelling beneath the cliffs of Taÿgetus, are willing to abide forever as Dorians under the ordinances of Aegimius.
Setting out from Pindus they took Amyclae and prospered, highly renowned neighbors of the Tyndaridae with their white horses, and the fame of their spear burst into bloom.
Zeus the Accomplisher, grant that beside the waters of Amenas the true report of men may always assign such good fortune to citizens and kings alike; with your blessing the man who is himself the leader,
and who instructs his son, may bring honor to the people and turn them towards harmonious peace. I entreat you, son of Cronus, grant that the battle-shouts of the Carthaginians and Etruscans stay quietly at home, now that they have seen their arrogance bring lamentation to their ships off Cumae
Such were their sufferings, when they were conquered by the leader of the Syracusans—a fate which flung their young men from their swift ships into the sea,
from grievous bondage. From Salamis
I will win as my reward the gratitude of the Athenians, and in Sparta
from the battles before Cithaeron1
—those battles in which the Medes with their curved bows suffered sorely; but beside the well-watered bank of the river Himeras I shall win my reward by paying my tribute of song to the sons of Deinomenes,
the song which they earned by their excellence, when their enemies were suffering.
If you speak in due proportion, twisting the strands of many themes into a brief compass, less blame follows from men. For wearying satiety blunts the edge of short-lived expectations, and what the citizens hear secretly weighs heavy on their spirits, especially concerning the merits of others.
Nevertheless, since envy is better than pity, do not abandon fine deeds! Steer your men with the rudder of justice; forge your tongue on the anvil of truth:
if even a small spark flies, it is carried along as a great thing when it comes from you. You are the guardian of an ample store. You have many faithful witnesses of both good and bad. But abide in a blossoming temper,
and if you are fond of always hearing sweet things spoken of you, do not be too distressed by expenses, but, like a steersman, let your sail out to the wind. Do not be deceived, my friend, by glib profit-seeking. The loud acclaim of renown that survives a man
is all that reveals the way of life of departed men to storytellers and singers alike. The kindly excellence of Croesus does not perish,
but Phalaris, with his pitiless mind, who burned his victims in a bronze bull, is surrounded on all sides by a hateful reputation; lyres that resound beneath the roof do not welcome him as a theme in gentle partnership with the voices of boys. The first of prizes is good fortune; the second is to be well spoken of; but a man
who encounters and wins both has received the highest garland.