For Hagesias of Syracuse
Mule Car Race
472 or 468 B. C.
Raising the fine-walled porch of our dwelling with golden pillars, we will build, as it were, a marvellous hall; at the beginning of our work we must place a far-shining front. If someone were an Olympic victor,
and a guardian of the prophetic altar of Zeus at Pisa
, and a fellow-founder of renowned Syracuse, what hymn of praise would that man fail to win, by finding fellow-citizens ungrudging in delightful song?
Let the son of Sostratus know that this sandal fits his divinely-blessed foot. But excellence without danger
is honored neither among men nor in hollow ships. But many people remember, if a fine thing is done with toil. Hagesias, that praise is ready for you, which once Adrastus' tongue rightly spoke for the seer Amphiaraus, son of Oicles, when the earth swallowed up him and his shining horses.
, when the seven pyres of corpses had been consumed, the son of Talaus spoke in this way: “I long for the eye of my army, a man who was good both as a prophet and at fighting with the spear.” And this holds good as well for the man of Syracuse who is master of our victory-procession. Though I am not prone to quarrel, and not overly fond of victory,
I would even swear a great oath, and on this point at least I will clearly bear witness for him; and the honey-voiced Muses will give their consent.
Phintis, come now and yoke the strength of mules for me, quickly, so that we can drive the chariot along a clear path, and I can at last arrive at the race of these men.
For those mules above all others know how to lead the way along this path, since they have won garlands at Olympia
. And so it is right to open for them the gates of song; and I must go today, in good time, to Pitana, beside the ford of Eurotas.
Pitana, who, it is said, lay with Poseidon son of Cronus,
and bore a child, violet-haired Evadne. But she hid her unwedded pregnancy in the folds of her robe. And in the appointed month she sent servants, and told them to give the baby to be tended by the hero, Aepytus son of Eilatus, who ruled over the Arcadians at Phaesana, and had his allotted home on the Alpheus,
where Evadne was raised, and first touched the sweets of Aphrodite beneath Apollo's embrace.
She did not escape the notice of Aepytus in all the time that she was hiding the offspring of the god; no, he went to Pytho
, pressing down the unspeakable anger in his spirit with intense concern, to consult the oracle about this unbearable disaster. And she laid down her purple and saffron girdle,
and her silver pitcher, and beneath a blue-shaded thicket gave birth to a god-inspired boy. The golden-haired god sent gentle-minded Eleithuia and the Fates to help her.
From her womb and her sweet birth-pangs Iamus came right away into the light. In her distress,
she left him on the ground. But by the will of the gods, two gray-eyed serpents nurtured him with the harmless venom of bees, caring for him. And when the king had driven back from rocky Pytho
, he questioned everyone in the household about the child whom Evadne had borne. For he said that he was begotten by Phoebus,
and that he would be, for men on earth, a prophet above all mortals, and that his race would never fail. Such was his speech. But they claimed that they had neither seen nor heard the baby, born four days ago. For it had been hidden in the rushes and the boundless thicket,
his tender body washed in the golden and purple light of violets. Therefore his mother declared that he should be called for all time
by this immortal name, “Iamus.” And when he had attained the delightful fruit of golden-crowned Youth, he went down into the middle of the Alpheus, and called on wide-ruling Poseidon, his grandfather, and on the Archer who watches over god-built Delos
praying that the honor of caring for the people be on his head, under the clear night sky. His father's voice responded in clear speech, and sought him out: “Rise, my son, and follow my voice here to a place that welcomes all.”
They came to the steep rock of the lofty hill of Cronus.
There the god gave him a double treasure of prophecy: there and then to hear a voice that did not know how to lie; and when bold-plotting Heracles came, the sacred scion of the Alcidae, and founded for his father a festival frequented by mortals and the greatest ritual of contests,
then he commanded him to establish an oracle on the highest altar of Zeus.
Since then the race of the sons of Iamus has been very famous throughout Greece
. Prosperity attended them; and by honoring excellence, they walk along a bright path. Every action brings evidence. Envious blame from others hangs
over those who have once driven first down the final course of a race, and on whom honored Grace has shed glorious beauty. But if, Hagesias, it is true that the men on your mother's side, living below the boundaries of Cyllene,
piously gave many gifts, with prayers and sacrifices, to the herald of the gods, Hermes, who rules over games and the dispensation of contests,
and honors Arcadia
, the home of fine men, it is that god, son of Sostratus, who with his loud-thundering father fulfills your good fortune. I think I have on my tongue a shrill whetstone, which steals over me (and I am willing) with fair-flowing breaths. My mother's mother was the nymph of Stymphalus, blossoming Metopa,
who bore horse-driving Thebe, whose delicious water I drink, while I weave my embroidered song for heroic spearmen. Now rouse your companions, Aeneas, first to shout the praises of Hera Parthenia, and then to know whether we have truly escaped the ancient reproach
of men's speech, “Boeotian pig.” For you are a faithful herald, a message-stick of the lovely-haired Muses, a sweet mixing-bowl of loud-sounding songs.
Tell them to remember Syracuse and Ortygia, which Hieron rules with his pure scepter and with good counsels,
while he attends on the worship of Demeter of the red feet, and on the festival of her daughter with her white horses, and on the might of Aetnaean Zeus. The sweet-voiced lyres and music are familiar with Hieron. May time not creep up and disturb his prosperity, but may he with loving friendliness welcome the victory-procession of Hagesias
as it comes to one home from his other home within the walls of Stymphalus,
leaving his motherland, Arcadia
of the fine flocks. On a stormy night it is good to have two anchors to throw down from a swift ship. May a god lovingly bestow a glorious lot on the men of both cities. Master, ruler of the sea, husband of Amphitrite of the golden distaff, grant straight sailing free from troubles,
and give new growth to the delightful flower of my songs.