For Theaeus of Argos
?444 B. C.
Graces, sing of the city of Danaus and his fifty daughters on their splendid thrones, Hera's Argos, a home suitable for a god; it blazes with countless excellences because of its bold deeds. Long indeed is the story of Perseus and the Gorgon Medusa,
and many are the cities founded in Egypt
by the devising of Epaphus. Nor did Hypermnestra go astray, when she restrained in its scabbard her sword, which was alone in its verdict.
And once the golden-haired, gray-eyed goddess made Diomedes an immortal god; and the earth in Thebes
, thunder-struck by the bolts of Zeus, swallowed up the prophetic son of Oicles, Amphiaraus, the storm-cloud of war.
And Argos has long been the best city for women with beautiful hair; Zeus made this saying clear by visiting Alcmena and Danae, and he united the fruit of intelligence with straightforward justice in the father of Adrastus and in Lynceus.
And Zeus nourished the spear of Amphitryon, who attained the height of prosperity and entered into kinship with that god, when, clad in bronze armor,
he slew the Teleboae. Taking on the appearance of Amphitryon, the king of the immortals entered the hall of that hero, bearing the fearless seed of Heracles; whose bride Hebe, the most beautiful of the goddesses, walks forever in Olympus
beside her mother Hera, goddess of marriage.
My mouth is too small to tell the whole story of all the noble things in which the precinct of Argos has a share.
And there is also the satiety of men, which is grievous to encounter. But nevertheless, awaken the well-strung lyre, and take thought of wrestling; the contest for the bronze shield calls the people to the sacrifice of oxen in honor of Hera and to the trial of contests. There the son of Ulias, Theaeus, was victorious twice, and gained forgetfulness of toils that were bravely borne.
And he once was victor over the people of Greece
; and, going with good fortune, he won the crown at the Isthmus and at Nemea
, and he gave the Muses a field to plough, since he won three times at the gates of the sea, and three times on the sacred ground, according to the ordinance of Adrastus. Father Zeus, his mouth keeps silent what his heart truly desires. The accomplishment of all
deeds rests with you. Adding boldness to a heart that does not shrink from labor1
, he asks for your grace.
I sing what is known to the god2
and to whoever strives for the chief crown in the foremost games. Pisa
holds the highest ordinance, that of Heracles. Still, the sweet voices of the Athenians at their festival twice sang victory-songs as a prelude for Theaeus,
and in earth baked by fire olive oil came to the fine men of Hera's city in jars with richly painted sides.
Theaeus, the honor of successful contests often attends on the well-known race of your maternal ancestors, by the favor of the Graces and the Tyndarids. I would think it right, if I were a kinsman of Thrasyclus
and Antias, not to veil the light in my eyes. For this horse-breeding city of Proetus has flourished with so many victories in the glens of Corinth, and four times from the men of Cleonae.
And from Sicyon
they returned with silver wine-goblets, and from Pellana with soft wool cloaks around their shoulders.
But it is impossible to give a full reckoning of their countless prizes of bronze—for it would require long leisure to number them—which Cleitor and Tegea
and the upland cities of the Achaeans and Mount Lycaeon set by the racecourse of Zeus for men to win with the strength of their feet and hands.
But since Castor
and his brother Polydeuces came to Pamphaës to receive a hospitable welcome, it is no wonder that it is innate in their race to be good athletes; since the Dioscuri, guardians of spacious Sparta
, along with Hermes and Heracles, administer the flourishing institution of the games, and they care very much for just men. Indeed, the race of the gods is trustworthy.
Changing places in alternation, the Dioscuri spend one day beside their dear father Zeus, and the other beneath the depths of the earth in the hollows of Therapne, each fulfilling an equal destiny, since Polydeuces preferred this life to being wholly a god and living in heaven, when Castor was killed in battle.
For Idas, angered for some reason about his cattle, stabbed him with the point of his bronze spear.
Looking out from Taÿgetus, Lynceus saw them seated in the hollow of an oak3
; for that man had the sharpest eye of all who live on earth. He and Idas at once reached the spot with swift feet, and quickly contrived a mighty deed;
and these sons of Aphareus themselves suffered terribly by the devising of Zeus. For right away Polydeuces the son of Leda came in pursuit. They were stationed opposite, near the tomb of their father;
from there they seized the grave-column, monument to Hades, a polished stone, and hurled it at the chest of Polydeuces. But they did not crush him, or drive him back; rushing forward with his swift javelin,
he drove its bronze point into the ribs of Lynceus, and Zeus hurled against Idas a fiery smoking thunderbolt. They burned together, deserted. Strife with those who are stronger is a harsh companion for men.
Swiftly Polydeuces the son of Tyndareus went back to his mighty brother, and found him not yet dead, but shuddering with gasps of breath.
Shedding warm tears amid groans, he spoke aloud: “Father, son of Cronus, what release will there be from sorrows? Order me to die too, along with him, lord. A man's honor is gone when he is deprived of friends; but few mortals are trustworthy in times of toil
to share the hardship.” So he spoke. And Zeus came face to face with him,
and said these words: “You are my son. But Castor was begotten after your conception by the hero, your mother's husband, who came to her and sowed his mortal seed. But nevertheless I grant you your choice in this. If you wish to escape death and hated old age, and to dwell in Olympus
yourself with me and with Athena and Ares of the dark spear,
you can have this lot. But if you strive to save your brother, and intend to share everything equally with him, then you may breathe for half the time below the earth, and for half the time in the golden homes of heaven.” When Zeus had spoken thus, Polydeuces did not have a second thought.
He opened the eye, and then released the voice of the bronze-clad warrior, Castor.