For Herodotus of Thebes
?458 B. C.
My mother, Thebe of the golden shield, I shall place your interests above my lack of leisure. May rocky Delos
, in whose praises I have poured myself out, not be indignant at me.
What is dearer to good men than their noble parents? Yield, island of Apollo; indeed, with the help of the gods I shall accomplish the end of both graceful songs,
honoring in the dance both Phoebus with the unshorn hair, in wave-washed Ceos
with its mariners, and the sea-dividing reef of the Isthmus.
Since the Isthmus gave to the people of Cadmus six garlands from her games, the glory of triumph for my fatherland, where Alcmena bore her fearless
son, before whom the bold hounds of Geryon once trembled. But I, while I frame for Herodotus a prize of honor for his four-horse chariot,
and for managing the reins with his own hands and not another's, want to join him to the song of Castor or of Iolaus, for of all heroes they were the strongest charioteers, the one born in Sparta
and the other in Thebes
And in the games they attempted the greatest number of contests, and adorned their homes with tripods
and caldrons and goblets of gold, tasting victorious garlands. Their excellence shines clearly, in the naked footraces and in the shield-clashing hoplite races,
and in all the deeds of their hands, in flinging the spear
and whenever they hurled the stone discus. For there was no pentathlon, but for each feat a separate prize was set up. Often crowning their hair with wreaths from these contests they appeared beside the streams of Dirce or near the Eurotas,
the son of Iphicles, who was of the same city as the race of the Sown Men, and the son of Tyndareus, dwelling among the Achaeans in his highland home of Therapne. Farewell. But I, arraying with song Poseidon and the sacred Isthmus and the shores of Onchestus, shall tell, along with the honors of this man, the very famous fortune of his father Asopodorus
and of his ancestral land of Orchomenus, which received him from the boundless sea when he was hard-pressed by shipwreck, in chilly misfortune. But now once more his hereditary fortune has embarked him on
the fair weather of the old days. And he who has suffered toils gains foresight in his mind.
If a man has devoted his whole spirit to excellence, sparing neither expense nor toils, it is right to grant the boast of manliness to those who achieve excellence, with an ungrudging
mind. For it is an easy gift for a skilled man to speak words of praise in recompense for labors of all kinds and thus to promote the common good.
Different wages for different deeds are sweet to men, to the shepherd and the ploughman and the bird-trapper, and the man whom the sea nourishes. Every man is intent upon keeping persistent famine from his belly.
But he who wins rich renown in the games or in war receives the highest gain: to be well spoken of by his fellow-citizens and by strangers, the choicest bloom of speech.
For us it is right to celebrate the earth-shaking son of Cronus, returning a good deed to our beneficent neighbor, the lord of horse-racing and chariots;
and to invoke your sons, Amphitryon, and the secluded valley of Minyas, and Eleusis
, the famous precinct of Demeter, and Euboea
, when we speak of curving race-courses.
Protesilas, I add besides your sacred ground in Phylace
, the home of Achaean men.
But the brief limits of my song prevent me from telling of all the victories that Hermes, lord of games, granted to Herodotus and his horses. Truly, often that which is hushed in silence actually brings greater pleasure.
May he, raised up on the splendid wings of the Pierian Muses with their lovely voices,
also arm his hand with wreaths from Pytho
, with exquisite wreaths from the Alpheus and the Olympian games, thus winning glory for seven-gated Thebes. But if someone hoards hidden wealth at home, and attacks others with mockery, he fails to consider that he is giving up his soul to Hades without glory.