Pindar Pythian 8, Aristomenes, Wrestling 446BC


Pindar Pythian 8 Aristomenes of Aigina, Wrestling, 446BC

Translated by Steven Willett



Athenian wrestling frieze 5th century BC


Note: Pythian 8 is one of my three or four favorites among the odes for its strong rhythmic movement to the climax, startling metaphors, intense language and realistic depiction of wrestling. The final triad ll 81~100 is powerful in its stark depiction of what a victory or defeat means to a wrestler. All famous athletes who gloat over their accomplishments should read it carefully.

To make reading easier, here is an explanatory list of names keyed by line: Peace (Hesychia), daughter of Justice (1); Porphyrion, king of Giants (12); Xenarkes son, Aristomenes (19); Aiakidai, sons of Aeacus, the son of Zeus by Aegina (23); Theognetos, Olympic victor in wrestling (36); Kleitomachos, unknown (37); the Meidylidai, a clan to which Aristomenes belonged (38); Oikles son, Amphiaraos both a seer and fighter (cf. Ol 6.16~17) with the snake on his shield symbolizing skill in prophesy; the second war on Thebes was led by Alcman, son of Amphiaraos (39, 46); Adrastus, king of Argos (49); Abas, 12th king of Argos (55); "for you both," the Aigneten Delphinia; Apollo's sister Artemis is included in the plural (66).


Kindly Peace, O daughter Str. 1

of Justice, you maker of greatest cities,

holding the supreme keys

of both counsels and war,

accept the honor of Pythian victory for Aristomenes.

For you know how to give leniency and likewise

to receive it at the exact season; (7)


but when someone drives Ant. 1

implacable wrath into his heart,

you roughly go to encounter the might

of enemies and cast their

insolence into the bilge. Porphyrion didn't know your power

when he unduly provoked you. Gain is dearest,

if one bears it from the home of a willing giver. (14)


But force overthrows the vain-boaster in time. Ep. 1

The hundred-headed Cilician Typhos didn't escape it,

nor indeed the king of Giants; they were conquered by thunderbolt

and arrows of Apollo; with gracious mind he

welcomed the son of Xenarkes from Kirrha, crowned

with Parnassian wreath and a Doric victory festival. (20)


Not far from the Graces fell Str. 2

an island with the justcity virtues

renowned among the Aiakidai

that it has achieved, and holds consummate

fame from the beginning: for it's sung rearing in many

victorious contests and in swift

battles supreme heroes; (27)


and it's conspicuous for men. Ant. 2

But I'm without leisure to dedicate

the whole long winding story

by lyre and gentle voice,

lest satiety comes to grate us. But running at my feet

let your debt, my boy, of the latest glories

fly on the wings of my art. (34)


For seeking the trail of your maternal uncles in wrestling Ep 2

you do not disgrace Theognetos at Olympia

or Kleitomachos' strong-limned victory at the Isthmus,

but exalting the clan of the Meidulidai you earn the words

which Oikeles' son once spoke in prophic riddles as he beheld

the sons standing in spear-pointed battle at Thebes, (40)


when from Argos came Str. 3

the Epigonoi on their second journey.

Thus he spoke as they were fighting:

“By nature the noble resolve is conspicuous

from fathers to their sons. I clearly see

Alkman wielding the dappled serpent from his blazing shield

first at the gate of Kadmos. (47)


But he who suffered in a former misfortune Ant 3

is now upheld by news

of a better omen,

hero Adrastos; but in his own household

he will fare the opposite. For he alone from the Danaan army

gathering the bones of his son, by the gods' favor

will return with his people unharmed (54)


to the spacious streets of Abas.” Such then Ep 3

proclaimed Amphiaraos. And I too feel delighted

to cast Alkman with wreaths, and sprinkle him with song,

since as my neighbor and guardian of my possessions,

he met me going to the earth's famous navel,

and proved his hold of prophesy with inherited skills. (60)


And you, Far-shooter, who govern Str. 4

the famous all-welcoming temple

in the vales of Pytho,

it was there the greatest of joys

you granted, and earlier at home bestowed the alluring gift

of the Pentathlon with festivities for you both;

O lord, I pray that with a willing mind you (67)


look in accord with harmonious favor Ant. 4

on every step I take.

With the sweet-singng festive band

Justice has taken her stand; the gods' bounteous

favor I ask, Xenarkes, on your family's fortunes.

For if someone has gained success witout long labor,

he seems for many a wise man among fools (74)


to arm his life with right-councelling art; Ep. 4

such things do not rest among men; a divinity bestows them

to one man, but crushing another beneath hands.

Advance with good measure; at Megara you hold the prize

and in Marathon's plain, and Hera's local contest

with three victories, O Aristomenes, you prevailed by effort; (80)


and from above you fell on four Str. 5

bodies planning hostile intent,

for whom no homecoming happy as yours

was decreed in the Pythian festival,

nor returning to their mothers did sweet laughter

stir joy around them; but aloof from enemies down alleys

they slouched, bitten by misfortune. (87)


But he who's obtained a new success Ant. 5

in his great opulence

takes flight by hope

on the wings of manhood, having

an aspiration greater than wealth. In short time the delight

of mortals will flourish; thus it also falls to earth,

shaken by a direful purpose. (94)


Creatures of a day! What's someone? What's no one? A shadow's dream Ep. 5

is man. But whenever Zeus-given radiance comes,

a brilliant light rests upon men and a gentle lifetime.

Dear mother Aigina, on its voyage of freedom

preserve this city along with Zeus and king Aiakos,

Peleus and noble Telamon and Achilles. (100)



This entry was posted in Poetry, Willett. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Pindar Pythian 8, Aristomenes, Wrestling 446BC

  1. Fred says:

    Steven Willett,
    Thank you very much for your continued work. I see I missed out on an opportunity not learning Latin or Greek when young.

  2. Lynda Brayer says:

    Dear Mr Lang:
    Thank you for bringing these treasures from what I hope, is our classical heritage, although obviously unknown to most, because of the deliberate debasement of the educational system.
    I also want to thank Mr. Willet for his elegant translations.
    The comments on reality through these extracts provide a virtuous perspsective on the degradation we see before us.
    All strength to you and God bless.
    Lynda Brayer

Comments are closed.