Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Archilochus, Fragment 19 West

Archilochus, fragment 19 West, tr. Douglas Gerber:
The possessions of Gyges rich in gold are of no concern to me, not yet have I been seized with jealousy of him, I do not envy the deeds of the gods, and I have no love of tyranny. That is beyond my sights.
The same, tr. Richmond Lattimore:
Nothing to me the life of Gyges and his glut
of gold. I neither envy nor admire him, as
I watch his life and what he does. I want no pride
of tyranny: it lies far off from where I look.
The same, tr. Guy Davenport:
These golden matters
Of Gyges and his treasuries
Are no concern of mine.
Jealousy has no power over me,
Nor do I envy a god his work,
And I don't burn to rule.
Such things have no
Fascination for my eyes.
The same, tr. Anne Pippin Burnett:
Gyges' gold is no affair of mine —
I don't want it, and I don't envy gods
their deeds, or dream of tyrants' thrones:
that's further than I look.
The same, tr. M.L. West:
Gyges and all his gold don't interest me.
I've never been prey to envy, I don't marvel
at heavenly things, or yearn for great dominion.
That's all beyond the sights of such as me.
The Greek:
οὔ μοι τὰ Γύγεω τοῦ πολυχρύσου μέλει,
οὐδ' εἶλέ πώ με ζῆλος, οὐδ' ἀγαίομαι
θεῶν ἔργα, μεγάλης δ'οὐκ ἐρέω τυραννίδος·
ἀπόπροθεν γάρ ἐστιν ὀφθαλμῶν ἐμῶν.
According to Aristotle, Rhetoric 3.17 (1418 b), these words were put into the mouth of a carpenter named Charon. Like Croesus, Gyges was fabulously rich.

David C. Young, Three Odes of Pindar: A Literary Study of Pythian 11, Pythian 3, and Olympian 7 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1968), p. 10:
In assessing these lines should we blindly follow the assumption of specific personal, topical, and political allusions, apply it to Archilochus, and conclude, with Bonnard,1 that this soldier-poet (and, some think, slave-son bastard) had been asked to become tyrannos of Thasos (which offer he hereby publicly declines)? Let us not, this time. I prefer to analyze the fragment and move on. Archilochus here presents a list of three things which he does not covet, extreme wealth, superhuman abilities,2 and a tyranny. Then he summarily rejects them (or at least the last); unfortunately, the fragment, which seems to be a priamel,3 ends before we are told what, if anything, Archilochus does, in fact, desire.

1 This amazing interpretation (Bonnard, p. 9, with a reference to Lasserre's frag. 35 [P. Oxy. 2310, fr. 1, col. 1]) suggests that the Delphic oracle had requested that Archilochus become tyrannos of Thasos.

2 The meaning of οὐδ' ἀγαίομαι θεῶν ἔργα ("I do not envy the deeds of gods") has apparently been unclear (e.g., it bothers Lattimore so much that, to avoid it, he apparently invents an active participle of θεάομαι [?: Greek Lyrics, p. 2)]. The common view of the phrase regards it as an expression of satisfaction with the divine order (Bonnard), varied to "Was die Götter einem Menschen schenken, neidet man ihm nicht" (Fraenkel, Dichtung and Philosophie2, p. 154), to a failure to begrudge others their supernatural powers, which are god-given gifts (suggested by Gyges' magic ring: Cataudella, pp. 251 f.). There may be some validity in these interpretations, especially in the last, but the main point of the phrase is 'I do not covet (i.e., desire to perform) the acts of gods (i.e., superhuman feats),' as is corroborated by the theme of superhuman longevity in Anacreon 8 and Simonides 71 (infra; cf. Maximus Tyrius XX, 2: οὐ πλοῦτον τέθηπεν, οὐ βασίλεια ἐκπλήττεται, οὐ φεύγει θάνατον [Schmid, Priamel, p. 157]) and other superhuman feats in Euripides Med. 543, Theocritus Id. 8, 54, etc.

3 "The priamel is a focusing or selecting device in which one or more terms serve as foil for the point of particular interest" (Bundy I, 5). See, in general W. Kröhling, Die Priamel als Stilmittel in der griechisch-römischen Dichtung (Griefswald, 1935): for Pindar, see p. 33, n. 4 infra; for the particular form pertinent here, see Schmid, Priamel, pp. IX f. et passim (of prime relevance for Py. 11: cf. the topics listed in Schmid's Register [part C] with the remaining remarks of this chapter), Bundy II, n. 117 (on Bundy's interpretation of Py. 11, 53 see p. 14, n. 3 infra).
Related post: I Don't Want Your Millions. Or Do I?

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