Monday, June 05, 2017


A Man's Prayer for His Son

Homer, Iliad 6.476-481 (Hector speaking; tr. Richmond Lattimore):
Zeus, and you other immortals, grant that this boy, who is my son,
may be as I am, pre-eminent among the Trojans,
great in strength, as am I, and rule strongly over Ilion;
and some day let them say of him: "He is better by far than his father",
as he comes in from the fighting; and let him kill his enemy
and bring home the blooded spoils, and delight the heart of his mother.

Ζεῦ ἄλλοι τε θεοὶ δότε δὴ καὶ τόνδε γενέσθαι
παῖδ᾽ ἐμὸν ὡς καὶ ἐγώ περ ἀριπρεπέα Τρώεσσιν,
ὧδε βίην τ᾽ ἀγαθόν, καὶ Ἰλίου ἶφι ἀνάσσειν·
καί ποτέ τις εἴποι πατρός γ᾽ ὅδε πολλὸν ἀμείνων
ἐκ πολέμου ἀνιόντα· φέροι δ᾽ ἔναρα βροτόεντα        480
κτείνας δήϊον ἄνδρα, χαρείη δὲ φρένα μήτηρ.
M.I. Finley (1912-1986), The World of Odysseus, 2nd ed. (1978; rpt. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1983), p. 28:
There is no social conscience in these words, no trace of the Decalogue, no responsibility other than familial, no obligation to anyone or anything but one's own prowess and one's own drive to victory and power.
Usually sons are inferior to their fathers—see e.g. Homer, Odyssey 2.276-277 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
For few are the children who turn out to be equals of their fathers,
and the greater number are worse; few are better than their father is.

παῦροι γάρ τοι παῖδες ὁμοῖοι πατρὶ πέλονται,
οἱ πλέονες κακίους, παῦροι δέ τε πατρὸς ἀρείους.

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