Saturday, March 20, 2021


Profession of Faith

Homer, Iliad 4.157-168 (Agamemnon to Menelaus, after the breaking of the truce; tr. Richmond Lattimore):
So, the Trojans have struck you down and trampled on the oaths sworn.
Still the oaths and the blood of the lambs shall not be called vain,
the unmixed wine poured and the right hands we trusted.
If the Olympian at once has not finished this matter,        160
late will he bring it to pass, and they must pay a great penalty,
with their own heads, and with their women, and with their children.
For I know this thing well in my heart, and my mind knows it.
There will come a day when sacred Ilion shall perish,
and Priam, and the people of Priam of the strong ash spear,        165
and Zeus son of Kronos who sits on high, the sky-dwelling,
himself shall shake the gloom of his aegis over all of them
in anger for this deception. All this shall not go unaccomplished.

ὥς σ᾽ ἔβαλον Τρῶες, κατὰ δ᾽ ὅρκια πιστὰ πάτησαν.
οὐ μέν πως ἅλιον πέλει ὅρκιον αἷμά τε ἀρνῶν
σπονδαί τ᾽ ἄκρητοι καὶ δεξιαὶ ᾗς ἐπέπιθμεν.
εἴ περ γάρ τε καὶ αὐτίκ᾽ Ὀλύμπιος οὐκ ἐτέλεσσεν,        160
ἔκ τε καὶ ὀψὲ τελεῖ, σύν τε μεγάλῳ ἀπέτισαν
σὺν σφῇσιν κεφαλῇσι γυναιξί τε καὶ τεκέεσσιν.
εὖ γὰρ ἐγὼ τόδε οἶδα κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν·
ἔσσεται ἦμαρ ὅτ᾽ ἄν ποτ᾽ ὀλώλῃ Ἴλιος ἱρὴ
καὶ Πρίαμος καὶ λαὸς ἐϋμμελίω Πριάμοιο,        165
Ζεὺς δέ σφι Κρονίδης ὑψίζυγος αἰθέρι ναίων
αὐτὸς ἐπισσείῃσιν ἐρεμνὴν αἰγίδα πᾶσι
τῆσδ᾽ ἀπάτης κοτέων· τὰ μὲν ἔσσεται οὐκ ἀτέλεστα.
G.S. Kirk, commentary on lines 160-162:
A solemn and moving profession of faith, proverbial in tone and language....This is the first general statement in Greek literature of the powerful dogma that Zeus always exacts vengeance in the end, and that it may spread into the transgressor's family. Agamemnon stops just short of saying that a man might die unpunished himself, but that then his descendants will suffer, a refinement developed in Solon and Aeschylus — see also Hesiod, Erga 282-5, Parker, Miasma 201 and H. Lloyd-Jones, The Justice of Zeus2 (Berkeley 1983) 7f., 37, 44.

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