Wednesday, December 15, 2021


How Long Would It All Last?

Theognis (?) 773-782 (tr. B.M.W. Knox):
Lord Phoebus, it was you in person who built the towers on our city's high place, as a favour to Pelops' son Alkathoos. Now in person keep the savage army of the Medes away from this city, so that in gladness, when spring comes on, the people may bring you glorious animal sacrifices in procession, rejoicing in the sound of the harp and the lovely banquet, the cries and dance-steps of the hymns in your honour performed at your altar. Save us, I beseech you — for I am terrified when I see the mad folly and the destructive disunion of the Greek people. Be gracious to us, Phoebus, and watch over this our city.

Φοῖβε ἄναξ, αὐτὸς μὲν ἐπύργωσας πόλιν ἄκρην,
    Ἀλκαθόῳ Πέλοπος παιδὶ χαριζόμενος·
αὐτὸς δὲ στρατὸν ὑβριστὴν Μήδων ἀπέρυκε        775
    τῆσδε πόλευς, ἵνα σοι λαοὶ ἐν εὐφροσύνῃ
ἦρος ἐπερχομένου κλειτὰς πέμπωσ' ἑκατόμβας
    τερπόμενοι κιθάρῃ καὶ ἐρατῇ θαλίῃ
παιάνων τε χοροῖς ἰαχῇσί τε σὸν περὶ βωμόν·
    ἦ γὰρ ἔγωγε δέδοικ' ἀφραδίην ἐσορῶν        780
   καὶ στάσιν Ἑλλήνων λαοφθόρον. ἀλλὰ σύ, Φοῖβε,
    ἵλαος ἡμετέρην τήνδε φύλασσε πόλιν.
The city is Megara.

Andrew Robert Burn (1902-1991), Persia and the Greeks: The Defence of the West, c. 546-478 B.C. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1962; rpt. Minerva Press, 1968), pp. 170-171:
Theognis fears for Greece; for the Greek way of life, which he loved, and of which the high tides were marked by those communal festivals of worship, dancing and song, athletics and feasting with the god, on the flesh of the sacrifices; very good to men who had well exercised themselves in dancing or running or wrestling while the huge barbecue was being prepared, and who rarely ate meat on ordinary days. Every human interest was included, from worship to eating (wine was less of a rarity than meat); and all under the brilliant blue sky and among the flowers of an Aegean spring. How long would it all last?

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