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Pindar: The arts versus war


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Pindar: Shall war spread unbounded ruin round?


Excerpts from The Odes
Translated by Richmond Lattimore

Pythia 1

Golden lyre, held of Apollo in common possession
with the violet-haired Muses: the dance steps, leaders of
festival, heed you;
the singers obey your measures
when, shaken with music, you cast the beat to lead choirs of

You have power to quench the speared thunderbolt
of flowing fire. Zeus’ eagle sleeps on his staff, folding his
quick wings both ways to quiet,
lord of birds; you shed a mist on his hooked head,
dark and gentle closure of eyes; dreaming, he ripples
his lithe back, bound in spell
of your waves. Violent Ares even, leaving aside the stern pride
of spears, makes gentle his heart in sleep.
Your shafts enchant the divinities by grace of the wisdom of
Lato’s son and the deep-girdled Muses.


Pythia 5

Apollo, who administers
to men and women healing of heavy sickness;
who gave the lyre and grants the Muse to whom he will,
bringing into their hearts
lawfulness without discord;
who sways the closed mantic


Pythia 10

Never on foot or ship could you find
the marvelous road to the feast of the Hyperboreans.

Never the Muse is absent
from their ways: lyres clash, and the flutes cry,
and everywhere maiden choruses whirling.
They bind their hair in golden laurel and take their holiday.
Neither disease nor bitter old age is mixed
in their sacred blood; far from labor and battle
they live; they escape Nemesis,
the over just.


Pythia 8

In brief space mortals’
delight is exalted, and thus again it drops to the ground,
shaken by a backward doom.
We are things of a day. What are we? What are we not ? The
shadow of a dream
is man, no more. But when the brightness comes, and God
gives it,
there is a shining of light on men, and their life is sweet.

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