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ISTHMIA III. [III. IV.]
ON THE VICTORY OF MELISSOS OF THEBES IN THE
In the mss. and in editions earlier than Böckh's the third Isthmian ode consisted of only one strophic system, ending at v. 19 (30), the rest being the fourth Isthmian. The identity of subject and rhythm, the connexion of thought in the two portions, the obvious incompleteness of the first portion and the abrupt and unique character of the supposed beginning of the old fourth Isthmian amply justify Hermann in proposing, and Böckh in adopting, the union of the five systems into one ode; but I think that originally there were six systems, of which the second has been lost (see note on v. 19). Melissos, one of the noble and wealthy Kleônymidae of Thebes, probably gained this victory in the spring of B.C. 478, in the year after the Battle of Plataea (vv. 34—36). The mention of Hêrakles' conquest of Antaeos and his clearance of the sea possibly glances at the Hellênic victory over the Bápßapo.. The ode was probably recited at a meeting of the clan in a temple or before an altar. The rhythm is Dorian.
1–3. One who enjoys good fortune in a moderate spirit is
praiseworthy. 46. Zeus, the source of good capacities, makes the prosperity
of the devout more lasting. 7, 8. The man of prowess must receive a meed of praise and
song. 9—12. Melissos has gained two prizes, this at Isthmos and one
at Nemea. 12–17. His merits are hereditary, as his noble and wealthy
ancestors competed eagerly in chariot-races. F. II.
18. But only gods are exempt from vicissitudes.
19—23. By favour of the god Melissos' victory gives the poet
ample opportunity for praise of his prosperous family. 23, 24. But the breeze of mortal destiny varies and shifts. 25–33. Praises of the prosperous Kleônymidae : 34, 35. Yet in one day four fell in battle. 36, 37. But now the winter of their sorrow gives way to the
spring of success. 37—42. Poseidon, their neighbour, and the patron of the Isthmian
games, has roused from slumber their ancient fame. 43-47. Their former achievements. 48. For they were averse to the obscurity of the unenter
prising 49–53. But in contests the issue is doubtful. Craft gets the
better of sterling worth. 53, 54. Such was the case with Aias whom the Greeks drove to
suicide. 55–57. But Homer made him famous everywhere for ever. 58—60. For good poetry is immortal, and universal as light. 61–63. May the Muses grant me to kindle such a beacon-flame
for Melissos : 63–69. Who is brave and cunning, though of insignificant
physique ; 70—73. As was Hêrakles compared with Antaeos ; 73–78. Hêrakles, who after a glorious career dwells with the gods
in bliss. 79–86. In his honour the Thebans celebrate yearly funeral sacri
fices and games to his eight sons. 87-end. At which games Melissos, thanks to his trainer Orseas,
won three victories. Mezger sums up the fundamental ideas of the poem as follows. “Melissos and his clan should be highly praised because they are fortunate both in wealth and in victory, and yet keep their pride within bounds. For though they like all mortals are not exempt from vicissitude and have to endure much sorrow, yet still in the victory of Melissos and the consequent reawakening of the fame and the poetic praises of the clan a fresh spring has brought back what the winter had taken.” He tells us that Perthes rightly says that the myth of Aias refers to the unsuccessful efforts of the Kleônymidae to win victories, while Melissos in his success resembles Hérakles.
No doubt the uncertainty of human affairs is one of the main strands in the thread of song, but another conspicuous strand is the power of song to reward merit (vv. 7, 8; 19–21 ; 27–29; 39, 40; 44, 45, 55—63; 90). One difficulty with respect to the interpretation of the ode is that v. 37–45 quite ignore the victory of Melissos in the chariot race at Nemea and (which is less important) the three victories mentioned at the end of the ode.
This difficulty is solved by the assumption that this Isthmian victory was the first success which had been specially celebrated by a poet. If he won at the Nemea just before the battle of Plataea the disturbed state of affairs at Thebes would quite account for there not having been an ode.
Another difficulty is the suggested disparagement of téxva (v. 53), though the victor is represented vv. 65, 66 to have won by téxva. But in the latter passage the word used is not τέχνα but μήτις, and so in v. 53 we must take téxva to be coloured by xelpóvw and to be used in a bad sense as in Pyth. II. 32. Thus the poet makes a general insinuation that the clan had been deprived of their full share of honours in the great games by dishonest or dishonourable
It is however possible that the success of Melissos was unpopular, and that though crowned he was not honoured (vv. 3, 55, 77). So that as far as honour went he himself was like Aias. V. 66 is decidedly apologetic. The word téxva would cover nice objections lodged against his manner of conducting the struggle.
A third strand is the ascription of worth, fame and happiness to the gods (vv. 4–6; 19, 23; 33; 37–41; 61'; 76—78). We
may accept the poet's own criticism of this ode. He calls it, υ. 39, τόνδε θαυμαστόν ύμνον.
Στρ. α'. Εί τις ανδρών ευτυχήσαις ή συν ευδόξοις άέθλοις
1. oúv.] The construction with this preposition is half-way between that of Pyth. I. 38, oùv (merely 'in connection with ') eúφώνοις θαλίαις ονυμαστάν, and of Nem. x. 48, by means of.' Of
course the preposition is to be talken with ευτυχήσαις. For ευτυxéw, in connection with games, cf. Nem. 1. 10.
Eodbčous.] Glorious' rather than 'glorifying,' cf. Pyth. vi. 16, dto.
ή σθένει πλούτου κατέχει φρασιν αιανή κόρον, άξιος ευλογίαις αστών μεμίχθαι.
5 Ζεύ, μεγάλαι δ' άρεται θνατοϊς έπονται 5 εκ σέθεν" ζώει δε μάσσων όλβος όπιζομένων, πλαγίαις
δε φρένεσσιν ουχ όμως πάντα χρόνον θάλλων ομιλεί.
γοισι-θνατων εύδοξον. In short, in an adjective qualifying a sphere of action the causative phase of meaning is too clearly implied to need special attention.
2. σθένει.] Cf. OI. IX. 51, ύδατος σθένος, of a food, Frag. 84 , 10, νιφετού σθένος υπέρφατον, in a list of overwhelming calamities; so that in neither passage is the idea of .might' absent, and therefore Dissen's 'copia' is inadequate. Here again the rendering ‘abundance’ is unsatisfactory in view of Ρyth. V. 1, “Ο πλούτος ευρυσθενής, when combined with αρετα καθαρά, cf. also Isth. IV. 2, 3, Frag. 207 . Besides, ευτυχήσαις συν πλούτο alone would involve the idea of copia, so that its expression would be otiose. I conclude then that σθένος πλούτου means potent wealth,' cf. Ol. VΙ. 22, σθένος ημιόνων, strong mules.”
κατέχει.] “Keeps down,' cf. So1δη, Frag. 4 . 7, δήμου θ' ήγεμόνων άδικος νόος, οίσιν έτοιμος | ύβριος εκ μεγάλης άλγεα πολλά παθείν ου γάρ επίστανται κατέχειν κόρον ουδε παρούσας | ευφροσύνας κοσμείν δαιτός εν ησυχία. Theognis, 321, ει δε θεός κακο ανδρί βίον και πλούτον οπάσση, | αφραίνων κακίαν ου δύναται κατέχειν.
φρασίν.] Locative, cf. Nem. Χ. 28.
aiavñ.] This epithet is applied, Pyth. Ι. 83, to κόρος, the surfeit' of hearing excessive praise of another. In both places it means • disgusting,' sickening. For the present use of kópos cf. Nem. 1. 65,
Ο1. Ι. 56, καταπέψαι μέγαν όλβον ουκ εδυνάσθη, κόρη δ' έλεν | άταν υπέροπλον, Ο1. ΧΙΙΙ. 10, note. The victor's κόρος is parent of ύβρις, , which is parent of other people's kópos at the victor and his praises.
3. ευλογίαις.] Cf. Nem. XI. 17, εν λόγοις αστών αγαθοίσι...αινείσθαι.
μεμίχθαι.] Cf. ΟΙ. 1. 22, Nem. III. 68, IV. 21, Isth. VI. 19. For the perfect cf. Ol. 1. 53, Nem. III. 84, ΙΧ. 41, Dem. p. 564 fin. , τηνικαυτα...ότε πρώτον μεν διάκοσίους και χιλίους πεποιήκατε συντελείς υμείς.
4. μεγάλαι αρεται.] Signal merits,' such as success in games, proper use of wealth and modesty in prosperity. .
5. έκ σέθεν.] Note the emphatic position.
μάσσων.] For the comparative cf. Nem. VIII. 17. Not even piety and modesty can prevent great prosperity from being unstable; cf. even Pyth. vii. 20.
οπιζομένων.] “When folk revere thee;' cf. Pyth. viii. 43, 1. 26, infra, ν. 49, note.
πλαγίαις.] “Froward. Cf. Nem. 1. 64, πλαγίω κόρη. 6. ουχ όμως πάντα.] • Scarcely
An exaggeration veiled by meiosis. For όμως πάντα, see L. and S. ομως.
θάλλων.] Cf. Ρyth. VΙΙ. 21.
ομιλεί.] Cf. Εur. El. 939, ηύχεις τις ειναι τοϊσι χρήμασι σθένων | τα δ' ουδέν ει μή βραχύν όμιλήσαι χρονον. | ή γάρ φύσις βέβαιος, ου τα χρήματα. | η μεν γάρ αεί παραμένουσ' αίρει κάρα | ο δ' όλβος άδικος και
'Αντ. α'. ευκλέων δ' έργων άποινα χρη μεν υμνήσαι τον έσλίν, χρή δε κωμάζοντ’ αγαναΐς χαρίτεσσιν βαστάσαι. έστι δε και διδύμων αέθλων Μελίσσω
15 1ο μοίρα προς ευφροσύναν τρέψαι γλυκείαν ήτορ, έν βάσσαισιν Ισθμού δεξαμένω στεφάνους, τα
δε κοίλα λέοντος
μετά σκαιών ξυνών | εξέπτατ’ οίκων, σμικρόν ανθήσας χρόνον. Ρyth. ν. 2, όταν τις...αυτόν (πλούτον) ανάγη. πολύψιλον επέταν. Hes. W. and D. 324.
7. άποινα.] Acc. of 'general agreement,' cf. Isth. VII. 4 and Ol. VII. 16, where I explained άποινα as a quasi-cognate acc. like (kelaδήσαι) ποιναν τεθρίππων, Ρyth. Ι. 59, which I then regarded as a substitution for ύμνον, but I now think it simpler to regard this ποιν. . TEOp. also as an acc. of 'general agreement.'
χρή μέν, κ.τ.λ.] Cf. Frag. 98 , πρέπει δ' έσλoίσιν υμνείσθαι καλλίσταις αοιδαίς, cf. also Ιsth. VΙΙ. 59, 60.
8. χρή δέ.] For Dr Kennedy's ' peculiar idiom of Sophocles in sometimes repeating the word with each (uév, dé),' cf. Nem. ΧΙ. 3, 4, 6, 7, Χ. 27, 28, VI. 10, 11, 1. 62, 63, ΟΙ. ΧΙΙΙ. 14, 16, Ρyth. IX. 123, 5, Isth. IV. 30, ν. 71.
χαρίτεσσιν.] Songs. Cf. Isth. VII. 16, Pyth. IV. 275. For the epithet αγαν. cf. Nem. IX. 49, μαλθακα συν αοιδα. L. and S. are rash to give Curtius' hesitating connection with γάνυμαι, γάνος without a query. The sense points rather to ακέομαι, ακήν, &ο., and
there is plenty of analogy for the change of κ to γ.
βαστάσαι.] Το exalt. Cf. Οι. ΧΙΙ. 19, στεφανωσάμενος θερμά Νυμφάν λουτρά βαστάζεις. For probable etymology see Lewis and Short, s.v. gero.
9. και διδύμων.] “Even twain.'
10. τρέψαι.] For infin. cf. Οι. Ι. 9, κελαδεϊν, infrα, υ. 61.
11. βάσσαισιν.] Cf. Nem. ΙΙ. 21, X. 42.
δεξαμένω.] The subject to τρέψαι is μοίρα, as the dative agreeing with Melloow shows on comparison with εκομένους, Ο1. Ι. 10, for which cf. Isth. 1. 46, v. 21. For the meaning win' cf. Nem. ΙΙ. 4.
στεφάνους.] For the one victory in the pankration. For the plural cf. Ρyth. Χ. 26.
τα δέ.] Cf. Oι. ΙΧ. 95. For the change of construction, here involving a change of subject, cf. Ol. Ι. 14, δρέπων μεν...αγλαΐζεται δέ.
12. εν.] Note the position.
Θήβαν.] The Eponymous heroine stands for the city; cf. Ol. vi. 85.
13. κρατέων.] Cf. OI. IX. 112, Nem. v. 5 for the tense.
o'.] For.' There is a sort of hypallage in this sentence, the prowess of his worthy kinsfolk.'