Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tirtaios on Spartan Virtue, and a Critique

τεθνάμεναι γὰρ καλὸν ἐνὶ προμάχοισι πεσόνταBut
ἄνδρ' ἀγαθὸν περὶ ᾗ πατρίδι μαρνάμενον·
τὴν δ' αὐτοῦ προλιπόντα πόλιν καὶ πίονας ἀγροὺς
πτωχεύειν πάντων ἔστ' ἀνιηρότατον,
πλαζόμενον σὺν μητρὶ φίλῃ καὶ πατρὶ γέροντι
παισί τε σὺν μικροῖς κουριδίῃ τ' ἀλόχῳ.
It is beautiful when a brave man of the front ranks
falls and dies, battling for his homeland,
and ghastly when a man flees planted fields and city
and wanders begging with his dear mother,
aged father, little children and true wife.
--Translation, Willis Barnstrone, Greek Lyric Poetry 38 (1975).

 But compare Archilochos of Paro
Ἀσπίδι μὲν Σαΐων τις ἀγάλλεται, ἥν παρὰ θάμνῳ
ἔντος ἀμώμητον κάλλιπον οὐκ ἐθέλων·
αὐτὸν δ' ἔκ μ' ἐσάωσα· τί μοι μέλει ἀσπὶς ἐκείνη;
Ἐρρέτω· ἐξαῦτις κτήσομαι οὐ κακίω.

Well, what if some barbaric Thracian glories
in the perfect shield I left under a bush?
I was sorry to leave it--but I saved my skin.
Does it matter?  Oh hell, I'll buy a better one.
--Id., 28.

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