Alone of the gods, Death desires no gifts; one can gain nothing by making sacrifice or pouring libation to him, nor has he any altar, nor is he addressed in songs of praise; from him, alone among divinities, Persuasion stands aloof. (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein)
And on the words of Aeschylus, Fear not; great stress of pain is not for long,
we ought to remark that this is the oft repeated and much admired statement originating with Epicurus, namely “that great pains have no magnitude.” Of these two ideas Aeschylus has perspicuously stated the one and the other is a corollary thereto; for if great and intense pain is not lasting, then that which does not last is not great or hard to endure. (tr. Frank Cole Babbitt)
Do not think that my silence is due to vanity or arrogance. No, my heart is eaten up with brooding, when I see myself treated so outrageously. After all, who was it but I that did all the distributing of privileges to these new gods? But I will say no more about that, because I would be telling you what you already know. Instead, listen to the miseries of mortals, how infantile they were before I made them intelligent and possessed of understanding. I shall say this, not because I have any desire to criticize humans, but to demonstrate the goodwill that inspired my gifts to them. In the beginning, though they had eyes and ears they could make nothing of what they saw and heard; like dream-figures they lived a life of utter random confusion all their days. They knew nothing of brick-built, sun-warmed houses, nor of wooden construction; they dwelt underground, like tiny ants, in the sunless recesses of caves. Nor had they any reliable indicator of winter, or of flowery spring, or of fruitful summer; they did everything without planning, until I showed them the hard-to-discern risings and settings of stars. I alone invented for them the art of number, supreme among all techniques, and that of combining letters into written words, the tool that enables all things to be remembered and is mother of the Muses. And I was the first to bring beasts under the yoke as slaves to the yoke-strap and the pack-saddle, so that they might relieve humans of their greatest labours; and I brought horses to love the rein and pull chariots, making them a luxurious ornament for men of great wealth. And it was no one other than me that invented the linen-winged vehicles in which sailors roam the seas. Such contrivances have I invented for mortals, yet, wretched that I am, I have no device by which I can escape from my present sufferings. (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein)
The land laments its native youth
killed by Xerxes, who crammed Hades
with Persians: many men
who were marched away, the flower of the land,
slayers with the bow, thronging
myriads of men, have perished and gone.
Aiai, aiai, for our brave defenders!
King of our country, the land of Asia
is terribly, terribly down on her knees! (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein)
This* is the man who once threw in my direction an object designed to make me a laughing-stock, the evil-smelling chamber-pot, and he did not miss his aim; it struck me on the head and smashed into fragments, wafting over me an odour very unlike that of perfume-jars.
* Not certainly identifiable, but most likely Ctesippus, in the Odyssey (20.287-302) the only suitor other than Antinous and Eurymachus who throws an object (a cow’s hoof) at the disguised Odysseus; later he is appropriately killed by the oxherd Philoetius.
Just so a man once
reared in his home an infant lion,
fond of the nipple but deprived of its milk,
in its undeveloped time of life
tame, well loved by children
and a delight to the old:
it was much in his arms
like a young suckling baby,
gazing bright-eyed at his hand*
and fawning when hunger pressed it.
But in time it displayed the character
inherited from its parents; it returned
thanks to its nurturers
by making, with destructive slaughter of sheep,
a feast, unbidden.
The house was steeped in blood,
and uncontrollable grief to the household,
a great calamity with much killing**.
What a god had caused to be reared as an inmate of the house
was a priest*** of ruin.
* “Which fed or might feed it” (Rose).
** These expressions are somewhat excessive if the only loss of life has been among sheep, and it is more likely that we are to understand that together with (σὺν) the slaughter of animals, the lion’s “unbidden feast” also included human flesh.
*** i.e. sacrificer, slaughterer. (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein, with his notes)