Pindar, creator; Arnson Svarlien, Diane, 1960-, translator

  1. Read me the name of the Olympic victor, the son of Archestratus, where it has been written in my mind. For I owed him a sweet song, and I have forgotten. But come, Muse, you and the daughter of Zeus, unforgetting Truth: with the hand that puts things right,
  2. keep from me the blame for lying, for wronging my friend.
  3. Approaching from far away, the future has arrived and made me ashamed of my deep debt. Still, payment with interest has a way of dissolving the bitter reproach of men.
  4. Now, just as the flowing wave overwhelms the rolling pebble, so shall I pay my account in full, in gratitude and friendship.
  5. For unswerving Exactitude rules the city of the Western Locrians, and Calliope is important to them, and bronze-armored Ares.
  6. Battle with Cycnus set back even Heracles, strong and violent; let Hagesidamus, victorious as a boxer at Olympia, offer thanks to Ilas, just as Patroclus did to Achilles.
  7. With the help of a god, one man can sharpen another who is born for excellence, and encourage him to tremendous achievement.
  8. Without toil only a few have attained joy, a light of life above all labors. The laws of Zeus urge me to sing of that extraordinary contest-place which Heracles founded by the ancient tomb of Pelops
  9. with its six altars, after he killed Cteatus, the flawless son of Poseidon
  10. and Eurytus too, with a will to exact from the unwilling Augeas, strong and violent, the wages for his menial labor.
  11. Heracles lay in wait in the thicket below Cleonae, and in his turn overcame those men by the roadside; for once before those arrogant Moliones had destroyed his Tirynthian army, when it was encamped in the valley of Elis,
  12. And indeed it was not much later before the man who betrayed his friend,
  13. the king of the Epeians, saw his land with all its possessions, his own city, sink into a deep channel of destruction beneath unyielding fire and blows of iron. A fight with a stronger man
  14. is impossible to push away. So even he, by his own senselessness, last of all found himself captured and did not escape sheer destruction.
  15. But the brave son of Zeus gathered the entire army and all the spoils together in Pisa
  16. and measured out a sacred precinct for his supreme father. He enclosed the Altis all around and marked it off in the open, and he made the encircling area a resting-place for feasting, honoring the stream of the Alpheus
  17. along with the twelve ruling gods.
  18. And he called it the Hill of Cronus; it had been nameless before, while Oenomaus was king, and it was covered with wet snow. But in this rite of first birth the Fates stood close by, and the one who alone puts genuine truth to the test,
  19. Time. Time moved forward and told the clear and precise story, how Heracles divided the gifts of war and sacrificed the finest of them, and how he established the four years’ festival with the first Olympic games and its victories.
  20. Who won the first garland, with the skill of his hands or feet or chariot, setting the boast of victory in his mind and achieving it with his deeds?