Tyrtaeus


"First in debate shall heaven's favorites, the kings, the guardians of fair Sparta's polity, speak, and the elders. After them the commoners shall to direct proposals make response with conscientious speech and all just consequence, making no twisted plans against our realm; and commoner's majority shall win the day." Pheobus brought forth this guidance for the state.

To conquer her they fought full nineteen years steadfastly ever, with endurance in their hearts, those spearman of our fathers' fathers' time, and in the twentieth the foe took flight, and left their fertile farms among Ithome's heights.

like donkeys suffering under heavy loads, by painful force compelled to bring their masters half of all the produce that the soil brought forth.

For it is fine to die in the front line, a brave man fighting for his fatherland, and the most painful fate's to leave one's town and fertile farmlands for a beggarís life, roaming with mother dear and aged father, with little children and with wedded wife. Heíll not be welcome anywhere he goes, bowing to need and horrid poverty, his line disgraced, his handsome face belied; every humiliation dogs his steps. This is the truth: the vagrant is ignored and slighted, and his children after him. So let us fight with spirit for our land, die for our sons, and spare our lives no more. You young men, keep together, hold the line, do not start panic or disgraced rout. Keep grand and valiant spirits in your hearts, be not in love with life Ė the fightís with men! Do not desert your elders, men with legs no longer nimble, by recourse to flight: it is disgraceful when an older man falls in the front line while the young hold back, with head already white, and grizzled beard, gasping his valiant breath out in the dust and clutching at his bloodied genitals, his nakedness exposed: a shameful sight and scandalous. But for the young man, still in glorious prime, it is all beautiful: alive, he draws menís eyes and womenís hearts; felled in the front line, he is lovely yet. Let every man then, feet set firm apart, bite on his lip and stand against the foe. 10

But Heracles unvanquished sowed your stock: take heart! Zeus bows not yet beneath the yoke. Fear not the throng of men, turn not to flight, but straight toward the front line bear your shields, despising life and welcoming the dark contingencies of death like shafts of sun. You know what wreck the woeful War-god makes, and are well to the grim fight's temper tuned. You have been with pursuers and pursued, you young men, and had bellyful of both. You know that those who bravely hold the line and press toward engagement at the front die in less numbers, with the ranks behind protected; those who run, lose all esteem. The list is endless of the ills that hurt the man who learns to think the coward's thoughts: for its a bad place, as he flees the fray, to have his wound, between the shoulder-blades, and its a shameful sight to see him lie dead in the dust, the spear-point in his back. Let every man, then, feet set firm apart, bite on his lip and stand against the foe, his thighs and shins, his shoulders and his chest all hidden by the broad bulge of his shield. Let his right hand brandish the savage lance, the plume nod fearsomely above his head. By fierce deeds let him teach himself to fight, and not stand out of fire - he has a shield - but get in close, engage, and stab with lance or sword, and strike his adversary down. Plant foot by foeman's foot, press shield on shield, thrust helm at helm, and tangle plume with plume, opposing breast to breast: that's how to fight, with the long lance or sword-grip in your hand. You light-armed men, wherever you can aim from the shield-cover, pelt them with great rocks and hurl at them your smooth-shaved javelines, helping the armored troops with close support. 11

I would not rate a man worth mention or account either for speed of foot or wrestling skill, not even if he had a Cyclop's size and strength or could outrun the fierce north wind of Thrace; I would not care if he surpassed Tithonus's looks, or Cinyras's or Midas's famous wealth, or were more royal than Pelops son of Tantalus, or had Adrastus's smooth persuasive tongue, or fame for everything save only valor; no, no manís of high regard in time of war unless he can endure the sight of blood and death, and stand close to the enemy, and fight. This is the highest worth, the finest human prize and fairest for a bold young man to win. It benefits the whole community and state, when with a firm stance in the foremost rank a man bides steadfast, with no thought of shameful flight, laying his life and stout heart on the line, and standing by the next man speaks encouragement. This is the man of worth in time of war. Soon he turns back the front line felled, his breast, his bossed shield pierced by many a wound, and of his corselet all the front, but he has brought glory upon his father, army, town. His death is mourned alike by young and old; the whole community feels the keen loss of its own. People point out his tomb, his children in the street, his childrenís children and posterity. His name and glorious reputation never die; he is immortal even in his grave, that man the furious War-god kills as he defends his soil and children with heroic stand. Or if in winning his proud spear-vaunt he escapes the doom of death and griefís long shadow-cast, then all men do him honor, young and old alike; much joy is his before he goes below. He grows old in celebrity, and no one thinks to cheat him of his due respect and rights, but all men at the public seats make room for him, the young, the old, and those of his own age. This is the excellence whose heights one now must seek to scale, by not relenting in the fight. 12

the man-destroying War-god

but with concerted charge at once we'll crush their front

they will kill every Spartan that they catch fleeing the battle

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