Some say a host of cavalry, others of infantry,
and others of ships,
is the most beautiful thing on the black earth,
but I say it is whatsoever a person loves.
It is perfectly easy to make this understood by everyone:
for she who far surpassed mankind in beauty, Helen,
left her most noble husband and went sailing off to Troy with no thought at all!
for her child or dear parents, but (love) led her astray . . . lightly . . . and she has reminded me now of Anactoria who is not here;
I would rather see her lovely walk and the bright sparkle of her face
than the Lydians’chariots and armed infantry…
Calamity and conﬂagration! Strife!
Elissus has attained the time of life,
Sixteen, that’s made for love, and he has all
The adolescent graces great and small:
A honeyed voice, a mouth that’s sweet to kiss,
And an accommodating oriﬁce.
But, “Look, don’t touch!” he tells me. What a fate!
I’ll lie awake all night and—meditate.
Who are you, O shipwrecked stranger?
Leontichos found your corpse on the beach,
buried you in this grave and cried thinking of his own hazardous life.
For he knows no rest:
he too roams over the sea like a gull.
When will you show some courage, young comrades?
How long will you lie back and do nothing?
Lazing in shabby peace on our land bled by war,
have you no shame before the neighboring townsmen?
Let each man hurl his spear once more before he dies,
for glory dazzles on our helmets when we battle
the enemy for farmland and children and true wife.
Death will come only when the web of destiny is spun.
So move out, charge into the barbarous ranks
with spear held high and shield gripping a brave heart.
From death there is no escape; all men face the dark,
even those with blood of gods in their veins.
Often a man flees from the clash and thud of spears
and comes home to fall into sudden doom,
but he is neither loved nor missed by his townsmen.
Yet when a hero dies the great and small shed tears;
by a whole people a brave warrior is mourned.
In life he seems a demigod before the crowd;
as a marble pillar they look upon his strength,
for all alone he does the great deeds of an army.
A loveless life is hell, no doubt about
It; one can’t say or do a thing without
Longing. If Xenophilus came in sight,
Slow though I am, I’d reach the speed of light.
Far from avoiding what you can’t control,
Pursue it. Love’s the whetstone of the soul…
Alpheius of Mytilene
But the man to whom fate has granted some recent success
ﬂies up in great splendour on the wings of deeds of manly
and his concerns are with more than riches.
Men’s pleasure swells in a brief space of time,
and likewise falls to the ground, shaken by an adverse judgement.
Creatures of a day! What is man? What is he not?
He is the dream of a shadow; yet when Zeus-sent
a brilliant light shines upon mankind and their life is serene.