Interesting theological elements in Archilochus’ poetry

In this post we present and discuss two excerpts from Archilochus, the ancient poet.

From the Stromata (Miscellanies), ΣΤ’ 6. 1, by Clement of Alexandria

Ancient Greek: “Καὶ νέους θάρσυνε· νίκης δ’ ἐν θεοῖσι πείρατα.”

English: “and give young people courage. But the end of victory lies with the gods”

From Stobaeus 4. 41. 24

Ancient Greek: “τοῖς θεοῖς †τ’ εἰθεῖ άπάντα: πολλάκις μὲν ἐκ κακῶν ἄνδρας ὀρθοῦσιν μελαίνῃ κειμένους ἐπὶ χθονί, πολλάκις δ ̓ ἀνατρέπουσι καὶ μάλ ̓εὖ βεβηκότας ὑπτίους, κείνοις <δ’> ἔπειτα πολλὰ γίγνεται κακά, καὶ βίου χρήμῃ πλανᾶται καὶ νόου παρήορος.”

English: “For the gods everything is easy; many times, they raise men who lie on the black earth, and many times they tip over other men who were doing fine until then, and thereafter, many calamities befall them, and they wander deprived of all the necessary and with a reckless/unwise/foolish mind.”


NovoScriptorium: The first excerpt emphasizes that Man should do the best he can in order to achieve a goal (here, a victorious war), but he should always remember that the end of things, and of course war, belong to the Divine (here “the gods”). This appears to be a solid belief among the more ancient Greek authors (another famous example is Homer).

The second excerpt continues in the same frame. We learn that:

-The Divine is capable for everything

-The Divine is interventional

As we have discussed in previous posts, when Man challenges the Divine with any form of Hubris, then, he ends up in the worst possible condition. Even though it is not mentioned in this excerpt, being deprived of the necessary (while you were wealthier and in a better condition before) and wandering with a lost mind (“reckless/unwise/foolish” is the exact description of the hubristes’ mind) is the most standard punishment of the hubristes (read another example here).

The remnants of Archilochus’ work and his reputation in the ancient Greek world convince us that he must have shared the same views with his contemporaries on this issue.

Research-Analysis for NovoScriptorium: Isidoros Aggelos

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