Daily Words of Wisdom #2

Today’s words of wisdom are brought to you by Homer from Iliad 24.

δοιοὶ γάρ τε πίθοι κατακείαται ἐν Διὸς οὔδει
δώρων οἷα δίδωσι κακῶν, ἕτερος δὲ ἑάων:
 μέν κ᾽ ἀμμίξας δώῃ Ζεὺς τερπικέραυνος,
530ἄλλοτε μέν τε κακῷ  γε κύρεται, ἄλλοτε δ᾽ ἐσθλῷ:
 δέ κε τῶν λυγρῶν δώῃ, λωβητὸν ἔθηκε,
καί  κακὴ βούβρωστις ἐπὶ χθόνα δῖαν ἐλαύνει,
φοιτᾷ δ᾽ οὔτε θεοῖσι τετιμένος οὔτε βροτοῖσιν.
ὣς μὲν καὶ Πηλῆϊ θεοὶ δόσαν ἀγλαὰ δῶρα
535ἐκ γενετῆς: πάντας γὰρ ἐπ᾽ ἀνθρώπους ἐκέκαστο
ὄλβῳ τε πλούτῳ τε, ἄνασσε δὲ Μυρμιδόνεσσι,
καί οἱ θνητῷ ἐόντι θεὰν ποίησαν ἄκοιτιν.
ἀλλ᾽ ἐπὶ καὶ τῷ θῆκε θεὸς κακόν, ὅττί οἱ οὔ τι
παίδων ἐν μεγάροισι γονὴ γένετο κρειόντων,
540ἀλλ᾽ ἕνα παῖδα τέκεν παναώριον: οὐδέ νυ τόν γε
γηράσκοντα κομίζω, ἐπεὶ μάλα τηλόθι πάτρης
ἧμαι ἐνὶ Τροίῃ, σέ τε κήδων ἠδὲ σὰ τέκνα.

“For there are two urns that sit on the floor of Zeus’ abode,
one with good gifts, the other with evil ones.
Lightning-loving Zeus allots them to everyone, having mingled them,
and to whomever he gives sorrows, he makes him wretched,
and he roams wildly about, dishonored among men and gods.
Even so, the gods gave to Peleus great gifts from his birth,
He excelled all men in wealth and happiness,
and he was king over the Myrmidons,
and the gods gave to him, a mortal, an immortal wife.
But even for him the god allotted evil, such that for him,
no offspring of stronger children arose in his household,
but he fathered only one son doomed to an untimely end.
Nor may I tend him as he grows older, since I am far from my father
here in Troy, where I am vexing you and your children.”

The message here is that fate is indiscriminate, and not even someone as great or famous as Achilles can trust his own fortune. Hence, we of lesser fortune have less cause for boasting and more cause for fear.
Everyone gets at least a mixture of good and bad from those two urns; and though it is impossible to receive all good, one can still receive all evil. It is all up to capricious fate and the will of Zeus.


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