Aristotle-Hymn To Virtue
Aristotle ceiling painting, the Vatican
Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is an excerpt from Chapter XV of Athenaeus’ ‘Learned banqueteers or Deipnosophists’, 696b-c-d, Page 170 to 173. Loeb Classical Library. 2012, S. Douglas Olson edition and translation.
To Hermeias of Atarneus
Virtue, which mortals obtain only through hard work, finest object we pursue in life-it is an enviable fate in Greece, virgin, to die for the sake of your beauty and to endure fierce, ceaseless labors. Such is the crop you plant in our minds: a crop virtually immortal, and better than gold, or distinguished ancestors, or languid-eyed sleep.
For your sake the brilliant Heracles and Leda’s sons (the Dioscuri, Castor and Polydeuces) performed many painful labors following your fearless and emulating power; out of longing for you, Achilleus and Ajax went to the house of Hades; and for the sake of your lovely form the native of Atarneus left the sun’s rays behind. Certainly, his deeds will be remembered in song, and the Muses, the daughters of Memory, will elevated him to immortal status exalting the majesty of Zeus Xenios and the place of honor that belongs to enduring friendship.
Note: Hermeias was the uncle and adoptive father of Aristotle’s wife Pythias; he was murdered by the Persian in 341 BCE. After Hermeias’ death, Aristotle dedicated a statue in Delphi and composed this Hymn to Virtue in Hermeias’ honor.