10 July 2010

Poseidonians (C.P. Cavafy)


Ποσειδωνιάταις τοις εν τω Τυρρηνικώ κόλπω το μεν εξ αρχής
Έλλησιν ούσιν εκβαρβαρώσθαι Τυρρηνοίς ή Pωμαίοις γεγονόσι
και τήν τε φωνήν μεταβεβληκέναι, τά τε πολλά των επιτηδευμάτων,
άγειν δε μιάν τινα αυτούς των εορτών των Ελλήνων
έτι και νυν, εν η συνιόντες αναμιμνήσκονται των αρχαίων
ονομάτων τε και νομίμων, απολοφυράμενοι προς αλλήλους
και δακρύσαντες απέρχονται.


Την γλώσσα την ελληνική οι Ποσειδωνιάται
εξέχασαν τόσους αιώνας ανακατευμένοι
με Τυρρηνούς, και με Λατίνους, κι άλλους ξένους.
Το μόνο που τους έμενε προγονικό
ήταν μια ελληνική γιορτή, με τελετές ωραίες,
με λύρες και με αυλούς, με αγώνας και στεφάνους.
Κ’ είχαν συνήθειο προς το τέλος της γιορτής
τα παλαιά τους έθιμα να διηγούνται,
και τα ελληνικά ονόματα να ξαναλένε,
που μόλις πια τα καταλάμβαναν ολίγοι.
Και πάντα μελαγχολικά τελείων’ η γιορτή τους.
Γιατί θυμούνταν που κι αυτοί ήσαν Έλληνες —
Ιταλιώται έναν καιρό κι αυτοί·
και τώρα πώς εξέπεσαν, πώς έγιναν,
να ζουν και να ομιλούν βαρβαρικά
βγαλμένοι — ω συμφορά! — απ’ τον Ελληνισμό


[We behave like] the Poseidonians in the
Tyrrhenian Gulf, who although of Greek
origin, became barbarized as Tyrrhenians
or Romans and changed their speech and
the customs of their ancestors. But they
observe one Greek festival even to this
day; during this they gather together and
call up from memory their ancient names
and customs, and then, lamenting loudly
to each other and weeping, they go away.

Athenaios, Deipnosophistai, Book 14, 31A (632)

The Poseidonians forgot the Greek language
after so many centuries of mingling
with Tyrrhenians, Latins, and other foreigners.
The only thing surviving from their ancestors
was a Greek festival, with beautiful rites,
with lyres and flutes, contests and wreaths.
And it was their habit toward the festival’s end
to tell each other about their ancient customs
and once again to speak Greek names
that only a few of them still recognized.
And so their festival always had a melancholy ending
because they remembered that they too were Greeks,
they too once upon a time were citizens of Magna Graecia;
and how low they’d fallen now, what they’d become,
living and speaking like barbarians,
cut off so disastrously from the Greek way of life.


K.S. Anthony said...

The miracle of the Greeks will not be repeated.

But this refers to Pleiads.

Anonymous said...

Et in arcadia ego - crumbling western civilization and all that.

Cyprian Korzeniowski said...

Beautiful poem. To destroy the traditions of a people is a far crueller execution than outright extermination.

The Ancient said...

Does anyone still bother to wait for the barbarians?

A.E.F. said...

Admiral, So my classical education isn't all that it could be - I only studied Latin for 4 terms before being expelled from that particular school - and I'm sure the Barbarians were total bastards but why did the Greeks even allow their traditions to be destroyed? Couldn't they, shouldn't they have put their foot down at some point??

v. Braun. said...

Interesting parallels in history here (see the U.S.A.)- because also the Greek colonists had subjected and extinguished (integrated) the native population of the island of Sicily...