Solon, fragment 24 (tr. M.L. West):
Equally rich is he who has abundancy
of silver, gold, and acres under plough,
horses and mules, and he that only has the means
to eat well, couch well, and go softly shod,
and by and by enjoy a lad's or woman's bloom, 5
with youth and strength still his to suit his need.
This is a man's true wealth: he cannot take all those
possessions with him when he goes below.
No price he pays can buy escape from death, or grim
diseases, or the onset of old age. 10
ἶσόν τοι πλουτέουσιν, ὅτωι πολὺς ἄργυρός ἐστι
καὶ χρυσὸς καὶ γῆς πυροφόρου πεδία
ἵπποι θ' ἡμίονοί τε, καὶ ὧι μόνα ταῦτα πάρεστι,
γαστρί τε καὶ πλευραῖς καὶ ποσὶν ἁβρὰ παθεῖν,
παιδός τ' ἠδὲ γυναικός, ἐπὴν καὶ ταῦτ' ἀφίκηται, 5
ὥρη, σὺν δ' ἥβη γίνεται ἁρμοδίη.
ταῦτ' ἄφενος θνητοῖσι· τὰ γὰρ περιώσια πάντα
χρήματ' ἔχων οὐδεὶς ἔρχεται εἰς Ἀΐδεω,
οὐδ' ἂν ἄποινα διδοὺς θάνατον φύγοι, οὐδὲ βαρείας
νούσους, οὐδὲ κακὸν γῆρας ἐπερχόμενον. 10
The text is uncertain, especially at lines 5-6. See e.g.:
- Ivan M. Linforth, Solon the Athenian (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1919), pp. 148-149 (text and translation), pp. 211-213 (commentary)
- M.L. West, ed., Iambi et Elegi Graeci ante Alexandrum Cantati, vol. II (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972; rpt. 1998), pp. 154-155
- Martin L. West, Studies in Greek Elegy and Iambus (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1974), p. 158
- Thomas Gärtner, "Überlegungen zu den Theognideen," Studia Humaniora Tartuensia 8.A.1 (2007) 1-74 (at 10-11)
- Maria Noussia Fantuzzi, Solon the Athenian: The Poetic Fragments (Leiden: Brill, 2010 = Mnemosyne, Suppl. 326), pp. 347 ff.
Thanks very much to Karl Maurer for drawing my attention to Gärtner's article and also to the translation of this fragment in Hermann Fränkel, Early Greek Poetry and Philosophy
, tr. Moses Hadas and James Willis (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1975), p. 230:
Equally rich is the man who has gold and silver aplenty,
acres of golden wheat ripening in the rich plain,
horses and oxen; and he who counts as his only possessions
something to eat; clothing for his back, and shoes for his feet,
joy when the season comes, in beauty of youth or of maiden, 5
pleasures in which our youth fitly may take its delight.
This is true wealth for a man: whoever has more to his portion
leaves all the surplus behind when he goes down to the shades.
No man buys himself off from death or painful diseases,
and a bribe will not turn back age in its silent approach. 10
Dr. Maurer comments:
Notice that like Fränkel himself, the English translators tried to retain the elegiac meter. At least, they do this in every line except 4 and 10. Their line 4 is metrically a mere chaos, and their line 10 should be I think, 'nor will a bribe turn back age in its silent approach'. Perhaps they did originally write this, and then some un-metrical person 'corrected' it.
Many commentators have noted Horace's imitation of Solon (Epistles
pauper enim non est cui rerum suppetit usus.
si ventri bene, si lateri est pedibusque tuis, nil
divitiae poterunt regales addere maius.
Cf. also Herodotus 1.32.5 (Solon to Croesus; tr. A.D. Godley):
The very rich man is not more fortunate than the man who has only his daily needs...
οὐ γάρ τι ὁ μέγα πλούσιος μᾶλλον τοῦ ἐπ᾽ ἡμέρην ἔχοντος ὀλβιώτερος ἐστί...