“Hymn to Zeus”: A poem by Cleanthes (IM 861)

Most honored of immortals, many-named one, ever omnipotent,

Zeus, prime mover of nature, steering all things by your law,

Greetings! For it is proper for all mortals to speak to you:

For we all descend from you, bearing our share of your likeness

We alone, of all mortal creatures that live and move on earth.

So, I shall make song of you constantly and sing forever of your might.

Truly, this whole universe, spinning around the earth,

Obeys you wherever you lead, and willingly submits to your rule;

Such is the servant you hold in your unconquerable hands,

A double-edged, fiery, ever-living thunderbolt.

For by its strikes all the works of nature happen.

By it you direct the universal reason, which pervades all things

Intermixing with the great and small lights of the heavens.

Because of this you are the greatest, the highest ruler of all.

Not a single thing that is done on earth happens without you, God,

Nor in the divine heavenly sphere nor in the sea,

Except for what bad people do in their foolishness.

But you know how to make the crooked straight

And to bring order to the disorderly; even the unloved is loved by you.

For you have so joined all things into one, the good and the bad,

That they all share in a single unified everlasting reason.

It is shirked and avoided by all the wicked among mortals,

The wretched, who ever long for the getting of good things,

Neither see nor hear God’s universal law,

By which, obeying with understanding, they could share in the good life.

But instead they chase after this and that, far from the good,

Some in their aggressive zeal for fame,

Others with a disordered obsession with profits,

Still others in indulgence and the pleasurable exertions of the body.

[They desire the good] but are carried off here and there,

All the while in zealous pursuit of completely different outcomes.

But bountiful Zeus, shrouded in dark clouds and ruling the thunder,

Protect human beings from their ruinous ignorance;

Scatter it from our souls, grant that we might obtain

True judgment on which you rely to steer all things with justice;

So that having won honor, we may honor you in return,

Constantly singing of your works, as it is proper

For mortals to do. For neither mortals nor gods have any greater privilege

Than to make everlasting song of the universal law in justice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *