| [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.
|Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard|
|(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992) |
|- Original Greek Poem