VII-V sec. a.C.

Inno Omerico, IV, a Hermes, 87-333

Traduzione da:


The Sun was going down beneath the earth towards Ocean with his horses and chariot when Hermes came hurrying to the shadowy mountains of Pieria, where the divine cattle of the blessed gods had their steads and grazed the pleasant, unmown meadows. Of these the Son of Maia, the sharp-eyed slayer of Argus then cut off from the herd fifty loud-lowing kine, and drove them straggling-wise across a sandy place, turning their hoof-prints aside. Also, he bethought him of a crafty ruse and reversed the marks of their hoofs, making the front behind and the hind before, while he himself walked the other way. Then he wove sandals with wicker-work by the sand of the sea, wonderful things, unthought of, unimagined; for he mixed together tamarisk and myrtle-twigs, fastening together an armful of their fresh, young wood, and tied them, leaves and all securely under his feet as light sandals. That brushwood the glorious Slayer of Argus plucked in Pieria as he was preparing for his journey, making shift as one making haste for a long journey.

But an old man [named Battos according to other sources] tilling his flowering vineyard saw him [Hermes caught in the act of stealing the cattle of Apollon] as he was hurrying down the plain through grassy Onkhestos. So the Son of Maia began and said to him: `Old man, digging about your vines with bowed shoulders, surely you shall have much wine when all these bear fruit, if you obey me and strictly remember not to have seen what you have seen, and not to have heard what you have heard, and to keep silent when nothing of your own is harmed.'

When he had said this much, he hurried the strong cattle on together: through many shadowy mountains and echoing gorges and flowery plains glorious Hermes drove them. ...

Apollon, as he went [in search of his missing cattle], came to Onkhestos, the lovely grove and sacred place of the loud-roaring Holder of the Earth [Poseidon]. There he found an old man grazing his beast along the pathway from his court-yard fence, and all-glorious Son of Leto began and said to him.

`Old man, weeder of grassy Onkhestos, I am come here from Pieria seeking cattle, cows all of them, all with curving horns, from my herd. The black bull was grazing alone away from the rest, but fierce-eyed hounds followed the cows, four of them, all of one mind, like men. These were left behind, the dogs and the bull - which is great marvel; but the cows strayed out of the soft meadow, away from the pasture when the sun was just going down. Now tell me this, old man born long ago: have you seen one passing along behind those cows?'

Then the old man answered him and said: `My son, it is hard to tell all that one's eyes see; for many wayfarers pass to and fro this way, some bent on much evil, and some on good: it is difficult to know each one. However, I was digging about my plot of vineyard all day long until the sun went down, and I thought, good sir, but I do not know for certain, that I marked a child, whoever the child was, that followed long-horned cattle - an infant who had a staff and kept walking from side to side: he was driving them backwards way, with their heads toward him.'

So said the old man. And when Apollon heard this report, he went yet more quickly on his way, and presently, seeing a long-winged bird, he knew at once by that omen that thief was [Hermes] the child of Zeus Kronion ...

[Apollon takes Hermes to Zeus to adjudicate the matter:] `O my father ... He stole away my cows from their meadow and drove them off in the evening along the shore of the loud-roaring sea, making straight for Pylos ... Now while he followed the cattle across sandy ground, all the tracks showed quite clearly in the dust; but when he had finished the long way across the sand, presently the cows' track and his own could not be traced over the hard ground. But a mortal man noticed him as he drove the wide-browed kine straight towards Pylos.' [On hearing this, Hermes presumably then went and exacted his vengeance on Battos, transforming him into the tell-tale stone. The Homeric Hymn does not mention this, but the fact that the "tell-tale" is mentioned indicates the author was aware of it]."