Sailing to Delos

Ἄιδεις ὥσπερ εἰς Δῆλον πλέων.

You are singing as if sailing to Delos.

Popular Attic Greek Proverb 2.37 (Zenobius)

Bettany Hughes starts each of her chapters in the Hemlock Cup, a sort of biography of Socrates, with a quote. This one comes after the trial of Socrates. Socrates’ trail and condemnation to death occurred on the same day as the sacred ship that sailed every year to Delos was crowned. This was reputed to be the ship on which Theseus went to Crete where he killed the Minotaur. After it was crowned no public executions could take place in Athens to avoid polluting the city until it had been to Delos and returned. This delayed Socrates’ execution for some time and gave Plato the opportunity to include a couple of the dialogues located in the gaol.

Zenobius explains the actual meaning of the proverb

ἐπὶ τοῦ ἀφροντίστου καὶ φιληδονοῦντος. Εὐχερὴς γὰρ ὁ πρὸς τὴν Δῆλον πλοῦς, καὶ οἱ ἐκεῖσε καταίροντες ἀφροντίστως πλέοντες ᾖδον.

It refers to those who are enjoying themselves and have no cares. For the journey to Delos is easy and those who set sail there used to sing without any care while sailing.

This could apply to Socrates. He wasn’t upset by his impending death and while in prison started to put Aesop’s fables to verse and wrote a hymn to Apollo. As the boat was delayed coming back because of bad weather the journey couldn’t always be easy.

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