Herodes Atticus The Canon
Ah what glory is this of Herodes Atticus!
Alexander of Seleucia, one of our good sophists,
on reaching Athens with the intention of delivering orations
found the town empty, because Herodus
was in the country. And all the young men
followed him there to hear him discourse.
So the sophist Alexander
wrote a letter to Herodes
and prayed him to send back the Greeks.
And the polite Herodes answered at once:
“I am coming together with the Greeks myself.”
Many young men in Alexandria now,
in Antioch or in Berytus
(the coming orators whom Hellenism is preparing)
when they assemble, a chosen company, at banquets,
and converse sometimes about the fine art of the sophist,
and sometimes about the beautiful theme of their loves
are suddenly absent-minded and silent.
They leave their cups untasted beside them,
and muse on Herodes’ good fortune—
what other sophist was so honoured?—
according as he wishes and according as he does
the Greeks (the Greeks!) follow him,
they neither criticise, nor discuss,
nor choose any more; they only follow.

Translated by George Valassopoulo

(Unpublished draft from the Cavafy Archive)
Transcribed and edited by Katerina Ghika

- Original Greek Poem

- Translation by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

- Translation by John Cavafy