Pindar

Michael Lahanas

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Επάμεροι · τί δέ τις; τί δ’ ού τις; σκιάς όναρ άνθρωπος ...
Epameroi: ti de tis; ti de ou tis; skias onar anthropos ... ( Creatures of a day. What is he? What is he not? A shadow in a dream is man )
Pindar Pythian 8. 95-6, his last ode for Aristomenes, as a celebration of his victory in wrestling at the Pythian Games of 446 BC. A modern Greek poet, Kostas Karyotakis, is even more radical: “we are not even the shadows of shadows


Pindaros or
Pindar (c. 518 BC to c.438 BC) was the great lyric poet of ancient Greece, was born at Cynoscephalae. He was the son of Daiphantus and Cleodice. The traditions of his family have left their impression on his poetry, and are not without importance for a correct estimate of his relation to his contemporaries. The clan of the Aegidae - tracing their line from the hero Aegeus - belonged to the Cadmean element of Thebes, i.e. to the elder nobility whose supposed date went back to the days of the founder Cadmus.

Pindar composed choral songs of several types. According to a Late Antique biographer, these works were grouped into seventeen books by scholars at the Library of Alexandria. They were, by genre:

1 book of humnoi "hymns"
1 book of paianes "paeans"
2 books of dithuramboi "dithyrhambs"
1 book of prosodia "preludes"
3 books of parthenia "songs for maidens"
1 book of huporchemata "songs to support dancing".
1 book of enkomia "praise-songs"
1 book of threnoi "laments"
4 books of epinikia "victory odes"


Pindar in The Apotheosis of Homer, Ingres

Of this vast and varied corpus, only the victory odes survive in complete form (44 odes). The rest are known to us only by quotations in other ancient authors or papyrus scraps unearthed in Egypt. Pindar's victory odes were composed for aristocratic victors in the four most prominent athletic festivals in early Classical Greece: the Olympian, Pythian, Isthmian and Nemean games. Rich and allusive in style, they are packed with dense parallels between the athletic victor, his illustrious ancestors, and the myths of gods and heroes underlying the athletic festival.

Pindar is to be conceived, then, as standing within the circle of those families for whom the heroic myths were domestic records. He had a personal link with the memories which everywhere were most cherished by Dorians, no less than with those which appealed to men of "Cadmean" or of Achaean stock. And the wide ramifications of the Aegidae throughout Hellas rendered it peculiarly fitting that a member of that illustrious clan should celebrate the glories of many cities in verse which was truly Panhellenic. For a half century Pindar wrote odes, first the Pythian 10 ode when he was 20 years old and his last ode Pythian 8 at an age of 72.

Pindar is said to have received lessons in aulos-playing from one Scopelinus at Thebes, and afterwards to have studied at Athens under the musicians Apollodorus (or Agathocles) and Lasus of Hermione. Several passages in Pindar's extant odes glance at the long technical development of Greek lyric poetry before his time, and at the various elements of art which the lyrist was required to temper into a harmonious whole. The facts that stand out from these meagre traditions are that Pindar was precocious and laborious. Preparatory labour of a somewhat severe and complex kind was, indeed, indispensable for the Greek lyric poet of that age.

Pindar introduced a new god in Greece: Zeus Ammon

He was for some years in Syracuse as a guest of Hieron.

Pindar's wife's name was Megacleia, and he had a son named Daiphantus and two daughters, Eumetis and Protomache. He is said to have died at Argos, at the age of around 80, in the Theater when he was reciting one of his poems. His house was saved later from destruction due to an order of Alexander the Great, who destroyed Thebes except the temples. He influenced the work of John Milton, Thomas Gray and others.


The 2004 Olympic medals present on one side the statue of Nike Paionios with ancient Olympia in the backdrop, while the other side features the eternal flame framed by the first verse of the eighth Olympic Hymn by Pindar* along with the logo of the Athens Games.


2004 Olympics Medal, Nike Paionios and Pindar's Hymn

O mother of gold-crowned contests, Olympia, queen of truth;
where men that are diviners observing burnt-offerings make trial of Zeus the
wielder of white lightnings, whether he hath any word concerning
men who seek in their hearts to attain unto great prowess and a
breathing-space from toil; for it is given in answer to the reverent
prayers of men--do thou, O tree-clad precinct of Pisa by Alpheos,
receive this triumph and the carrying of the crown.

Pindar

Bust of Pindar, Roman copy from original of the mid-5 century B.C. Napoli, Museo Archeologica Nazionale.

Pindar, Musei Capitolini MC586

From Perseus (sometimes offline, various translations)

Olympian Odes (ed. Sandys, 1937) , (tr. Svarlien, 1990) Listen to Pindar, Olympian, 1.1-64 (Real Audio Player required)

Pythian Odes (ed. Sandys, 1937) (tr. Svarlien, 1990) (tr. S.J. Willett, 2001)

Isthmian Odes (ed. J. Sandys, 1937) (tr. D. Svarlien, 1990)

Nemean Odes (ed. Sandys, 1937) (tr. Svarlien, 1990)


THE POETRY OF PRAISE PINDAR'S EPINICIAN ODES (Perseus Student Project)

Pindar, Pythian 4


SPORTS POETRY IN ANTIQUITY PINDAR'S FIRST OLYMPIAN ODE: PDF File

(Olympian 5 and 11 Audio Examples)


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