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Olympian Odes

Syracuse1 was founded by a colony of Dorians from Corinth, under the Herakleid Archias, in Ol. 11, 3 (734 B.C.). The first point settled was the island Ortygia ( N. 1.1:a)/mpneuma semno\n *)alfeou=, | kleina=n *surakossa=n qa/los *)ortugi/a” ), with which Achradina, on the mainland, was afterwards united. The city grew until it embraced in its circuit five districts, each worthy to be called a city; but even in the earlier time Pindar's address was no figure of speech, P. 2.1:megalopo/lies w)= *sura/kosai” .

The constitution of Syracuse, originally aristocratic, was changed into a tyrannis by Gelon, prince of Gela, who reconciled the factions of the city, Ol. 73, 4 (485 B.C.). After Gelon became lord of Syracuse, he made it his residence, enlarged it, built up Achradina, added Tyche, and what was afterwards called Neapolis. All this was not accomplished without high-handed measures, such as the transplanting of the populations of other cities. Gela lost half its inhabitants. Kamarina was razed to the ground, and the Kamarinaians transferred in a body to Syracuse (see O. 4). Under Gelon's rule Syracuse became the chief city of Sicily, the tyrant of Syracuse one of the most important personages on Grecian soil. Applied to by the Greeks for aid, when the invasion of Xerxes was impending, Gelon offered two hundred triremes, twenty thousand men-at-arms, two thousand cavalry, two thousand archers, two thousand slingers, two thousand light troops, and provisions for the whole Greek army until the close of the war, on condition that he should have the command in chief (Herod. 7, 158). Soon after this offer was declined, Gelon was called on to help his father-in-law, Theron of Akragas, against the Carthaginians, who had espoused the cause of Terillos of Himera (see O. 12), and Anaxilas of Rhegion, son-in-law of Terillos.

The great battle of Himera, popularly put on the same day as the battle of Salamis — really fought somewhat earlier — ended in the signal defeat of the Carthaginians, who lost one hundred and fifty thousand men dead on the field. The Carthaginians sued for peace, which was granted on singularly easy terms; for the Carthaginians were backed by the Persian empire with its vast resources. The battle of Salamis had not yet shown the weakness of the Persian power; and, in fact, the immediate effect of that battle has been exaggerated. Persia lost little of her prestige until the close of the fifth century, and Persian gold was a potent element in Greek history far into the fourth.

The consequence of the victory at Himera was a vast accession of power and influence for Gelon. Anaxilas of Rhegion, and a number of Sicilian cities, recognized his supremacy. But in the midst of his plans and projects Gelon died of dropsy, Ol. 75, 3 (478 B.C.). To his brother, Polyzelos, he left the command of the army, the guardianship of his minor son, and the hand of his widow, daughter of Theron. Hieron, the elder of the surviving brothers, who had been prince of Gela, succeeded to the government. Owing to the machinations of Hieron, Polyzelos was forced to take refuge with Theron of Akragas, who was at once his father-in-law and his son-in-law; and a war between Hieron and Theron was imminent, had not a reconciliation been effected by Simonides, the poet. Polyzelos was allowed to return to Syracuse, but Hieron was thenceforward sole ruler. In 477 the Epizephyrian Lokrians invoked the help of Hieron against Anaxilas of Rhegion; the prince sent his brother-inlaw, Chromios (see N. 1 and 9), to Anaxilas, and the lord of Rhegion held his hand. In 474 the inhabitants of Kyme (Cumae) were hard pressed by the Etruscans. Hieron immediately granted the desired aid, and defeated the Etruscans in a naval engagement off Cumae. A helmet with the inscription *(ia/rwn o( *deinome/neos | kai\ toi\ *surako/sioi | tw=| *di\ *tura/n' a)po\ *ku/mas was found at Olympia in 1817 (Hicks, No. 15). The year after — Ol. 76, 4 (473 B.C.) — Hieron defeated Thrasydaios, son of Theron, and Akragas and Himera both acknowledged his sway; but he granted them their independence and a democratic constitution.

To his success in war Hieron wished to add the heroic honors paid to the founder of a new city. This new city, Aitna, was founded, Ol. 76, 1 (476 B.C.), in the territory of Katana, the old inhabitants having been removed to Leontini. Ten thousand citizens were imported, half from Syracuse and Gela, the other half Peloponnesian immigrants. The constitution was Doric; and Hieron's son, Deinomenes, and his brother-in-law, Chromios, were put in charge. Hieron often called himself *ai)tnai=os (P. 1); Chromios followed his example (N. 1), and the founding of the city was celebrated by the “Aitnaian women” of Aischylos, and by Pindar's first Pythian.

The court of Hieron was a centre of literature and art. Epicharmos was a frequent guest. Aischylos, Simonides, Bakchylides, Pindar were among the visitors. No Doric prince ever reached such a height of glory. He was brilliantly successful at the great games: Ol. 73 and 77, with the single horse; Ol. 78, with the chariot; Pyth. 26 and 27, with the single horse; Pyth. 29, with the chariot, and again with mules. Successes elsewhere are not unlikely. He devised and performed liberal things. A special treasury was erected at Olympia for the Carthaginian booty, and the noble gift which he vowed to the Olympian Zeus was set up after his death by his son Deinomenes — a bronze four-horse chariot and driver, the work of Onatas, on either side a horse with a boy rider by Kalamis.

As a Doric prince, Hieron has found as little favor with posterity as he did with his Athenian contemporary Themistokles. A tyrant, he helped the moralists to make the uneasiness of crowned heads still more uneasy. He became the type of splendid success and of splendid misery; for he was tortured by bodily suffering, he was surrounded by sycophants and informers, and lived in an atmosphere of treachery and meanness. Those who see in Pindar's Hieronic odes sermons levelled at the unfortunate prince will be inclined to despise the greatest ruler of his day. A more humane judgment will recognize high qualities impaired by the faults that were engendered and exaggerated by the tyrannis.

Hieron died Ol. 78, 2 (467 B.C.), at Aitna, and upon his death received heroic honors.

The first Olympian celebrates the victory gained by Hieron, Ol. 77 (472 B.C.), with his race-horse Pherenikos. He was then at the height of his power and glory. Some put the ode four years earlier, Ol. 76 (476 B.C.).

The theme of the poem is given in v. 7,mhd' *)olumpi/as a)gw=na fe/rteron au)da/somen” ; and while every Olympian does honor to Olympia, this is the pro/swpon thlauge/s, this is, as Lucian says (Gall. 7), to\ ka/lliston tw=n a)|sma/twn a(pa/ntwn. It may have been put first, because it was the most beautiful; but it owes, in turn, no little of its celebrity to its position, for which it was commended by its myth as well as by its theme. The chariot-race of Pelops for Hippodameia was the true beginning of Olympian contests, and the Pelopion was the heart of Pisa. The Aiolian rhythms are bright and festal, and glitter as the language glitters. Pindar is consciously treading a lofty measure. “No better element than water,” he says, “no brighter blaze than fire by night, no form of wealth that outdazzles gold, no light of heaven so luminous, so warming, as the sun, which dims the ether into voidness, no contest more noble than the Olympian, the source of highest songs to highest bards, chanting Zeus supreme in the palace of Sicily's chief lord, who plucks the loftiest fruits of emprise, who is decked with the sheen of the fairest flower of poesy. For him the noblest chords must be struck, the sweetest musings of the poet recalled, and the scene brought back when the steed Victor bore his lord to triumph (vv. 1-22). Forth shines his glory in the land which Lydian Pelops made his own, for Pelops, the favorite of the gods, has found his resting-place (v. 93) where Hieron, favorite of the gods, has won his victory. The fame of Hieron shines forth (v. 23) — the fame of the Olympiads looks forth (v. 94) — and the story of Pelops is encircled by a belt of glory.”

In his version of the Pelops legend (vv. 25-96), Pindar contradicts the popular account: hence the elaborate caveat at the outset. To make the myth resplendent as his theme, he must remove the foulness of envious tongues. No cannibal feast was offered to the gods by Tantalos, none shared by them (v. 52). Tantalos's sin — the giving of the sacred nectar and ambrosia to his fellows — brought ceaseless woe on himself; but his son, though sent to earth again, was remembered by Poseidon, to whom he had been what Ganymede was afterwards to Zeus. The darkness of the fate of Tantalos only heightens the brilliancy of the fortunes of Lydian Pelops.

The story told, the tone is sensibly lowered. An Olympian victory is still sunshine for life, and Pindar avers that no prince more deserving of what is noble — none of more powerful sway — shall be set forth by his hymns; but there is the old moral that the present good is the highest, and the old restlessness of hope for a yet sweeter song, and a yet more glorious victory. And then, at the last, the poem rises to the height at which it began. The Muse has her most powerful shaft in keeping for the poet's bow. The king, as king, whatever else others may attain, is at the summit of human fortune. Look no further. Prayer can only seek the keeping of this lofty height for king and bard alike (vv. 97-116).

The poem is an epitome of Pindar's manner — approach by overlapping parallels, the dexterous use of foils, implicit imagery. His moralizing is national. No Greek lets us off from that.

The rhythm is Aiolian (*ai)olhi+/di molpa=|, v. 102), the tune the rider-tune (i(ppei/w| no/mw|, v. 101). On the reconciliation of this statement with v. 18, *dwri/an fo/rmigga, see the passage.

Of the four triads, the first is taken up with the introduction, and the preparation of the myth; the second and third contain the myth; the fourth connects the myth with the conclusion.

Strophe 1

a)/riston me\n u(/dwr: Much cited in antiquity, and variously interpreted. h( xrh=sis u(pere/xei, says Aristotle, “o(/qen le/getai a)/riston me\n u(/dwr(Rhet. 1, 7, 14) . No profound philosophical tenet is involved, as is shown by the parallel passage, O. 3.42:ei) d' a)risteu/ei me\n u(/dwr, ktea/nwn de\ xruso\s ai)doie/staton, kte(” . The poet emphasizes, after the Greek fashion, water as the source and sustenance of life. The copula e)sti/, ei)si/ is rare in P. This first sentence is characteristic of P.'s advance by a series of steps. “Water,” “gold,” “sun” are only for the enhancement of the Olympic games. Much in P. is merely foil.

o( de/: The article is still largely deictic in P. Notice the rhythm, which is an important guide. o( de/, “but there is another — gold — a blazing fire like it loometh — a night fire far above all proud wealth.”

pu=r is brought into close relation with nukti/ by its position.

nukti/: The local-temporal dative. Below e)n a(me/ra|.

mega/noros: P. 10.18: a)ga/nora plou=ton.

garu/en: Dor. for ghru/ein. The inf. in -en is well authenticated in several Pindaric passages.

mhke/ti: More vivid than mh/ (Herm.). Look for no other light, now that the sun has risen.

qalpno/teron . . . faenno/n: P. delights in double epithets, vv. 10, 59; O. 2.60. 90.

e)n a(me/ra| faenno/n: suggested by pu=r nukti/.

e)rh/mas: Not otiose. There are no rivals; mo/nos a(/lios e)n ou)ranw=|, Simonid. fr. 77 (Bgk.). *ai)qh/r is Homerically fem. here and O. 13.88:ai)qe/ros yuxra=s a)po\ ko/lpwn e)rh/mwn.

di' ai)qe/ros: Note P.'s peculiarly plastic use of the prepositions.

au)da/somen: There is no good reason for denying to P. the so-called short subj., as here and O. 7.3. The imper. fut. with mh/, which so many commentators accept here, has little warrant anywhere. In So. Ai. 572, still cited in some books, qh/sousi depends on o(/pws. See note on O. 6.24. I. 7 (8), 8,damwso/meqa” was understood by the Schol. as subj., and de/cetai in a generic sense — Fr. X. 4: oi(=si . . . de/cetai — is in all likelihood a subj.

a)mfiba/lletai: Variously rendered. P.'s usage (see O. 2.98; 9, 5; 13, 93 al.) indicates a shower of poetic be/lh or kh=la whirring about the minds of the bards. So the mantei=a in So. O.R. 481 a)ei\ zw=nta peripota=tai. Cf. Eur. H. F. 422:a)mfibalei=n be/lesin.

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