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Ergoteles of Himera, an exile from Knosos in Crete, won the δόλιχος, Ol. 77 (472 B.C.). The δόλιχος is variously estimated at seven, twelve, twenty, twenty-four stades, most accepting the last. Crete was famous for its runners ( Xen. An. 4, 8, 27:δόλιχον δὲ Κρῆτες πλείους ἑξήκοντα ἔθεον” ), though the Cretans seldom took part in the Greek national games. After the victories mentioned in this ode (v. 17), Ergoteles won another Olympian (Ol. 78), and two Nemean contests (Paus. 6, 4, 11). The poem itself tells us that he had been driven from Crete by political faction, and as Sicily was the land of promise to the eastern Greeks, and especially those of Dorian stock, we may dispense with a closer investigation. From the Scholiast we learn that he arrived at Himera when a quarrel between Gelon and Hieron was at its height. Himera was hardly more quiet than his old home, but he succeeded in acquiring citizenship and the jealously guarded right of holding real estate.

The twelfth Olympian is a short occasional poem. It has no room for a myth, unless we consider the simile of the homefighting cock an equivalent (v. 14). The simple thought is the domination of Tyché. At the beck of Tyché ships are piloted on the deep, stormy wars and councils guided on land. Men's hopes are ships that roll through seas of idle plans, now high, now low. The future no god hath pledged, no man hath seen. The hoped-for pleasure is reversed, and from the battle with a sea of trouble men pass in a moment's space to joy profound (vv. 1-12).

So Philanor's son, like some home-fighting cock, would have had only homely fame, and the garland for the swiftness of his feet had shed its leaves unheralded, had no hostile faction bereft him of his Knosian fatherland. Now he hath gained a wreath at Olympia, two at Pytho, two on the Isthmus. Now he magnifies the city of the Nymphs' hot baths. Now he dwells amid broad acres of his own (vv. 13-19).

The sea plays an important part in this ode, as might be expected for many reasons — the distance that separates Ergoteles from Olympia, the distance that separates his old home and his new. There is something symbolic of the vicissitudes of Fortune in the numerous antitheses. The poem rocks like a ship. The deep, the land — wars, councils — up, down — no pledge from God, no foresight of man — pleasure reversed, pain redeemed.

Himera and Ergoteles are paralleled. The city and the victor mirror each other. The fortune of Himera is the fortune of Ergoteles.

The rhythms are dactylo-epitrite. Böckh calls the mood a mixture of Dorian and Lydian. The parts of the triad are clearcut. The first deals with the domination of Tyché, the second reinforces the theme of the uncertainty of human plans, the third makes a practical and comforting application of these reflections to the case of Ergoteles.


Ζηνὸς Ἐλευθερίου: Ζεὺς Ἐλευθέριος was honored in other Greek states, but esp. in Himera, on account of the great victory gained over the Carthaginians, and the new deliverance from the rule of Thrasydaios. See Introd. to O. 2.

εὐρυσθενέα: Proleptic. Not used elsewhere in P. of a city.

ἀμφιπόλει: “Keep thy sentry-round about.”

Σώτειρα Τύχα: Tyché, acc. to the Homeric Hymn in Cerer. 420 is a Nereid; acc. to Hesiod (Theog. 360), a daughter of Okeanos. Notice the sea atmosphere. Only acc. to Pindar himself (Paus. 7, 26, 8), T. is one of the Μοῖραι.

τίν: “At thy beck.” The dat. of interest is by implication the dat. of agency. Compare P. 1.73: ἀρχῷ δαμασθέντες.

θοαί: θοός is used of actual speed, ὠκύς of inherent. “θοὴ ναῦς, velox navis, a thing of life; ὠκεῖα ναῦς, celeris navis, an expeditious conveyance.” Jebb, on Soph. Ai. 710. Ships refer to war and peace, then follows war (πόλεμοι), then peace (ἀγοραί). So the balance is prettily held.

πόλεμοι: Seas of blood, through which Himera had passed.

κἀγοραὶ . . . βουλαφόροι: In public councils it was a formula to commence ἀγαθῇ τύχῃ (Paley).

αἵ γε μὲν ἀνδρῶν . . . ἐλπίδες: Article and substantive are rhythmically near, though syntactically far removed. Cf. O. 11 (10), 19.

μὲν . . . δέ: O. 11 (10), 8.

πόλλ᾽ ἄνω . . . τὰ δέ: Adverbial, as N. 9.43. The lying world is ploughed by hopes as waves by ships.

μεταμώνια=μετέωρα καὶ αἰρόμενα (Schol.). The waves of falsehood dash high and then fall back.

κυλίνδονται: Not κυλίνδοντι=κυλίνδουσι.


σύμβολον: “Token,” “pledge.” The figure is not wholly dropped. We are now voyaging on a merchantman.

φραδαί=γνώσεις. The plural in sympathy with τῶν μελλόντων (= περὶ τῶν μ.). See O. 9.21.

ἔπεσεν: Empiric aorist. The metaphor is from dice: ἀεὶ γὰρ εὖ πίπτουσιν οἱ Διὸς κύβοι. — 11.

ἔμπαλιν μὲν τέρψιος: Instead of the mechanical τοῖς μέν. See v. 5. Compare O. 10 (11), 95: νεότατος τὸ πάλιν, P. 12.32: ἔμπαλιν γνώμας=παρὰ γνώμαν.

ζάλαις: Recurrence to the nautical figure.

βαθύ: Cf. O. 7.53: κλέος βαθύ, O. 13.62: βαθὺν κλᾶρον. Familiar is βαθύπλουτος. Still the adj. belongs to the sea sphere, proverbially rich. Cf. O. 2.32.

πήματος: Genitive of price, “won joy for anguish.”

πεδα̈́μειψαν=μετήμειψαν. πεδά, Aeol. and Old Dor.= μετά. Etymological connection is denied.


ἐνδομάχας ἅτ᾽ ἀλέκτωρ: A breviloquence (= ἅτ᾽ ἐνδομάχου ἀλέκτορος τιμά) hardly noticeable in English. Villemain tells of a translator who agonized over the unpoetical coq, but be it remembered that the Περσικὸς ὄρνις was really more poetical to the Greek than it can be made to us. Aischylos does not shun the comparison (Eum. 861). Cock-fights were popular in Greece. Pindar knew the cocks of Tanagra as well as he knew the poetess of Tanagra; the cock was sacred to Athena (Paus. 6, 26, 2), and Himera stamped her coin with a cock, acc. to some a pun on Ἱμέοα (ἡμέρα), acc. to others in honor of Asklepios.

ἀκλεής: Prolep tic.

κατεφυλλορόησε: The τιμά thus becomes a flower. It has been noticed that P. draws few of his figures from the world of plants.

στάσις ἀντιάνειρα: Α λέξις δριμεῖα according to Eustathios.

Κνωσίας: It has been inferred from this that the Knosians of that time did not take part in the Olympic games. Notice the sigmatism of the line.

στεφανωσάμενος: O. 7.81.

δὶς ἐκ: Mommsen writes διέκ, as the Scholiasts know nothing of a second Pythian victory; but see Paus. 6, 4, 11.

θερμὰ . . . λουτρά: The glory of Himera, still there and called Termini.

βαστάζεις=ὑψοῖς. The figure is not fully felt, else it would be absurd. It is nothing more than ἐπαείρειν, O. 9.22. Compare I. 3 (4), 8: χρὴ δὲ κωμάζοντ᾽ ἀγαναῖς χαριτεσσιν βαστάσαι.

παρ᾽ οἰκείαις ἀρούραις: On παρά with dat., see O. 1.20, and compare further Od. 18. 383: οὕνεκα πὰρ παύροισι καὶ οὐκ ἀγαθοῖσιν ὁμιλεῖς. Characteristic is the stress laid on ἔγκτησις.

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hide References (12 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (12):
    • Aeschylus, Eumenides, 861
    • Homer, Odyssey, 18.383
    • Pindar, Nemean, 9
    • Pindar, Olympian, 1
    • Pindar, Olympian, 13
    • Pindar, Olympian, 2
    • Pindar, Olympian, 7
    • Pindar, Olympian, 9
    • Pindar, Pythian, 1
    • Pindar, Pythian, 12
    • Sophocles, Ajax, 710
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 4.8.27
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