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Pythian Odes

The victory commemorated in this poem was gained Pyth. 29, i. e. Ol. 76, 3 (474 B.C.). Hieron had himself proclaimed as a citizen of Aitna in order to please the city founded by him, Ol. 76, 1 (476 B.C.), to take the place of Katana. In the same year he had gained a victory over the Etruscans off Cumae, thus crowning the glory of the battle of Himera. The great eruption of Aitna, which began Ol. 75, 2 (479 B.C.), and continued several years, figures largely in this poem, which has been much admired and often imitated, notably by Gray in his “Progress of Poesy.”

Pindar's poems are constellations. There are figures as in the heavens, a belt, a plough, a chair, a serpent, a flight of doves, but around them clusters much else. The Phorminx is the name of the constellation called the first Pythian. In the first part of the poem the lyre is the organ of harmony, in the second the organ of praise. In the first part everything is plain. Apollo and the Muses are to the Greek the authors of all harmony, artistic, political, social, spiritual. The lyre, as the instrument of Apollo, is the symbol of the reign of harmony over the wide domain of Zeus. Everything that owes allegiance to Zeus obeys his son Apollo, obeys the quivering of the lyre's strings. So the footstep of the dancer, the voice of the singer. Even the thunderbolt, the weapon of Zeus, is quenched, the bird of Zeus slumbers, the wild son of Zeus, violent Ares, sleeps a deep sleep. This is the art of the son of Leto and the deep-bosomed Muses (vv. 1-12).

All those that Zeus hath claimed as his own are ruled by harmony. Not so those that he loves not. When they hear the sound of the Pierides, they strive to flee along the solid earth and the restless main. So he who now lies in dread Tartaros, enemy of the gods, Typhon, reared in the famed Kilikian cave. His hairy breasts are pinched by the high sea-shores of Kymé and Sicily, and Aitna's heaven-mounting column pinions him — Aitna, nurse of keen snow, from whose inmost recesses belch purest streams of unapproachable fire, rivers that roll sparkling smoke by day, while purple flame by night bears in its whirl masses of stone down to the surface of the deep, plashing. These jets of fire are upflung by yon monster. Terrible are they — a marvel to behold, a marvel even to hear from those that have beheld. Such a creature is that which lies bound by peak and plain, while his back is goaded by his craggy couch (vv. 13-28).

May we not be of those thou lovest not, may we find favor in thy sight, O Zeus, lord of Aitna's mount — the forehead of this fruitful land, whose namesake neighbor city the famed founder glorified when the herald proclaimed her in the Pythian course by reason of Hieron's noble victory with the chariot. As men who go on shipboard count as the first blessing a favoring wind, an omen of a happy return, so we count from this concurrence that the city will henceforth be renowned for wreaths of victory and chariots, her name be named mid banquet-songs. Lykian and Delian lord, thou that lovest the Kastalian fount of Parnasos, make this purpose good, make the land a land of men (vv. 2940).

So far Apollo and the Muses dominate — dominate as the interpreters of Zeus. Now Zeus himself comes forward. Apollo is mentioned no more, but the prayer to him, v. 40, is matched by a prayer to the Muse in v. 58.

Zeus, Apollo, the Muses, have now led us up to the praise of Hieron. The achievements of mortals are all due to the gods. Men are bards; are valiant and eloquent through them (v. 41); and so, through them, Hieron has the virtues of his high position, and all the so-called counsels addressed to him are merely indications of what he is, or thinks he is, or tries to be. In praising his hero Pindar picks out first the quality that had recently distinguished him, and this success was won qew=n pala/mais (v. 48). The future lacks nothing but forgetfulness of toils and pains. Greater prosperity, greater wealth, it cannot give. It can only administer (ou(/tw, v. 46). When the forgetfulness of the bitter past comes, then the memory of all the glorious achievements of war, with all its proud wealth, will return. May our hero, like Philoktetes of old (v. 50), have a god to be his friend and benefactor. But the song is not for Hieron alone. His son, Deinomenes (v. 58), shares the joy in the victory of his sire; his son is king of the city Aitna, which Hieron built for him, founding it with god-sent freedom in the laws of Doric stock, after the principles of Doric harmony (v. 65). May this harmony between people and princes abide, and may father pass to son the keynote of concordant peace (v. 79) — peace within and peace from barbaric foes without. Zeus keep the Phoenician and the Tyrrhenian battle-shouts at home, now that they have seen the fell destruction of their ships, the punishment of their insolence, before Kymé — that weight that rests upon Typhon's breast. For what Salamis to Athens, what Plataia to Sparta, that to the sons of Deinomenes is the day of Himera (v. 80).

But brevity is best. Twist the strands tight. Less, then, will be the blame, for surfeit dulleth the edge of expectation. Others' blessings and advantages are a hateful hearing; yet envy is better than pity. Hold, Hieron, to thy high career. Still guide the people with a just helm. Still be thy word forged on the anvil of truth. No sparkle of dross that flieth past is without its weight, coming from thee. Steward of many things thou art. Faithful witnesses there are many for right and wrong. Firm abide in generous temper. Wax not weary in expenditure. Let thy sail belly to the wind. Let no juggling gains lure thee. After mortals liveth fame alone as it revealeth the lives of the departed to speakers and to singers. Kroisos' generous kindliness perisheth not. The cruel soul of Phalaris — brazen-bull-burner — is whelmed by hating bruit; no harps beneath the roof-tree receive him to soft fellowship with warbling boys. Good fortune is first; then good fame. Whoso hath chanced on both and made both his own hath received the highest crown (vv. 81-100).

The mood is Dorian, the rhythms dactylo-epitrite.

Of the five triads, the first two deal with harmony; the third and the fourth have to do with Hieron's work as a founder, his work as a warrior, with the sweet music of a concordant state, the sweet silence from the barbaric cry, have to do with Aitna and Himera. The last triad avoids the weariness of praise by disguising it under sage counsel, with the intimation that Hieron has not only been prosperous, but has gained the fair voices of the world.

Strophe 1

xruse/a fo/rmigc: Cf. Hes. Scut. Hercl. 202: i(mero/en kiqa/rize *dio\s kai\ *dhtou=s ui(o\s | xrusei/h| fo/rmiggi, N. 5.24: fo/rmigg' *)apo/llwn e(pta/glwsson xruse/w| pla/ktrw| diw/kwn.

i)oploka/mwn: Cf. O. 6.30: pai=da vio/plokon. Our violet is the i)/on me/lan of the Greeks, and “black” is the nearest translation of io-.

su/ndikon ... kte/anon: “Joint possession.”

ba/sis: The dancer's foot listens and obeys the throb of the cithern.

a)oidoi/: The singers of the chorus.

prooimi/wn: “Preludes.”

a)mbola\s teu/xh|s = a)nabola\s poih=|, a)naba/llh|. Cf. Od. 1. 155: h)/ toi o( formi/zwn a)neba/lleto kalo\n a)ei/dein.

e)lelizome/na: “Quivering.” O. 9.14: fo/rmigg' e)leli/zwn.

ai)xmata\n kerauno/n : ai). better as a subst. than as an adjective. k. is personified, “spearwielder Thunderbolt.”

a)ena/ou puro/s: So a)/nqema xrusou= (O. 2.79).

a)na\ ska/ptw| *dio/s: The eagle on the sceptre of Zeus is a familiar figure. Compare So. fr. 766: o( skhptoba/mwn ai)eto\s ku/wn *dio/s.

w)kei=an: Of the inherent quality. See note on O. 12.3. Contrasting epithet to heighten xala/cais.

Antistrophe 1

a)rxo\s oi)wnw=n: Cf. O. 13.21: oi)wnw=n basile/a.

a)gku/lw| krati/: Od. 19. 538: ai)eto\s a)gkuloxei/lhs.

knw/sswn: This is a deep sleep with fair visions. See O. 13.71.

u(gro\n nw=ton: The feathers rise and fall like waves on the back of the sleeping bird in response to his breathing.

r(ipai=si : r(. often of winds and waves. So P. 4.195: kuma/twn r(ipa\s a)ne/mwn te.

katasxo/menos = katexo/menos. There is no aor. feeling. Cf. Od. 11. 334: khlhqmw=| d' e)/sxonto, and Thompson's notes on Plat. Phaidr. 238 D, 244 E.

biata\s *)/arhs: To match ai)xmata\n kerauno/n above.

i)ai/nei: With qumo/n, O. 7.43. “Lets his heart (himself) dissolve in deep repose.”

kh=la: Compare O. 1.112; 2, 91; 9, 5-12; I. 4 (5), 46 for the same metaphor.

a)mfi/: With the peculiar poetic use, rather adverbial than prepositional. “With the environment of art,” “by virtue of.” So P. 8.34: e)ma=| a)mfi\ maxana=|.

baquko/lpwn: Like baqu/zwnos, of stately and modest beauty. The deep girdle and the deep folds might be due to amplitude or to dignity, or both. baqu/kolpos of Mother Earth, P. 9.101.

Epode 1

pefi/lhke: Emotional perfect = pres., though on the theory that fi/los means “own,” p. = “hath made his own.”

a)tu/zontai: On the concord, see O. 2.92; O. 10 (11), 93. The neuter o(/ssa conjures up strange shapes.

boa/n: Of music. O. 3.8; P. 10.39; N. 5.38.

ga=n: a)maima/keton with po/nton throws up as a complementary color sterea/n, “solid,” with ga=n. For a)maima/keton, “furious,” “restless,” see Il. 6. 179, where it is used of the Chimaira. The sea is the favorite haunt of monsters.

kata/: On k. with the second member, see O. 9.94.

ai)na/| *tarta/rw|: So *)isqmo/s is fem. in P. O. 8.48; N. 5.37; I. 1, 32.

*tufw/s: See Il. 2. 782, where his bed is said to be ei)n *)ari/mois, which is in Kilikia. Cf. Aisch. P. V. 351:to\n ghgenh= te *kiliki/wn oi)kh/tora ... e(katogka/ranon ... *tufw=na” . In this passage, too long to quote entire, Prometheus prophesies the eruption in language that seems to be a reflex of Pindar's description.

*kili/kion ... a)/ntron: P. 8.16: *tufw\s *ki/lic.

poluw/numon = poluqru/lhton.

u(pe\r *ku/mas: Behind and above — not immediately over. The whole region is volcanic. Ischia, the ancient Pithekussa, where Hieron established a colony, was rudely shaken by an earthquake in 1880, almost destroyed in 1883.

ki/wn ... ou)rani/a: Aisch. P. V. 349: ki/on' ou)ranou= te kai\ xqono\s | w)/moin e)rei/dwn.

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