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According to the Scholia, Thrasydaios, a Theban, was victorious, as a boy, in the foot-race, Pyth. 28 (Ol. 75, 3 = 478 B.C.), the year after the battle of Plataia. He was long afterwards victorious in the δίαυλος, Pyth. 33 (Ol. 80, 3 = 458 B.C.), before the battle of Tanagra. The expression γυμνὸν στάδιον (v. 49) has led some to suppose that the earlier victory is meant. See the passage. The failure to mention the trainer of Thrasydaios may mean that Thrasydaios, like Hippokleas of P. 10, had outgrown his attendant, although in a poem supposed to be full of obscure hints we might see in Pylades and in Kastor the reflection of that unnamed friend. The ode shows that Thrasydaios belonged to a wealthy and prominent family. His father had been successful at Pytho (v. 43), and another of the same house had gained a victory with a chariot at Olympia (v. 47). The song was sung in the procession to the temple of Ismenian Apollo, to whom the prizer was to return thanks for the guerdon of a victory.

Pindar calls on the daughters of Kadmos and Harmonia to chant Themis and Pytho in honor of the victory of Thrasydaios, which he won in the land of Pylades, the host of Orestes (vv. 116).

Upon this invocation — an unbroken sentence that extends through a whole triad and bristles with proper names — follows the familiar story of Orestes, which ends here with the death of Klytaimnestra and her paramour, Aigisthos, a myth which hardly seems to belong to a joyous epinikion (vv. 17-37).

If Pindar had kept his usual proportion, the story would have extended through the third triad, but, with a common poetical device, he exclaims that he has been whirled out of his course, summons the Muse to fulfil the promised task, and praises the achievements of Pythonikos, the father, and Thrasydaios, the son, recounting how the house had won in the chariot-race at Olympia and put to shame their rivals at Pytho (vv. 38-50).

Then, putting himself in the victor's place, P. prays for a right spirit, for the love of what is noble, for self-control in the midst of effort. Hence the middle rank is best, not the lofty fate of overlords. But if the height is scaled, then avoid insolence. Such a noble soul is Thrasydaios, son of Pythonikos; such Iolaos, son of Iphikles; such Kastor and Polydeukes, sons of the gods, who dwell one day at Therapnai, one within Olympos (vv. 51-64).

The eleventh Pythian has given the commentators much trouble. In most of the odes the meaning of the myth, its office as an incorporation of the thought, can, at least, be divined. Here the uncertainty of the date and the unusual character of the story combine to baffle historical interpretation. Historical romances have been framed to fit the supposed fortunes of the house of Thrasydaios. The figures of Agamemnon, Klytaimnestra, Kassandra, Orestes, have been made to represent, now political characters, now political combinations and conflicts. What does the praise of the middle estate mean? What light does that throw on the question of the date? Or are we simply to say that the poem belongs to a period in Pindar's earlier career, when he had not yet acquired the art of handling the myth, and is the story of Orestes a mere ornament, without deeper significance?

The two main difficulties, then, are the selection of the myth of Orestes and the praise of the middle estate. Apart from all historical side-lights, which here seem to confuse rather than to help, the meaning of the myth of Orestes is given by the poet in the line ἴσχει τε γὰρ ὄλβος οὐ μείονα φθόνον (v. 29). This is true of all the figures in the piece — Agamemnon, Klytaimnestra, Aigisthos, Orestes. Pindar does not carry out the story of Orestes, simply because he feels that he might do what some of his commentators have done so often, and push the parallel between the hero of the myth and the hero of the games too far. So he drops the story, as he has done elsewhere — drops it just as Bellerophon is dismissed (O. 13) when his further fortunes would be ominous. The return to the praise of Thrasydaios and his house is, however, a reinforcement of the moral Pindar has just been preaching — the moral that lies in the myth — and when he reaches the point at which the house of Thrasydaios put the Greeks to shame by their speed, he pauses and prays for moderation, the corrective of too great prosperity. This is all too high for him, the glory is too great. So, in the commonwealth, he chooses the middle station and dreads the fortunes of tyrants. The feats he aims at are within the common reach. And yet even the highest is not in danger of envy, if there is no o'erweening pride nor insolence. Witness Iolaos, a Theban, townsman of Thrasydaios; witness Kastor and Polydeukes, brothers of Klytaimnestra. Doubtless this is not all that the poem means — but shall we ever know more?

The first triad is occupied with the introduction. The myth begins with the beginning of the second triad, but is stopped in the third triad by the whirl (v. 38), which prepares the return to the victor and his house.

The rhythms are logaoedic.

Strophe 1

Κάδμου κόραι: O. 2.24: ἕπεται δὲ λόγος εὐθρόνοις | Κάδμοιο κούραις.

Σεμέλα ... ἀγυιᾶτις: “Neighbor.” One would expect a special office, as in the case of Ἀπόλλων ἀγυιεύς, for Semele is a special favorite (O. 2.28), and lives at the court end of Olympos. Ov. Met. 1, 172:plebs habitat diversa locis: a fronte potentes caelicolae clarique suos posuere penates.

Ἰνὼ δὲ Λευκοθέα: Familiar from Od. 5. 333 on. Compare O. 2.33.

ἀριστογόνῳ: Mommsen reads (with the Schol.) ἀριστογόνου, but Herakles does not need the adjective, and it is time for Alkmena to have it.

Μελίαν: Who bare Ismenios and Teneros to Apollo, Paus. 9, 10, 5.

χρυσέων ... τριπόδων: Golden tripods were sent to this shrine by the Θηβαγενεῖς — the old pre-Boeotian stock — and the high-priest was chosen yearly from the δαφνηφόροι.

Λοξίας: Oracular name in connection with an oracle. So P. 3.28.

Antistrophe 1

μαντίων: More natural than μαντεΐων = μαντευμάτων (Schol.). The divination was δι᾽ ἐμπύρων.

Ἁρμονίας: Wife of Kadmos.

ἐπίνομον: With στρατόν. ἐπίνομον is glossed by σύννομον, but the other version seems more natural: τὰς [sc. ἡρωίδας] ἐπινεμομένας καὶ ἐποπτευούσας τὰς Θήβας. ἐπίνομον would then be proleptic. The host of heroines is invited to visit (ἐπίνομον) the shrine in a body (ὁμαγυρέα), and the two daughters of Harmonia (v. 7) are to sing (v. 10).

καλεῖ: Sc. Λοξίας.

Θέμιν: Gaia was the first, Themis the second mistress of the Pythian shrine. See note on P. 4.74.

γᾶς ὀμφαλόν: See P. 6.3.

κελαδήσετε: We have a right to call this a subjunctive. See O. 6.24.

ἄκρᾳ σὺν ἑσπέρᾳ: “The edge of even,” “nightfall.” See the commentators on So. Ai. 285, where Jebb translates this passage “at fall of eventide.”

Epode 1

χάριν: Apposition to the action. κελαδήσετε = ποιήσεσθε κέλαδον. “To grace.”

ἀγῶνι ... Κίρρας: P. 10.15: ὑπὸ Κίρρας ἀγὼν | πέτραν.

ἔμνασεν: Causative. The herald was the agent. Compare P. 1.32: κᾶρυξ ἀνέειπέ νιν.

ἐπί: With βαλών.

ἀρούραισι Πυλάδα: The father of Pylades was Strophios, king of Phokis.

Λάκωνος: Orestes was made king of Lakedaimon, acc. to Paus. 2, 18, 5.

Strophe 2

τόν: The relative begins the myth, as often. See Index.

Ἀρσινόα: By others called Λαοδάμεια, Κίλισσα.

ὑπό = ὑπέκ: Cf. O. 5.14: ὑπ᾽ ἀμαχανίας, 6, 43: ὑπ᾽ ὠδῖνος.

κἀκ: So after Bergk's κἠκ for the simple ἐκ of the MSS., which gives a harsh construction.

ὁπότε: See P. 3.91.

Δαρδανίδα^: With κόραν.

Ἀγαμεμνονίᾳ | ψυχᾷ: O. 2.13.

ἀκτὰν παρ᾽ εὔσκιον : παρά not strictly as in prose, not “along the shore,” but “to the stretch of the shore.”

Antistrophe 2

νηλὴς γυνά: On the position, see O. 1.81; 10 (11), 48; P. 12.17.

Ἰφιγένεια . . . σφαχθεῖσα: Rather than τὸ σφαχθῆναι, ὅτι ἐσφάχθη, σφαγή. See O. 3.6; P. 2.23.

ἐπ᾽ Εὐρίπῳ: At Aulis.

ἑτέρῳ λέχεϊ δαμαζομέναν: The paraphrast: ἑτέρῳ ἀνδρὶ μισγομένην. Fennell tr. “humiliated by another connection on Agamemnon's part.” This would bring in Kassandra, but the sense cannot be extracted from the words. Pindar enlarges on the more shameful alternative, “guilty passion and sensual delight.”

ἔννυχοι πάραγον κοῖται: P. 2.35: εὐναὶ παράτροποι.

τὸ δὲ νέαις , κτἑ.: Inevitable Greek moralizing, as inevitable to Pindar as to Euripides.

Epode 2

ἀλλοτρίαισι γλώσσαις: “Owing to alien tongues,” as if δι᾽ ἀλλοτρίας γλώσσας.

ἴσχει τε ... δέ: Cf. P. 4.80.

οὐ μείονα: Sc. τοῦ ὄλβου. Prosperity is envied to its full height. The groundling may say and do what he pleases. No one notices him.

χαμηλὰ πνέων: Compare O. 10 (11), 102: κενεὰ τνεύσαις, Ν. 3, 41: ἄλλοτ᾽ ἄλλα πνέων.

ἄφαντον βρέμει: To him who lives on the heights the words and works of χαμηλὰ πνέων amount to nothing more than an “obscure murmur.” The contrast is, as the Scholiast puts it, between ἐπιφανής and ἀφανής.

μὲν ... τε: O. 4.13.

χρόνῳ: P. 4.78: χρόνῳ ἵκετο).

κλυταῖς ἐν Ἀμύκλαις: Homer puts the scene in Mykenai, Stesichoros in Amyklai. Acc. to O. Müller, Amyklai was the old capital of the Pelopidai, and the same city that Homer calls Lakedaimon. See Paus. 3, 19, 5, on the statue of Kassandra and the monument of Agamemnon at Amyklai.

Strophe 3

μάντιν ... κόραν: “Prophetic maid,” or “maiden prophetess.”

πυρωθέντων | Τρώων: Not genitive absolute.

ἁβρότατος: Depends on ἔλυσε. “Reft of luxury.” Such a combination as δόμους ἁβρότατος = δόμους ἁβρούς, πλουσίους, is very unlikely.

δέ: Orestes. Return to the hero of the myth, v. 16.

Στρόφιον: See note on P. 4.51.

νέα κεφαλά: So with Bergk for νέᾳ κεφαλᾷ. The paraphrast has νέος ὢν ἔτι, though that is not conclusive. The appositional nominative gives a tender touch.

χρονίῳ σὺν Ἄρει: Keep the personification. “With Ares' tardy help.”

ἐν φοναῖς: Notice the effect of the plural. “Weltering in his gore.” θεῖναι regularly with ἐν everywhere.

Antistrophe 3

ἀμευσίπορον τρίοδον: Lit. “path-shifting fork.” The τρίοδος is the place where two roads go out of a third. Plat. Gorg. 524 A:ἐν τῇ τριόδῳ ἐξ ἧς φέρετον τὼ ὁδώ” . See my note on Justin Martyr, Apol. II. 11, 8. “The place where three roads meet” is misleading without further explanation.

τρίοδο_ν: Notice the prolongation of the last syllable, P. 3.6.

ὀρθὰν κέλευθον: vv. 1-16. The words ὀρθὰν κέλευθον suggest the paths of the sea, and the image changes.

ὡς ὅτε: Compare O. 6.2: ὡς ὅτε θαητὸν μέγαρον.

ἄκατον εἰναλίαν: For the figure, see P. 10.51.

Μοῖσα, τὸ δὲ τεόν: For δέ, see O. 1.36. With τὸ δὲ τεόν, compare O. 5.72: τὸ δ᾽ ἐμόν.

μισθοῖο: In these matters P. is to us painfully candid.

παρέχειν: As συνέθευ is a verb of will, the future is not necessary.

ὑπάργυρον: “For silver.” The double meaning of “silver voice” is plain enough. Much disputed is I. 2, 8: ἀργυρωθεῖσαι πρόσωπα μαλθακόφωνοι ἀοιδαί.

ἄλλοτ᾽ ἄλλᾳ ταρασσέμεν , κτἑ.: “That is thy duty, to let it flit now this way, now that — now to father, anon to son.” P. has already flitted from land (τρίοδον) to water (πλόου).

Epode 3

Πυθονίκῳ: Elsewhere Πυθιόνικος. Bergk considers it a proper name.

ἐπιφλέγει: Cf. O. 9.23: φίλαν πόλιν | μαλεραῖς ἐπιφλέγων ἀοιδαῖς. For the sing. of a welded pair, see P. 10.10, and for English usage Fitzedward Hall in Am. Journ. of Phil. II. p. 424.

ἐν ἅρμασι: Cf. P. 2.4: τετρασρίας ... ἐν κρατέων.

ἔσχον: O. 2.10.

θοὰν ἀκτῖνα: “The swift halo,” “swiftly the halo.” Cf. P. 4.179: ταχέες ... ἔβαν. For ἀκτῖνα, cf. I. 3 (4), 60: ἑργμάτων ἀκτὶς καλῶν ἄσβεστος αἰεί,

σὺν ἵπποις: Not simply = δι᾽ ἵππων.

Strophe 4

Πυθοῖ τε: With preceding μέν, as v. 31.

γυμνὸν ἐπὶ στάδιον: “The bare course,” usually opposed to the ὁπλίτης δρόμος, as I. 1, 23. Here the course, where the runner has nothing to help him; opp. to ἐν ἅρμασι, σὺν ἵπποις.

ἤλεγζαν: “Put to the blush.”

θεόθεν ἐραίμαν καλῶν: P. often uses the first person when he desires to put himself in the place of the victor (O. 3.45; P. 3.110). A familiar trick of familiar speech, and suited to the easy terms on which P. stood with most of his “patrons.” The sense “May the gods so guide my love for that which is fair that I may not go beyond the limit of my power.” Others: θεόθεν καλῶν, “The goods the gods provide.” There is not the least necessity for considering ἐραίμαν as = ἐραίμαν ἄν.

μαιόμενος: The participle is restrictive, ὥστε τὰ δυνατὰ μόνον μαίεσθαι.

ἐν ἁλικίᾳ: “In my life's bloom.”

τῶν γὰρ ἂμ πόλιν , κτἑ.: Some see in this an oblique reference to the men who were carrying things with a high hand at Thebes in 478 B.C. For the condition of Thebes at the time of the Persian war, see the speech of the Thebans in Thuk. 3, 62:ὅπερ δέ ἐστι νόμοις μὲν καὶ τῷ σωφρονεστάτῳ ἐναντιώτατον, ἐγγυτάτω δὲ τυράννου, δυναστεία ὀλίγων ἀνδρῶν εἶχε τὰ πράγματα.

μάσσονι = μακροτέρῳ, the MS. reading, which is unmetrical (Bergk). μ. = μείζονι. See P. 2.26: μακρὸν ὄλβον.

Antistrophe 4

ξυναῖς δ᾽ ἀμφ᾽ ἀρεταῖς : ξυναὶ ἀρεταί are achievements that are within the reach of all, that are open to all (Dissen). Mezger prefers “Excellences that inure to the good of all,” such as victories. This is τό γ᾽ ἐν ξυνῷ πεποναμένον εὖ of P. 9.101. Jebb: “Those virtues move my zeal which serve the folk.” But the stress is laid directly on the avoidance of envy

τέταμαι: “I am at full stretch” as it were, with his arms about the prize. Compare

ὃς δ᾽ ἂν πρῶτος θορὼν
ἀμφί ϝοι ψαύσειε πέπλοις.

ἀται: The MSS. have ἄτἄ, ἄτᾳ. The dat. makes no satisfactory sense. ἀμύνεσθαι occurs only once more in P., and then in the common sense “to ward off” (I. 6 [7], 27). “The evil workings of envy are warded off” (pass.) makes a tolerable sense. This, of course, makes φθονεροί fem., for which we have analogy elsewhere. ἆται would embrace both human and divine (Mezger). ἆται, as a masculine nominative plural, “mischief-makers,” “workers of ἄτη,” would account for φθονεροι. For the metre read ἆται εἰ as two syllables, not three (synizesis).

ἄκρον ἑλών: Compare P. 9.128: τέλος ἄκρον, and I. 1, 51: κέρδος ὕψιστον.

μέλανος ... γενεᾷ: I have rewritten the passage after Bergk with no great confidence. “A fairer end in black death does he find (than the ὑβρισταί), having bequeathed to his sweet race the favor of a good name, the highest of treasures.”

κράτιστον: So Bergk for κρατίσταν.

Epode 4

τε: Sc. χάρις.

Ἰφικλείδαν: As P. is praising transmitted glory he does not forget the genealogy of Iolaos and of the Dioskuroi.

διαφέρει: “Spreads [the fame] abroad.”

Ἰόλαον: Iolaos and Kastor are coupled, I. 1, 16. 30, as the διφρηλάται κράτιστοι.

σέ τε, ϝάναξ Πολύδευκες: Cf. P. 4.89. Polydeukes was the son of Zeus, and when Kastor fell, Zeus said to Polydeukes

εἰ δὲ κασιγνήτου πέρι
μάρνασαι, πάντων δὲ νοεῖς ἀποδάσσασθαι ϝίσον,
ἥμισυ μέν κε πνέοις γαίας ὑπένερθεν ἐών,
ἥμισυ δ᾽ οὐρανοῦ ἐν χρυσέοις δώμασιν.

παρ᾽ ἀμαρ: “Day about,” “every other day.”

Θεράπνας: I. 1, 31: Τυνδαρίδας δ᾽ ἐν Ἀχαιοῖς δ᾽ ὑψίπεδον Θεράπνας οἰκέων ἕδος. Ν. 10, 56: ὑπὸ κεύθεσι γαίας ἐν γυάλοισι Θεράπνας. On the left bank of the Eurotas, where the Menelaïon commanded Sparta as the Janiculum Rome. “Nowhere does ancient Sparta come so vividly before the traveller as on the high plateau of Therapne, with its far-reaching view” (E. Curtius).

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hide References (21 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (21):
    • Homer, Odyssey, 5.333
    • Pindar, Nemean, 10
    • Pindar, Olympian, 1
    • Pindar, Olympian, 2
    • Pindar, Olympian, 3
    • Pindar, Olympian, 4
    • Pindar, Olympian, 5
    • Pindar, Olympian, 6
    • Pindar, Olympian, 9
    • Pindar, Pythian, 1
    • Pindar, Pythian, 10
    • Pindar, Pythian, 12
    • Pindar, Pythian, 2
    • Pindar, Pythian, 3
    • Pindar, Pythian, 6
    • Pindar, Pythian, 9
    • Plato, Gorgias, 524a
    • Sophocles, Ajax, 285
    • Thucydides, Histories, 3.62
    • Pindar, Pythian, 4
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1.172
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