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The seventh Pythian is the only epinikion in honor of a citizen of Athens except N. 2. Megakles, whose victory is here celebrated, was a member of the aristocratic house of the Alkmaionidai, a grandson of that Megakles who married the daughter of Kleisthenes, tyrant of Sikyon (Hdt. 6, 127 foll.). Whether our Megakles was the son of Kleisthenes, the lawgiver, or of Hippokrates, brother of the lawgiver, does not appear. The latter is called simply συγγενής by the Scholiast. The victory was gained Pyth. 25 (Ol. 72, 3), the year of the battle of Marathon. Whether the Pythian games were celebrated and the ode composed before the battle or not is a question that has led to elaborate discussion, which cannot be presented here even in summary. Pindar's patriotism, so dear to many, so doubtful to some, is thought to be at stake; but we have to do with Pindar the poet, rather than Pindar the patriot; and all that can be said in this place is, that even if the ode was composed and performed after the battle, there were reasons enough why the poet should not have referred distinctly to a victory, the greatness of which was not necessary to make Athens great enough for poetry; a victory which would not have been a pleasant theme for the Alkmaionidai, on account of the suspicions of treachery that attached to them (Hdt. 6, 115).

Athens is the fairest preface of song, the fairest foundation of a monument of praise to the Alkmaionidai for their victory in the chariot-race. No fatherland, no house, whose name is greater praise throughout Greece (vv. 1-6).

The story of the Erechtheidai haunts every city, for they made the temple of Apollo in divine Pytho a marvel to behold. That were enough, but I am led to further song by five Isthmian victories, one o'ertopping victory at Olympia, and two from Pytho (vv. 7-12).

These have been won by you that now are and by your forefathers. My heart is full of joy at this new good-fortune. What though noble acts have for their requital envy? Abiding happiness brings with it now this, now that (vv. 13-17).

Mezger sees in this ode a complete poem, not a fragment, as L. Schmidt does. No part of an epinikion, he says, is wanting. Praises of the victor, the victory, the family, the city, the god of the games, form the usual garland. In the heart of the poem stands the great act of piety, the building of the Delphic temple. The victories of the Alkmaionidai are a reward of their service to Apollo. The citizens are not all so grateful as the god, but their envy is only an assurance of abiding happiness.

So short a poem does not call for an elaborate analysis. Chiefly noteworthy is the way in which each member of the triad balances itself. The strophe has to do with Athens and the Alkmaionidai, the antistrophe with splendid generosity and brilliant success, the epode sums up new and old, and sets off abiding happiness against the envy which it costs. Compare the structure of O. 12.

The measures are logaoedic.


αἱ μεγαλοπόλιες Ἀθᾶναι: Cf. P. 2.1: μεγαλοπόλιες Συράκοσαι. As this is poetry, there is no need of scrutinizing the epithet closely with reference to the period. Solon calls Athens μεγάλην πόλιν. Herodotos, writing of the end of the sixth century, says (5, 66): Ἀθῆναι καὶ πρὶν μεγάλαι τότε ἀπαλλαχθεῖσαι τῶν τυράννων ἐγένοντο μέζονες.

προοίμιον: Athens is the noblest opening for a song in honor of the Alkmaionidai. πρ. is the prelude sung before the foundation is laid.

γενεᾷ ... ἵπποισι: The double dat. is not harsh if we connect, after Pindar's manner, ἀοιδᾶν with ἵπποισι, “chariot-songs.” Cf. P. 6.17, and I. 1, 14: Ἡροδότῳ τεύχων τὸ μὲν ἅρματι τεθρίππῳ γέρας.

κρηπῖδ᾽ ἀοιδᾶν ... βαλέσθαι: Cf. P. 4.138: βάλλετο κρηπῖδα σοφῶν ἐπέων. The architectural image recalls the service that the Alkmaionidai had rendered the Delphian temple. βαλέσθαι: “For the laying.” P. is instructive for the old dat. conception of the inf.

πάτραν: Cannot be “clan” here. It must refer to Athens, as οἶκον to the Alkmaionidai.

ναίοντ᾽: With τίνα. “Whom shall I name as inhabiting a fatherland, whom a house more illustrious of report in Greece?” (τίς ναίει ἐπιφανεστέραν μὲν πάτραν, ἐπιφανέστερον δὲ οἶκον;) P.'s usual way of changing the form of a proposition. ναίων is the reading of all the MSS. The Scholia read ναίοντ᾽, as they show by οἰκοῦντα. No conjecture yet made commends itself irresistibly.

πυθέσθαι: Epexegetic infinitive.


λόγος ὁμιλεῖ: Semi-personification. . = ἀναστρέφεται (Schol.). Cf. O. 12.19: ὁμιλέων παρ᾽ οἰκείαις ἀρούραις. The story is at home, is familiar as household words.

Ἐρεχθέος ἀστῶν: Indication of ancient descent. Compare O. 13.14: παῖδες Αλάτα. P. includes Athens in the glory of the liberality.

τεόν νε δόμον: When the temple of Delphi, which had been burned Ol. 58, 1 = 548 B.C.), was rebuilt, the Alkmaionidai, then in exile, took the contract for the façade, and carried it out in an expensive marble instead of a cheap stone (Hdt. 5, 62).

θαητόν = ὥστε θαητὸν εἶναι. “Fashioned thy house in splendor.”

ἄγοντι δέ: P. is not allowed to linger on this theme. Other glories lead him to other praises.

ἐκπρεπής: Cf. O. 1.1


ὑμαί: By you of this generation.

χαίρω τι: A kind of λιτότης. “I have no little joy.”

τὸ δ᾽ ἄχνυμαι: “But this is my grievance.”

φθόνον ἀμειβόμενον = ὅτι φθόνος ἀμείβεται. Instructive for the peculiar Attic construction with verbs of emotion, e. g. So. Ai. 136: σὲ μὲν εὖ πράσσοντ᾽ ἐπιχαίρω. . “requiting.”

γε μάν: “Howbeit.” μάν meets an objection, made or to be made, γε limits the utterance to φαντί. Compare O. 13.104; P. 1.17; N. 8.50; I. 3 (4), 18. “Yet they say that thus prosperity that abideth in bloom for a man brings with it this and that” (good and bad), or, analyzed, οὕτως ἂν παραμόνιμος θάλλοι εὐδαιμονία ἐὰν τὰ καὶ τὰ φέρηται. Ups and downs are necessary to abiding fortune. Perpetual success provokes more than envy of men, the Nemesis of God. We hear the old Polykrates note.

τὰ καὶ τά: Here “good and bad.” as I. 3 (4). 51.

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hide References (12 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (12):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.62
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.115
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.127
    • Pindar, Nemean, 8
    • Pindar, Olympian, 1
    • Pindar, Olympian, 12
    • Pindar, Olympian, 13
    • Pindar, Pythian, 1
    • Pindar, Pythian, 2
    • Pindar, Pythian, 6
    • Sophocles, Ajax, 136
    • Pindar, Pythian, 4
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