Pindar's Poetry, Patrons, and Festivals: From Archaic Greece to the Roman Empire

Pindar's Poetry, Patrons, and Festivals: From Archaic Greece to the Roman Empire

Pindar's Poetry, Patrons, and Festivals: From Archaic Greece to the Roman Empire

Pindar's Poetry, Patrons, and Festivals: From Archaic Greece to the Roman Empire


Pindar's Poetry, Patrons, and Festivals is about the commemoration of athletic victory in Archaic and Classical Greece, and the reception of that heritage in the Hellenistic and Roman worlds. At its heart lies the praise ('epinikian') poetry of the Classical poet Pindar and his near contemporary Bacchylides, composed to celebrate victories at the four great festivals, at Olympia, Delphi, Nemea, and Isthmia. The collection, which originated in an international research seminar held in London in 2002, brings together literary, historical, archaeological, and anthropological specialists to consider issues such as the origin and nature of epinikian poetry, the poets' patrons and the regional significance of victory odes, and the post-Classical reception of Pindar and his contemporaries. After a long thematic introduction covering such topics as Pindar and Greek religion, the book is divided into three sections. Part One is about the Classical festivals, the poetry written for them, the genre, style, and performance of epinikian poetry, and the two competing and complementary media through which victories were commemorated: statues and poems. Part Two examines the various communities which patronized poets: Argos and Corinth, the west (mainly Sicily), Aigina and Thessaly (the Introduction covers two other great 'Pindaric' regions: Cyrenaica and Boiotia). Part Three continues the story into the Hellenistic and Roman periods, considering Hellenistic praise poetry as a bridge between the Classical and Roman worlds, and Roman responses to Greek athletic festivals. In conclusion, the doyenne of British social anthropology, Mary Douglas, looks at ancient games and praise poetry from a modern anthropological perspective.


Simon Hornblower and Catherine Morgan

About five hundred years ago, there was a heavy snowfall one winter in Florence. Piero de' Medici, heir to the great Lorenzo, made Michelangelo build what was surely the best snowman the world has ever seen. This story is told by Vasari in his Lives of the Artists. in some ways, much ancient Greek epinikian poetry may seem to resemble Michelangelo's snowman: great art, but ephemeral. It is inconceivable that the only praise poems composed for victors in the games in the sixth and fifth centuries bc were the forty-four by Pindar and the dozen of so by Bacchylides which happen to survive. For one thing, these poets had distinguished predecessors in the genre (Ibykos and Simonides) and we have only small fragments of their poems. For another, Pindar was active for some fifty-four years from c.500 to 446 bc, the years between Pythian 10 and Pythian 8, so that if he wrote no more than one praise poem a year, then we have lost at least ten such poems. the true number is surely far greater than that. Many will have been sung ephemerally, at the time of the victory only, and perhaps had no afterlife at all.

This book tries to reconstruct the snowman that is epinikian poetry. It has its origins in a University of London research seminar held in autumn 2002, on Pindar and the athletic festivals which he celebrated in his epinikian odes. in recent years, Pindar has been at the heart of a wide range of studies in cultural history, on topics as diverse as colonization, perceptions of statuary, specific social values, or responses to democracy. Even closer attention has been paid to Greek athletics and the sanctuaries at which major agonistic festivals were held, especially in the period surrounding the Athens Olympics in 2004. in most cases, however, the values promoted by Pindar have been presented in a rather general fashion, with less attention paid to variation in his approaches to different

But for re-performance see Carey (this volume).

For the term, and the genre, see Lowe (this volume).

a random selection of publications on such topics might include: Kurke (1991) and (1998); Steiner
(2001), chs. 4, 5, noting also O'Sullivan (2003); Hubbard (2001).

See e.g. Miller (2004); Spivey (2004); Stampolidis and Tassoulas (2004); Valavanis (2004); Young
(2004); Phillips and Pritchard (2003) (the well-timed publication of a conference held in advance of the
Sydney Olympics).

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