Pindar and the Cult of Heroes

Pindar and the Cult of Heroes

Pindar and the Cult of Heroes

Pindar and the Cult of Heroes

Synopsis

Pindar and the Cult of Heroes combines a study of Greek culture and religion (hero cult) with a literary-critical study of Pindar's epinician poetry. It looks at hero cult generally, but focuses especially on heroization in the 5th century BC. There are individual chapters on the heroization of war dead, of athletes, and on the religious treatment of the living in the 5th century. Hero cult, Bruno Currie argues, could be anticipated, in different ways, in a person's lifetime. Epinician poetry too should be interpreted in the light of this cultural context; fundamentally, this genre explores the patron's religious status. The book features extensive studies of Pindar's Pythians 2, 3, 5, Isthmian 7, and Nemean 7.

Excerpt

This book will argue for a new understanding of Pindar’s epinician poetry and, in a significant respect, of the culture which produced it. the doctoral thesis from which the book grew was conceived initially under the title ‘Hero Cult in Pindar’. the original project was to take the allusions to hero cult in Pindar’s odes in conjunction with the other evidence for those cults; it was to be an integrative approach, one that would shed light on both the poetry and the religious practices. (To my knowledge, only one monograph has been devoted to hero cult in Pindar: a German dissertation in Latin of only 28 pages, written in 1865: C. Ohlert, De heroologia Pindarica, diss. Jena.) This integrative approach has been retained in this book, but any initial aspiration I had once had to give an exhaustive account of hero cults in Pindar was soon abandoned. Instead, one issue came to dominate: whether a literary motivation for the numerous allusions to hero cult in Pindar’s odes was to be found in the prospect of heroic honours for the addressee. As I looked into the hero cults of historical persons, I found the existing scholarship unsatisfactory for my purposes. the scope of the work expanded: ‘Hero Cult in Pindar’ became ‘Hero Cult and Pindar’, and then Pindar and the Cult of Heroes. the importation of the conjunction ‘and’ into the title was meant to give me the latitude to address problems specific to hero cult or to Pindar, and not necessarily common to both of them—a latitude I have availed myself of in the book. From the outset the work was conceived as a study in both Pindar and Greek religion; I hope it will interest scholars and students in both areas. It has not been possible for me to take account of scholarship of which I became aware after January 2004, when the completed manuscript was delivered to the Press.

In the course of writing the book I have been extremely privileged to have had access to distinguished and generous scholars. Nicholas Richardson supervised the thesis with unflagging commitment, and applied a judicious blend of scepticism and encouragement. Jasper Griffin introduced me to Pindar as an undergraduate; he also suggested hero cult in Pindar as a subject for research and offered valuable criticisms of the completed thesis. Richard Rutherford found time in an exceptionally busy schedule to make instructive comments on . . .

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