Pindar (pĬn´dər), 518?–c.438 BC, Greek poet, generally regarded as the greatest Greek lyric poet. A Boeotian of noble birth, he lived principally at Thebes. He traveled widely, staying for some time at Athens and in Sicily at the court of Hiero I at Syracuse and also at Acragas (modern Agrigento). His chief medium was the choral lyric, and he set the standard for the triumphal ode or epinicion. Of his complete works 45 odes survive; these make one of the greatest collections of poems by a single author in Greek. His fragments are exceptionally numerous and some of them widely famous. The epinicia celebrate victories in athletic games: there are 14 Olympian odes, 12 Pythian odes, 11 Nemean odes, and 8 Isthmian odes. Each was written to be sung in a procession for the victor, usually on his return to his home city. The outstanding feature of each ode is its narrative myth, which is always connected with the winner. The myth makes appropriate the elevated moral tone and religious flavor characteristic of Pindar's poems. His style loses a great deal in translation. It has a high-flown diction and an intricate word order, dependent partly upon the complexity of his metrical requirements. Pindar wrote on commissions, but he was quite independent of any meretriciousness, because of his lofty conception of the poet's vocation.

The term Pindaric ode refers to a verse form used primarily in England in the 17th and 18th cent. The form, based on a somewhat faulty understanding of the metrical pattern used by Pindar, originated with Abraham Cowley in his Pindarique Odes (1656) and was later used by John Dryden, among others. It is characterized by irregularity in the rhyme scheme, length of the stanzas, and number of stresses in a line.

See his works (tr. by L. R. Farnell, 1930–32); his odes (tr. by R. Lattimore, 1976); studies by F. T. Nisetich (1980) and K. Crotty (1982).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Pindar: Selected full-text books and articles

Pindar, a Poet of Eternal Ideas By David M. Robinson Johns Hopkins Press, 1936
First-Person Fictions: Pindar's Poetic "I" By Mary R. Lefkowitz Oxford University, 1991
Pindar's Pythian Odes: Essays in Interpretation By R. W. B. Burton Oxford University Press, 1962
The Beginnings of European Theorizing--Reflexivity in the Archaic Age By Barry Sandywell Routledge, vol.2, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Pindar and the Age of Literary Consciousness"
The Varieties of Enchantment: Early Greek Views of the Nature and Function of Poetry By George B. Walsh University of North Carolina Press, 1984
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Three "The Technique of Piety: Pindar"
Speaking Volumes: Orality and Literacy in the Greek and Roman World By Janet Watson Brill, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Six "Poetic Authority and Oral Tradition in Hesiod and Pindar"
The Thinker as Artist: From Homer to Plato & Aristotle By George Anastaplo Ohio University Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. III "Pindar"
The Discovery of the Mind: The Greek Origins of European Thought By Bruno Snell; T. G. Rosenmeyer Harvard University Press, 1953
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Pindar's Hymn to Zeus"
Apollo and the Nine: A History of the Ode By Carol Maddison Johns Hopkins, 1960
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Pindar, Anacreon, and Horace"
Myth into Art: Poet and Painter in Classical Greece By H. A. Shapiro Routledge, 1994
Librarian’s tip: "Pindar's Victory Odes" begins on p. 77
A Bibliography of Pindar, 1513-1966 By Douglas E. Gerber Press of Case Western University, 1969
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