The Graces in their Merriment:
Pindar and the Light Ode
Pindar, the priest of the Muses, did not always move to lofty Pierian melodies. His dance could and frequently did take on a lighter step, for in antiquity the Muses were not the only mistresses of song and poetry. Their sister goddesses, the Graces or Charites (Xάριτες), also inspired the ancient poet, and these deities sometimes joined with the Muses, sometimes with Eros and Aphrodite and Bacchus, to produce a more exuberant and less exalted poetry. Examples of lighter verse survive both in the epinician odes and in the fragments from Pindar's other poetry. Olympian 14, addressed to the Graces, is a joyous light ode; and the surviving fragments testify that Pindar was a convivial poet and a love poet who could be set beside Sappho and Anacreon. Renaissance poets were acquainted with this “other” Pindar, and his lighter verse shaped some of the familiar poetry of the era as well as the lighter verse that has often been attributed merely to the influence of Anacreon.
Renaissance critics were particularly attentive to the resemblances between the Greek lyric poets. It was not unusual to find Pindar cited with and compared to Anacreon. Julius Caesar Scaliger remarks in his Poetics that with Anacreon and Sappho Pindar was a writer of erotica, and Renaissance editions of Pindar print a number of these erotic fragments together with the odes.1 Renaissance critics took into account,
1 See Julius Caesar Scaliger, Poetices Libri Septem (1561), 49. The fragments of the erotica were preserved in antiquity by Athenaeus.