Pindar, Olympian Odes

LCL 56: 134-135

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Olympian 8

This is the one Olympian ode to a victor from Aegina, the island city for which Pindar composed more odes than for any other place. Alcimedon, a member of the Blepsiad clan, won the boys’ wrestling, probably in 460. Aegina boasted a rich mythological tradition associated with Aeacus and his sons (see genealogy of Aeacus in Appendix), four generations of whom were involved with Troy. Aeacus helped build its wall, Telamon was the first to sack it, Achilles and Ajax attacked it a second time, and Neoptolemus ultimately destroyed it. Pindar perhaps intends us to see a similar pattern in Alcimedon’s family that culminates in his Olympic victory.

Zeus, the patron god of the clan, figures prominently in the ode (3, 16, 21, 43, and 83). Because of the invocation of Olympia, many commentators have supposed that the ode was composed immediately after the victory and performed at Olympia, but the words “this island ”(25) and “here ”(51) indicate that it was performed on Aegina. The praise of Melesias is the most extensive tribute to a trainer in the odes.

Pindar invokes Olympia as the site of divination for aspiring athletes and requests that she welcome the present victory celebration (1–11). A summary priamel sketches the variety of human successes and singles out



Timosthenes (presumably the victor’s brother) for his victory at Nemea and Alcimedon for his Olympic victory (12– 20). Aegina is then praised for its worship of Zeus Xenius, its fair dealing, and its hospitality to foreigners since the time of Aeacus (21–30). Poseidon and Apollo summoned Aeacus to help build Troy’s wall because the city was destined to fall at the place where a mortal had constructed the defense. When the wall was finished, two snakes failed to scale it, but a third succeeded. Apollo interpreted the omen to mean that Troy would be taken by the first and fourth generations of Aeacus’ children (31–46). Thereupon, Apollo went to the land of the Hyperboreans and Poseidon brought Aeacus to Aegina on his way to his Corinthian festival (46–52).

After observing that no one thing can please everyone, Pindar nonetheless expects that his forthcoming praise of Melesias will give no offense, because the trainer himself had won a Nemean victory as a boy and another as a man in the pancratium (53–59). He praises Melesias for his experience and skill as a teacher and declares that Alcimedon has gained for him his thirtieth victory in the major games; moreover, Alcimedon won the hard way, having to defeat four successive opponents (59–69). In so doing, he has cheered his aged grandfather and brought the Blepsiadae their sixth major victory (70–76). The boy’s achievement also brings joy to his dead father, Iphion, who, although in Hades, hears his name proclaimed and informs his relative Callimachus (77–84). The poem ends with prayers for Zeus to continue his bounty to the family and their city (84–88).

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pindar-olympian_odes.1997