Opus was a city of the Eastern Locrians, located north of Boeotia, whose early history Pindar briefly sketches in the poem. By winning this Olympic victory in 468 (confirmed by P. Oxy. 222), Epharmostus became a periodonikēs (victor in all four crown games).
The ode opens with a contrast between the spontaneous chant of Archilochus (a sort of “Hail to the Conquering Hero”), sung by Epharmostus’ friends at Olympia, and the more studied composition of the present ode, inspired by the Muses, with its extensive praise of the victor and of his city Opus for its orderly life and its athletic successes at Delphi and Olympia (1–20). The poet hopes to proclaim the Opuntians’ achievement with the aid of the Graces (20–27). The maxim that bravery and wisdom are divinely granted is illustrated by the example of Heracles, who held his own while fighting against three gods (28–35). But suddenly the poet rejects that story as boastfully disparaging of the gods and proposes as his theme the city of Protogeneia (Opus), first settled by Pyrrha and Deucalion, who came down from Mt. Parnassus and created a race of people from stones (35–46).
Implying that he is treating an old theme in a new song (47–49), Pindar begins with an account of the great flood and the establishment of a dynasty of native kings, which
continued until Zeus impregnated the daughter of Opus of Elis and gave her as a bride to Locrus, the childless king of the Locrian city (49–62), who named his adopted son Opus for the child’s maternal grandfather and handed the city over to him. His outstanding qualities attracted many immigrants, foremost of whom was Menoetius, whose son, Patroclus, stood by Achilles against the onslaught of Telephus (63–79).
After a brief prayer for inspiration (80–83), Pindar catalogs Epharmostus’ earlier victories, singling out his remarkable triumph in the games at Marathon, when he was taken from the class for youths (“beardless”) and made to compete against grown men. To the delight of the crowd, he won without losing a fall (83–99). Pindar concludes that natural abilities are better and more praiseworthy than learned ones that lack a divine component (100–107). Accordingly, he rejects the long and arduous ways of art in favor of a simple vaunt, declaring that Epharmostus has been favored by divine help and natural talent. The poem ends with an address to Ajax, son of Ileus, a local hero, on whose altar the victor is placing his crown (107–112).