Pindar, Olympian Odes

LCL 56: 164-165

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Olympian 10

Western (or Epizephyrian) Locri was located on the toe of Italy. The poet opens by asserting that he has forgotten his agreement to compose the ode. Since the victory (confirmed by P. Oxy. 222) was in 476, the same year that Ol. 1, 2, and 3 were composed for Hieron and Theron, it is likely that the more imposing commissions took precedence over this one for a boy victor. Pindar, however, promises interest (τόκος) on his overdue debt and atones with an especially rich ode that tells in loving detail of Heracles’ founding of the Olympic games, the first contests held there, and the celebrations that followed. Indeed, its lateness makes it all the more appreciated for the immortality it confers on the victor.

Acknowledging that the ode is late, the poet invokes the Muse and Truth to help absolve him from blame (1–6). In recompense, he will pay interest on his debt by praising the Western Locrians, who appreciate strict dealing, poetry, and martial prowess (7–15). After a reference to Heracles’ difficulties in defeating Cycnus, he advises Hagesidamus to be grateful to his trainer Ilas, who sharpened his natural talents (15–21). Yet effort is also required for victory (22–23).

The poet is inspired by the ordinances of Zeus (probably those governing the festival in his honor) to tell of the



founding of the Olympic games by Heracles, established with the spoils he had taken when he destroyed the city of Augeas, who refused to pay Heracles for cleansing his stables (24–51). He recounts that the Fates and Time attended the initial festival, catalogs the winners of the six events, and concludes with the festivities and victory songs that followed in the evening (52–77). Accordingly, the poet offers the present ode, which, although late, is all the more welcome—like a son finally born to an old man with no heirs (78–93). Pindar assures Hagesidamus that this ode will preserve his fame, reiterates his praise of the Western Locrians, and implies that through his verses Hagesidamus, like another Ganymede, will become immortal (93–105).

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pindar-olympian_odes.1997