Pindar, Olympian Odes

LCL 56: 190-191

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Olympian 13

The ode opens with Τρισολυμπιονίκαν (“thrice victorious at Olympia”), an imposing compound coined for the occasion that fills the first verse. It is warranted because Thessalus, the father of the victor, had won the stadion at Olympia, while Xenophon achieved the singular feat of winning both the stadion and the pentathlon in the same Olympiad. His unique achievement reflects the inventiveness of his city, Corinth, for it is credited with the discovery of the dithyramb, the bridle and bit, and temple decorations. Pindar illustrates Corinthian ingenuity with the examples of Sisyphus and Medea, but chooses as his central narrative the discovery of the bridle and bit by Bellerophon. The athletic success of Xenophon and his clan, the Oligaethidae, is extraordinary: Pindar credits them with sixty victories at Nemea and the Isthmus alone. Pindar also wrote a scolion for Xenophon, twenty lines of which are preserved as fr. 122.

This family with three Olympic victories that is both kind to citizens and hospitable to foreigners reflects the qualities of its city, Corinth, where the three Horae (Order, Justice, and Peace) dwell (1–10). The poet says that he will boldly proclaim his praise of the Corinthians, including their athletic triumphs, inventiveness, and love of the Muse and Ares (11–23). He prays that Olympian Zeus



continue to bless them with good fortune and receive this celebration of Xenophon’s unprecedented double victory at Olympia (24–31). There follows an impressive catalog of Xenophon’s and his family’s athletic achievements, concluded by the poet’s statement that he cannot enumerate all their victories at Delphi and Nemea, since moderation should be observed (32–48).

After announcing that he will embark on a public theme, Pindar praises Corinth for its heroes of the intellect, Sisyphus and Medea, before passing on to the Trojan war, in which Corinthians fought on both sides, and finally singling out Glaucus the Lycian, whose ancestor was Bellerophon (49–62). An extensive narrative tells of Bellerophon’s discovery of the bridle and bit through the help of Athena, his exploits with Pegasus, and his ultimate fate, details of which the poet will not provide (63–92).

The poet aims his javelins of praise at the victor’s clan, the Oligaethidae, and provides a catalog of their athletic victories that includes so many items he must swim away as if out of a sea (93–114). The poem ends with a prayer to Zeus to grant them esteem and success (114–115).

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pindar-olympian_odes.1997