Although this is the shortest ode in the collection, it is to an important man, Megacles, son of Hippocrates, nephew and son-in-law of the legislator Cleisthenes, and uncle of Pericles, all members of a prominent Athenian family, the Alcmaeonidae. Megacles’ great-grandfather Alcmaeon had won an Olympic chariot victory in 592 b.c. (alluded to in 14–15; cf. Hdt. 6.125). In 548 the Alcmaeonidae restored the burned temple of Apollo at Delphi with a bright façade of Parian marble (Hdt. 5.62). At the time of this ode, probably 486, Megacles was in exile after his ostracism from Athens the previous year (cf. Arist. Ath. Pol. 22.5).
Athens provides the best opening for an ode, because it and the Alcmaeonidae are the most celebrated city and family in Hellas (1–8). All Greece knows of their reconstruction of Apollo’s temple (9–12). The family boasts five Isthmian, one Olympic, and two Pythian victories (13– 17a). Although the poet rejoices in the family’s success, he is saddened by the envy that has been directed against Megacles and consoles him by pointing out that abiding prosperity is subject to vicissitudes (18–21).