Pindar, Pythian Odes

LCL 56: 348-349

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Pythian 9

Probably performed in 474, this is the only ode to a victor of the race in armor. Because of the future δέξεται (73), many commentators have supposed that the ode was performed in Thebes, but the future cannot be taken so literally (cf. κωμάσομαι at 89, “I shall [now] celebrate”). The main narrative, which tells of Apollo’s love for the huntress Cyrene, whom he takes from Thessaly to become queen of the foremost city in Libya, is structured by ring composition. The critical moment of Apollo’s decision is dramatized in a dialogue with Chiron.

After cataloguing Telesicrates’ victories, Pindar concludes the poem with a second narrative, ostensibly requested by the victor, telling how Telesicrates’ ancestor won his wife in a foot race arranged by her father Antaeus in imitation of Danaus’ marriage of his daughters. This account brings together two prominent themes in the ode, athletics and marriage.

Upon announcing his intention to praise Telesicrates and Cyrene (1–4), the poet moves immediately into a summary of the forthcoming narrative: Apollo took Cyrene from Pelion in Thessaly to be queen of Libya, where Aphrodite joined them in marriage (5–13). She, the daughter of Hypseus, king of the Lapithae, disliked the typical activities of girls, preferring instead to protect her father’s



herds from wild predators (14–25). When Apollo saw her wrestling with a lion, he called Chiron from his cave to inquire about the girl’s identity and to ask if he should make love to her (26–37).

Chiron answers playfully that first loves must be consummated in private and chides Apollo for asking questions to which he, the all-knowing god, already knows the answers (38–49). Nonetheless, he predicts that Apollo will establish Cyrene in Libya, where she will reign and bear a son, Aristaeus, who will protect the flocks (50–65). His prediction is swiftly fulfilled; on that very day she is installed as queen of a city famous for athletics (66–70). She will welcome Telesicrates, who was victorious at Pytho (71–75).

The poet has much to say in praise of the victor, but chooses to elaborate a few well-chosen themes (76–79). As he recalls Telesicrates’ victory in the Theban Iolaea, he tells briefly of the Theban heroes Iolaus, Heracles, and Iphicles (79–89a). After praying for the Graces’ continued inspiration, he extends the catalogue with three victories at Aegina and Megara (89a–92) and exhorts Telesicrates’ townsmen to praise him for his many victories in the local games (93–103).

The poet is asked to tell of the victor’s ancestor Alexidamus, who won his bride in a foot race (103–125).

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pindar-pythian_odes.1997