Pindar, Pythian Odes

LCL 56: 366-367

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Pindar

Pythian 10

If the date of 498 given by the scholia is correct, this is the earliest epinicion in the collection, and yet it contains most of the distinctive features of Pindar’s style. The only ode to a Thessalian, it was apparently commissioned by Thorax, the leader of the Aleuadae of Larissa, located down the Peneius River from Pelinna, the victor’s city. The central narrative, framed in ring composition, tells of Perseus’ journey to the Hyperboreans, whose blessed life serves as a measure of the success enjoyed by the victor and his father.

After a grand opening that links Thessaly with Lacedaemon through Heracles, the poet abruptly turns to the occasion at hand, Hippocleas’ Pythian victory in the boys’ diaulos (1–9). Although Apollo surely aided him in his victory, he also inherited athletic ability from his father, who had twice won the race in armor at Olympia and once at Pytho (10–16).

The poet prays that the gods may continue to favor them both and declares that a man is blessed who is himself a great victor and lives to see his son win Pythian crowns (17–26). Such a one has reached the limits of human success, beyond which lies the inaccessible land of the Hyperboreans (27–30). Perseus once visited them while they were delighting Apollo with their sacrifices of asses

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Pindar

(31–36). The Muse resides with them as they enjoy music, poetry, and feasting, and they never become sick or grow old (37–44). The narrative section concludes with a brief mention of Perseus’ famous exploit of slaying the Gorgon and turning his mother’s captors into stone (44–48).

After marveling at the power of the gods, the poet suddenly suspends his song’s progress and declares that encomia must vary their subjects (48–54). He hopes that his songs will make the victor more admired among his countrymen, especially the young girls (55–59). It is sweet to gain what one desires in the present, but the unforeseeable future looms ahead (59–63). The poet places his confidence in his friend Thorax, who commissioned the ode, and praises his brothers, good men who maintain the Thessalian state (64–72).

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pindar-pythian_odes.1997