The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.



in Thebes. It was sprung from the ancient race of the Aegids, who claimed descent from the Cad-mids, who settled at Thebes and Sparta, whence part emigrated ,to Thera and Cyrene at the com­mand of Apollo. (Find. Pyth. v. 72, &c.) We also learn from the biography by Eustathius, that Pindar wrote the SafyvnfyopiKov $0>a for his son Daiphantus, when he was elected daplinephorus to conduct the festival of the daphnephoria ; a fact which proves the dignity of the family, since only youths of the most distinguished families at Thebes were eligible to this office. (Paus. ix. 10. §4.) The family seems to have been celebrated for its skill in music ; though there is no authority for stating, as Bockh and Miiller have done, that they were hereditary flute-players, and exercised their profession regularly at certain great religious fes­tivals. The ancient biographies relate that the father or uncle of Pindar was a flute-player, and we are told that Pindar at an early age received instruction in the art from the flute-player Scope-linus. But the youth soon gave indications of a genius for poetry, which induced his father to send him to Athens to receive more perfect in­struction in the art ; for it must be recollected that lyric poetry among the Greeks was so intimately connected with music, dancing, and the whole training of the chorus that the lyric poet required no small amount of education to fit him for the exercise of his profession. Later writers tell us that his future glory as a poet was miraculously foreshadowed by a swarm of bees which rested upon his lips while he was asleep, and that this miracle first led him to compose poetry. (Comp. Paus. ix. 23. § 2 ; Aelian, F. //. xii. 45.) At Athens Pindar became the pupil of Lasus of Her-mione, the founder of the Athenian school of dithy-rambic poetry, and who was at that time residing at Athens under the patronage of Hipparchus. Lasus was well skilled in the different kinds of music, and from him Pindar probably gained con­siderable knowledge in the theory of his art. Pindar also received instruction at Athens from Agathocles and Apollodorus, and one of them allowed him to instruct the cyclic choruses, though he was still a mere youth. He returned to Thebes before he had completed his twentieth year, and is said to have received instruction there from Myrtis and Corinna of Tanagra, two poetesses, who then enjoyed great celebrity in Boeotia. Corinna ap­pears to have exercised considerable influence upon the youthful poet, and he was not a little in­debted to her example and precepts. It is related by Plutarch (De Glor. Ailien. 14), that she re­commended Pindar to introduce mythical narra­tions into his poems, and that when in accordance with her advice he composed a hymn (part of which is still extant), in which he interwove al­most all the Theban mythology, she smiled and said, " We ought to sow with the hand, and not with the whole sack" (rfj Xej/si Se?z> (nreipeiv, dAAa jut) o\(f} r<p With both these poetesses Pindar contended for the prize in the musical con­tests at Thebes. Although Corinna found fault with Myrtis for entering into the contest with Pindar, saying, " I blame the clear-toned Myrtis, that she, a woman born, should enter the lists with Pindar,"

5e kt) \iyovpav Mou/m8' iwvya.

eptv :



still she herself is said to have contended with him five times, and on each occasion to have gained the prize. Pausanias indeed does not speak (ix. 22. § 3) of more than one victory, and mentions a picture which he saw at Tanagra, in which Co­rinna was represented binding her hair with a fillet in token of her victory, which he attributes as much to her beauty and to the circumstance that she wrote in the Aeolic dialect as to her poetical talents.

Pindar commenced his professional career as a poet at an early age, and acquired so great a re­putation, that he was soon employed .by different states and princes in all parts of the Hellenic world to compose for them choral songs for special occa­sions. He received money and presents for his works ; but he never degenerated into a common mercenary poet, and he continued to preserve to his latest days the respect of all parts of Greece. His earliest poem which has come down to us (the 10th Pythian) he composed at the age of twenty. It is an Epinican ode in honour of Hippocles, a Thessalian youth belonging to the powerful Aleuad family, who had gained the prize at the Pythian games. Supposing Pindar to have been born in b. c. 522, this ode was composed in b. c. 502. The next ode of Pindar in point of time is the 6th Pythian, which he wrote in his twenty-seventh year, b. c. 494, in honour of Xenocrates of Agri-gentum, who had gained the prize at the chariot-race at the Pythian games, by means of his son Thrasybulus. It would be tedious to relate at length the different occasions on which he composed his other odes. It may suffice to mention that he composed poems for Hieron, tyrant of Syracuse, Alexander, son of Amyntas, king of Macedonia, Theron, tyrant of Agrigentum, Arcesilaus, king of Cyrene, as well as for many other free states and private persons. He was courted especially by Alex­ander, king of Macedonia, and Hieron, tyrant of Sy­racuse ; and the praises which he bestowed upon the former are said to have been the chief reason which led his descendant, Alexander, the son of Philip, to spare the house of the poet, when he destroyed the rest of Thebes (Dion Chrysost. Oral, de Regno^ ii. p. 25). About b. c. 473, Pindar visited the court of Hieron, in consequence of the pressing invitation of the monarch ; but it appears that he did not re­main more than four years at Syracuse, as he loved an independent life, and did not care to cultivate the courtly arts which rendered his contemporary, Simonides, a more welcome guest at the table of their patron. But the estimation in which Pindar was held by his contemporaries is still more strik­ingly shown by the honours conferred upon him by the free states of Greece. Although a Theban, he was always a great favourite with the Athenians, whom he frequently praised in his poems, and whose city he often visited. In one of his dithy­rambs (Dithyr. fr. 4) he called it " the support

pcur/xa) of Greece, glorious Athens, the divine city.*' The Athenians testified their gratitude by making him their public guest (irpo^vos), and giving to him ten thousand drachmas (Isocr. irepl

m§. p. 304, ed. Dind.) ; and at a later period they erected a statue to his honour (Paus. i. 8. § 4), but this was not done in his lifetime, as the pseudo-Aeschines states (Epist. 4). The inhabit­ants of Ceos employed Pindar to compose for them a irpoffoSiov or processional song, although they had two celebrated poets of their own, Bacchylides and

About | First



page #  
Search this site
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of