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Pindar's Mythmaking

Pindar's Mythmaking: The Fourth Pythian Ode

Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Pindar's Mythmaking
    Book Description:

    Combining historical and philological method with contemporary literary analysis, this study of Pindar's longest and most elaborate victory ode, the Fourth Pythian, traces the underlying mythical patterns, implicit poetics, and processes of mythopoesis that animate his poetry

    Originally published in 1986.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5310-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xiv)

    • Introduction
      (pp. 3-14)

      Are Pindar’s poems able to transcend the limited occasion of their origin and the narrow class ethos of their intended audience? This question, secretly or openly, torments all those who have studied the Epinicia and fallen in love with their splendid language. My answer, which is in the affirmative, lies not so much in studying verbal patterns (sound, rhythm, diction) as in examining the mythmaking and myth-using operations of the ode.

      This approach requires a thematic rather than a line-by-line or strophe-by-strophe analysis. I attempt to combine a study of the internal coherence, symmetries and contrasts, and language of the...

    • 1. Heroic Guile: The Craft of the Hero and the Art of the Poet
      (pp. 15-29)

      Pindar frequently associates craft (mētis), clever skill (sophia),erōs, drugs (pharmaka), and seductive persuasion (peithō) with the shifting, ambiguous side of the bard’s daedalic craft.¹ He is concerned to distinguish his poetry of praise and truth from the deceptive potential inherent in the poet’s power to adorn men and things through his artful language. He often projects these poetic concerns upon the heroes of his myths. Like the poet himself, Jason, the principal hero ofPythian4, must find his way between the helpful and the evil properties of guile, drugs, persuasion, and love. His success depends on neutralizing the...

    • 2. The Language of Gods and Men
      (pp. 30-51)

      The previous chapter has suggested that the heroism of Jason in the ode is cast not in the simplex mold of Achillean forthright action but rather is shot through with the ambiguities of a more devious model, the craft or guile of Odysseus. This divided heroism is, in turn, related to Pindar’s self-consciousness of his poetry. This is a poetics ofalētheiaandmētis, of both truth and craft. Like his hero who “drips mildness upon his words” (136-38), the poet practices an ambiguous pharmacology.¹ His craft contains the double possibility inherent in all artifice of language: its poison of...

    • 3. Trials of the Hero: Sexuality, Generational Passage, and the Seeds of Creation
      (pp. 52-71)

      InPythian4, as in early Greek literature generally, sexuality is a magical power and a divine force. In dealing with it the heroes of the odes require special aid from the gods. Even Apollo, albeit with a playful irony, needs the advice of the wise centaur Chiron in unlocking the “secret keys” of Aphrodite’s “sacred” realm (Pyth. 9.36ff.).

      For both Jason and Euphamus, landfall among dangerous females on a foreign shore moves from seduction or dangerous sexuality to marriage and political stability. Jason wins a bride (223) who also conveniently removes the usurper of his throne (250). Euphamus founds...

    • 4. Mythic Patterns I: Wandering and Foundation
      (pp. 72-88)

      The structure ofPythian4, like that of theOdyssey, is both centrifugal and centripetal. It circumscribes wide exploratory adventures on an outward voyage; but it never loses sight of the homeward return and stable settlement as the certain goal. The richness, complexity, and impression of an open world of vast and varied experience derive in large part from the working together, in harmony and in counterpoint, of these two modes of narrative organization.¹

      The most vivid part of the myth, the Argonautic expedition, is a quest for a mysterious object, associated both with death (Phrixus’ ghost) and with the...

    • 5. Mythic Patterns II: The Voyage Beyond and Primordial Beginnings
      (pp. 89-105)

      The motifs of hospitality, travel, and return owe much to one aspect of the ode’s occasion, the poet’s friendly intervention in behalf of a guest-friend, Damophilus, an exile seeking restoration to his native land.¹ Pindar, however, characteristically incorporates the historical circumstances into a larger vision of the victory as an interchange between mortality and divinity, transience and eternity. This transfiguration of the present particulars is part of his conception of his task as a spokesman of the Muses of immortal Truth.

      Within the mythical portion of the odenostos, the return home, is a central theme and is closely associated...

    • 6. The Wisdom of Oedipus
      (pp. 106-120)

      For Pindar, as for early Greek poets in general, man is defined by his mortality, in contrast to the gods who are “deathless and ageless forever.”¹ From Homer to tragedy the heroic figure works out this definition by spanning the extremes between doom and immortal glory and by exemplifying in his own great sufferings the inescapable necessities of the mortal condition. It is appropriately the hero of tragic doom, Oedipus, rather than the brighthaired young leader of the Argonauts who opens this darker area of the heroic pattern:

      γνῶθι νῦν τὰν Οἰδιπόδα σοφίαν· εἰ

      γάϱ τις ὄζους ὀξυτόμῳ πελέϰει



    • 7. Poetry and/or Ideology
      (pp. 123-152)

      One could scarcely ask for a better example of the paradigm shift in interpretive method than the contrast between Wilamowitz’s reading ofPythian4 in 1922 and the recent interpretation by Farenga in 1977.¹ Although Wilamowitz acknowledged the “chimaera-like” and “unclassifiable” quality of the ode, he looked for its unity “not in the work” but in the poet’s life and in the historical circumstances of the work’s origins.² Farenga’s reading is semiological, deconstructive, and anti-ideological. He would abandon the permanence of the classical text as a meaning fixed forever at its privileged point of origins—the point which Wilamowitz would...

    • 8. Pindar’s Post-Oral Poetics: Between Inspiration and Textuality
      (pp. 153-164)

      In Medea’s prophecy, as in all prophecy in Pindar, the power of language both indicates and fills the gap between origin and loss. It is, therefore, fundamentally ambiguous. It reveals what the divine will holds in store for mortals; but it also calls attention to the obscurity that veils those purposes as men try to understand them.

      Medea’s speech begins as a “pneumatological” voice, conveying the full force of divine presence and divine will. It then re-emerges as “grammatological” in the “ranks” of her utterances, which, while not explicitly meaning “verses,” can imply the linear form of written words.¹ As...

    • 9. Sexual Conflict and Ideology
      (pp. 165-179)

      To Pindar, as to other Greek poets from Homer to Euripides, female sexuality appears as a mode of treacherous craft (mētis), deceptive ornamentation, beguiling persuasion, and quasi-magical drugs, unguents, or enchantments.¹Pythian4 combines traditional “wonder” at deeds of strength (cf. 238; also 80, 95, 163) with an undercurrent of dependence on feminine intelligence. The all-male band of heroes, like the male line of Aeolid and Cyrenean kings, needs the women they acquire on their travels. The unnamed Lemnian Women are the link, alien but indispensable, to the heroes’ future and their realization of their divinely appointed destiny. Apollo makes...

  7. 10. Conclusion. Chronos: Time and Structure
    (pp. 180-194)

    Pythian4’s interweaving of heroic myth with a historical founding legend grounds the remote past in the present, and vice versa. In the midst of distant voyages and fabulous geography there remain clarity, direction, and stability. Even the “real” geography that leads to the historical establishment of the city of Cyrene has a mythical aspect: “The Okeanos is not our Ocean, the Red Sea is not our Red Sea, the Lake Tritonis that we know is inland, and Pindar is poetry.”¹ But the fabulous is firmly delimited by the definiteness of time and place given by the occasion of the...

  8. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 195-200)
  9. Index of Works and Passages
    (pp. 201-204)
  10. Index of Names and Subjects
    (pp. 205-208)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 209-209)