|© 1998 Bernard SUZANNE||Last updated December 5, 1998|
|Plato and his dialogues : Home - Biography - Works - History of interpretation - New hypotheses - Map of dialogues : table version or non tabular version. Tools : Index of persons and locations - Detailed and synoptic chronologies - Maps of Ancient Greek World. Site information : About the author.|
This page is part of the "tools" section of a site, Plato and his dialogues, dedicated to developing a new interpretation of Plato's dialogues. The "tools" section provides historical and geographical context (chronology, maps, entries on characters and locations) for Socrates, Plato and their time. For more information on the structure of entries and links available from them, read the notice at the beginning of the index of persons and locations.
Pindar is one of the most famous Greek poets, one of the few whose works are
still extant in sizeable part. He was born in 518
in the suburbs of Thebes and died aged 80 in
438. Most of his life was spent writing for
a fee victory odes in honor of winners at various games, pæans and other
hymns for religious festivals. Of his works, 45 victory Odes are still extant
in full, grouped in four books based on the games
in which the celebrated winner had competed : Olympian, Pythian, Isthmian
and Nemean. Pindar career was long : the Xth
Pythian Ode, the oldest extant ode, celebrates the victory of the Thessalian
Hippocleas in the double-stadium race in 498,
that is, at a time the poet was only 20. The Medean wars (in 490
and 480) were hard times for Pindar, in that
Thebes sided with the Great King, and was occupied
by Xerxes' general, Mardonius, during the whole war,
until he was defeated and killed at the battle of Platæa
(479), where many Theban aristocrats who had
sided with Persia were also killed. By his origins, Pindar was most likely related
to the party who had sided with Persia, but it is hard to know what were his
real feelings during that period. The fact is, his career doesn't seem to have
suffered much of this episode, and soon after the war had ended, his fame spread
all through the Greek world and its colonies. Indeed, the peak of his activity
spans from 480 to 460.
Kings and tyrants of the time were all too proud to compete in the events that
required the greatest wealth : horse and chariot racing, and Pindar had
several of them among his clients : Hieron of Syracuse,
Theron of Acragas, Arcesilas of Cyrene.
It is most likely that Pindar travelled a lot to visit his wealthy clients and
attend their triumph, not only at the games, but back home. He must have travelled
in Sicily, probably in 476, at the time he wrote
the first three Olympian
Odes for victories of Hieron and Theron. He may have met there some
of his colleagues and competitors, Simonidesand Bacchylides,
if we are to believe disparaging anecdotes on their bickering that have come
down to us. The fact is, Hieron attracted to his court in Syracuse
some of the greatest poets of the time, including Æschylus
and indeed Simonides. Pindar also visited Athens,
for which he wrote one or two dithyrambs to be sung at the Great Dionysiæ,
of which only fragments are extant. And we know from a reference in Isocrates'
(166), that he was quite successful there and largely rewarded. But the
place that he seems to have liked most, after his mother city and Delphi,
his second home, was the island of Ægina,
powerful at the time, and that he saw declining in favor of nearby Athens
toward the end of his life : 11 out of the 45 odes left to us are for Æginians.
His latest extant ode is probably the VIIIth
Pythian Ode, usually dated from 446
(he was then 72), and written to celebrate the victory of an Æginian wrestler,
Aristomenes, but with a note of sadness toward the end.
Plato quotes Pindar at Gorgias, 484b through the mouth of Callicles, reciting a fragment of a lost poem that is also alluded to at Laws, III, 690b, and again at Laws, IV, 714e ; other fragments of lost poems are quoted at Meno, 81b-c through the mouth of Socrates ; at Republic, I, 331a, through the mouth of Cephalus. ; he also mentions him in several other places, quoting only a few words or paraphrasing a few verses (Meno, 76d ; Phædrus, 227b ; Republic, II, 365b ; Republic, III, 408b ; Euthydemus, 304b ; Theætetus, 173e).