Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
By a stroke of luck, Pindar’s victory odes have survived almost in their entirety. This is not the case for the author’s other works—including hymns, dirges, songs of praise, and processional songs—which have either been lost or are known only from short fragments. Although the victory odes, known as the epinikia, were Pindar’s most famous and influential works, even in antiquity, they seem typical of their author’s general approach and style. Shifting frequently from subject to subject, Pindar’s poems have a dreamlike quality. Each line flows logically from what has preceded it but, by the end of the poem, the author often has made so many twists and turns that he sometimes seems to conclude on a radically different note from the one with which he began.
A second element that adds to Pindar’s complexity of style is his highly ornate language. Pindar avoids the language of everyday speech; his secular works are modeled on Greek hymns. The religious songs that honored the Olympian gods in the fifth century b.c.e. preserved a reverent tone and exalted style that provided Pindar with a model for his own poems celebrating the glories of human achievement. The complex nature of his poetry also appears to be due to a preference among the archaic Greek poets for elaborate metaphors and difficult allusions. The appreciation of a Pindaric poem often necessitates the reader’s knowing much about Greek...
(The entire section is 1654 words.)
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