Last Updated on July 16, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 581
Pindar's Olympian Ode 1 is a poem that serves a similar purpose as a speech at the end of an athletic event. It is meant to commemorate a victory and to allow the victor to bask in his glory for a while. The speech is from Pindar's perspective and honors Hieron and the Greek gods for a glorious victory.
The poem starts out by establishing the Olympic games as among the best things in life, as good among contests as water or gold are among things. Pindar establishes his own function as a sort of poet-priest by saying that he will commemorate Hieron's victory in the single-horse race. His approach is to use religious stories to compare Hieron to both Tantalus and Tantalus's son, Pelops.
Like Hieron, Tantalus and Pelops are both favored at one point by the gods. However, unlike Tantalus, Hieron must not let his prestige turn him greedy and arrogant. At a feast with the gods, a supposed honor in itself, Tantalus steals nectar and ambrosia from heaven and gives the food of the gods to mortals. In another version of the story, which Pindar refers to, Tantalus chops up his own son, Pelops, feeding him to the gods to see if they really know everything. Demeter, distressed by contention between her daughter and Hades, distractedly eats Pelops's shoulder; thus, when the gods put him back together again to resurrect him, he has to have a prosthetic shoulder. Pindar does not tell the whole tale, but he makes a theological argument against this version of the tale, saying that he does not believe this part of the story. He says, as an aside,
For me it is impossible to call one of the blessed gods a glutton. I stand back from it.
It it initially unclear why Pindar chooses to compare Hieron to a victim of the gods, especially because he has to take time to defend the gods for making such a gruesome mistake. Pindar's reason becomes clear, however, when he explains that Pelos later participates in a horse race to win the heart of a woman, Hippodaemia, whom many suitors have bravely raced for—and died for. Poseidon shows favor to Pelos:
Honoring him, the god...
(The entire section contains 581 words.)
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