Olympian Ode 1

by Pindar

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.


Pelops is the son of Tantalus. According to myth, Pelops is brought up to heaven by Poseidon, one of the gods, and served as the food at a banquet. Though it is not stated in Pindar's ode, according to myth, all of the gods refrain from eating Pelops except for Demeter, who eats his shoulder. In the ode, Pindar writes that Clotho, one of the Fates, brings Pelops out of the fire and fashions a shoulder made out of ivory for him. Pindar believes that this story is merely malicious gossip, made up by a neighbor when Pelops could not be found because Pelops was with the gods. Pindar believes that the gods could never have eaten Pelops. Later, Pelops must return to earth after his father gives nectar and ambrosia to mortals, though these foods are only made for the gods. Pelops challenges King Oenomaus to a chariot race to win Hippodaemia's hand in marriage.


Hippodaemia is King Oenomaus's daughter. After Pelops wins the race, he marries her, and she bears him six sons.

King Oenomaus

According to myth, Oenomaus has an incestuous relationship with Hippodaemia. He kills thirteen suitors who vie for her hand in marriage, thus preventing her from marrying. Pelos, the fourteenth suitor, wins his bride by defeating Oenomaus in a chariot race. It is this race that Pindar uses as a way to introduce the Olympic chariot races in which Hieron's horses and jockeys compete.


This ode is written in Hieron's honor. Hieron is the leader of Syracuse, Sicily, in 476 BCE, when Pindar composes the ode, and Pindar praises his leadership and hospitality. Pindar compares Hieron to Pelops. Pindar describes Pelops's chariot race and then returns to Hieron, whom he praises as the best host and sovereign alive at the time. Pindar says that Hieron's ambitions are watched over by a god.

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