Olympian Ode 1

by Pindar

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Superiority of the Gods

Pindar seeks to correct the myths surrounding the character of Pelops. According to myth, Pelops, the son of Tantalus, is brought to the gods by Poseidon. There, he is served at a banquet, though all the gods refrain from eating him, save Demeter. Pindar, however, believes that this story was spread by malicious neighbors who were jealous of Pelops. He writes that the gods would not engage in this type of savagery, and he believes that mortals should only speak of the gods with praise. He later writes that, just as the gods give Pelops the chariot that helps him win the race over King Oenomaus, they have assisted Hieron, too, in his chariot race. Pindar believes that the gods control all mortal affairs.

The Evils of Gossip

Pindar compares gossip to stories that are embroidered with lies, as if stories were pieces of cloth onto which lies are sewn. He writes that the myth that Pelops is served at a banquet of the gods is false, and it has been created by malicious people. He says that the consequence of people telling lies is "profitlessness"—meaning that people tell lies to no avail, as they are not believed. Instead, the gods are always in control, and mortals telling lies will never achieve their aims.

The Connection of Myth to Mortals

Pindar connects the story of Pelops and his victory in the chariot race to his praise of Hieron. Pindar writes this ode about Hieron, whom Pindar praises as a generous host and wise leader, but he spends most of the ode speaking about Pelops. This is because Pindar is making a direct connection between Hieron and Pelops. Just as Pelops won his chariot race in a chariot given to him by the gods, Pindar believes the gods are with Hieron. Pindar hopes that Hieron, too, will have lasting glory, as Pelops did.

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