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Pindar's Pythian 11 and the Oresteia : Contestatory Ritual Poetics in the 5th c.

Author(s): Leslie Kurke
Source: Classical Antiquity, Vol. 32, No. 1 (April 2013), pp. 101-175
Published by: University of California Press
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Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia:
Contestatory Ritual Poetics
in the 5th c. BCE
The scholiasts oer two dierent dates for the Pythian victory of the Theban Thrasy-
daios celebrated in Pindars eleventh Pythian ode: 474 or 454 nci. Following several
older scholars, I accept the latter date, mainly because Pindars myth in this poem is a
mini-Oresteia, teeming with what seem to be echoes of the language, plotting, and se-
quencing of Aischylos trilogy of 458 nci, as well as allusions to the genre of tragedy
in general. Yet even those scholars who have argued for such a dialogue between these
two works are at something of a loss to explain it, except as Pindars admiring homage
to the genius of Aischylos. Such accounts reveal the inadequacy of a reading that as-
sumes a narrowly literary system of intertextuality. In order to account for this inter-
textual, intergeneric dialogue, we need instead to recognize the embeddedness of choral
lyric and tragedy within their social and cultural contexts, and their dierential relations
with neighboring systems such as cult ritual. I will argue that Pindar implicitly chal-
lenges the tendency of Attic tragedy to displace and appropriate for its own purposes
cults that properly belong to other Greek cities. Pindar, in contrast, in Pythian 11 em-
phasizes the locality and specicity of dierent communities relations to the heroes of
myth and cult as an important part of traditional choral and civic harmonia. Thus I will
argue that these two texts are engaged in a contestatory ritual poetics about the local-
ity and propriety of cult and its relation to the community as mediated through dierent
choral forms.
Earlier versions of this paper were delivered at conferences at the University of Chicago, Yale
University, and the Classics Triennial at Cambridge University in spring and summer 2011. Im
grateful to audiences in all three venues for lively discussion; for the Triennial, thanks especially
to Simon Goldhill for the original invitation; to Johannes Haubold and Richard Seaford for their
thoughtful responses; and to Froma Zeitlin for chairing the panel. I owe a particular debt of gratitude
to the following, for reading earlier version(s) and oering detailed comments and criticisms: G. B.
DAlessio, Mark Grith, Barbara Kowalzig, Richard Martin, Boris Maslov, Donald Mastronarde,
Nigel Nicholson, Nikolaos Papazarkadas, Jim Porter, Oliver Taplin, and Peter Wilson. Thanks also
to Classical Antiquitys two anonymous readers, who challenged my thinking and saved me from
many errors. Those that remainerrors of fact or of judgmentare mine; I have perhaps not heeded
enough the warnings of these generous readers.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 102
Pindars eleventh Pythian ode, composed for a Theban victor Thrasydaios,
is given two possible dates by the scholiasts (presumably derived from Pythian
victor lists): a Thrasydaios won, they tell us, in 474 and in 454 nci.
debate has raged between these two dates, especially since the myth of the poem
is (oddly) a mini-Oresteia: Orestes spirited away by his nurse Arsinoe from the
murderous Klytemnestra; her killing of Agamemnon and Kassandra; Orestes
eventual return and revenge on Klytemnestra and Aigisthos (P.11.1737). As an
issue for the unity and logic of the poem, the relevance of this grim myth to a
Theban athletic victor has always been a critical problem. At the same time, at
the intertextual level, the two possible dates (and striking dictional similarities
between the two texts) have tantalizingly raised the possibility of some relation to
Aischylos Oresteia of 458: was Aischylos inuenced by Pindars earlier lyric
version, or does Pindars version show the distinctive imprint of Aischylos tragic
The issue of intertextuality and the relative priority of the Oresteia and Pythian
11 is, to be sure, an old and well-worn topic of scholarly debate, but we are now in
a position to address the question itself and especially its implications in new
ways. I will argue here that there are good reasons, both literary and historical,
for accepting the later date oered by the ancient scholia for Pindars ode (454)
and assuming a meaningful intertextual dialogue between Aischylos trilogy and
Pythian 11. In order to make this argument, I will recuperate and build on certain
older formalist literary readings as well as a particular historicist reading. For
the former: those critics who seem to me to be the most sensitive literary readers
(e.g., John Finley, John Herington, Thomas K. Hubbard) date Pythian 11 after
the Oresteia based on verbal patterns within these two texts, and Heringtons
arguments, in particular, have never been properly addressed or rebutted. For
the latter: C. M. Bowra long ago argued for the later dating of Pythian 11 based
on the more plausible t between the complex political situation of the 450s
and this Theban odes striking Spartan coloring. Bowras arguments likewise
have largely been ignored, but, as one recent critic notes, they have never been
I consider both these scholars or groups of scholars right about the
1. Thus Inscr. A, Inscr. B(2: 254 Drachmann); cf. Title (2: 253 Drachmann). For full discussion
of the two dates, the confusion of the scholia, and scholarly arguments that have been proered on
either side, see Appendix I. My minimal assumption for the purposes of this discussion is that the
internal evidence of P.11 and the (rather confused) scholia can be reconciled with either date, 474
or 454 nci.
2. At the current time, the majority of scholars prefer the earlier date: thus Wilamowitz 1922:
25963, van Groningen 1931, von der Muhll 1958, Burton 1962: 61, 7273, Young 1968: 2n.2,
Slater 1979: 68, Most 1985: 15, Prag 1985: 7779, Instone 1986: 86, Robbins 1986, Finglass 2007:
1117. A substantial minority of scholars prefer the later date: thus Farnell 1932.2: 22224, During
1943, Bowra 1936, 1964: 402405, Finley 1955: 16064, Herington 1984, Hubbard 1990, 2010,
Kurke 1998. Bowras arguments for the later date are mainly historical (see below); but he and all the
other scholars listed also detect echoes of Aischylos Oresteia in Pindars poem and therefore date it
to 454.
3. Thus Hubbard 1990: 350n.22.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 103
relative dating, but the sticking point or problem for all approaches that argue
for the later date for Pythian 11 is how to motivate or explain the intertextual
dialogue they detect. Thus, the literary formalists and Bowra can only oer by
way of explanation that Pindar must have composed his ode under the strong
impression made on him by Aischylos trilogy.
At the same time, these two
dierent approaches have been unable to reconcile in any convincing way the
literary and historical/political features they identify in Pindars ode. Thus most
of the formalist critics simply ignore the question of historical context, while
Bowra has no way of reconciling what he sees as the pro-Spartan agenda of
Pythian 11 with its extended intertextual dialogue with Athenian tragedy. These
fundamental weaknesses in the literary formalist and old historicist treatments,
and their disconnect, crucially expose the need for a new approach to this
old question.
In fact, no one has yet properly re-examined the issue since the performance
revolution in studies of archaic and classical Greek poetry.
In a turn to per-
formance dating back to at least the 1970s, scholars have come to recognize
that it is essential to locate all our preserved Greek poetic texts in their specic,
local performative contextsreligious, social, political, and economic.
For all
poetic texts in this period were composed for performance and embedded in
social life. In the ancient Greek context, this also means reconceiving the cat-
egory of genrethe set of audience expectations that shape and constrain each
individual compositionas crucially conditioned by occasion and performance
context. Much of the inspiration for this performative turn derived from cultural
and symbolic anthropology, and followed in the wake of a shift from the practice
of political and social history to that of cultural history within the discipline of
history in the 1970s and 80s.
Thus, the performative turn necessitates a return to history, but history of a
dierent kind. The question of the intertextual dialogue of Pythian 11 and the
Oresteia also needs to be revisited in the wake of the shift from old historicist
to new historicist/cultural history paradigms within the eld of Classics. Old
historicist approaches were generally reectionist, assuming that events happened
4. For the strong impression made on Pindar by Aischylos trilogy, see Farnell 1932.2: 224,
Bowra 1936: 14041, During 1943: 116, Finley 1955: 162, Herington 1984: 146, Hubbard 1990:
35051, 2010: 192 (quote from Farnell).
5. This may seem a paradoxical claim given that P.11 is the subject of a recent book-length
commentary (Finglass 2007); but see dAlessios review of Finglass (DAlessio 2010: 24), noting
Finglass general lack of attention to performance issues.
6. The scholarly literature here is enormous; for major contributions to the performative turn in
Greek studies, see Calame 1977, 1997; Rosler 1980; Herington 1985; Gentili 1988; Martin 1989;
Krummen 1990; Nagy 1990, 1996; Winkler 1990; Kurke 1991, 2005, 2007; Stehle 1997; Goldhill
and Osborne 1999; Wilson 2000, 2003; Peponi 2004, 2007; Kowalzig 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007a,
2007b; Ferrari 2008; Bierl 2009.
7. For signicant antecedents within cultural and symbolic anthropology, see Geertz 1973,
1983; Turner 1974; Bourdieu 1977, 1990; for the shift from political/social history to cultural
history, see Connor 1987, Sewell 1999.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 104
out in the world, while texts were mere secondary phenomena that responded to or
reected them. These approaches tended to focus on the poet as a biographical
individual, and on the level of event history (histoire evenementielle)the
specic political events of this or that particular year. New historicism, in
contrast, sees texts themselves as events: poems in performance act in the world,
intervening ideologically to wield political inuence and to alter the conguration
of culture. This model thus posits an ongoing dialectical interaction between texts
and the world. In such a system, genre, crucially conditioned by occasion, is not
merely a literary category; if texts in performance act in the world, then there is
also a politics of literary form. In addition, new historicism or cultural history
tends to focus on reception rather than on the poet as a biographical individual
or point of production. Thus this method asks, what work (social, religious, and
political) are these poems doing in performance? How do they contribute to or
alter the ongoing forging of ideology for the performers who sang and danced
them, and for the audiences who witnessed? Finally, this approach tends to focus
on the level of processes of structural change in historyso somewhere between
event history and the longue duree. New historicism tends to be particularly
interested in moments of epochal shift or discontinuity in (e.g.) identity formation;
shifting ideologies of self and community; exchange systems; or the constitution
of hierarchies, both within communities and between them.
This shift in prevailing scholarly paradigms will allow us to move beyond
older literary approaches to the question of the relation of the Oresteia and
Pythian 11, while it will also enable a more eective reconciliation of literary
and historicist methods and models. Older literary formalisms, I would contend,
are predicated on an anachronistic bracketing o of a self-contained domain
of art or literature within society. Thus critics like Farnell, Bowra, Finley,
Herington, and Hubbard are engaged in reading practices that the Russian critic
Jurij Tynianov long ago characterized as the history of generals, referring to
a literary history that simply strings together in chronological order the great
authors of the canon, engaged in a conversation outside of time.
It is thus
symptomatic that, at its most extreme, this version imagines Pindar reading a text
of the Oresteia and composing Pythian 11 under the strong impression made on
him by Aischylos masterpiece.
For the Russian critics committed to a project
8. For brief accounts of newhistoricismor cultural poetics in relation to Classics, see Dougherty
and Kurke 1998: 112, 2003: 119. For the notion of a dialectical interaction between texts and
the world, see Jameson 1981.
9. Tynianov 1978: 66 (this is the English translation; Tynianovs essay was published originally
in 1929).
10. For the assumption that Pindar read a text of the Oresteia, see Bowra 1936: 140; for the
strong impression made on Pindar by Aischylos trilogy, see scholars cited in n.4 above. The recent
objection of Finglass 2007: 1416 to this formalist style of reading oddly fails to reject this paradigm,
but simply inverts its relative chronology. Thus for Pindar to be a strong poet, a fully autonomous
poetic genius, according to Finglass, he cannot be subjected to the inuence of Aischylos text;
instead P.11 must pre-date the Oresteia and the inuence go in the other direction.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 105
they called Historical Poetics, one way to get beyond the history of generals
was to use genre and the evolution of genre to explode the boundaries of the canon
of great authors. In addition, for Tynianov in particular, what characterizes the
literary system in any period is its set or orientation toward contiguous
systems like the verbal forms of social conventions. Whatever the literary
systems historical evolution, Tynianov argued, it must be understood as mediated
through literatures relation to neighboring cultural systems. Tynianovs notion
of the set or orientation of the literary systemto contiguous cultural systems
provides a strikingly apt model for archaic and classical Greece, where literature
itself does not exist as such, but poetic texts are simply the scripts or libretti for
elaborate performances embedded in social life. More particularly, choral poetry
in this period is always performed in a religious context, so that cult ritual would
seem to be an essential neighboring or contiguous system to consider. So, while
I want to build on the ne literary observations of earlier formalist critics, a focus
on genre, performance, and the relation of both texts to neighboring cultural
systems like cult ritual will allow for a better account of the motivations for
intertextual dialogue between them.
In addition, the shift in perspective to performance and cultural history/new
historicism gives us the tools to rebut another literary approach characteristic
of many older scholarly treatments of the relative dating of Pythian 11 and the
Oresteia. This is a traditional Quellenforschung approach, mainly espoused by
scholars who prefer the earlier dating for Pythian 11 (474). These scholars deny
any inuence or relation between the two texts, claiming that both Pindar and
Aischylos drew independently on a common source or sourcesmost frequently
identied as Stesichoros lyric Oresteia.
This approach is likewise predicated on
an anachronistic bookish or text-based model of culture that assumes a tradition
that is stable and inert, but in contrast to the history of generals, it casts authors as
powerless pawns in thrall to that tradition.
For critics who espouse this position
it seems to be enough to say that Pindar and Aischylos tell this myth in this way
because they are following Stesichoros. But such a model is utterly inadequate
to the kind of performance tradition in which all these texts participated. Under
such conditions, even following a tradition is a choice that has signicance and
meaning in a particular performance context. That is to say, in a performance
culture, tradition is never inert. Stesichoros himself presumably had specic
11. I acknowledge that, in one respect, Tynianovs terms are slightly misleading, since religious
practice through choral performance is not in fact a neighboring system to the texts of Greek lyric;
this is instead a single complex cultural system in which choral lyric participates.
12. Thus von der Muhll 1958: 146, Prag 1985: 7778, Instone 1986: 8789, Robbins 1986,
and more cautiously, Finglass 2007: 16.
13. Or dierentially: thus Robbins 1986 claims that Aischylos (and the other tragedians) can
innovate, while Pindar must remain faithful to the mythic tradition. Likewise Prag 1985: 7778
acknowledges that Stesichoros may have had political motivations in locating his Oresteia in Sparta,
but contends that Pindars version has no politics; he is simply following Stesichoros.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 106
contextual motivations for choosing one version over another, or innovating
within a myth, even if the fragmentary state of our evidence does not allow
us to see these clearly.
By the same token, the striking verbal parallels between
Pindars version and Aischylos (long recognized by scholars) must force us to ask
why, given howmuch else seems to have been in Stesichoros 2,000-line Oresteia,
Aischylos and Pindar should have chosen to allude to almost exactly the same
bits? The fact that they did so suggests that the two texts have a signicant relation
to each other even if both borrowfromStesichoros. Thus a more productive model
might be that of triangulation: in such a living, ongoing performance tradition,
it is almost certain that both Pindar and Aischylos borrowed from and were in
dialogue with Stesichoros version and others, but the existence of such common
sources in no way absolves us of the responsibility as critics to attend to the
particularities of the intertextual relationship of the two later texts to each other.
Thus I will argue that the complex interrelations of the Oresteia and Pythian
11 demand a new kind of historicist reading to make sense of them. Within a new
historicist or Historical Poetics paradigm, genre and the contestatory dialogue of
genres will provide key concepts for mediating between formalist and old his-
toricist readings. And such an approach will pay further argumentative dividends,
for it will allow us to see a view from elsewhere, as it were. In a now classic essay,
Froma Zeitlin analyzed the representation (or perhaps better, appropriation) of
Thebes as a topos or commonplace on the Athenian tragic stage: how Thebes
oered an other place wherein Attic tragedy could safely confront and explore
issues of the unstable boundaries of self and society, the collapse of distinctions,
the dysfunction of family relationships, and the impossibility of escaping the pull
of a destructive mythic past.
All this Zeitlin taught us to recognize as the cluster
of issues characteristic of an imaginary Thebes on the Athenian tragic stage. I
would like here to invert the terms and consider a possible Theban response to
Athens and specically to Athenian tragedy in one epinikian ode of Pindar. What
might Attic tragedy look like from the other sidefrom the perspective of the
more traditional choral milieu of Pindars Thebes?
In the rst part of this essay, I will present the strongest possible case for
the later dating of Pythian 11 based on intertextual echoes of the Oresteia in
particular or tragedy in general. In Part II, I will then shift to consider how
we might understand such intertextual echoes, including various dierent kinds
14. Thus cf. Bowra 1934: 11617, suggesting that Stesichoros location of the Atreids in Sparta
was motivated by Spartan political policy (on which, see below pp. 14143) and Burnett 1988,
arguing that Stesichoros particular adaptation of the Eteokles-Polyneikes story is tailored to a
Western, colonial context.
15. For a sensible general treatment of Stesichoros inuence on the Oresteia, see Garvie 1986:
xvii-xxii, and (with particular attention to the issue of Aischylos satyr play and the whole tetralogy),
Grith 2002: 23754.
16. Zeitlin 1990; see also Zeitlin 1993. For more recent critique of Zeitlins stark structuralist
opposition of Athens and Thebes as self and other, see Roselli 2011: 14445.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 107
of historical framing. I will touch on the level of event history with a brief
summary of Bowras arguments, and then oer three speculative passes that
attempt historically situated readings of the intertextual dialogue of genres. I
will consider rst a signicant dierence in the ideological poetics or poetic
ideology of epinikion and tragedy. Second, I will focus on what Tynianov called
the set or orientation of the two genres tragedy and epinikion in relation to
a specic neighboring cultural systemthat of religion, charting the choral
contestation of tragedy and epinikion in their eorts to constitute dierent cult
networks. Finally (and most tentatively), Ill explore what seems to be Pindars
own meta-poetic or meta-ritual critique of the genre of tragedy in its relation to
cult locality.
So let us start with the myth of the poem (and here I provide the full text
as a basis for discussion):
o j c o (
c 7
c o c.
o |
c c ` | 20
7 ` c vv `
j . ` c` c` .|
. j
c o
j cc c c
c . o c c v 25
c v ` v
v| c
c ..
. v o . |
17. So of course I am still talking about generals, Pindar and Aischylosand this is almost
unavoidable when we are dealing with Greek texts, since all we have left is the canonbut (at least
for my rst two passes here) I am trying to get at what their armies (genres?) may have been up
to behind their backs, as it were, as they imagined they were leading. Admittedly, with my nal
(meta-poetic/meta-ritual) reading, Im back to full-blown authorial intent, so Im not sure this would
be approved of by either card-carrying new historicists or Historical Poeticists. But at least this is
still about genre, and I cant help feeling that Pindar is incredibly self-conscious about genre in its
interaction with the world.
18. Unless otherwise noted, quotations of Pindar followSnell-Maehler 1997; the text of Finglass
2007: 6468 oers only very minor divergences from Snell-Maehler. Here and throughout, all
translations are my own unless otherwise noted.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 108
o c v c c. 30
c .o j .
. . c .
' ` o . c. v` c c
c c
v. o ` c c
| c|. c . 35
|` vv | `
c c jc ` . c ..
. . . [Orestes], whom his nurse Arsinoe removed from grievous trickery,
as his father was being slain under the mighty hands of Klytemnestra,
when she conveyed with grey bronze the Dardanid daughter of Priam,
Kassandra, together with the soul of Agamemnon, to the shadowy shore
of Acheron, pitiless woman that she was. Was it then Iphigeneia slaugh-
tered upon the Euripos, far from her fatherland, that stung her to rouse
her anger, heavy in its execution? Or did the beddings by night lead her
astray, mastered in another mans couch? But this straying [wrongdoing]
is most hateful for young wives and impossible to conceal on account
of other peoples tongues; and fellow-citizens speak evil. For blessed-
ness/prosperity holds no less envy, and the one of lowly ambition roars
invisibly. And so he died himself, the hero, son of Atreus, at glorious
Amyklai, when he came there in time, and he caused the death of the
maiden seer, when over Helen he had loosed the houses of the Trojans,
burnt, of their luxury. But he, [Orestes], young head, came to the old man
Strophios, who inhabited the foot of Parnassos; but with late Ares he slew
his mother and set Aigisthos amidst slaughters.
I will be less concerned here with the problem of the relevance of the poems
myth, since I am basically in agreement with David Youngs argument that the
myth oers a series of negative exempla of the evils and misfortunes of the lot of
tyrannies that Pindar explicitly abjures in a generic rst-person sequence later
in the ode (P.11.5058). Thus the poet endorses on behalf of the victor and his
family middling status within the city as opposed to the precarious, violent, and
much-resented heights so well illustrated by the saga of the House of Atreus.
19. By and large, Youngs has become the standard interpretation of the myth of P.11 in modern
Pindar scholarship; see Young 1968: 126, followed by Newman 1979, Nisetich 1980: 4849, Prag
1985: 78, Hubbard 1990 (though recanted to some extent in Hubbard 2010), Kurke 1991: 21418,
1998: 16263. Young thereby refutes the older autobiographical or allegorical readings of the poem
oered by Wilamowitz and Bowra. According to Wilamowitz, the poem dates to 474, and the myth
and lines 5058 represent Pindars self-defense against Theban criticismfor hanging out with Sicilian
tyrants (so Pindar is Klytemnestra [!] as victim of hostile citizen gossip); according to Bowra, the
poem dates to 454, and the myth refers to the tyranny of Athens over Thebes/Boiotia (so Athens,
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 109
To a great extent, the question of the relevance of the myth and of Pythian 11s
possible intertextual relation with the Oresteia are separate, independent issues.
Thus Young himself in 1968 was happy to follow von der Muhlls argument for
the early dating of the poem, so as not to have to encumber or complicate his New
Critical reading with issues of intertextuality. But, as other scholars have noted,
Youngs interpretation is entirely reconcilable with the later date for the poem, and
a postulated intertextual relationship with Aischylos trilogy.
And yet in another
sense, these two issues are inevitably connected, since there are themes, rhetorical
strategies, and even diction within Pindars myth that seem anomalous and invite
comparison with Aischylos version or tragedy in general. There has been a
trend in scholarship on Pythian 11 since Young to attempt to oer more positive
interpretations of Pindars mythinterpretations that in general symptomatically
elide or ignore what is anomalous, in order to recuperate the myth of this poem
as a normal or typical epinikian myth. It thus seems necessary to consider and
critique these more recent interpretations (at least briey), for by so doing, we
will develop a clearer sense of those elements that remain opaque or recalcitrant
within Pindars mythic narrative.
One strategy for recuperating the myth of the poem is that of W. J. Slater,
who focuses on the verbal and thematic ring formed by c (16) and c
(34), both applied to the guest-host relationship of Orestes and the Phokian
house of Strophios and Pylades. Slater then invokes the real world practice
of Pythian victors being hosted and feasted by the Delphian authorities at the
site of the games, to argue that Orestes in this respect serves as a positive model
for the Theban victor Thrasydaios, who himself went o to Delphi, won at the
games, and enjoyed hospitality there before returning home again.
There are
two objections to be made to this interpretation: (1) Hosting at Delphi would then
be a feature of every Pythian victors experience, so that, on this reading, the
myth of Pythian 11 could be inserted with equal relevance into any Pythian ode.
That is to say, this account does not allow us to explain why this myth occurs
in this poem. (2) But in fact, Slaters account ignores most of the mythic narrative
Pindar supplies, especially the prominence of Klytemnestra; the questions about
her motivation; and the gnomic sequence to which these questions in turn give
as polis tyrannos, is Klytemnestra, ripe for tyrannicide). Wilamowitzs interpretation is followed
by von der Muhll 1958, Burton 1962: 7173.
20. Young 1968: 2n.2, citing with approval von der Muhll 1958. For scholars who follow
Youngs interpretation of the myth, but date the poem to 454, see Hubbard 1990, Kurke 1998.
21. In addition, of course, those who think the myth is typical are much less likely to be
willing to look outside the poem to motivate or account for elements within it.
22. Slater 1979: 6368. Slaters case for this real world practice is in fact not that strong,
based on P.5.31, | | (of the charioteer, not the victor), and what he claims
is an analogous practice at Olympia. See now Currie 2011: 301308, for thorough discussion of
the ancient practice of hestian t en pan egurin (hosting the festal assembly). As Currie eectively
demonstrates, such hospitality conventionally went the other waythe victor hosting the entire
assembly at a festival like the Olympics.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 110
rise (ll. 1730).
Thus as an explanation for the myth of the poem, Slaters
interpretation ignores most of the distinctive content and emphasis of Pindars
A second and more popular argumentative strategy for recuperating Pindars
narrative as a typical epinikian myth is to claim that Orestes serves as a positive
analogue for the victor Thrasydaios as the good son of his father, who returns
home to avenge Agamemnon and thereby restore honor to his paternal hearth.
Most scholars who make this argument assimilate Pindars myth to the story of
Orestes in the Odyssey, frequently invoked by dierent characters as a paradigm
or role model for the young, inexperienced Telemachos.
But this analogizing to
the Odyssey narrative in fact exposes what is strikingly dierent or anomalous
about Pindars version. For while the various inset narratives of the story in
the Odyssey oer dierent weightings or emphases on the relative responsibility
for the killing of Agamemnon between Aigisthos and Klytemnestra, those that
bring Orestes as avenger into the tale always make Aigisthos the planner and
actor in the killing of Agamemnon. Thus, of the eleven separate mentions of
the killing of Agamemnon in the Odyssey, six (all in the Telemachy of Books
14) are about Orestes taking vengeance, with Orestes serving as an explicit or
implicit role model for Telemachos (Od. 1.2943, 1.298300, 3.19398, 3.248
52, 3.30312, 4.51247). Contrariwise, in the ve remaining passages where
Klytemnestras involvement in the plot or the murder of Agamemnon features
(with dierent degrees of responsibility attributed to her in these ve), there is
no mention of Orestes vengeance (Od. 4.9092, 11.387461, 24.2029, 24.93
97, 24.192202). All these passages in fact serve a dierent function, pointing
the contrast between the marriage of Agamemnon and Klytemnestra and that of
Odysseus and Penelope (or, in one instance, that of Menelaos and Helen; Od.
In other terms, in the Odyssey, Klytemnestras involvement in the
23. Slater 1979: 6566 attempts to defuse the problem of the gnomic sequence by arguing
that these gnomes have no ultimate relevance; see further discussion below pp. 12224. In addition,
Slaters discussion is particularly tendentious in insisting that Kassandra is a c in Pindars version
of the myth, whose killing therefore participates in his dominant schema of xenia honored vs. xenia
corrupted: [Kassandra] could not have been raped by Ajax in Pindars version, and her status is
not that of a slave; Pindar does not say she is entitled to the rights of hospitality but takes it for
granted (1979: 67n.11).
24. This is not to deny entirely the importance of the theme of xeniafor this clearly is an
element of Pindars narrative and could be combined with other elements for a fuller interpretation
of the myth. For dierent versions of such an approach, see Most 1985: 2426, Hubbard 2010.
25. Thus Egan 1983: 194200, Instone 1986, Robbins 1986: 25, Sevieri 1999: 83110, Finglass
2007: 4347. To some extent, almost all these scholars agree with Young insofar as they recognize
that Klytemnestra and Aigisthos serve as negative paradigms of bad, tyrannic behavior, but they split
on whether Agamemnon himself, as well as Orestes, is wholly positive or more problematic.
26. Thus (e.g.) Instone 1986: 8889, Robbins 1986: 2, Sevieri 1999: 8687, 90, Finglass 2007:
27. Thus correctly on the dierent functions the story serves in dierent parts of the Odyssey,
see Garvie 1986: x-xi.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 111
murder and Orestes vengeance are in perfect complementary distribution. Thus
the Odyssey sedulously avoids telling these two parts of the story together, with
the result that Orestes matricide is never narrated. Particularly revealing for this
elision is Odyssey 3.30410, Nestors narrative of the events to Telemachos and
c ` ( (
| .. c c o .` .c.
c c . o o ( . c
v` . v ` c j.
. . o . c o c.
] o o | | |
j . v .|
Od. 3.30410
For seven years [Aigisthos] ruled over Mykenai rich in gold after he
killed the son of Atreus, and the people were subjected beneath him. But
in the eighth year there came as an evil for him shining Orestes back from
Athens, and killed the slayer of his father, tricky-contriving Aigisthos,
who slew his glorious father. And indeed [Orestes], having killed him,
feasted the burial for the Argives of his hateful mother and cowardly
In this remarkable passage, the text acknowledges the death of Klytemnestra as
well as that of Aigisthos, but entirely nesses the question of who killed her. This
sneaky textual equivocation long ago led Carl Robert to the bizarre suggestion
that Klytemnestra must have killed herself out of shame and despair, but that is to
read too literally a moment that is all about a complex ideological occlusion.
As the ancient scholia already recognized, Homeric epic generally avoids tales
of intra-familial killing; here the decorum of epic does not allow the narrative
of the matricide.
In like manner, Homeric epic never narrates the sacrice of
Iphigeneia, and debate still rages among scholars about whether the story was
known to Homer or not.
28. Robert 1881: 16263. As Garvie 1986: xi notes, The suggestion that she may have
committed suicide hardly deserves serious consideration.
29. Cf. Scholia A ad Iliad 9.456 (quoted by Garvie 1986: xii, n.9): c c v.
. o .c . j ( |. For the same point made by modern
critics, see Grin 1977: 44, Garvie 1986: x-xii, Seaford 1994: 1113, 36062. Thus the earliest
extant literary reference to the matricide is Hesiod, Ehoiai fr. 23a MW, lines 2830; Stesichoros
presumably also narrated the matricide, but this episode is not among the extant fragments.
30. My suspicion is that the story of the sacrice of Iphigeneia was known to Homer, based on
Agamemnons (apparently unmotivated) hostility to Calchas at Il. 1.106108. But note that in both
the Kypria (according to Proklos summary, p. 104 Allen) and in the Hesiodic Ehoiai (Paus. 1.43.1 =
fr. 23b MW), Artemis miraculously saves Iphigeneia/Iphimede from sacrice; in addition, in the
Ehoiai, the goddess makes her immortal. In fact, as Lloyd-Jones 1983: 95102 notes, Iphigeneia
is not actually killed in any extant literary version before those of Pindar and Aischylos, while
Grith 2002: 24247 suggests that even in the Oresteia, the satyr play Proteus that followed the
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 112
The point is that in a situation in which multiple dierent versions of the
myth were clearly available, if Pindars goal were to tell a story about Orestes
as good son of his father returning home to set things right (a chip o the old
block, as Robbins puts it admiringly), why not foreground Aigisthos as the
doer of the deed?
Indeed, why should Pindar choose to mention Klytemnes-
tra and the matricide at all, much less make her so extraordinarily prominent?
And why include any mention of the sacrice of Iphigeneia, which would
seem to complicate the issues of right and wrong, and oer some extenuation
for Klytemnestras crime?
Those scholars advocating for this positive ver-
sion of the myth claim that there is nothing problematic or negative in Pin-
dars representation of Orestes vengeance.
But this is to ignore the mo-
ment at which Pindar elaborately breaks o from the poems myth (precisely
at the mention of Orestes killing of his mother and Aigisthos), as well as the
poets apparent agitation at this moment of break-o (on both of these points
more below).
Finally, yet another scholarly strategy to recuperate the Orestes of the myth as
a wholly positive analogue for the victor is to focus on the adjective Pindar applies
to the Delphic navel-stone in the poems rst triad, o| (P.11.9), and to
make this epithet imply a whole theodicy in the subsequent myth. On this account,
o| implies that Delphic Apollo himself commanded and supports Orestes
just vengeance.
The problem here is that there is no mention of Apollo or his
oracles within the myth itself, though Pindar evinces no hesitation in other mythic
narratives about telling us that a hero was led or guided in some endeavor by a
Indeed, as many other scholars have emphasized, the myth of Pythian 11 is
strikingly bare of divinities or divine intervention, except for late Ares at its
This absence of divinity is again a topic to which I shall return.
tragic trilogy may have taken this version back, as it were, following the older poetic tradition of
Iphigeneia saved from sacrice and whisked o by Artemis to some exotic locale.
31. For the availability of multiple, dierent versions of the myth already in Homers time,
see Garvie 1986: ix-xxv; for support of this contention based on the material record, see Davies
1969, Prag 1985. Quote from Robbins 1986: 4.
32. It will not do with Burton 1962: 66, Sevieri 1999: 9394, and Finglass 2007: 43, 95, 98
to argue that the structure and syntax of lines 2225 mean that Pindar is choosing the second option
as the answer (with following gnomes); this misses the point that the poet did not have to mention the
sacrice of Iphigeneia at all, but chose to include it.
33. Thus Sevieri 1999: 85, 102104, 10910, Finglass 2007: 4344.
34. Thus already Wilamowitz 1922: 261; see also Egan 1983: 19495, 199, Robbins 1986: 3,
Sevieri 1999: 104.
35. Cf. (e.g.) O.6.6180; O.7.3133, 3943; O.8.3133; O.13.6578; P.4.2037, 5356, 259
62; P.5.6062, 7576; P.9.5156a; P.10.4446; P.12.1819, 2223; N.5.3437; I.6.4950.
36. For this point, see Farnell 1932.2: 224, Burton 1962: 63, Most 1985: 2324, Finglass 2007:
46, Hubbard 2010: 194, and especially Athanassaki 2009: 45265, who argues that the presence
of Apollo and Apolline values in the rst and third triads of P.11 strikingly contrasts with his marked
absence from the poems myth. Egan 1983: 19598 suggests one more version of Orestes as a
positive analogue for the victor: Orestes as an athlete (cf. Golden 1998: 95103). But for this (as
Finglass 2007: 4546 notes), there is absolutely no evidence in the text of P.11.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 113
By this survey I hope not only to have demonstrated what is inadequate
about attempts to read Pindars myth positively, but also to have highlighted what
seems genuinely anomalous within the mythic narrative in relation to audience
expectations for a typical epinikian myth. For such moments that seem aberrant
or out of place may be tracers for another genre embedded within epinikion.
at this point, let me shift to the intertextual issue. Scholars have long noted striking
dictional parallels between the two texts, which strongly suggest some kind of
relationship between them. But, by themselves, these verbal parallels cannot tell
us the direction of inuence; Pindar may be echoing Aischylos, or Aischylos
I want therefore to focus instead on the level of genre, for there seem to
me to be two moments in the poemat least that reference or gesture toward tragedy
in general or the Oresteia in particularmoments that are otherwise completely
anomalous within epinikion and in fact gratuitous within the development of the
poem itself.
The rst of these moments is the poets posing the question of Klytemnestras
motivation for killing Agamemnon when he has already launched into the myth:
j . ` c` c` .|
. j
c o
j cc c c
c .
. . . pitiless woman that she was. Was it then Iphigeneia slaughtered upon
the Euripos, far away from her fatherland, that stung her to rouse her
anger, heavy in its execution? Or did the beddings by night lead her
astray, mastered in another mans couch?
L. R. Farnell already in 1932 noted that this narrative strategy, including the two
unanswered questions about Klytemnestras motivation, was aberrant for Pindar:
There is no parallel elsewhere in his works to this method of handling
an epic tale. . . . In fact, ll. 2230 can be best explained if we assume
that Pindar wrote them under the strong impression made on him by the
Agamemnon of Aeschylus, where the Iphigeneia sacrice is a prominent
motive and is made the ground of this casuistic problem: whether it
accounted for and extenuated the guilt of Klutaimnestra?
37. For a similar argument, see Kurke 1988.
38. During 1943 meticulously catalogues the dictional parallels; see also Hubbard 1990 for
close dictional parallels between the gnomic sequence of P.11.2530 and several choral passages of
the Agamemnon (on which more below). Both During and Hubbard assume that Pindar is inuenced
by Aischylos, but this assumption is critiqued by Finglass 2007: 1112.
39. Farnell 1932.2: 224; cf. Bowra 1936: 140.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 114
Farnells intuition was picked up and developed by John Herington, who ob-
serves that the posing of searching questions that remain unanswered about the
motivation for wrongdoing is unparalleled not just in Pindar but in all extant
non-dramatic lyric poetry through the end of the fth century nci, whereas this
is precisely the stu of tragedy. In addition, Herington points out that Pindars
questions briey resume and replicate in the order in which they are presented
the structuring logic of the entire Agamemnon, where (as he notes) each of the two
possible motives gures prominently in lyric and dialogue, and is then capped
by a dramatic visual epiphany: rst, what Herington calls the Troy-sequence by
the triumphant entrance of Agamemnon, accompanied by Kassandra, in a chariot;
second, the Atreus-sequence by the appearance of the gloating Aigisthos at the
end of the play. Herington concludes:
. . . in fact essentially the same pair of questions is asked about the moti-
vation of the same individual, Clytaemnestra, in Aeschylus Agamemnon
of 458 B.C. In that play the questions, so far from being posed in a brief
and as it were detachable passage, dominate the structure of the entire
work; and so far from being forgotten the moment they are uttered, they
demand the remainder of a great trilogy for their solution. . . . On the
evidence that we now possess. . .I would submit that the question of the
relative priority of the Agamemnon and the Eleventh Pythian answers
itself. The possibility that Aeschylus might have structured his greatest
masterpiece around a couple of totally uncharacteristic lines thrown out
for some inexplicable reason by Pindar in or shortly after 474 B.C. seems,
to put it temperately, remote.
Unlike this rst moment of generic anomaly that seems to point toward tragedy,
the second has (to my knowledge) gone completely unremarked by scholars,
though it is also odd or unusual in context. This is Pindars break-o formula
from the myth:
40. Herington 1984: 14045, quotation from p. 145. The anomalousness of these questions
within Pindars mythic narrative is in fact further supported by Youngs inability to account for
them in his otherwise compelling interpretation of the myth: Young 1968: 20 can only suggest
that these questions represent the content of the mutterings of the evil-speaking fellow citizens
( c ., P.11.28), gossiping about Klytemnestra. Finglass 2007: 1113 attempts to
rebut Heringtons argument, but seems to me crucially to misunderstand Heringtons point about
these unanswered questions: thus Finglass compares the two unanswered questions here to questions
of fact like those at Bacch. 19.2936; but what Herington is focusing on is the question of an
individuals motivation raised and left unresolved. As Mark Grith points out to me, the closest
parallel for such unanswered questions about a characters motivation outside of tragedy is Iliad
9.537 (referring to Oineus fatal error in not making a sacricial oering to Artemis): j ` j .
c (either he forgot or he didnt think of it). But this, I would contend, is a very dierent
matter: in the rst place, the two alternatives are almost synonymous (so we might read this instead
as a kind of Homeric redundancy); in the second place, this is a sin of omission rather than a sin
of commission/ motivation for terrible crime, and a brief moment rather than emphatic questions that
occupy several lines.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 115
]`. c |. ` v| | c.
ov c .c
o | ( c c
c. c o` c|
.. o c . . . c c
v .. ` j| c
j . |
c j ,
Indeed, friends, have I been whirled along a path-shifting crossroads,
though I was going a straight road before?
Or has some wind cast me
outside my sailing, like a seagoing ski? Muse, it is your task, since you
have contracted to furnish your voice silvered for a wage, to set [it] in
motion at dierent times in dierent ways, now, at any rate, either for
his father Pythonikos or for Thrasydaios.
To be sure, a break-o through the imagery of traveling or sailing is quite
characteristic of epinikion in its moment of transition back from mythic nar-
rative to praise of the victor and his house. Thus scholars have cited as paral-
lels for this passage Pythian 10.51, Nemean 3.2627, Nemean 4.6972, Bacch.
5.176, and Bacch. 10.5152.
But what is in fact unparalleled in Pythian
11 is (1) the image of the crossroads (|) and (2) the doubling of the
break-o formula (since in this instance the poet actually oers us two dier-
ent imagesrst the crossroads, then a ski blown o course at sea). Every
other Pindaric example oers sailing imagery in the break-o formula, where
in each case it participates in a larger system of imagery within the poem as
a whole. The Bacchylidean examples give us road imagery, but still no par-
allel for the crossroads.
And, of course, we dont need the crossroads here
41. I follow Instone 1986: 89 and Finglass 2007: 66, 11011 in taking P.11.3839 as the
rst of two questions (with appropriate punctuation). Here and throughout, I translate triodos as
crossroads, although I am well aware that the English term is unsatisfactorily foursquare in
contrast to the Greek. I acknowledge that fork in the road or place where three roads meet do
a better job of capturing the image implicit in the Greek, but I will stick to crossroads, simply
in order not to have to use a whole phrase each time.
42. Thus Young 1968: 5 with n.2, Race 1980: 56, Egan 1983: 199n.32. All three scholars
also cite as a parallel P.10.16, but note that, while this is a break-o, it is not a transition back
from myth to praise of the victor, nor does it deploy travel imagery.
43. The closest parallel is Bacch. 10.5152: | v c . c/ co o;
(Why, having straightened a long tongue, do I drive outside of the road?). But here, notice, the
poet has driven o the roadthere is still no suggestion of a choice of paths at a crossroads. It
is also worth noting that the crossroads image does not occur in any of the rich array of parallel
return from digression passages assembled by Race 1980. For the argument that the imagery of
these break-o passages generally participates in a larger system of imagery within the poem as
a whole (wherein the poet is imagined to be traveling to the myth and returning therefrom), see
Kurke 1991: 4961.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 116
at all; without it, the image of the ship blown o course would be entirely
I would suggest that the image of the crossroads is another gesture toward
tragedy. For it is worth noting the precise moment in the myth at which this highly
emotional and abrupt break-o occurs: the poet has just mentioned Orestes
killing of his mother and Aigisthos. It is almost as if the mention of a childs
murderous violence against a parent conjures up reexively, inevitably that most
famous crossroads of allthe | somewhere in the neighborhood of Thebes
or Delphi where Oidipous met and unknowingly slew his own father.
And, of
course, this story of the doomed Oidipous within the House of Laios was a staple
of the Athenian tragic stage, so we need not suppose a specic allusion to any
particular play that treated the Theban saga.
Still, it is an intriguing fact that
the only extant fragment of more than a single word likely to derive from one
of the lost tragedies of Aischylos Theban trilogy of 467 actually contains the
44. The treatment of Race 1980: 45 is revealing in this regard, since he discusses only the
ship image (for which there are good parallels) and never mentions the image of the crossroads. He
thereby makes clear howcompletely gratuitous the crossroads image is within this doubled break-o.
As far as I can tell, Burton 1962: 6869 and Bowra 1964: 315 alone acknowledge that this is a double
break-o, combining two images, the boat and the road. Bowras explanation: The myth has
a erce, even tragic character, and Pindar must return to the gaiety of the present celebration. He
manages to do so by changing his tone with reference to himself and putting the grave temper of
the myth behind him. Cf. Burton 1962: 69, who regards the image of the ski blown o course
as humorous. I have to admit that I dont nd anything particularly gay (in Bowras sense) about
the crossroads image.
45. The objection might be made that the | in fact conjures up the myth of Oidipous,
but it is a myth familiar from other literary sources than tragedyespecially from the well-known
epic Oidipodeia, the rst of the four epics of the Theban Cycle, and from sixth-century lyric. But
it is a fallacy to assume that a single unitary myth of Oidipous existed in all its details separate
from multiple dierent instantiations in spoken tales, literary texts, and visual representations which
were also subject to change and development over time; for the complexity and variety of dierent
versions of the Oidipous story before Sophokles, see Robert 1915, De Kock 1961, 1962, Edmunds
1983, 1985, Rusten 1996. The point is, with so little preserved of the earlier epic and lyric versions,
we do not really know how prominently these versions featured the fateful meeting of father and
son at a crossroads. It is clear, however, that the encounter at the crossroads played a prominent
part in tragic versions of the story (for which, see discussion in text).
The closest parallel for this metaphorical use of | is Thgn. 911: c ` c
` .. o o| (where the poet expresses his indecision between two paths of lifeto
spend like theres no tomorrow, or to be thrifty and make his property last). But, as Finglass 2007:
109 notes, the image in Theognis is somewhat dierent, since the metaphorical turning has not yet
occurred. I would add that it is the peculiar cluster of mention of killing of a parent, the |, the
lack of conscious control implied in c, and the strange adjective v| that makes the
imagery of Pindars break-o so resonant of Oidipous and tragedynone of which nds a parallel in
the Theognidean usage.
46. Given the stature of the Theban epics, it seems likely that they provided source material
for tragic reworking in the forty to fty or so years of tragic competitions before Aischylos presented
his version, but our evidence about Athenian tragic performances in the early fth century is so
exiguous that we cannot be sure. Thus, we have almost no titles preserved for the earliest tragic
playwrights, but one wonders (for example) about the contents of 160 plays attributed by the Suda
to Choirilos; Snell suggests that this means 40 tetralogies (Snell 1971: 66 ad Choirilos Test. 1).
But note West 1989: 254n.16, who contends that the Sudas gure of 160 dramas for Choirilos is
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 117
word |, in the context of a description of the place where Oidipous and
Laios met:
cj j o (
j |. c v
c ]|.
Aischylos fr. 173 N
= fr. 387a Radt
We were going along the wheel-driven crossroads of a split way, where we
crossed the Potnian meeting-places of three roads [i.e., the convergence
of three roads at Potniai].
Some scholars have objected to the extreme redundancy of these lines, with
their four words for roads, double mention of three, and two dierent terms to
designate the crossroads or split way, suspecting corruption in the paradosis.
Karl Reinhardt, by contrast, contended that this redundancy was a deliberate way
of marking and making vivid this location, suggesting that these lines may have
served to introduce a messenger speech about the killing of Laios that revealed
the truth in all its horror to Oidipous. On this account, the crossroads as the site
of Oidipous killing of Laios may have been given extraordinary prominence in
Aischylos tragic version.
I am thus suggesting that the resonant place where three roads meet might
have had a particular association with tragic drama already by the mid-fth
centuryin this sense akin to what Oliver Taplin and Peter Wilson have argued
for the Erinyes after 458: the Erinyes seem to have become, after the Oresteia,
something of a symbol of tragedy, an emblem of its tragic horrors. It is quite
possible that this is the result of the impact of the Oresteia itself.
So notice:
even though Erinyes gure in earlier poetic treatments, both epic and lyric, they
can come to be a symbol of tragedy in subsequent literary texts and visual
iconography. Here it may be objected that this is because Aischylos put the
scarcely credible given the much lower numbers oered by the same source for Thespis (4 plays)
and Phrynichos (9 plays). For epic versions as a source for early tragedy, see Herington 1985: 6770,
12844, Seaford 1994: 36062. We do know of at least four other fth-century Oidipous tragedies
composed and performed (besides those of the big three)by Achaios, Nikomachos, Philokles,
and Xenokles (all based on titles reported in the Suda and Hesychius; see Snell 1971 for Testimonia).
All four of these playwrights were probably active in the second half of the fth century.
47. I reproduce the text of Radt 1985, who follows Bruhn in reading in the last
line instead of the mss (printed by Nauck). In addition, Nauck followed Valckenaer in
attributing this fragment without hesitation to Aischylos Oidipous (the second play of the trilogy of
which the Seven Against Thebes was the third); Radt 1985 more cautiously categorizes it among
the Incertarum Fabularum, pointing out that it might have occurred in the Laios (the rst play of
the trilogy) just as plausibly as in the Oidipous. As we shall see below, Nauck had an additional
reason for attributing it to the Oidipous; in either case, the fragment is likely to come from Aischylos
Theban trilogy of 467 nci.
48. Thus (e.g.) Wilamowitz 1958: 126; Hutchinson 1985: xix.
49. Reinhardt 1966: 35253, 1979: 117, 256n.21.
50. Taplin and Wilson 1993: 176.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 118
Erinyes on the stage as live actors, and that that makes all the dierence. Yet
we might claim a similar visualization or literalization for the triodos, since, as
Oliver Taplin has observed, The Greek stage is, in a sense, the place where three
roads meet. For Taplin, this is literally as well as guratively true, because of the
three entrances (eisodoi) to the orchestra.
Certainly the Oidipous story came to carry a special resonance later as
emblematic of tragedy itself. For this one might even think of the moment of
revelation in Sophokles Oidipous Tyrannos, where the chorus of Theban elders
react by designating Oidipous a of human suering (OT 1193), but it
was certainly the case by the time of the fourth-century comic poet Antiphanes,
complaining that it is much easier to compose tragedy than comedy, since all you
have to do is mention Oidipous and the spectators know the whole story:
The art of tragic composition is fortunate in every way, since, in the rst
place, the stories are well known to the spectators, even before anyone
says anything, so that the poet need only remind them. Thus <let him
just mention> Oidipous, and they know all the rest: his father Laios, his
mother Jokaste, who his daughters and sons were, what this one will
suer, what he did.
Antiphanes fr. 189 KA, ll. 18
But do we have any evidence for this marked association of Oidipous in general,
and the crossroads in particular, with tragedy already in the mid-fth century?
Tantalizingly, the Oresteia itself may provide such evidence, for Aischylos seems
to allude to key features of the Oidipous story in the parodos of the Agamemnon:
. ` v| . 7
j ` vj .c
| .` . c c. (
o v o o c co v
.. ` . c. c
` .c (
c | c o`
51. Taplin 1982: 157. See also the wonderful elaboration of this point by George Steiner, in
the discussion after Taplins paper (ap. Taplin 1982; p. 181): Whereas Hercules choice between
two roads is characteristic of the binary typology of choices between virtue and vice, light and dark,
life and death etc., a triadic conguration, as we nd it in the Oidipous myths and on the Greek
stage, points to what is structurally, topologically and existentially undecidable. It almost denes the
recursively ambiguous, perplexing and formally indenite ending of certain great tragic conicts
and their representations. Hecate of the trivia, the burial of suicides at the junction of three-roads,
intimate some almost archetypal association between triodoi and the tragic. The very fact that the
third road is the one which leads backward, is key to the Oidipous myth. As Vernant says, this
is a myth of fatal homecoming (italics in original). On the triodos and tragedy, I have also found
helpful and suggestive Halliwell 1986, Rusten 1996, Taplin 2010.
52. For other places where Oidipous becomes paradigmatic for tragedy, cf. Plato Laws 8.838c,
Plut. Mor. 348f49a.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 119
|. o ` .c v|
o v|.
Ag. 7282
But we, uncommissioned, with aged body, left out of the defense-force
then, wait behind plying strength equal to a childs upon stas. For as
the young marrow leaping up within breasts is equal to that of an old man
and Ares is not in his place, so the hyper-aged, with its foliage already
withering, goes on three-footed ways, and he [the old man], no stronger
than a child, wanders, a dream appearing in daytime.
Scholars have long recognized that the self-characterization of the Argive elders
here alludes to the riddle of the Sphinx in its evocation of two of the three
dierent stages of human life and its reference to old men going three-footed
(|, 80) with the support of stas (c. (, 75).
But commentators
generally oer no explanation for this echo; we might imagine that it serves to
contribute to the riddling, oracular tone that is so marked a feature of the parodos,
thereby anticipating especially the old mens lyric narrative of the bird omen and
its interpretation (ll. 10457).
This may well be, but why evoke this specic
riddle? In addition, it is striking that the chorus language, while echoing the riddle
of the Sphinx, also eetingly conjures an image of the crossroads by the phrase
| c o.
With this typically pregnant and polysemous Aischylean
phrase, the chorus manages to evoke simultaneously both of Oidipous two great
crimeshis parricide at the crossroads and his solving of the riddle of the Sphinx,
whose reward was his incestuous marriage with his mother. Indeed, we might
even push further the link between this riddling self-identication, with its echoes
of Oidipous, and the chorus lyric narration of the omen to the Atreidai, which
begins, of course, with another self-identication and assertion of their special
. . o . vc
cc c v |
c 7 vv .c
Ag. 104106
I am empowered to cry aloud the auspicious command met on the road
the command of men in their prime; for still from the gods the age that
has grown together with me breathes down upon me persuasion of songs
as my [warlike] strength.
53. Thus (e.g.) Robert 1915.1: 57, Thomson 1938.2: 13, Fraenkel 1950.2: 50.
54. Thanks to Mark Grith for this point.
55. Thanks to Peter Wilson for calling my attention to this passage.
56. This is, of course, a textually vexed passage; the text oered here mainly follows that of
Fraenkel 1950.1: 96, except that I read cc rather than cc at l. 105 (with Thomson 1938,
Page 1975, West 1998). For the interpretation and translation of the complex phrase o
., I follow Thomson 1938.2: 1415, Denniston and Page 1972: 77.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 120
Here, o echoes | c o, while vc cc supplies
the third term gapped from the chorus earlier evocation of the Sphinx riddle
men in their prime. This set of echoes, I would suggest, subliminally associates
this fateful bird-sign that leads to kin murder (father of daughter) with Oidipous
crossroads and the rst irrevocable action of his tragedy.
Finally, it is striking that this double evocation of Oidipous occurs at the
moment that the chorus of Argive elders rst introduces itself in the parodos of
the rst play of the trilogy. If we are willing to see a meta-theatrical element in
this chorus self-references (as some scholars have suggested), it is almost as if
Aischylos chorus of Argive old men establish and ground their tragic authority
by the conjuration of Oidipous.
Thus Aischylos own allusions to the Oidipous
story in the Agamemnon parodos may suggest that the crossroads and the riddle of
the Sphinx had already come to emblematize tragedy tout court by the mid-fth
century. So, to be clear: I am not insisting on a specic echo of Aischylos Theban
trilogy of 467, since it seems likely that there would have been other earlier
tragedies based on the Oidipous myth.
A possible allusion to tragedy in | would also enrich our understanding
of the striking adjective that modies the crossroads in Pythian 11, the Pindaric
hapax v|. The path-shifting crossroads where, it turns out, the poets
persona may have taken a wrong turn even though he thought he was following
a straight roadwhat better image for the fateful action of Oidipous, as for
the quandary of hairesis of tragic characters in general?
To have made a major
life choice and be pursuing its ramications, entirely unaware of having done
sothis is the very essence of the tragic dilemma. Thus we might say Pindar
maps out a generic topography, in which epinikion represents the straight road
of praise, while tragedy is gured by the unstable and terrifying landscape of the
path-shifting crossroads.
57. For a meta-theatrical aspect to this chorus self-references, see Taplin and Wilson 1993, esp.
p. 170 on the parodos; cf. Pucci 1992: 51516, DAlessio forthcoming.
58. Again, although I am not insisting on a specic echo of Aischylos lines from 467, we might
note that the rst element in Pindars unique compound v| is built on a dialect form of
the same verb used in line 3 of the Aischylean fr. 387a Radt (cited above, p. 117; ]|). In
addition, it may be signicant that Orestes in the Choephoroi uses a very similar image of driving
o the course in the episode immediately after his killing of Klytemnestra, at the moment he begins
to go mad: In order that you know, since I dont know in what way it will end, just as if with horses I
twist the reins outside the course (c ` . c / cc; Cho. 102223)
Cf. the response of the chorus at Cho. 105152, What are these fancies that whirl you? (|
. . . ;), which Garvie 1986: 346 takes to be an image drawn from a storm at
sea. If we accept Garvies interpretation of the latter passage, Orestes matricide and its attendant
madness/pursuit by the Furies generate in quick succession the images of driving o the road and
being whirled in a storm at sea (i.e., the two images Pindar uses in his break-o from the myth of
P.11). Thanks to Mark Grith for all these points.
59. Relevant here also is the wonderful observation of DAlessio 2010: 5 that the specic terms
of Pindars invocation of the Muse lay bare the device of lyric narration (I would say, of epinikian
narration). To my knowledge, scholars never pause to ask why Pindar should choose to refer to
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 121
I would nally note that both these moments that seem distinctly to allude
to or conjure up tragedy are agged by a phrase beginning a new antistrophe
that scans as a self-contained iambic metron: j at line 22 introduces the
two unresolved questions of the queens motivation, while the exclamation ]. c
| at line 38 immediately precedes the image of the path-shifting crossroads.
John Herington, who noted this metrical eectas it were an iambic metron
clipped out of the choriambic dimeter which begins each strophe/antistrophe in
this songalso points out that it occurs only three times in the entire ode (the
third being the poems opening invocation ). That is to say, in both
cases (P.11.22, 38), a passage I would identify as an allusion to tragedy based
on its content or imagery is marked in performance by an isolated phrase that
sounds a few notes of a tragic iambic trimeter.
Indeed, once we recognize these two marked allusions, it is hard to resist the
impression that Pindars entire complex lyric web of myth and gnome resonates
with the poetry of Aischylos Oresteia, especially that of the haunting and doom-
laden choruses of the Agamemnon. We might consider in this respect the gnomic
sequence embedded in the myth of Pythian 11, whose logic and connections have
long troubled scholars:
the contractual obligation that is a distinctive feature of epinikion right here; I would suggest that
this is intended to draw the contrast as sharply as possible between tragedy (evoked by |)
and epinikion. So, notice, that the one other place Pindar refers explicitly to the epinikian contract
(I.2.111) also occurs in the context of a generic contrast (with the monodic paideioi humnoi of
the older poets Alkaios, Ibykos, and Anakreon, in a passage where Pindar seems to be quoting or
alluding to at least two of the three); on all this, see Woodbury 1968, Kurke 1991: 24146.
60. Herington 1984: 139n.6. Of these three instances, Herington wants to isolate and focus
on just j in l. 22, but his metrical observation can instead be used to link together the
two phrases at l. 22 and l. 38 and argue for their common resonance of tragic meter. In fact, a
stop at the end of the rst metron after enjambement (that would correspond to a phrase like j
) is extremely rare in tragic iambic trimeter: thus Denniston (1936: 7379) and Grith (1977:
9799) count a total of three major stops and nine minor stops in this position after enjambement
in the six genuine plays of Aischylos (of which three and two, respectively, occur in the Oresteia). In
addition, Garvie (1986: 336) notes three more examples of a stop at the end of the rst metron without
enjambement in the previous line: Cho. 233, 481, 523, the last two mitigated, as Garvie notes, by a
vocativejust like ]`. c | at P.11.38. It may be signicant that of the three occurrences of
a major stop after enjambement in this position in the Oresteia, two occur in speeches of Orestes in
the episode immediately after his killing of Klytemnestra: Cho. 994, 1023, the latter (strikingly)
on the word cc in Orestes image of twisting the reins outside the course (cited above, n.58).
The single occurrence of this phenomenon with a major stop in the Agamemnon is Klytemnestras
cruel sexual slur on Kassandra, .( (Ag. 1443).
It must also be acknowledged that the nal long alpha of clearly marks it as a lyric,
rather than a tragic trimeter form, as does the style of musical performance; nonetheless this does
not, I think, invalidate the aural evocation of tragic rhythm. For a lyric parallel for the dramatically
deferred j enjambed to the rst line of the antistrophe, cf. Aes. Cho. 46, ,
signicantly deferred to the end of a three-line sentence and enjambed to a new line. (On this parallel,
see Finglass 2007: 12, noting that these two signicantly placed phrases seem too similar to be
the product of chance. But there is no indication of which came rst). Finally, for |, note
also the rare metrical eect by which the poet lengthens the last syllable, bestowing on the word
an unusual metrical emphasis.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 122
j cc c c
c . o c c v 25
c v ` v
v| c
c ..
. v o . |
o c v c c. 30
c .o j .
. . c .
` o . c. v` c c
c c
Or did the beddings by night lead her astray, mastered in another mans
couch? But this straying [wrongdoing] is most hateful for young wives
and impossible to conceal on account of other peoples tongues; for
fellow-citizens speak evil. For blessedness/prosperity holds no less envy,
and the one of lowly ambition roars invisibly.
And so he died himself,
the hero, son of Atreus, at glorious Amyklai, when he came there in time,
and he caused the death of the maiden seer, when over Helen he had
loosed the houses of the Trojans, burnt, of their luxury.
The sequence of gnomes in lines 2830 once drove W. J. Slater to resort to the
claim that Pindaric gnomes are like stepping stones across a river; they serve
simply to get the poet from Point A to Point B and otherwise leave no residue
of signicance or semantic function.
This is an argument from desperation,
but it is, I would contend, telling that it is precisely this gnomic sequence that
inspired Slaters extreme position. For we are used to certain kinds of shifting
or ambiguity within Pindaric gnomes in relation to their context, but this sequence
feels dierent somehow.
It is, I would suggest, modeled on the peculiar kind
of ambiguity and referential complexity we associate with Aischylean choruses
especially those of the simultaneously befuddled and visionary Argive elders of
the Agamemnon. Thus notice that P.11.28, c ., initially refers
to Klytemnestras adultery, but then, over the next two lines (pivoting on the
ideas of o and ) the focus of civic hostility wavers and shifts, until
61. In the translation and interpretation of l. 30 I followHubbard 1990 vs. Gerber 1983. Gerbers
interpretation seems to me to ignore the semantic content of c, and to underestimate the function
of this gnome within the logic of the entire poem.
62. Slater 1979: 6566.
63. For analysis of specic forms of Pindaric ambiguity in gnomic sequences, see Illig 1932: 61
and Hubbard 1985: 14345 (on the shifting from subjective to objective reference in gnomes, or
vice versa).
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 123
with lines 3134, the ominous patronymic . and the elaboration of the
ruthless destruction of Troy for its wealth attach this weirdly free-oating citizen
resentment to the conquering Agamemnon himself.
In this sequence Pindar boldly and brilliantly reenacts in compacted form the
whole lyric development of the rst stasimon of the Agamemnon, which starts
with the chorus victory cheer (Ag. 355402), only to modulate through their
lyric remembrance of Helen itting o to Troy and the emptying of her beautiful
images of erotic , to the grim image of Ares, gold-changer of corpses
and all that follows from that:
o o `
. c o
c c |
| c ` 440
j v-
( |-
c .c.
c ` . c -
o c c .. 445
o ` c . c `.
v| . -
. -
. o ` .` c-
| |. 450
. ` . . .
( 7
c. c-
v ` c c. 455
. ` vc ` .
` v7 | c
c ` v| |
c c 460
c v .
Ag. 43762
But Ares, gold-changer of corpses and the one who holds the scales of
the spear balanced in battle, sends to their dear ones, red from Ilion,
dust heavy with tears in exchange for a man, cramming the containers
with the ash easily packed. And they groan, praising a manthis one
as skilled in battle; that one that he fell nobly amidst slaughtersfor the
sake of another mans woman. These things someone barks in silence, and
envious pain creeps surreptitiously against the avenging sons of Atreus.
64. Text follows Page 1975; there are only minor divergences in West 1998.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 124
But those beautiful [young men] hold graves of Iliadic earth, there around
the city-wall, and enemy [land] has hidden those who possess it. But the
utterance of the citizens is heavy with anger, and it pays the debt [owed]
of a curse ratied by the people. And my anxious thought waits to hear
something hidden in darkness, since the gods are not without regard for
those who have killed many. . . .
Here we have burning and Troy, then the imperceptible shift from the citizens
praise of their own men (. c) to hostile, envious () muttering
against the Atreidai for the terrible costs of war. This montage of civic resentment
then leads to the chorus slow, dawning realization that the gods are not without
regard for those who have killed many (Ag. 46162), eventuating in turn in their
panicked back-pedaling and ultimate rejection of Klytemnestras proclaimed news
of the successful capture of Troy (Ag. 47587).
In addition, we might note the way in which the very general phrasing of
lines 2527But this straying is most hateful for new wives and impossible
to conceal on account of other peoples tongues (v| c)
applies not just to Klytemnestras adultery with Aigisthos, but to Helens original
straying with Paris (especially given the way in which the word v
attaches so damningly and so insistently to Helen in the powerful movement
of the rst stasimon of the Agamemnon). But, to be clear: within Pindars own
mythic narrative, this weird double reference, conating Helen and Klytemnestra,
is entirely gratuitouswe might almost say subconscious or subterranean. It is
perhaps only intertextually signicant; for by this brief, shimmering evocation
of Helen behind Klytemnestra, Pindars sequence reenacts even more closely the
fateful and terrible balancing between Helen and the Argive dead Aischylos rst
stasimon performs. Finally, it is worth noting that the collapse or conation of
Klytemnestra and her adulterous sister is itself an Aischylean lyric topos that
pervades the choruses of the Agamemnon.
Thus, as with the unanswered questions of motivation posed at lines 2225,
the shifty, morphing gnomic sequence of lines 2830 seems peculiarly Aischylean.
And both moments together, I would contend, rebut the scholarly resort to
65. Farnell 1932.2: 224 and Hubbard 1990: 34851 connect this gnomic sequence in P.11 with
the peoples envy and hostility as articulated in the rst stasimon of the Agamemnon; Hubbard also
cites Ais. Ag. 1030, [|[ ` .o c (which he interprets somewhat dierently
from Fraenkel ad loc.). For Pindars strategically placed ., cf. also Ag. 78385, the chorus
incredibly ominous rst address to the returning Agamemnon as sacker of Troy, ospring of Atreus.
66. For the applicability of this gnome to Helen as well as Klytemnestra, see Newman 1979:
59n.1, Sevieri 1999: 101; for the Aischylean conation of the two sisters, cf. Ag. 681749, 788804,
144861. Note that the kind of ambiguity in this gnomic sequence in P.11 is about the shifting or
recalibrating of blame/responsibility as events unfold (or perhaps better, the layering of wrongdoing
and blame over time)what we might call a characteristically tragic form of ambiguity vs. Pindaric
ambiguity (e.g., strategic shifting between laudator and laudandus; for this kind of ambiguity in
Pindaric gnomic sequences, see scholars cited in n.63 above). This is what I mean about this shifty
gnomic sequence having a dierent feel from other ambiguous chains of gnomai in Pindar.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 125
Stesichoros Oresteia as a common source whose existence fully explains the
parallels between Pindars and Aischylos versions.
I have already oered a
general critique of the Quellenforschung method as inadequate to the performance
culture in which all these poetic texts participated. Here we can add a more specic
objection: the resort to a lost common source seems especially dubious here,
since what Pindar seems to be alluding to is so distinctively Aischylean. There
is nothing like either of these moments in what we have of Stesichoros (and we
have substantially more now than scholars writing before the 1970s). From what
we have of it, Stesichorean narrative seems leisurely, discursive, and Homeric
nothing like the intense lyric density and ambiguity that Pindar and Aischylos
But what are we to make of these powerful and pervasive echoes of tragedy?
If explanation is oered, it is usually in terms of the overwhelming impact of
Aischylos masterpiece on Pindar. We have already seen Farnells formulation,
Pindar wrote. . .under the strong impression made on him by the Agamemnon of
Aischylos; likewise Bowra can only oer, Pindar certainly felt the power of
the Trilogy. . . . Herington, after presenting what I regard as the most compelling
arguments for echoes of the Oresteia in Pythian 11, insists that there is no
knowing why Pindar would have incorporated these echoes; perhaps, he suggests,
as a solemn valediction from a younger Panhellenic poet to an older. . . a salute
from the older art to the new.
These accounts, I would contend, reveal the
inadequacy of a reading that assumes a narrowly literary system of intertextuality;
that treats these texts as merely aesthetic objects evacuated of politics and social
67. See scholars cited in n.12 above.
68. Cf. During 1943: 106108, 115, Herington 1984: 145. This was already the ancient
perception of Stesichoros, to judge from ps-Longinus characterization of him as Homerik otatos
(On the Sublime 13.3).
Finally, I would note a striking echo of the opening lines of Aischylos Choephoroi that
has only recently become audible in the introductory phrases of Pindars myth. West 1985b and
Grith 1987 independently identied and restored to Orestes opening speech a couple of half
lines embedded in Aristophanes parody at Frogs 114143 (in fact, as both note, these lines had
already been identied by Friedrich Thiersch and Gottfried Hermann in the nineteenth century,
but their discovery was ignored by almost all subsequent editors of Aischylos before M. L. West).
West in his edition (1998; followed by Sommerstein 2008) nally inserted these lines into the text
as Cho. 3b-c: . . .| c | / |. . . (presumably the rst mention
of Klytemnestra in the second play of the trilogy). Notice the close dictional correspondences
(and even some correspondences of word order) between these lines and Pindars introduction of
the myth of P.11: o j c o (/ c 7
c o c (P.11.1718). Thus note especially: c |

( c ; |

7; |

c .
69. Quotes from Bowra 1936: 140, Herington 1984: 146. Note that Heringtons account is also
informed by an implicit Hegelian teleology of Greek literary history: the inevitable development
from [epic to] lyric to tragedy as the triumphant synthesis.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 126
function in performance.
I have thus far used the term intertextuality, but it
is in fact misleading for the religious performance culture in which these texts
participated. What we need instead is a dierent frame of analysisa model in
which such explicit references make some imaginable sense.
I took up this question in Kurke 1998, contending that we must combine
literary/generic arguments with historical and political considerations if we are
to understand the workings of both tragedy and epinikion in their performance
context as civic poetry. I suggested that these two choral performances had in
common the presentation of negative mythic exemplars to endorse the middling
position within the city (whether in the democracy of Athens or in the oligarchic
regime of Thebes). And while I still believe that this account helps explain many
of the verbal and thematic correspondences between these two texts, I return to the
topic because I now regard that analysis as inadequate in two important respects.
First, if it really is simply a matter of shared negative political and economic
exempla, that in no way requires the specic allusions or ags gesturing toward
tragedy in general and the Oresteia in particular that I have identied here. Pindar
might just as well have drawn inspiration for theme and language fromthe Oresteia
without any overt reference to tragedy. So, if we are not simply to assume the
powerful inuence of Aischylos masterpiece on the weaker, impressionable
Pindar, we must acknowledge that tragedyas a genre and as a mode of choral
performanceis itself somehow being thematized within Pindars epinikion.
Second (and this applies to most intertextual readings of the poem), such an
account does nothing to integrate these mythic references to tragedy with the rest
of the poem, especially with its opening invocation of Theban heroines and its
closing reference to Iolaos and the Dioskouroi. What after all does the ominous
saga of the House of Atreus have to do with the elaborate opening summons to the
heroines of Thebes?:
. c c v7.
c c c
7 o ..
70. Thus it is telling that Herington refers to Aischylos trilogy as a great poem or poem-play
(Herington 1984: 142, 143). Even though, in contrast to Bowras explicit fantasy of Pindar reading
Aischylos, Herington imagines Pindar sitting in the audience of the rst performance of the Oresteia
at the City Dionysia in Athens in 458 nci, the latters emphatic references to Aischylos work as
a poem expose the New Critical assumptions that inform his reading. For other, similar notions
of the powerful inuence of Aischylos trilogy on Pindar, see During 1943: 116, Finley 1955:
162, and Hubbard 2010: 192: Whatever his attitude toward Athenian policy at the time, Pindar
was a brilliant enough poet to recognize sublime lyric storytelling in the work of a fellow poet, close
to his own age, recently deceased.
71. The objection that positing Aischylean inuence on Pindar denigrates the latters own
artistry comes from Finglass 2007: 1416and, to a great extent, he is right about the aestheticizing
and evaluative tone of earlier (formalist/New Critical) discussions like Heringtons. On the other
hand, a reading that recognizes Pindars own thematization of genre/tragedy within epinikion can
accommodate intertextuality without denigrating Pindars artistry.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 127
. ` c v
. v | c c
. o |` c| |. 5
( ` o. vc | c.
c . |.
c | c| .
o oc . |.
o c .v c . o|
7 oo (` ` cc 10
c (
vc| |.
c c 7 c c|
| c c c c,
Daughters of Kadmos, Semele neighbor of the Olympian goddesses, and
Ino Leukothea who shares a bedchamber with the sea-y Nereids, come,
together with the mother of Herakles, who bore the best child, to Melia,
to the aduton treasurehouse of golden tripods, which Loxias honored
exceedingly and named the Ismenion, true seat of seers, O children of
Harmonia, where also now he summons the native throng of heroines
to come together in assembly, in order to celebrate in song holy right,
and Pytho, and the navel of the earth, straight in justice, together with
the peak of evening, as a grace for seven-gated Thebes and the contest
of Kirrha, in which Thrasydaios called to mind his paternal hearth by
casting a third crown upon it. . . .
As those scholars who have focused on the poems rst triad have noted, these lines
oer us one of the clearest instances within the epinikia of a victory song integrated
into the context of a preexistent civic ritual; this is the force of | in line 7.
We cannot be certain what the ritual was: Paola Angeli Bernardini argued for the
specic context of the Daphnephoria, suggesting that the victor Thrasydaios was
simultaneously the daphn ephoros within the civic festival. Farnell had suggested a
dierent contextthe periodic staging of a hieros gamos in the Ismenion between
Apollo and the local nymph Melia, appropriately attended by a throng of Theban
heroines in an evening celebration.
But whatever the specic ritual frame, surely
72. On the rst triad and its Theban cultic context, see Wilamowitz 1922: 260, Farnell 1932.2:
225, Burton 1962: 61, Vivante 1972, Bernardini 1989, Krummen 1990: 275, Sevieri 1997, 1999:
105109, Currie 2005: 1718, 2011: 29697, Carey 2007: 202, Kurke 2007: 9597, Athanassaki
2009: 44549. In contrast to Bernardini and Sevieri, most of the other scholars listed are more
cautious about the exact ritual context. Finglass 2007: 2732, 81 is skeptical even about the civic
festival setting, but here he fails to appreciate the performative cues embedded in the poems rst
triad (especially | in l. 7). For specic critique of Finglass on the Theban festival context,
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 128
this cultic performance context makes some dierence to our understanding of
the poem.
Scholars have likewise struggled to develop a reading that integrates Pindars
closing reference to Iolaos and the Dioskouroi, ostensibly introduced as examples
of those who left the grace of a good name as the best of possessions to their
sweetest ospring (P.11.58):
v o |
.o c. . |.
c . . .. c.
o c ` v c .
o ` .c c .
[Grace] which spreads abroad [the name of] Iolaos, son of Iphikles,
celebrated in song, and mighty Kastor and you, lord Polydeukes, sons
of gods, who dwell one day in the seats of Therapnai and the next within
Why end the poem with these particular mythic exempla? What connection do
they have to the Theban heroines of the rst triad and the poems grim central
Based especially on this nal pairing of the Theban hero Iolaos and the
Lakonian Dioskouroi, some scholars have detected a strong Spartan coloring
to this Theban ode; in fact, three of the poems four triads end with pointed
mentions of Lakonia, or signicant cult places within it (P.11.16:
c; 32: c ; 63: c ).
C. M. Bowra long ago
argued that this sympathetic linkage between Thebes and Sparta militates for
the later date for Pythian 11 (454). As Bowra noted, the strong Spartan col-
oring of Pythian 11 makes little sense in 474 nci, shortly after the end of the
Persian Wars and Spartas eort to oust Thebes from the Delphic Amphiktiony
see Currie 2011: 29697n.115; for general critique of Finglass lack of attention to performative
context, see DAlessio 2010: 24.
73. Wilamowitz 1922: 262n.3 worried about these mythic paradigms, Kinder haben sie alle
nicht hinterlassen. Young 1968: 22n.5 points out that Wilamowitz assertion is in fact false (these
heroes are credited with children: for Iolaos, see Hesiod fr. 142 Rzach
; for the Dioskouroi, Paus.
2.22.5), but that the main point here is not about specic biological progeny, but rather about the
legacy of fame these heroes left behind.
74. On the strong Laconian avor of P.11 (Egans phrase) and the linkage of Theban and
Spartan cults at the end of the poem, see Farnell 1932.2: 225, Bowra 1936: 13234, Finley 1955:
162, Burton 1962: 65, Egan 1983: 191, Most 1985: 21, 25, Prag 1985: 7778, Bernardini 1989:
4647, Sevieri 1999: 105107, Hubbard 2010: 192200. Hubbard pushes this argument even further,
intriguingly suggesting that Pythonikos, Thrasydaios father, may have had signicant links of xenia
with members of the Spartan elite and that P.11 itself may have received a second performance in
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 129
for medizing.
On the other hand, a date of 454 would place the composition
and performance of Pindars ode within the period sometimes referred to by
modern scholars as the First Peloponnesian War (461446), when Athens was
apparently aiming to establish a land empire in mainland Greece through dom-
ination of Boiotia and Phokis. According to Thoukydides, when an Athenian
army defeated a Boiotian force at Oinophyta in Boiotia in 457, the Atheni-
ans became masters of all Boiotia and Phokis (Thouk. 1.108.3: j. . .c
c j | . |). This Athenian domination of Boiotia
only came to an end eleven years later, when resistance had developed and an
army of Boiotian exiles and others defeated an Athenian force at the battle of
Koroneia in 446. The Boiotians success in this battle achieved the liberation
of all Boiotia (Thouk. 1.113) and essentially precipitated a series of events
that put an end to Athens aspirations to a land empire on mainland Greece.
In this period between Oinophyta and Koroneia (as Bowra and others have
noted), Theban elites might well look to Sparta for help in resisting Athenian
On its own terms, such an argument makes good, plausible historical sense.
And we might add that Pindars emphasis in the myth on positive links of xenia
between Phokis and Sparta (P.11.1516, 3436) also seems apposite for this
period, when Sparta clearly had a strong interest in the control of Delphi and
in preserving her place on the Delphic Amphiktiony.
But the problem is that
Bowras purely historical argument never intersects with the literary facts of
the poem. How, after all, are we to reconcile this kind of interstate politicking
with Pindars pointed allusions to Aischylos Oresteia and Athenian tragedy in
I would contend that to get beyond this split between historical and
75. Bowra 1936: 13536, citing Plut. Them. 20. According to Plutarch, the Spartans wished to
oust Thebes from the Amphiktiony, but Themistokles intervened to prevent this for good Athenian
reasons (Bowra p. 135). Cf. Hubbard 1990: 350n.22, 2010: 19192.
76. So as not to encumber the argument at this point, I have relegated to Appendix II below
a fuller account of the historical reconstruction of this period and the ancient sources for it.
77. On Spartas interest in maintaining a place on the Delphic Amphiktiony as a signicant
motivating force behind her foreign policy in this period, see Hornblower 1991: 16869, 1992:
18182, 2007, and see Appendix II below.
78. Symptomatically, all that scholars who favor a later date can do here is split the historical
and literary facts. See (e.g.) Bowra 1936: 14041, who shifts from his historical argument to the
issue of intertextuality simply by inserting a nal section set o by a roman numeral. Hubbards
(2010) updated version of this basically reenacts Schadewaldts (1928) theory of the subjective vs.
objective programs of Pindars epinikiaon this reading, the Spartan coloring is for the patron,
Thrasydaios father, while the allusions to Aischylos/tragedy are Pindars personal homage to his
recently dead Athenian friend.
On the other hand, those scholars who favor an early date have dierent strategies for
accounting for this Spartan coloringnone of them entirely satisfactory. (1) One recourse is to
claim that Pindar is simply following tradition by setting the myth in Sparta: thus Prag 1985: 7778
(claiming that Stesichoros had political reasons for the Spartan location of the myth, but Pindar
has none), Instone 1986: 87, Finglass 2007: 86. Indeed, Finglass 2007: 1415 (following von der
Muhll 1958: 14546, Robbins 1986: 67) uses Pindars insistent location of the Atreids in Sparta
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 130
literary explanations, we must focus on genre as a mediating term, especially
since this is an element to which the poem itself seems to be calling our attention.
But the term genre also has to be nuanced: as I noted at the outset, in the
Greek context, literary genre is not separable from performance occasion, and the
occasions of both tragedy and epinikion are choral song and dance in a religious
settingwhat the Greeks called choreia. To put the issue in other terms: in Kurke
1998, I argued for the sameness or similarity of choral forms and their social
functions between Athens and Thebes; now I want to think about dierence and
distinctiveness in the forms of chorality within these two cities.
In 1998, I was
more concerned with the political and economic messages of choral song; now
I would like to come to grips with the signicant religious contexts of choreia.
In order to do so, I would like to build on the important recent work of Barbara
Kowalzig. For Kowalzig, Greek choreia is the hinge between aetiological myth
and ritual, and the means to understand the relation of these complex categories in
action. Throughout the ancient Greek world, chorality serves signicant social
functionsas a way for a community to forge and create a past, to claim a
territory, and to constitute a set of ritual networks in an environment where
everything is contested or up for grabs; this is especially true in a period of
profound historical change like the rst half of the fth century nci. So, in
Kowalzigs formulation, choruses make history.
Kowalzig also emphasizes that
we must conceive of Attic tragedy as a peculiar adaptation of chorality; for her,
tragedyespecially the choruses of tragedyjust are ritual, and we must not lose
sight of that fact.
Within this frame, Kowalzig tracks in particular the ways in
which dierent tragedies enact the appropriation of other cities cults (what we
might call tragedys cultic imperialism), and she correlates those appropriations
to argue that Pindars version of the myth is not inuenced by Aischylos, but is instead traditional;
then Finglass claims that Pindar ends with the Dioskouroi because they link up thematically with
the poems myth set prominently at Sparta (2007: 123). But he never asks why Pindar should
tell a Spartan myth in this poem in the rst place. (2) Some older scholars attempt to palliate the
problem by claiming that the prominence of Sparta in the poem is due to Pindars natural aection
for things Dorian (thus Burton 1962: 65; cf. Meautis 1962: 268). This model of Pindar the Dorian
is ultimately based on a misunderstanding of who the ego is at P.5.7281; for decisive refutation
of the attribution of these lines to the poet as ego, see Krummen 1990: 13641, DAlessio 1994:
12224. (3) Finally, Sevieri 1999: 106107 claims that the cult links between Thebes and Delphi
necessarily pass through Sparta. But this is precisely to underestimate the exibility and malleability
of cult networks, treating cult as an inert given rather than as an evolving political and semiotic
system with which our texts are dialectically engaged.
79. Cf. Barbara Kowalzigs point that dierentiation and distinction are central to the work
of ancient Greek chorality and mythic aetiologythe former dierentiates particular gods within
a polytheistic system by the specicity of their choral worshippers (Kowalzig 2004); the latter
dierentiates cult and place between Greek cities and communities (Kowalzig 2007b: 25).
80. For all this, see Kowalzig 2004, 2005, and esp. 2007b. For important earlier treatments
of the signicant social and political functions of ritual choreia in ancient Greece, see Calame 1977,
1997, Nagy 1990: 33981, Lonsdale 1993, Naerebout 1997, Stehle 1997, Wilson 2000, 2003.
81. Kowalzig 2007a; cf. Kowalzig 2004, the other essays collected in Csapo and Miller 2007,
and Bierl 2009.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 131
with Athens territorial aggression and expansion during the period of fth-century
Athenian empire.
Finally, Kowalzig emphasizes that this kind of choral history
cannot be pinpointed to a specic date or moment in time; her interest is more
in processes of structural change enacted through chorality that take place over
approximately the rst half of the fth century, the period from which all our
texts of Pindar and Bacchylides derive.
That is to say, choral history cannot
be understood on the scale of event history. While I wholeheartedly agree
with this position in general, I would contend that the Oresteia and Pythian 11
together oer us an exceptional case, where, if we can accept that Pythian 11
was composed under the inuence of Aischylos Oresteia (as I think we can),
we have a precise temporal snapshot of what such contestation of and through
dierent song performances looked like on the ground in Thebes and Athens.
To state my argument in brief: Pindar carefully (and gratuitously) incorporated
the questions of lines 2225 and the unusual image of the | to signal his
engagement in a dialogue of genres (tragedy and epinikion), as of place and
performance contexts (Athens vs. Thebes). I would emphasize that an ancient
festival audience could understand this poem (to the extent that they could ever
understand a Pindaric ode) without picking up these allusions to tragedythe
very gratuitousness of these moments in context guarantees that. But given the
evidence we have for a Panhellenic audience in attendance at the City Dionysia
during the period of Athens imperial rule, the supposition that an audience in
the neighboring city of Thebes would have some familiarity with tragedy seems
not implausible.
For an audience familiar with Attic tragedy in general and
Aischylos Oresteia in particular, Pindars two allusions frame the whole myth as
82. Kowalzig 2006, citing the examples of Sophokles Ajax, OC; Euripides Medea, Hippolytos,
IT. For many of these plays, Kowalzig is building on earlier scholarly discussions of the ways in
which dierent plays seem to enact or appropriate cults: thus (e.g.) Burian 1972, 1974; Lardinois
1992; Henrichs 1993. Kowalzigs signicant advance over this earlier literature is her emphasis on
the politics of these cult appropriations in light of their close correlation with the specics of Athens
territorial and imperial expansion in the fth c. nci. But cf. already Lardinois 1992: 327 (on the
appropriation of the cult of the Erinyes/Semnai Theai in Aischylos Oresteia): there is an element
of imperialism behind all this: Athens presents itself as the inheritor of the power of the Erinyes
and, consequently, as the moral leader of Greece.
83. Kowalzig 2007b: 9.
84. For a Panhellenic audience at the City Dionysia, see Pickard-Cambridge 1988: 5859, citing
Ar. Ach. 505506, Aischin. Against Ktesiphon 43, Dem. Against Meidias 74, Isok. On the Peace
82; for more recent discussion, see Csapo and Slater 1994: 108, 11718, Roselli 2011: 11926,
13541. In fact, one might imagine several dierent categories of visitors from Thebes attending the
City Dionysia in the 460s and 450s: (1) merchants and tradesmen looking to sell their wares; (2)
elites with international connections; (3) musicians and artists. This last category would include
poets, since a large number of dithyrambic poets were non-Athenian (see Wilson 2000: 6367,
Roselli 2011: 13536), and (possibly even in this early period) Theban aulos-players. Certainly by
the late fth century, with the rise of the New Music and professionalism, Theban aulos-players
became a conspicuous part of Athenian performance culture (see Wilson 2000: 21415, Csapo 2004:
21021, Roselli 2011: 13740). In a Venn diagram of these dierent categories, Pindar himself
would presumably occupy the intersecting territory between (2) and (3).
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 132
an excursion into the alien territory of tragedy, from which the poet has to call
himself back to the straight road of epinikian praise. The domain of Athenian
tragedy is pointedly contrasted with the Theban festival context of the rst triad
and the closing mention of Iolaos and the Dioskouroi as competing forms of choral
and religious practice. Pythian 11 thus oers a kind of anti-tragic polemic from
the point of view of traditional religious and choral systems.
If this is about competing forms of chorality, what dierentiates tragedy and
epinikion? What precisely are Pindars issues with tragedy? I would suggest that,
at one level, epinikion resists certain aspects of tragic content. But in fact this
critique is inseparable from a more general epinikian resistance to the religious
strategies of tragedytragedys tendency to displace and deracinate for its own
purposes cults that properly belong to other communities. Thus, to use Kowalzigs
terms, we might say that Pindar oers us a contestatory dialogue over dierent
versions and modes of choral history. What follows, then, are three (more or
less) speculative passes at the possible signicance of this contest of choral forms.
. i1n-imiiii vioiici vs. co1iti1v
The conscious evocation of tragedy at the moment of the poets break-o
from the myth suggests that Pindar disapproves of tragedys foregrounding of
intra-familial violence. For, as I have already noted, what precipitates the abrupt
turning-away from the myth is the mention of Orestes killing his mother and
Aigisthos, while the imagery of the path-shifting crossroads itself conjures up
that archetypal moment of tragic kin-murderOidipous killing of Laios. This
pattern conforms to Pindars well-known aversion to certain kinds of mythic nar-
rative. His famous rejection of the traditional Tantalos-Pelops myth in Olympian
1 (O.1.3536, 5253) is motivated not just by distaste for the tale of divine can-
nibalism, but also for the prior moment in the story in which a father is said to kill
and dismember his own son. In like manner, his abrupt break-o from mythic nar-
rative in Nemean 5 (N.5.1416) occurs at the moment he touches on the murder of
Phokos by his half-brothers Telamon and Peleus and their consequent exile from
In contrast, the poems opening invocation oers us an example of Pindars
careful avoidance of (specically Theban) narratives of intra-familial violence
which formed a staple of Attic tragedy. For here, by the apparently innocent
syntactic inevitability of a c. . .c construction, the poet suppresses all mention
of Agave fromthe daughters of Kadmos (P.11.12), instead highlighting the now
divine status of Semele (as mother of Dionysos) and of Ino (who was his nurse).
The tragic history of Agave and Pentheus disappears, preempted by a sequence of
local Theban heroines whose ospring forge positive links between divine and
human realmsSemele, Alkmene, and Melia.
In contrast to tragedys obsession
85. We know of several early tragedies on the theme of Pentheus and Dionysos; according to the
Suda, Thespis composed a Pentheus, while Aischylos is credited with two Dionysiac tetralogies,
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 133
with intra-familial violence and the destruction of houses, epinikion in general and
this poem in particular emphasize familial continuity and positive genealogical
bonds; thus Pythian 11s climactic message is the value of bequeathing the grace
of a good name as best of possessions to [ones] sweetest ospring (
7 .c | c, P.11.5758).
But I do not mean to suggest that this avoidance of scenes of intra-familial
violence is merely a symptomof Pindars higher morality (as it is often treated);
we might instead think about this as the sedimentation of signicantly dierent
ideological structures or ideological priorities in tragedy and epinikion. This is
a familiar argument: tragedy foregrounds or plays up intra-familial violence to
promote the need for the polis (the city-state and its institutions) beyond the
oikos (the individual house). Contrariwise, the ideology of epinikion crucially
celebratesand promotesthe positive continuity of noble houses and their
hereditary quality through generations.
But we should be clear here: the position
of epinikion may be more traditional, but it is equally ideological, implicitly
arming the propriety of elite status because of their hereditary quality, even
while (at times) assimilating the entire polis to the circuit of the kinship group.
For this very tactic, we might note here the ambiguous reference of Pindars
address c | at the moment he breaks o from the horror of tragic matricide
via the resonant image of the crossroads. Who, after all, does c | at line 38
refer to? Some scholars have taken this to be Pindars patrons, Thrasydaios and
his father Pythonikos.
Based on parallels in other odes, we might be inclined
to say c | addresses the members of the citizen chorus, from whom the I of
the poet stands apart briey, speaking as if from the moment of composition of the
Still others take c | to be the Theban audience; as Finglass puts it, the
poet, after all, is at home.
I would venture to suggest that c | designates
all three groups at once, drawing them into the circuit of near and dear ones,
of kith and kinfor this is the root meaning of |- wordsand that this is
one of which may have included the plays Bacchai, Pentheus, and Semele (on the prominence of
Dionysiac themes in early tragedy, see Herington 1985: 133, Seaford 1994: 27576, 354). In contrast
to P.11.12, see P.3.9798, where in a dierent context, Pindar speaks of Kadmos three daughters.
This elision of Agave in the proem of P.11 might not seem signicant, but note the opposite tactic of
Aischylos at Eum. 26the gratuitous mention of the sparagmos of Pentheus as the sole reference
to Theban myth in this play.
86. The recognition that tragedy thrives on intra-familial/kin violence goes back to Aristotle
Poetics ch. 14, 1453b1936; for modern discussions of the conict of polis and oikos as an essential
theme of Attic tragedy, see Jones 1962, Vernant 1970, Zeitlin 1982, Goldhill 1986: 57106, Seaford
1994, etc. For the contrasting positive oikos ideology of epinikion, see Rose 1974, Kurke 1991,
87. Thus (e.g.) Instone 1986: 89.
88. Cf. N.2.24 (c .), I.8.2 (c c). For moments of separation between the professional
poet and the amateur, citizen chorus, see Morgan 1993; for the strange temporality of Pindaric
epinikion that not infrequently locates the ego at the moment of composition rather than that of
performance, see DAlessio 2004.
89. Finglass 2007: 110.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 134
precisely the work of ritual chorality linked to the festive occasion of the poems
rst triad.
:. comri1io cti1ic i1wonks:
1nisnoosoiirni vs. 1ninissrn1oiirni
It is worth pausing to recognize that, if Pindar is politicking in this poem, he is
doing so through the representations of cult and cult networks. We might say, a` la
Kowalzig, that this is howGreek history, identity, claims to territory, and interstate
networks were forged via choral performance, and this applies equally to tragedy
and epinikion as choral forms. So here, we have a snapshot of choral contestation
between tragedy and epinikion, between Athens and Thebes. Or we might say,
a` la Tynianov, that we cannot understand the social function of Pindars poetry
(= pro-Sparta) directly; instead, this function is necessarily mediated through
the set or orientation of this poetry to neighboring systemsin this case,
cult and religious practice through choral performance. We must then carefully
study those interactions. For this bundle of issues, let me return to the Spartan
localization of Agamemnon and Orestes for a second speculative pass in the
analysis. This also means, in contrast to von der Muhll and Finglass, reading the
Spartan localization of the myth not as proof that Pindars version is independent
of the Oresteia, but rather as epinikions deliberate polemic against Aischylos
It has long been recognized that part of the topical background of the Oresteia
was Athens military alliance with Argos, forged in the late 460s, after the Spartans
had peremptorily dismissed an Athenian force sent to assist them against a Helot
revolt (Thouk. 1.102).
This alliance with Argos, probably just three years old
at the time of Aischylos trilogy in 458, is referred to and aetiologized three times
in the Eumenides as the ancient gratitude of the mythic Orestes for the saving
intervention of Athena and her newly founded homicide court (Eum. 28791,
66773, 76274).
It is equally clear that the Eumenides represents this alliance
of Athens and Argos as endorsed and supported by Delphi and Delphic Apollo
himself. Thus, as J. H. Quincey noted already in 1964, the fact that the rst
90. Cf. Stehle 1997 on the archaic Greek chorus in general as speaking both to and for the
broader civic community. In relation to c | in P.11, it might be worth thinking about Pindars
other strategic uses of |- roots at P.8.98 and N.8.13. Both these passages have traditionally been
treated as problems of who the ego is; we might do better to stop obsessing about a specic identity
for the ego and instead think about the kinship conjured in ritual performance via the use of |-
terms by a fairly free-oating ego/spokesman/chorus.
91. So vs. von der Muhll 1958: 14546, Finglass 2007: 1415.
92. See (e.g.) Quincey 1964, Lewis 1981, Sommerstein 1989: 2631.
93. Note esp. Eum. 76774, where Orestes promises to make sure that his Argive descendants
preserve and respect his oaths through his posthumous potency as a cult hero. These lines are
something of a problem, since there is no other evidence from antiquity that Orestes received cult
worship in Argos (vs. Tegea, Paus. 8.54.4, and Sparta, Hdt. 1.6768, Paus. 3.11.10). Sommerstein
1989: 237 therefore suggests that either there was (an otherwise unattested) hero cult of Orestes
in Argos, or else that Aischylos invented this Argive hero cult of Orestes for his own purposes.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 135
explicit promise of a permanent alliance with Argos made in Athenas presence
(Eum. 66773) comes not from Orestes, but from Apollo, is unexpected and at
least a little dramatically awkward (since, coming at the end of Apollos speech of
defense, it sounds like a bribe to the jury). Quincey concludes:
The Argive oer has been vested with the authority of the god of Delphi,
being part of his master plan for Athens future greatness, and con-
veyed by him, as the representative of Argos, to the representative of
Athens. The historical alliance has thus been given the impress of Delphic
At the same time, the third play of Aischylos trilogy works hard to suggest
important and intimate connections also between Delphi and Athens. This is clear
rst in the very structure of the play, which (highly unusually for tragedy), shifts
the scene of action at line 235 directly from Apollos mantic shrine at Delphi to
a slightly hazy, amorphousbut sacredlocation in Athens.
It is also worth
noting that the Pythias opening speech, describing the friendly transfer of the
Delphic oracle from the older gods Gaia, Themis, and Phoibe to Phoibos, oers a
markedly Athenian version of the young gods original progress from Delos to
Delphi to take possession of his mantic seat:
c c | | .
c c` vv v .
c ( . ] ` c.
c ` .o . | c
. . |.
v( c c.
Eum. 914
But having left the lake and the rocky island of Delos and landed upon the
shores of Pallas where ships go, [Apollo] came to this land and the seats
of Parnassos. And they escort him and honor him greatly, the children
of Hephaistos, makers of roads, causing the wild land to be tamed.
In other preserved early accounts, Apollo rst sets foot in mainland Greece in
Boiotia, either near Mt. Messapion or in the territory of Tanagra.
Pythia follows the Athenian version in shifting that landing to Attica; here it
is the children of Hephaistos (= the Athenians) who escort Apollo to Delphi.
This version apparently references contemporary Athenian cult practice, for, as
Ephoros tells us (presumably following Athenian tradition), Apollo having set
out from Athens to Delphi went by this road, by which the Athenians now send
94. Quincey 1964: 193.
95. On the shiftiness of the Athenian locale (rst Athenas temple on the Acropolis; then the
court of the Areopagos), see Taplin 1977: 103107, 33840, 39091, Sommerstein 1989: 123.
96. The former version in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo ll. 22224; the latter version in Pindar fr.
286 SM (as reported in the Schol. to Ais. Eum. 11).
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 136
[their the oria] to the Pythian Festival.
And the Aischylean scholia to these lines
add that they aetiologize an Athenian ritual practice: whenever [the Athenians]
send a the oria to Delphi, it is led by men carrying axes as if to tame/make gentle
the land.
We might note nally that Aischylos patriotic account manages to
elide Thebes and Boiotia altogether. For in Aischylos lines Boiotia is not merely
wilderness, as yet unsettled; it is apparently not even named, a non-place, so that
the Aischylean god is nessed directly from Attica to Delphi.
Thus one thing
Aischylos Oresteia achieves as a complex form of religious song performance
is the forging and retrojection back into mythic time of a dense cultic network
of Athens, Argos, and Delphi.
Read against this background, Pythian 11 seems to be working equally hard
to assert a competing cult network of Thebes, Sparta, and Delphi.
Scholars have
long noted the Spartan coloring of Pindars Theban ode: it is worth emphasizing
that that Spartan coloring derives mainly from the mention of particular cult
places and links established between them. Thus the end of the poem links Thebes
and Sparta together through its pairing of the hero cult of Iolaos in Thebes and
that of Kastor and Polydeukes located at Therapnai in Lakonia.
At the same time, Pindars ode insists on the intimate cult network of Thebes
and Delphi. Note that in the opening triad, Apollo bears his oracular designation
Loxias when he rst appears, showing special honor to the Theban Ismenion
with its golden tripods (P.11.5). Indeed, there seem to have been strong cult links
97. c c ` oc c. ` .c j o. j . j
c, Ephoros FGrH 70 F 31b. See Jacobys commentary ad loc. for Ephoros taking over
ein Stuck panegyrisch-athenischer Tradition. For a similar claim that Apollo landed in Attica rst
from Delos, see Paian no. 46 Kappel, esp. ll. 1321 (= Limenios Paian and Prosodion, Collectanea
Alexandrina pp. 14959). This is the second of the two Delphic Paians inscribed on the wall of
the Athenian treasury at Delphi (with musical notation), with an opening inscription attributing it to
Limenius the Athenian, composed for performance by the Technitai of Dionysos at the Theoxeny
in 128 nci.
98. . o c . ` |. c c c c c-
j j, Schol. ad Ais. Eum. 12, 13 (Smith 1993); see Sommerstein 1989: 82.
99. Contrast the version of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo ll. 22539, which makes a point of
noting (twice!) that Thebes is still uncharted woodland, but even so pauses for a lengthy excursus on
the cult of Poseidon at Onchestos in Boiotia.
100. Egan 1983: 19193 argues for a cult network of Thebes, Sparta, and Delphi constructed
in P.11, but does not set it against the Aischylean network of Athens, Argos, and Delphi.
101. For the linkage of Iolaos and the Dioskouroi, cf. I.5.3233 (which must date to the early
470s; part of a longer list of signicant local cults in Aitolia, Thebes, Argos, Lakonia, and Aigina),
and especially I.1.1632 (tentatively dated by Snell-Maehler to 458). In the latter passage, Pindars
inset hymn to Kastor and Iolaos signicantly ends with the localization of the two heroes at
the streams of Dirke. . .and nearby the Eurotas, one Theban and one dwelling upon the lofty seat
of Therapnai (I.1.2932). Since we do not have a rm date for I.1, there is a danger of circular
argument here, but I would contend that there is a striking pattern of mythological or cult features
linking (some or all of) Thebes, Sparta/Amyklai, Orestes, and the Delphic oracle in I.1, as in I.7.12
15 and N.11.3337 (these latter two poems tentatively dated by Snell-Maehler to 454 and 446,
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the 137
between the Theban Ismenion and Delphi: both oracular shrines of Apollo, each
with its own neighboring cult of Athena Pronaia.
Within Pindars poem, this
linkage is supported by the fact that Apollo summons the native band of Theban
heroines to the Ismenion to sing rst of Delphi:
c | c| .
o oc . |.
o c .v c . o|
7 oo (` ` cc
c (
vc| |,
where also now [Apollo] summons the native throng of heroines to come
together in assembly, in order to celebrate in song holy themis, and Pytho,
and the navel of the earth, straight in justice, together with the peak of
evening, as a grace for seven-gated Thebes and the contest of Kirrha. . . .
The poets sequence of holy themis, Pytho, and the navel of the earth oers
striking similarities in diction to Aischylos genealogy of the Delphic shrine at
the beginning of the Eumenides, while Pindar replaces the AthensDelphi axis
of the Eumenides prologue with a tight network of Theban and Delphic mantic
In light of all this, it seems signicant that Pindar assigns to the Delphic navel-
stone the extremely rare adjective o|, for a variant form of this epithet
occurs at a highly charged moment in the denouement of Aischylos Eumenides.
Toward the end of an intense epirrhematic exchange with the newly converted
Erinyes, singing their blessings for Attica, Athena responds by addressing her
(audience of) Athenian citizens with solemn anapaests:
c c c c c
c c oc . |
v v.
102. For the close association of the Theban Ismenion and Apollos oracle at Delphi, see Defradas
1954: 61, Schachter 1967, 1981.1: 5960, 8085.
103. Egan 1983: 19293 notes a set of mantic gures who also link together Thebes and Sparta
Melia/Ismenion; Kassandra at Amyklai; and the Theban heroine Ino, who also had an oracular shrine
in (or near) a place called Thalamai in Lakonia (together withor as?Pasiphae/Kassandra; see
Paus. 3.26.1, Plut. Agis 9). What makes this association particularly bizarre is Pindars use of the
hapax o in his address to Ino (not noted by Egan).
104. o|. o|, and o| occur a total of four times in extant classical Greek;
in addition to P.11.9 and Eum. 993, o| occurs twice in Bacchylides (Bacch. 11.9, of Styx as
mother of Nika; Bacch. 14.23, just where the poem breaks o, so its specic reference is unknown;
both these poems are undated).
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 138
c c . j .
c .
Eum. 99095
Fromthese fearful faces of theirs, I see great benet for these citizens here;
for you, by always greatly honoring these [females]kindly disposed to
those who are kindly disposedand maintaining land and city straight
in justice, will be entirely glorious.
Here the land and city of Athens will be maintained as straight in justice for all
time, as long as the Athenians honor the (appropriated) cult of the Erinyes/Semnai
Pindar on this reading polemically transfers this honoric epithet from
Athens to Delphi; in the poetic tussle encoded within this single word, we can
trace the contestation over cult, locality, and cult networks for which I have
been arguing.
We might also note that this very passage in the Eumenides is
a climactic one for Taplin and Wilsons argument for a set of subliminal self-
references to tragedy throughout the Oresteia. For, as they point out, we might
detect a secondary resonance in Athenas cnot just faces, but also
theatrical masks.
On this reading, it is the Athenians embrace of tragedy
itself that will help make their land and city straight in justice for all time and
confer exceptional glory on Athens. If we accept this argument, it is certainly
striking that Pindar should pick up on and respond to just this passage with its
meta-theatrical glorication of tragedy. Thus, we might say, there is not just a
cultic tussle but a generic one encoded in Pindars polemical transfer of this
epithet to Delphi.
j. noo1ioiss vs. oinci1io oi cti1
This last possibility, in turn, suggests a very high level of self-consciousness
for Pindaric epinikion in its riposte to a self-conscious Aischylean aetiology
of tragedy,
and this leads me to my third speculative pass. At this level, I
suggest, we see Pindar not just engaging in the choral contestation of cult, but
also oering a meta-poeticor perhaps better, meta-ritualcritique of the new
orientation or relation to cult forms that the genre of tragedy represents. For
this level, it is important to recall one other element of Kowalzigs argument for
the cultic imperialism of tragedy: in the pre- or non-tragic system, cult choruses
frequently served to remember mythic acts of violence, but in these contexts, the
periodic choral performance itself functioned to expiate or compensate for the
105. See Lardinois 1992 on the Athenian appropriation of this cult.
106. Egan 1983: 19495 notes the occurrences of o|/ o| at P.11.9 and Eum.
993, respectively, but uses the parallel in the service of a dierent argument (on which, see above, p.
112 with n.34).
107. Taplin and Wilson 1993: 17576.
108. This phrase forms the title of Taplin and Wilson 1993.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 139
original mythic transgression.
But tragedy unmoored cults and choruses from
their place, thus leaving the trouble or pollution elsewhere, while appropriating
for Athens the cult that should have been its periodic propitiation.
This, I think, points to Pindars broader issue with tragedyits deracination
and appropriation of cults that properly belonged to other localities in Greece. In
approaching this issue, we might note in general that Pythian 11 is a poemobsessed
with the specicities of place, especially with the geographic specicities of cult.
Thus Semele is invoked as neighbor (v7) of the Olympian goddesses
(P.11.1); Ino as sharer of a chamber (o) with the sea-y Nereids
(P.11.2); Apollo bestows exceptional honor on the Theban Ismenion (P.11.5
6); and Kastor and Polydeukes are very specically said to dwell (.c) for
one day at the seats of Therapnai and the next within Olympos (P.11.6364).
Within this specic geography, the opening triad stands as a radiant armation
of chorality as it functions to map out proper civic order and proper cosmic
relations for Thebes and Boiotia through cult practice. Thus each of the heroines
invoked has her own proper cult siteSemele on the Theban acropolis, Ino at
Chaironeia, Alkmene above the Elektran gates, Melia in the Ismenionbut they
also converge at Apollos request on the Ismenion, whose treasure-trove of golden
tripods commemorates the citys military and athletic glories.
The heroines
function of choral integrationdancing the city into good orderaccounts for
the poets easy shift in address from daughters of Kadmos (l. 1) to children
of Harmonia (l. 7). By this I mean to highlight not just the shift from mortal
father (Kadmos) to immortal mother (Harmonia), but also to draw attention to the
musical resonance of their mothers name. At the same time, Pindar emphatically
arms their local and proprietary status in Thebes with the phrase c|
. , whether we translate it, with the scholiasts, as native, or,
as Farnell suggests, as legal possessors of the land.
In like manner, the closing exempla of Iolaos and the Dioskouroi insist on
the geographic specicity and community-building function of hero cult. The
fame (or grace of a good name) of Iolaos in Thebes and the Dioskouroi in
Sparta is maintained by the ongoing cult worship of their descendantsall the
109. Thus Kowalzig 2004: 5055.
110. For the cult locations of Thebes heroines, see the following: (1) Semele: Eur. Bacch.
13, 612, 597, SEG 19.379, Paus. 9.12.3, Schachter 1981.1: 18788; (2) Ino: Plut. Quaest. Rom.
16 (267d), Schachter 1986.2: 6264; (3) Alkmene: Pherekydes FGrH 3 F84, D.S. 4.58.6, Paus.
9.11.1, 9.16.7, Plut. Romulus 28 (35e), Schachter 1981.1: 1516; (4) Melia: Pindar P.11.111,
frr. 29.1, 51d, 52a.510, 52g, 52k.3439, 66, 94b, 94c SM, Schachter 1981.1: 7880. For the
civic, commemorative function of the tripods in the Ismenion, see Hdt. 5.5761, Paus. 9.10.4 with
discussion of Papalexandrou 2008. Unfortunately, I do not have the space here to consider the ways
in which Theban choreia also negotiates relations between Thebes and Boiotia (an issue implied
by Inos cult location at Chaironeia); for more on this topic, see Kowalzig 2007b: 35291, Kurke
111. Schol. ad P.11.12b Drachmann, glossing it as , or as proleptic for come to visit
the shrine (v cc). Otherwise: Farnell 1932.2: 226, citing a parallel usage in a Delphic
inscription; Finglass 2007: 8182, with adjoining pasture, so local.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 140
inhabitants of the land who are united, in turn, by their common descent from
these heroes. In Thebes, Iolaos shared a tomb with Amphitryon near the Kadmeia,
and, in Pausanias time, received worship in the stadiumoutside the Proitian Gates
(Paus. 9.23.1).
Pausanias (3.20.2) informs us that Kastor and Polydeukes had a
temple () within the Phoibaion at Therapnai, where the ephebes sacrice
to Enyalios. And in the poets closing account, choral performance plays an
important part in the worship of heroes and in the proper passage from epichoric
cult to Panhellenic reputation; thus it is being hymned (.o c, P.11.61)
that spreads abroad (c, P.11.60) the name of Iolaos.
The contrast between these proper forms of civic chorality rooted in place
and the grim tragic montage of the poems central mythic narrative could not
be more extreme. We should note rst that the myth of the House of Atreus
in Pindars rendering is all about destructive movements and displacements of
people: Klytemnestras conveying Trojan Kassandra to the shores of Acheron,
together with the soul of Agamemnon (1921); Iphigeneia slaughtered beside
the Euripos, far from her fatherland (2223); Agamemnons own fateful return
from Troy, burnt and destroyed over Helen (3134); and nally, the myth itself as
the poets own movement astray or wandering o course (3840). In the same
way, images of straightness surround the poems mini-Oresteia (o|
7 o, 910; ov c .c o |, 39), while the myth itself
is permeated with the language of trickery, error, and deviation: c (18),
(25), v (26).
If we read all this as Pindars meta-poetic commentary on the ritual and generic
features of epinikion vs. tragedy, we nd the following pattern of oppositions
between the poems rst two sections. The rst triad represents the epinikian
present of Thebes, with an emphasis on the intimate connections of cult and place;
the attendance and joyful commingling of local heroines, divinity (Apollo), and
the Theban populace to forge a kind of choral harmonia, whose product is ,
since Pindars chorus of heroines comes in order to sing. . .grace for seven-gated
Thebes and for the contest of Kirrha. . . (1012).
In contrast, the world of
tragedy represented in the poems dark central myth is, as I have noted, evacuated
of divinity with the exception of late Ares at its end (36).
And instead of
112. For Iolaos sharing the tomb of Amphitryon, see Pindar P.9.7983, and Schol. ad O.9.148d, l,
N.4.32 Drachmann; for cult worship of Iolaos in Thebes, see Pindar I.5.3233, Paus. 9.23.1. We
also have literary references to games, the Iolaeia, held in his honor, but these seem to be identical
toor part ofthe better-attested Herakleia (see Pindar O.9.9899, Schol. ad O.7.153e, P.9.156b,
I.1.79b, N.4.32 Drachmann; for dierent reconstructions of the relation of Herakleia and Iolaeia,
see Schachter 1981.1: 3031, 1986.2: 1718, 2527, 6465, Krummen 1990: 76).
113. For used to denote the activity of choral song and dance as a religious oering, cf.
114. For acknowledgment of the absence of divinities from Pindars myth, see scholars cited
in n.36 above. One might argue that this world evacuated of divinity is the necessary result of the
fact that Pindar narrates the substance of only the rst two plays of Aischylos trilogy, breaking
o after the climax of the Choephoroi and thereby eliding the salvic divine interventions of the
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 141
the civic and cosmic harmony forged via ritual and choreia in Thebes, there are
only the evil-speaking fellow citizens (28), a kind of discordant anti-chorus
attendant on Klytemnestras illicit bedding.
Finally, this is implicitly a world
entirely devoid of the of proper choral song and positive kin-relations that
gure in the radiant present of the rst and last triads (12, 58).
Within this context, Pindars emphatic location of the deaths of Agamem-
non and Kassandra at Amyklai in Lakedaimon comes to look like a polemical
correction of Aischylos siting of these events in Argos:
c .o j .
. . c .
` o ,
And so he died himself, the hero, son of Atreus, at glorious Amyklai,
when he came there in time, and he caused the death of the maiden
seer. . . .
In Homer, of course, Agamemnon is king of well-built Mykenai, but is also
said to rule over many islands and all Argos (Il. 2.108).
Several scholars
have recently proposed that, in spite of such explicit localizations in Homer, the
mythology of Agamemnon and the Pelopid dynasty developed rst in Lakonia.
In addition to a couple of hints of this in the Homeric poems, there is evidence
for a cult shrine of Agamemnon (apparently identied with Zeus) and Alexandra
(Kassandra) near Amyklai, described by Pausanias (3.19.6).
Excavations at the
site have yielded thousands of dedications ranging in date from the Geometric to
the Hellenistic period, most of them clustering in the seventh and sixth centuries
nci. Among these are numerous fragments of clay vessels, some inscribed for
third play. But in another sense, Pindar seems to be deliberately correcting or revising Aischylos
hints (which may be taken as transgressive or impious) of divine involvement in the earlier events
of the trilogy. In particular here, we might note the way in which the exact wording of P.11.33,
[Agamemnon] ` o , corrects Kassandras memorable and fearsome pun, in her
rst comprehensible utterance in Aischylos play: c. c,/ v7`. v c/
vc v . o (Ag. 108082).
115. For the pointed contrast between the divine beddings of the Theban heroines of the rst triad
and Klytemnestras adulterous bedding in the second triad, cf. Finley 1955: 16162, Newman 1979:
116. Somewhat paradoxically, given how obsessively resounds through Aischylos trilogy,
in a leitmotif of violence and perversion seeking healing and redemption (cf. |, Ag. 182;
, Cho. 4446; in all, forms of occur 28 times in the Oresteia).
117. Wathelet 1992, followed by Hall 1997: 90, argues that we must understand such Homeric
references to Argos as designating either the Argive Plain or the entire Peloponnese.
118. Thus Osborne 1996: 289, Hall 1997: 9093, Boedeker 1998: 16667.
119. Hints in Homer: (1) at Od. 4.51418, Agamemnon is said to encounter a storm o Cape
Malea in the southern Peloponnese; this is taken by Garvie 1986: xix, Hall 1997: 91, and Boedeker
1998: 167 to suggest that Agamemnon is actually making for Lakonia, rather than Mykenai/Argos;
(2) the seven cities Agamemnon oers to hand over to Achilles at Iliad 9.14953 are all located
between Lakonia and Messenia (as noted by Hall 1997: 92).
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 142
Agamemnon and andra (either Alexandra or Kassandra).
By contrast,
it seems that Agamemnon and his Pelopid genealogy are relative latecomers
to Argos and the Argive Plain. Thus M. L. West, in an argument based on the
dating of the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women, places their arrival in the Argolid
after 700 nci, while Jonathan Hall suggests that their introduction predates the
mid-seventh century based on archaeological evidence.
For my purposes, such deep historyWere the Pelopids originally based in
Lakonia? When exactly were they grafted on to mythic genealogies of the Argive
Plain?is less important than the general point that these gures of myth and
cult had long been objects of symbolic contest between Sparta and Argos, those
ancient contenders for hegemony in the Peloponnese, and certainly remained so
in the sixth and fth centuries. Thus a scholion to Euripides Orestes suggests that
the tradition of Agamemnon as king of Sparta was a robust one in poetic texts
of the sixth and fth centuries; the scholiast notes, it is clear that the scene of the
drama is laid in Argos. And Homer says the kingship of Agamemnon [was] in
Mykenai, but Stesichoros and Simonides [say] in Lakedaimon (Schol. ad Eur.
Or. 46, 1.102 Schw. = Stesichoros fr. 39/216 PMG).
Aischylos, of course, breaks with this older lyric tradition, transferring the
entire saga of the House of Atreus to Argos. We might set Aischylos transfer of
the legend within the context of fth-century developments in the Argolid. Thus
Barbara Kowalzig has recently argued, drawing together the literary, epigraphic,
and archaeological evidence:
Argos in the course of the fth century is embroiled in the dicult and
long-drawn-out process of an integrated synoikism and democratization
of the Argeia, not dissimilar to that of Athens and Attika in the late
sixth century. These changes were in part aimed at escaping Spartan
pressure, but just as much at developing the Argives own hegemonia in
the Peloponnese and to some extent, by implication, in Greece. Pausanias
comments in particular put the synoikisminto such a wider Peloponnesian
framework: the Argives had been in almost daily danger of being overrun
by Sparta, but then synoikized, incorporating the people of Tiryns, Hysiai,
Mykenai, Midea, and every other insignicant town in the Argolid. At
once Lakonian pressure decreased and the Argives were able to deal more
strongly with the provincials. The passage, told in connection with the
Arkadian League, smacks of a long history of successful federalism,
but it oers an important hint of Argos fth-century concerns, where
the synoikism, democracy, and Argos standing in the Peloponnese are
intimately linked.
120. See Christou 1956, 1960, 1961 for the archaeological nds; Wide 1893: 33338 for ancient
literary testimonia on the cults at Amyklai; and Hooker 1980: 6668 for summary discussion.
121. West 1985a: 15760, Hall 1997: 9293.
122. Kowalzig 2007b: 161.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 143
As part of this eort of synoikism, Argos throughout the 460s systematically
wiped out other cities of the Plain that might compete with herincluding
Mykenai, whose local mythology Argos was able to absorb together with her
In these terms, Aischylos relocation of the saga of the House of
Atreus to Argos does more than aetiologize a recent political alliance between
Athens and Argos through the newly rescued Orestes of the Eumenides (as noted
under section 2 above); it also supports the political program of a synoikizing
and democratizing Argos in its bid for Peloponnesian hegemony through the
appropriation of the Atreid kings.
Pindar, in contrast, by setting the murders of Agamemnon and Kassandra
specically at Amyklai (rather than just at Sparta, or in Lakonia) seems to want
to re-establish an intimate linkage of place between the mythic violence and its
compensating cult worship that Aischylos version conspicuously ruptures.
like manner, Pindar gives Orestes the ethnic Lakonian in the lines that introduce
the poems myth, with c emphatically placed as the last two
words of the rst triad (16). We know from Herodotos that Spartas reclaiming
of the bones of Orestes was an important gambit in her sixth-century conquest of
Tegea and expansion in the Peloponnese (Hdt. 1.6768).
Later in the Histories,
in the scene of the mainland Greeks appeal to Gelon shortly before Xerxes
invasion, Herodotos makes clear through the speech of the Spartan representative
Syagros that the royal inheritance of Agamemnon was still central to Spartas
claims to Peloponnesian hegemony in the fth century: Indeed, greatly would
the Pelopid Agamemnon groan were he to learn that the Spartiates were deprived
of the leadership [lit. hegemony] by Gelon and the Syracusans! (Hdt. 7.159). All
this suggests that a great deal was at stake politically in the competing Argive
and Spartan claims to these gures of myth and hero cult, endorsed and performed
in the competing choral forms of tragedy and epinikion.
But also at a meta-
123. For the Argive destruction of Mykenai in the 460s, see D.S. 11.65, Paus. 2.16.5, 8.33.2;
cf. Kowalzig 2007b: 164. For earlier discussions of fth-century developments in the Argolid, see
Forrest 1960 (on development of Argive democracy in the 460s), Lewis 1992: 106109, Hall 1997:
6777, and, for the importance of Argive democratization in relation to its alliance with Athens in
this period, see also Papazarkadas and Sourlas 2012.
124. Note in particular the phrase j . at P.11.31. j in Pindar, as in Homer, can
designate any gure of the Greek heroic age, but the term also frequently signies cult worship
(O.9.9, P.5.95, P.8.27, N.3.22, N.5.7, N.9.9, I.5.26, I.6.25, fr. 133.5 SM); here, after the mention of
cult . at line 7, is that resonance intended to summon up associations of the cult worship
of Agamemnon at Amyklai? Finglass 2007: 103 denies this, asserting that if Pindar had intended cult
resonance, he would have mentioned it explicitly (as at O.1.9093), but this seems over-literal.
125. For this peculiar episode of the repatriation of the bones of Orestes, see Boedeker 1998;
and for Orestes as king of Sparta, cf. Paus. 2.18.5. For more general treatments of the struggle
between Sparta and Argos fought out through the heroes of myth and cult, see Osborne 1996:
28790, Hall 1997: 89107, Kowalzig 2007b: 16180.
126. Cf. Hubbard 2010: 193, who notes Pindars transfer of the mythic setting back to Sparta and
likewise sets it in relation to the Athenian-Argive alliance of the early 460s and Aischylos allusions
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 144
level, Pindars emphatic localization of Orestes as Lakonian, and of the killing
of Agamemnon and Kassandra at Amyklai, resists Athenian/Argive strategies of
appropriation of these gures of myth and cult.
As one last example under this rubric, I oer one naleven more specula-
tiveinstance of possible contestation over the appropriation or deracination of
cults between Aischylos and Pindar: it is worth noting in this regard the intriguing
history attached to Aischylos treatment of the Oidipous story. I have argued that
Pindars mention of the crossroads need not be an allusion to a specic tragedy (as
opposed to tragedy in general), but even the few Aischylean lines we have (quoted
above, p. 117) may reveal contestation over a local Boiotian cult. For in fact we
owe the preservation of this Aischylean fragment describing the fateful crossroads
to a scholiast to Sophokles Oidipous Tyrannos, who quotes it to demonstrate that
Aischylos located the Split Road not in Phokis (as Sophokles did), but at the
Boiotian site of Potniai, which Pausanias (9.8.1) tells us was less than a mile
and a quarter south of Thebes.
Aischylos version thereby locates the site of
terrible pollution in Boiotia, and perhaps more signicantly, at a place named for
its cult of Demeter and Persephone (they are the Potniai, Mistresses).
By this
choice of location, Aischylos might be said to be profaning a Boiotian cult site
that commemorates the greatest (divine) parent-child intimacy by associating it
with the worst possible violence of child against parent.
127. Schol. ad OT line 733; for the Greek text of the scholion, see Aischylos fr. 173 N
, fr.
387a Radt. For the purposes of this argument, I take no position on the relative priority in the
tradition of Sophokles and Aischylos locations of the triodos; my minimal assumption is that there
were dierent possibilities, so that each poet had some freedom of choice in where he located the
crossroads. By the time of Pausanias, Sophokles version had clearly become the canonical account,
with monuments to prove it; cf. Rusten 1996: 101102. On the other hand, as Oliver Taplin points
out to me (per litteras), there are serious problems with Potniai as the site for the crossroads: unlike
all other versions which situate the encounter in a desolate wooded mountain region (whether in
southern Boiotia, western Boiotia, or Phokis) where logically the road would narrow, Potniai is a
level plain with plenty of room to pass somebody on the road, and practically within sight of the
walls of Thebes. These anomalies lead Taplin to suspect that Pausanias localization of Potniai is
wrong (since Pausanias is our only source for the location of this site). But there is another solution: I
am tempted to suggest that the siting of the fateful crossroads at Potniai is Aischylos innovation and
that he locates the triodos therein spite of the inappropriateness of the topographybecause he
has other (cult-related?) reasons for doing so.
128. For the grove and cult of Demeter and Persephone at Potniai, see Paus. 9.8.1. For the issue of
the pollution incurred by Oidipous killing of Laios and the signicance of place, cf. the remarkable
disquisition of Pausanias (10.5.34): All Greece must remember the suerings of Oidipous. When
he was born they pierced his ankles and abandoned him in the Plataian country on Mount Kithairon;
Corinth nursed him in the country of the isthmus; Phokis and the Split road were polluted by his
patricide ( c o | .c); Thebes is infamous for the legend of his
marriage and the wickedness of Eteokles. The Split road and the crime he committed there were
the beginning of Oidipous curses. . . (.| c oo j . o c` .j c
]. . ., trans. P. Levi). Notice that for Pausanias many places in Greece share the burden of pollution
for Oidipous crimes, but he recurs in his account to the Split road (which a little later he calls the
crossroads, o |) because it bears the greatest burden as arch e kak on.
129. Based on Aischylos reference, Edmunds 1981: 22729 posits a traditional cult triad of
Oidipous, the Erinyes, and Demeter at Potniai (comparable to the same cluster of cults at Kolonos
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 145
But there may be still more: the fact of a cult of Demeter and Persephone
at Potniai led August Nauck to connect our fragment with a tantalizing notice
in the Nikomachean Ethics, where Aristotle is cataloguing the possible forms of
involuntary or unknowing wrongdoing:
But a man may be ignorant of what he is doing, as for instance when
people say it slipped out while they were speaking, or they were not
aware that the matter was a secret, as Aischylos said of the Mysteries. . .
(c . v ).
NE 3.2, 1111a810
A scholiast to this passage elaborates on Aristotles brief reference:
. v . c c . .
| . c j . | . .|. c
v 7 . ( c c c
v c.
Anon. in Arist. NE 3.2, 1111a8 ed. Heylbut,
CAG 20, 145, 23 = Aischylos Test. 93b Radt
For Aischylos seems to say some mystic things in the Toxotai and the
Hiereiai and in Sisyphos Petrokulist es and in Iphigeneia and in Oidipous.
For in all these, speaking about Demeter, he seems to fasten onto the
mysteries in an excessively meddlesome way.
Nauck postulated a connection between the cult at Potniai and the scholiasts
mention of Oidipous as one of the plays in which Aischylos revealed forbidden
mystic material; this was one of his reasons for assigning this fragment without
hesitation to the Oidipous.
On this theory, Aischylos may have oered in his
Oidipous a more extended description of the place and its Thesmophoria, in a form
that was felt to give too much away. Particularly intriguing in this respect is the
scholiasts use of the word (lit., in an excessively meddlesome
way), for the term suggests a kind of generic/cultic version of the characteristic
Athenian trait of polupragmosun e for Aischylean tragedy. If Naucks theory is
right, this would represent a remarkable instance of the profanation and appropri-
ation of local Boiotian cult by Attic tragedy (not to mention a cause cele`bre that
might motivate the enduring remembrance of Aischylos play in Thebes more
than a dozen years after its original performance in the theater of Dionysos).
Given the extremely fragmentary state of our evidence, this can be no more than
speculation. Nonetheless, in a context of contestation over the locality of mythic
in Attica). But this seems to conate or collapse the site of Oidipous burial with the site of the
murder of Laiossurely these two should be kept separate?
130. Cf. Ais. Test. 93a-d, 94 Radt for the tradition of Aischylos prosecution on a charge of
revealing the mysteries.
131. Thus Nauck 1889: 57 (ad Ais. fr. 173); cf. Hutchinson 1985: xx.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 146
narrative, aetiology, and cult between Thebes and Athens, the hints of ancient
scandal around Aischylos fragment are tantalizing indeed.
Finally, it might be objected that this reading of cultic and generic contestation
between the Oresteia and Pythian 11 seems to be unparalleled; for such a con-
testatory dialogue to be plausible, one would like to have other examples. Indeed,
although the full preservation of the Oresteia and the eleventh Pythian oers us an
exceptional opportunity to explore such contestatory ritual poetics at a particular
moment in Athens and in Thebes, I suspect that there are other examples lurking
in other Pindaric poems or groups of poems. Thus, one might note here a possible
moment of cult skirmishing over the rites of Demeter and Persephone going
in the other direction, this time embedded in a fragmentary Pindaric composition.
Peter Wilson has suggested that we might detect hints of the Theban appropriation
of specically Attic ritual and choral forms in Pindars Second Dithyramb for the
Thebans (frr. 70b + 346b SM). If we follow Hugh Lloyd-Jones and Salvator
Lavecchia in attaching the slightly revised text of fr. 346b SM to the Dithyramb
on metrical grounds, and we adopt Armand dAngours reconstruction of fr. 70b,
lines 45 as referring to cyclic dithyramb, we then get a poem commissioned
by and performed in Thebes that narrates Herakles transferral of the Eleusinian
Mysteries to Thebes and links it with the performance of dithyramb by kuklioi
In Wilsons formulation:
For dAngours compelling reading in lines 45 sees the chorus sing of
how now the young men have been spread out in well-centred circles
(the term commonly used for the dithyrambic chorus in fth-
century Athens and elsewhere). A dithyrambic chorus of Thebans, whose
song tells of the importation of the Eleusinian cult from Attica to Thebes,
may thus have opened that same song with a proud declaration of the
novelty of the kyklios khorosin a Theban milieu. Was this a direct
competitive riposte to the recent appearancein the city that had stolen
Eleuthereusof massive new circular khoral performances devoted to
132. Lobel (P.Oxy. XXXII 2622, p. 63) had already suggested connecting fr. 346 with the
text of this dithyramb; for the textual and metrical arguments that make this join more secure, see
Lloyd-Jones 1967; Lavecchia 1994, 1996, 2000: 106108. But see now Vannini 2007: 6669, who
challenges the joining of these two fragments, and DAlessio 2007: 7980, who considers it still an
open question. For the proposed supplement c[[[ c ` .[ [ [|
at fr. 70b, ll. 45, see dAngour 1997: 34346.
133. Wilson 2002 (italics in original); cf. Wilson 2003: 17579 for a fuller formulation of this
same argument. Another, somewhat less temporally specic, but still rich and suggestive case might
be the tussle of Athens and Aigina over the cults of Aiakos and Ajax, as we see it played out in
Sophokles Ajax, several of Pindars epinikia for Aiginetan victors, Nemean 2, Paian 6, and Paian 15
(almost certainly an Aiginetan Prosodion for Aiakos). Relevant here also is the Aiakeion built in the
Athenian Agora (recently convincingly identied and discussed in detail by Stroud 1998: 85108),
as competition for the Aiginetan Aiakeion, which Paus. 2.29.6 tells us was located in the most
conspicuous place in the city of Aigina. For other examples of cult skirmishing between Athens
and Aigina preserved in the literary and archaeological record, see Athanassaki 2011, Watson 2011.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 147
Here Wilson also alludes briey to what may be Athens single most consequential
appropriation (theft?) of local Boiotian cultthat of Dionysos Eleuthereus (and it
is this phenomenon with which I would like to conclude). Forfamouslythe
Athenian City Dionysia, with its lavish program of dithyrambic, tragic, and comic
competitions, was celebrated in honor of Dionysos Eleuthereus, whose cult was
closely connected with the theater on the south slope of the Akropolis. Pausanias
and other sources preserve elements of a mythologized aetiology for the festival in
a Dionysiac resistance myth, according to which Pegasos of Eleutherai brought
the image of Dionysos, together with his cult, to Athens before or during the
reign of king Amphiktyon (ca. 800 nci). When the Athenians rejected the cult,
the men were aicted with an (ithyphallic) disease of the genitals until, at the
behest of the Delphic oracle, they honored Dionysos with cult and phalloi carried
in procession.
Yet, in spite of this mythologized aetiology, there are clear indications that
both the cult of Dionysos Eleuthereus and the City Dionysia in his honor were
relatively recent institutions, probably dating from some time in the second half
of the sixth century nci. Thus Thoukydides (2.15.5) implies that Dionysos of the
Marshes was the older cult, while the fact that the eponymous Archon rather
than the Archon Basileus presided over the City Dionysia suggests that it was
a late addition to the festival calendar.
Because of these indications of recent
foundation, most modern scholars date the institution (or major re-organization)
of the City Dionysia to the period of Peisistratid tyranny and assume that the
resistance myth developed in the archaic period to aetiologize and give an ancient
pedigree to the cult.
More signicantly for our purposes, most scholars link the institution of this
Athenian cult with the territorial annexation of the Boiotian site of Eleutherai.
According to Pausanias (1.38.8):
For those turning from Eleusis toward the Boiotians, the border for the
Athenians is at Plataia. For formerly, the border toward Attica was at
Eleutherai. But since these [people of Eleutherai] came over to the Athe-
nians, thus now Kithairon forms the border of Boiotia. And the peo-
ple of Eleutherai came over not because they were forced to by war,
but desiring a share of citizenship from the Athenians and in hatred
of the Thebans. In this plain is a temple of Dionysos, and the ancient
134. See Schol. ad Ar. Acharnians 243; cf. Paus. 1.2.5. Connor 1989: 9n.8 also connects the
mythological traditions of Dionysos Melanaigis, citing Suda s.v. c (mu 451). Cf. Seaford 1994:
245, Wilson 2003: 189n.63, connecting the stories of combat between Melanthos and Xanthos.
135. For the authority of the eponymous Archon over the festival, see [Arist.] Ath.Pol. 56.35.
For the relatively recent institution of cult and festival in the second half of the sixth century, see
Deubner 1966: 139, Parke 1977: 12526, Pickard-Cambridge 1988: 58, Csapo and Slater 1994:
104105, 110, Parker 1996: 9293.
136. For the Peisistratid dating, see scholars listed above, n.135; for the resistance myth aetiology
as an invention of the archaic period, see Parke 1977: 126, Connor 1989: 9, Csapo and Slater 1994:
104105, 110.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 148
image (o . . .o v.) was conveyed from there to Athens.
But the cult statue in Eleutherai in our time was made in imitation of
that one.
The majority of modern scholars have taken Pausanias statements to imply a
causal connection between the annexation of the border town of Eleutherai and
the classical form of the cult of the god.
In relation to this, we might note a
strange doubling of ritual at the City Dionysia between the Eisag og e, or leading-
in of Dionysos, and the ritual pomp e. In the former, which was not part of the
festival proper, the image of Dionysos Eleuthereus was transported fromits temple
near the theater to a small shrine outside the walls in the Academy (on the road
to Eleutherai; Paus. 1.29.2). Then, after sacrices performed there, the image was
escorted back to the theater in a night-time procession with torches.
The latter,
the festival pomp e, represented the beginning of the Dionysia proper, a grand
daylight procession with sacrices that involved participants from the whole
It is noteworthy that only the pomp e is an element of the (presumably
older) rural Dionysia. The Eisag og e, which seems to reenact in curtailed form the
bringing in of the god from Eleutherai, thus seems like a later element grafted
onto the traditional format of Dionysiac festival.
Finally, in contrast to most scholars who assume a Peisistratid date for the
annexation of Eleutherai and the resulting (re)-organization of the festival, W. R.
Connor has argued forcefully that we should conceive of the City Dionysia as
a festival of liberation instituted after the ousting of the tyrants (510 nci) and
the reforms of Kleisthenes (508/7 nci). Indeed, he suggests that a date after
the Athenians 506 defeat of the Boiotians (recounted in Hdt. 5.77) would be
137. Thus (e.g.) Parke 1977: 12526, Connor 1989: 911, Wilson 2003: 178. A few modern
scholars disassociate the territorial annexation of Eleutherai from the moment of the introduction
of the cult of Dionysos Eleuthereus into Athens: thus Pickard-Cambridge 1988: 5758 (denying
any political element), Sourvinou-Inwood 1994: 27375, 2003: 101104 (arguing from a standard
typology of festivals linking center and periphery), followed by Parker 1996: 9395. To Sourvinou-
Inwoods arguments, Parker (1996: 94) adds, It would in fact have been a uniquely graceless
response on the part of the Athenians to carry o their new dependents most precious relic to
Athens. Against this objection, I would follow Wilson 2003: 189n.63 in reading Paus. 1.38.8 as a
pro-Athenian aetiology. That is to say, Pausanias does not necessarily preserve an accurate account
of the level of voluntariness and lack of force that accompanied the coming over of Eleutherai
to Athens. Perhaps the Athenians graceless appropriation of the cult image was precisely the
point, at least from the Theban/Boiotian side.
138. On the Eisag og e, see Deubner 1966: 13941, Parke 1977: 12627, Csapo and Slater 1994:
104105, 11011 (with collection of sources).
139. On the pomp e, see Csapo and Slater 1994: 104106, 11315 (with collection of sources).
140. For this anomalous doubling of elements in the festival (unparalleled in the older rural
Dionysia), see Parke 1977: 12627, Csapo and Slater 1994: 104, Parker 1996: 92. As Csapo and
Slater note, The urban festival had two sacricial processions for the god. . .each slightly dierent
in character, and the doubling is perhaps a vestige of the operation that grafted the new civic and
secular festival upon the old religious cult.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 149
the most likely period for Athens aggressive encroachment on the territory of
Boiotia through the annexation of Eleutherai.
I nd Connors argument appealing and persuasivewith its suggestion of
aetiological play between the name of Eleutherai and the Athenians new-won
freedom, as of Dionysos as a god of (political) liberation. But in fact it is largely
irrelevant for my argument whether we date the annexation of Eleutherai and the
takeover of its cult image of Dionysos to the Peisistratid era or to the edgling
democracy at the very end of the sixth century. For in either case, this represented
the appropriation of a local Boiotian cult which then became central not just to
the Athenian festival calendar, but to the production of dithyramb, tragedy, and
comedy in Athens throughout the classical era. Indeed, we might see this as the
founding moment or primal scene of Athenian cultic imperialism via tragedy
which Barbara Kowalzig has traced for a later period.
From a Theban/Boiotian
perspective, this may well have been perceived as a theft of the Theban-born
god Dionysos to subtend and support the new, appropriative genre of Athenian
tragedy. Against such a background, Pindars riposte to tragedy in Pythian 11
comes to look like one more move within an ongoing contestation of choral and
ritual forms between Thebes and Athens in the rst half of the fth century.
141. As part of this argument, Connor 1989: 2632 eectively demolishes the supplement [c[
[] that had been traditionally accepted by scholars in line A 43 of the Marmor Parium (FGrH
239); see also West 1989 for skepticism about the traditional dates preserved for the earliest tragic
playwrights. These two contributions together make the start date for tragic competitions at the City
Dionysia much more uncertain.
142. Kowalzig 2006.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 150
Traditionally, scholars have acknowledged that the scholia to Pythian 11
oer us two possible dates, and have opted for one or the other date based on their
interpretation of the somewhat obscure and elliptical data presented in the poem
itself; its possible intertextual relation to the Oresteia; and (sometimes) its relation
to historical context. This has led to a majority position that dates the poem to
474, while a substantial minority of Pindaric scholars prefer the later date.
it has recently been asserted that the only date that the poem accommodates is
474 nci.
It therefore seems necessary to review the arguments on which this
claim is based. I acknowledge that, all other things being equal, the 474 date
provides a simpler, more elegant way to integrate the evidence of the poem and
the scholiabut of course, all other things are not equal. My goal here is therefore
simply to demonstrate that all the data can be reconciled with the later date (454)
as well as the earlier (474). For that purpose, I will review the evidence of the
scholia and the poem; demonstrate the weakness of the scholarly arguments that
have been advanced to claim that the internal evidence of the poem can only
support a date of 474; and nally oer other possible scenarios that allow us to
reconcile the internal evidence of the poem and the (rather confused) scholia with
the later dating of 454 nci, which I have argued above is preferable on intertextual
and historical grounds.
. 1ni scnoii
Inscr.A (2: 254 Drachmann): c cj | . (-
( (474), . ' (454) | j .
The ode was written for Thrasydaios, boy victor at the 28th Pythiad
(474), and at the 33rd Pythiad (454) [having beaten] the men in diaulos or
Inscr.B (2: 254 Drachmann): | | .:
c c cj c c ( j ' (454)
. . . j c | . v` . j
Alternatively: For Thrasydaios of Thebes in the stadion. The ode was
written for the aforementioned having won in the 33rd Pythiad (454) in
143. See n.2 above for list of scholars ranged on each side.
144. Thus Finglass 2007: 111, following von der Muhll 1958: 14244.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 151
the diaulos. But he [Pindar] writes not for the diaulos victory, but for
the stadion victory.
These are the Greek texts of the scholia as transmitted in the older mss. There
was clearly confusion and disagreement among the ancient scholars whose notes
formed our scholiaboth about the poems date and the victors event. So notice
the initial disagreement between Inscr.A and Inscr.B about whether the victory
the poem commemorates was 474 or 454.
Second, notice that in Inscr.A, there
is no specication of the victors event in 474, while both A and B suggest some
uncertainty about the event in 454. We may assume that this latter uncertainty is
the result of the ancient scholars noticing that there was (apparently) no mention
of the diaulos in the poem and so simply inserting stadion as another possibility
in A, but this is only one alternative.
The obvious confusion and diculties of
our scholia might equally be explained by some kind of confusion, corruption, or
incompleteness in the Pythian victor list that was available to them. Presumably,
the Pythian victor list clearly recorded a Theban Thrasydaios as victor as a boy in
474 and as a man in 454, but there seems to have been less clarity about the event
in each case. Again, the neatest solution is simply to say that it was a boys stade
victory in 474 and a mens diaulos victory in 454 (and this may well be); my point
is simply that there may be other explanations for the kind of mess we nd in
the scholia. In any case, the scholia give us two competing dates, and therefore
cannot be used to resolve the date of the poem. We must therefore focus on the
internal evidence of Pythian 11 itself.
145. To add to the confusion (as Farnell 1932.2: 221 and von der Muhll 1958: 141n.2 note), other
comments in the scholia to lines 21 and 71, respectively, seem to suggest that (some) scholiasts knew
of only a single victory of Thrasydaios.
146. Thus Schroeder 1900: 67, followed by von der Muhll 1958: 143n.8 and Finglass 2007: 9.
147. This is already articulated as an essential principle of interpretation by von der Muhll
1958: 142, followed by Finglass 2007: 15. Unfortunately Finglass (2007: 511) also attempts to
clean up the confusion of the scholia by multiple manipulations of Inscr.A and B. Finglass proposed
emendations and other manipulations of the scholia produce complete clarity and coherence between
A and B, and make the conclusion that the victory was 474 completely inevitable, but this perfect
coherence itself presents a problem. If everything was so clear at the time of the scholia, why would
anybody have thought that the victory could be 454? Finglass (2007: 1011) acknowledges this
problem, but the only solution he can oer is that the scholia wanted the poem to be post-Oresteia,
because they (like many modern scholars) believed that Aischylos trilogy had inuenced Pindars
poem. But nowhere in the scholia is there any mention of the Oresteia, or the relation of P.11 to
it (although the scholia in general are not shy about noting what they regard as references to or
borrowings from earlier writers; see, e.g., Schol. ad O.9.70d, N.10.114a, I.8.57b Drachmann). So
this explanation of Finglass is implausible (cf. DAlessio 2010: 2), and his doctored text of the
scholia ultimately too neat and consistent.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 152
n. i1ini ivioici oi 1ni roim
Patrick Finglass has recently revived the argument of Peter von der Muhll
(1958), asserting that the internal evidence of Pythian 11 itself necessitates a date
of 474, based on two conclusions:
(1) The victor Thrasydaios must be a boy, because of the prominence of the
victors father throughout the poem, and especially the fact that he is mentioned
every time the victor himself is referred to.
(2) The reference to the current Pythian victory at P.11.4950 is clearly to a stade
race, and cannot accommodate the possibility of a diaulos victory.
It should be emphasized at the outset (as Finglass [2007: 10] himself acknowl-
edges) that Pythian 11 nowhere states explicitly that Thrasydaios won in the boys
competition, nor that the event was the stadion and not the diaulos. Still, Finglass
contends that careful attention to the text and to Pindars general usage makes
these conclusions inevitable. I disagree with both claims, and would contend that
Pindars usage in other odes could equally support the opposite conclusions: that
Thrasydaios won in the mens category, and that the victory the poem celebrates
was in the diaulos. I will review the evidence for each of these two conclusions
in turn.
(1) Victor must be a boy. Finglass claims that the prominent mention of the father
in Pythian 11 means that the victor must be a boy. The problem here is that this
simply does not conform to epinikian usage. Thomas K. Hubbard has already
criticized Finglass argument on this point:
Only one passage (P.11.4144) names the father, and although it does
suggest that the father is the one who commissioned the poem, it is
quite possible that he would still be alive and the head of the family
when Thrasydaeus was in his mid-thirties. We nd similar passages
asserting that a sons victory credits his father in numerous odes for adult
victors (O.5.8, O.7.1719, [O.14.2122], N.11.11, I.1.3440, [I.8.14]);
the father looms even larger as a gure in Pindars two odes for the adult
Thrasybulus (P.6, I.2).
148. Thus also van Groningen 1931 and Most 1985: 23 (the latter in the service of a dierent
149. Hubbard 2009: 511; cf. Hubbard 2010: 191n.20. Within Hubbards text, I have placed
square brackets around the two poems Pfeijer (1998) adds to the categories of boys/adolescents
(O.14, I.8); I have not included these two examples in my nal count of odes for adult victors that
prominently feature the father. It should also be noted with respect to P.6 and I.2 that Hubbards
phraseology is slightly misleading, since in both cases, Thrasyboulos father Xenokrates is the actual
victor. Nonetheless, the point holds that, as far as we can tell, Thrasyboulos was an adult at the time
of both poems, who gures prominently, closely linked to his father, in the poets praise.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 153
To Hubbards list of passages, I would add:
O.13.3542: The father gures prominently in a victory catalogue together with
his adult son.
N.2.610: Further, more prestigious victories are expected for the adult victor
Timodemos, as long as he follows along the |. . .o (the road laid out
for him by his ancestors). Here the phrase |. . .o appears even before
the victor is named.
N.8.1416, 4448: Although the victor Deinias is an adult, both father and son
are named together in the Naming Complex; only the father is named after the
Thus if we take in aggregate Hubbards valid counter-examples and the ones
I have added, we get a total of nine poems for adult victors that prominently
feature the victors father in precisely the ways Finglass claims are distinc-
tive for odes for boys and adolescents, based on a valid sample set of eleven
Pindaric odes. But this is not just a matter of numbers and statistics. At is-
sue is the ideology that informs all Pindaric epinikia (which I have already
touched on in my main argument): insofar as Pindaric epinikion grounds it-
self in the concept of or o c as an essential element in the vic-
tory, the victors relation to his father and other ancestors is always a rele-
vant theme in the odes, and can hardly be said to be limited to poems for
boy victors.
Another, more concrete way of approaching the same issue is
to say that we must conceive the house of the victor (rather than the vic-
tor as an individual) to be the focus and the commissioning agent through-
out the epinikian corpus.
At a more specic level, the striking parallels be-
tween Pythian 11 and Nemean 8 (the last counter-example listed above) in
their linkage of father and son are also signicant and worth noticing. Based
on the specic patterns of naming and the linkage of father and son, Richard
Hamilton long ago suggested that both Pythian 11 and Nemean 8 -might be
poems commissioned for father and son groups; Inscr.A (3: 140 Drach-
mann) for Nemean 8 actually supports this thesis, and Hamilton suggested
that the fact that Pythian 11 was commissioned for father and son together
might account for the confusion in the scholia to this ode (a point to which
Ill return).
150. On this theme and its ideological signicance, see Rose 1974.
151. See Kurke 1991: 582 for extended argument.
152. Hamilton 1974: 104105 (quote from p. 104). Hamilton includes O.7 and I.8 as other
potential members of the category of odes commissioned for a father-son group (O.7 certainly for an
adult victor, I.8 probably for an ageneios; cf. Pfeijer 1998: 2930).
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 154
(2) Pindars language at P.11.4950 clearly and unequivocally species the
Pythian stade race as Thrasydaios event; therefore the poem must date to 474.
In the rst place, I would contend that the scholia reect enough confusion that
we cannot be absolutely sure that the 454 win attributed to Thrasydaios was in the
diaulos, not the stade (see the discussion of scholia in [A] above). But even if we
accept that the 454 victory was in the diaulos, I still have doubts about this claim,
based on the internal evidence of the poem and Pindars practice elsewhere. The
specic lines read:
. o c. (
| v
And at Pytho, having entered for the bare course, they put to shame the
Hellenic throng with their swiftness.
Why does Pindar include the adjective here, since by itself is
entirely adequate to indicate the event?
In fact, if one looks at Pindars sole
other use of modifying stadion (I.1.23), the adjective occurs only where
it is needed to distinguish the naked races from the race in armor. But to what
does Pindar need to contrast the stadion in this context in Pythian 11? Here I
would resort to the suggestions of two older commentators, B. L. Gildersleeve
and L. R. Farnell. Gildersleeve notes ad loc., o c. : The bare
course, usually opposed to the o| , as I.1, 23. Here the course,
where the runner has nothing to help him; opp. to c v. ` ..
Thus for Gildersleeve, there is a meaningful contrast supplied by to the
preceding mention of (the familys/the fathers[?]) hippic victories.
oers an alternative suggestion:
153. Finglass (2007: 116) in his note on this word refers the reader to general scholarly treatments
of nudity in Greek athletics. But Pindar does not need to tell his Greek audience that runners competed
nude, nor does he normally include such banal information; on Finglass reading, this is an entirely
vacuous epithet.
154. Gildersleeve 1890: 362.
155. And, although Gildersleeve does not draw this out, we might note that this contrast has
signicant implications for the larger ideological message of P.11. For Pindars language implicitly
praises a certain humility in the victor (and his father?) if, coming from a family that had the
wherewithal to race chariots, they willingly submitted themselves to competition in running events.
(For a remarkably frank treatment of the ideological dierences between these two categories of
events, cf. Isok. 16.33, where Alkibiades son says of the elder Alkibiades that although in natural
gifts and in strength of body he was inferior to none, he disdained the gymnastic contests [`
vc], for he knew that some of the athletes were of low birth, inhabitants of petty states, and
of mean education, but turned to the breeding of race-horses, which is possible only for the most
blest by Fortune and not to be pursued by one of low estate [trans. L. van Hook 1986]. Cf. also
[Xen.] Ath.Pol. 1.13, asserting that the Athenian demos forces the rich, via choregiai, to pay them
for singing and running and dancing and sailing in the ships, in order that the demos itself have
[money], and the rich become poorer. The mention of running here, inserted in the middle of the
conventional dyad [festival] singing and dancing is intriguing; does it suggest that the only athletic
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. . . we are not sure that Pindar could not use o of any
foot-race, when he was writing vaguely, that is, of any race where the
runners ran naked on the stadion, as distinct from the race in full armour;
as we nd in I. i. 23 . | contrasted with the hoplite race,
without any reference to the distinction of single course and double.
In fact, I would be inclined to combine the two axes of dierentiation suggested by
Gildersleeve and Farnell. For what Farnell does not note about I.1 is that .
| actually forms the pivot in Pindars catalogue of the ancient victories
of Kastor and Iolaos between their chariot victories (referred to in I.1.1722)
and hoplitodromos, javelin, and discus events (I.1.2325). As such, we might
understand . | to designate generically all naked running events
stadion, diaulos, and dolichoscontrasted to both horse-racing and the race in
Finglass, however, rejects Farnells suggestion on the grounds that Pindars
usage elsewhere is clear, so there is no reason to believe that he could use
in this kind of vague or generic expression. Thus, says Finglass (2007: 12),
Pindar names the diaulos specically at O.13.37 and feels the need to qualify
| with the adjective c to designate the victor Deinias diaulos event
at N.8.16. But in fact, while Pindars references to running events are generally
clear and unambiguous,
Nemean 8 looks decidedly oddin ways that oer
a signicant parallel for the ambiguity or vagueness of Pythian 11. It is worth
noting that Finglass quotes the c | of the victor Deinias out of its full
context; in the ode, the ego says he has come as a suppliant to Aiakos, bearing a
sounding, variegated Lydian headband as | c | . o
c . (a Nemean ornament of the twin [or double?] stade
races of Deinias and his father Megas, N.8.16). The inclusion of the father in
the Nemean ornament the poet oers complicates matters. As Farnell noted,
surely Pindar could not have included the father in this way, unless Megas himself
was also a Nemean running victor.
And indeed, this notion of running victories
for both father and son is conrmed by Pindars assertion near the end of the
poem that it is easy to set up a stone of the Muses for the sake of the feet of
event the demos can engage in successfully is running?) This humble submission in pursuit of
athletic victory is relevant for the generalized rst-person statements of P.11.5058, for it enables
and supports Pindars ideological posture that the victor and his family embrace a middling
position within the city (v c, 52), even though they clearly have the enormous wealth required
for hippotrophia. Note especially the dictional contrast between the - of (49) and .
cc (55), which opposes the humble submission of competition with the elevation of
156. Farnell 1932.2: 222.
157. Thus, of the seven odes that celebrate running victories (O.12, O.13, O.14, P.9, P.10, P.11,
N.8), three are clear and unambiguous about the event (O.13, P.9, P.10), while two short poems
(probably composed for performance on the spot), O.12 and O.14, do not specify the event. This
leaves two poemsPythian 11 and Nemean 8which I argue have signicant similarities and are
both deliberately ambiguous about the specic event.
158. Farnell 1932.2: 303304.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 156
two, twice glorious (c c . . j ., 4748). But what
are the events? Our standard texts of Pindar condently label this poem as for
a diaulos victory, based on the gloss oered by the scholiasts to c |:
c c |. o (3: 142 Drachmann, ad N.8.26).
again, things are not so simple; the scholiasts inscription to this poem reads (3:
140 Drachmann):
c| . . o | . o c .
c o | | c | . o ...
c c. . o |. j v| o c .c c
. | v.
Some say that both Deinias himself and his father were stade runners,
and that looking to this Pindar said, twin stade races of Deinias and his
father. But Didymos says that the fact that neither of them was recorded
in the [list of] Nemean victors furnishes aporia.
This inscription gives us two important pieces of information: (1) by the time
of Didymos at least, there was no reliable information about the victor and his
father in victor lists, so the ancient scholars had nothing more to go on than the
poem itself; and (2) in this situation, some ancient scholars understood c
| to mean that both father and son had won victories in the stade race.
In fact, Pindars c |, hovering between father and son, is perfectly
ambiguous. It makes possible any one of four dierent interpretations: both father
and son won Nemean stade victories; both father and son won Nemean diaulos
victories; one won stade, one won diaulos, in either combination. Nor does .
j . late in the poem disambiguate this at all. Thus several modern scholars
follow the inscription to Nemean 8 and assume that Deinias victory was in the
stade race, or they acknowledge uncertainty about what the specic running event
I would contend that the ambiguity in Nemean 8 is precisely the pointthat it
is carefully calibrated by the poet to cover a situation in which he has to celebrate
simultaneously two (possibly dierent) running events of father and son.
this is where the ambiguity of Nemean 8 becomes relevant for Pythian 11. Recall
Hamiltons suggestion (noted above) that both these poems were commissioned
to celebrate father-son dyads. I suggest that modifying at P.11.49
injects just enough ambiguity into this phrase to cover two separate running
eventsstade and diauloswhether these are two victories, twenty years apart,
159. Thus the title in the Teubner edition of Snell-Maehler and in Bowras OCT.
160. For Deinias event as stade, see the titles in Bury 1890: 145, 150, and in Turyns edition, and
cf. Cole 1987: 558 (assuming that both father and son won in the stade). For acknowledgement of
uncertainty, see Slater 1969, s.v. (after quoting Schol. ad loc., Slater notes, but perhaps a ref.
to two victories is intended).
161. Cole 1987: 558 talks about a dierent kind of ambiguity here, but his larger argument is
a salutary reminder that Pindars goal is not always clarity or precision.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 157
by a single victor or, perhaps, two running victories earned by father and son
(i.e., precisely the same scenario as Nemean 8). This is why Farnells argument
appeals, and Finglass has not eectively refuted it by citing the example of c
c. rossinii scinios
Which brings me (nally) to possible scenarios that can accommodate the
internal evidence of the poem and the (rather confused) notices in our scholia.
(1) It is worth at least considering a suggestion of Bowras that seems to
have been almost entirely ignored by other scholars. Bowra raised the possibility
that Thrasydaios fathers name was actually Thrasydaios, and that the father
Thrasydaios won the 474 victory (boys stade [?]), while the son Thrasydaios won
the 454 victory (mens diaulos [?]).
The timing is tight here, but not impossible.
Thrasydaios the elder would have had to compete at the high end of the boys
category (at 1718), and father a son more or less the same year. Twenty years
later, his son Thrasydaios would have been 19 and, for whatever reasons (size;
growth of beard), he qualied to compete in the mens competition. In support
of this interpretation, Bowra adds the suggestion that at l. 43 is not
the fathers name, but simply an adjective meaning Pythian victor, modifying
|. This is in fact how all modern scholars understood /
before Bergk.
Bergk argued that by convention, Pindar always provides the
name of the father in odes for boy victors, so this must be Pythonikos.
following Bowras interpretation, we might suggest that Pindar alludes to the
162. I confess that I feel some temptation to interpret c| + acc. with the verb | as
specifying place to which; the meaning would then be, having gone down to the bare/exposed
stadium, they put to shame the Hellenic throng with their swiftness. here would then refer to
the stadium itself being bare of trees and exposed; cf. O.3.24. I resist this temptation because
this interpretation seems to go against Pindaric usage in two respects (although it does give real force
to ): (1) Pindar apparently never uses for the place, only for the race. Cf. Barrett,
quoted in Maehler 1982.2: 185, in epinician poetry seems always to be the race (or track
length) and never the track. (2) there are several other Pindaric exx. of a verb of motion + c|
+ acc. where c| species purposeO.1.4445, N.10.49, P.4.178 (with Braswell 1988: 25859). For
exactly the same construction with | + c| + acc. indicating the purpose/event, cf. Hdt.
5.22 (not noted by Braswell).
163. Bowra 1964: 403404.
164. The mss at P.11.43 actually read |(); Triclinius emended to | to heal the
meter, and he has been followed by most modern editors. Older scholars asserted or implied that
only was attested as a name, whereas the adjective had to be (thus, e.g., van
Groningen 1931). As far as I can tell, neither of these claims is correct: (1) Finglass (2007: 114) cites
LGPN for both forms showing up as proper names. (2) Admittedly, - is Pindars preferred
form in compound adjectives, but we have only three examples total (P.6.5, P.8.5, P.9.1). Presumably
there is a slight dierence in meaning between the two compounds: thus Pythonikos should mean
victorious at Pytho, while Pythionikos should mean winning the Pythian games. A glance at LSJ
suggests frequent shifting and switching between - and - in compounds.
165. Bergk 1843. In fact, even here, there are exceptions: O.8 and N.6, both for boy victors, seem
not to name the victors father. It is much more common in odes for adult victors for the father not
to be named: thus O.1, O.4, O.9, P.3, P.7, P.12, I.3, I.4 (on this phenomenon, see Hamilton 1974: 15).
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 158
fathers name by artful periphrasis when he rst names the victor himself. Here,
the poet says that Apollo summons the Theban heroines to sing holy right, and
Pytho, and the navel of the earth, straight in justice, together with the edge of
evening, as a grace for seven-gated Thebes and the contest of Kirrha (P.11.912),
c c 7 c c|
| c c c c.
c v. v
c c c.
In which Thrasydaios made men remember his paternal hearth by casting
a third crown upon it, winning in the rich elds of Pylades, host of
Lakonian Orestes.
If Thrasydaios father was also a Thrasydaios who won a Pythian running victory,
Pindars 7 c c|. . .c is particularly resonant. The
same might be said of the general condition articulated late in the ode, to
characterize the man who has reached the height, but dwelling in peace and quiet,
has escaped dread hubris: he would go to a better end of black death, granting to
his sweetest ospring the grace of a good name as best of possessions (.c
| , P.11.5658). Again, this generalized statement gains
particular point applied to the case of the victor, if the good name the father
leaves behind is Thrasydaios.
Finally, how on Bowras hypothesis do we square the three victories the poet
mentions in ll. 1314 with the victory catalogue of ll. 4650?
v c c v |
| ` vc
c v v. ` ..
. o c. (
| v
In the rst place, victorious with chariots of old, and at Olympia they
captured swift radiance from much-spoken-about contests together with
166. Admittedly, both these passages also gain extra punch if we assume that the victors fathers
name was Pythonikos (victor at Pytho), so these arguments cannot be used to choose between these
two alternatives. G. B. DAlessio objects (per litteras) to Bowras thesis, on the grounds that the
wording of P.11.4344 would be incomprehensible if both father and son were called Thrasydaios.
Thus DAlessio argues that, without some specication in line 44 like the son Thrasydaios or
Thrasydaios the younger, the audience could not possibly understand Pindars reference in the
phrase for the father, victorious at Pytho, or for Thrasydaios. I acknowledge that the phrase is
elliptical, but I do not consider it beyond the range of Pindaric ellipsis. One might contend that
mention of the father in l. 43 makes it clear that the Thrasydaios named in l. 44 must be the son.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 159
horses, and at Pytho, having entered for the bare course, they put to shame
the Hellenic throng with their swiftness.
I concur with Finglass and Hubbard that l. 46, with its | , almost
certainly refers to older family victories at local contests which do not count
toward the three crowns mentioned earlier in the ode; presumably that total refers
to crowns at Panhellenic contests.
Lines 4748 refer to an Olympic hippic
victory, won by the victors father or some older ancestor (if the victors father,
presumably garnered more recently than his Pythian running victory as a boy).
Then ll. 4950 combine the two (dierent?) Pythian running victories of father
and son (hence the slight ambiguity introduced by , for which I have
argued in [B] above). Thus three Panhellenic crowns altogether.
(2) If we reject Bowras hypothesis and insist that Pythonikos is the fathers
name, we can still come up with scenarios that reconcile the internal evidence
of the poem and scholia with the later date (454 nci).
One crucial move made by scholars who advocate the 474 date is the sug-
gestion of von der Muhll (1958: 14344) that Pythonikos name proves that his
(Pythonikos) fatheror more likely, his grandfatherhad already won a Pythian
chariot victory.
For this, modern scholars invoke the ancient naming practice
whereby the sons name commemorates some exceptional quality or achievement
of his father.
On this interpretation, the grandfathers (or great-grandfathers)
Pythian victory must count toward the total of three, so that, together with the
Olympic victory, there can only be one recent Pythian running victory (hence
the date must be 474).
Van Groningen also contends that the father Pythonikos
almost certainly had no victories of his own, and that this in turn accounts for
the poets deliberate vagueness and conation of father and son in ll. 4150.
But again, the ancient evidence is somewhat more ambiguous than these
arguments acknowledge. The ancient naming practice, as described in Proklos
Commentary on Platos Kratylos 47 (88 Pasquali), is that fathers put names on
167. Thus Finglass 2007: 5, Hubbard 2010: 19091. Cole 1987: 55859 also takes l. 46 to refer
to unidentied minor contests, but includes it in the count of three.
168. Von der Muhll 1958: 14344; cf. van Groningen 1931: 270 (who makes the same suggestion)
and Finglass 2007: 45.
169. See Hirzel 1918: 50, Sulzberger 1926. For examples, see Hdt. 6.121 (Kallias, having won
the horse race at Olympia, named his son Hipponikos) and Thouk. 5.19.2 (one of the Athenian
witnesses to the treaty of Athens and Sparta ending the Archidamian War is Isthmionikos, on which
see Hornblower 1996: 487 ad loc.).
170. Thus von der Muhll 1958: 144 takes l. 46 to be a reference to a Pythian chariot victory
by a distant relative (great-grandfather or grandfather of the victor), but I regard this as unlikely
on two grounds: (1) surely Pindar would include explicit mention of a Pythian chariot victory in
the family, if they had one; (2) if this is what l. 46 refers to, we have a very awkward orderPythian
chariot victory; Olympic hippic victory (out of prestige order!); Pythian running victory.
171. Thus van Groningen 1931: 270, followed by Finglass 2007: 4, Pindar is vague because
Pythonicus did not win any victories: if he had, Pindar would have been only too glad to make this
clear. In contrast, von der Muhll 1958: 14344 assumes that Thrasydaios father, Pythonikos, won
the Olympic victory mentioned in ll. 4748.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 160
their sons with an eye to commemoration or hope or some such thing (. c
v c o ( j c| ( c o |
. |).
Proklos j c| is important here, and conforms to what we
know of the naming practices of the wealthy aristocratic horsey set of the archaic
and classical periods. That is to say, it might be the case that Pythonikos was
named after an already achieved victory, but it might just as well be the case
that Pythonikos father gave him that name because he was aspiring to a Pythian
chariot victory (for himself or for his son), which in the end he did not win.
So, once we exorcise the scholarly phantasm of the familys older Pythian
chariot victory (which, notice, Pindar never mentions in the ode), the three
Panhellenic victories would be as follows (Scenario [2a]):
(1) Thrasydaios grandfather names his son Pythonikos in hopes of a Pythian
chariot victory (which he does not win). But some time after the birth of his son,
the grandfather wins an Olympic hippic victory.
(2) Thrasydaios wins a Pythian running victory in the boys category in 474
(3) Twenty years later, the same Thrasydaios wins a second Pythian running
victory in the mens category in 454 (diaulos [or stade]).
Alternatively (Scenario [2b]):
(1) It is the father Pythonikos himself who wins an Olympic hippic victory;
nothing in the text of the poem precludes this.
(2), (3) Pythonikos son Thrasydaios wins two Pythian running victories, as a
boy in 454, then as a man in 474.
On either scenario (2a) or (2b), we could say that Pindars reference to the
event is ambiguous at ll. 4950 (recall ) to cover two dierent events by
the same victor.
172. Text quoted by Finglass 2007: 4n.6.
173. Cf. Hubbard 2010: 19091. Put it this way: are we to assume for every attested Hipponikos,
Nikasipposor Pythonikosthat the family of the person bearing that name had a history of horse
or chariot victories, or victories at the Panhellenic games at Delphi? Instead we might assume that,
like many of the names of people who show up in Pindars odes that seem too good to be true,
these naming practices are aspirational, or a kind of name magic, trying to inuence the course of
future events. For a similar observation about Pindars ambiguous victory counts as a kind of kl ed on
contrived by the poet, cf. Cole 1987: 56768.
174. Some scholars have objected that the prospect of a (minimally) 35-year old Thrasydaios
winning the diaulos in 454 is highly implausible (thus, e.g., Farnell 1932.2: 221, Burton 1962: 60). In
fact we have evidence for careers of at least 814 years for several other ancient running victors:
Astylos of Kroton (Paus. 6.13.1), Chionis of Sparta (Paus. 3.14.3), Damatrios of Tegea (IG 5.2 142,
with discussion in Klee 1918: 5556), Dandis of Argos (Pal.Anth. 13.14 = Simonides XXXV Page),
Dikon of Kaulonia/Syracuse (Paus. 6.3.11), Ergoteles of Knossos/Himera (P.Oxy. 222, Paus. 6.4.11,
Pind. Schol. ad O.12, 1: 349 Drachmann), Leonidas of Rhodes (Paus. 6.13.4), Philinos of Kos (Paus.
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Note that either scenario (1) or (2) would conform to the (unemended) text
of Inscr.A:
Inscr.A: c cj | . ( (
(474), . ' (454) | j .
The ode was written for Thrasydaios, boy victor at the 28th Pythiad
(474), and at the 33rd Pythiad (454) [having beaten] the men in diaulos or
A then simply states that the poem was written for two victorieseither of a
father and son, both named Thrasydaios, or of a single victortwenty years
apart. The scholiasts may have had no way of dierentiating between these
two possibilities based on the spare Pythian victor lists (the ocial lists did not
include patronymics), while the mere fact of two dierent entries for a Theban
Thrasydaios, twenty years apart, could have inspired the minority alternative
version of Inscr.B.
Among these possibilities, I have a preference for scenario (1) or (2b), based
on the parallels with Nemean 8 and the internal evidence of Pythian 11, as follows.
The evidence of Nemean 8 allows us to counter the scholarly contention
that Pindars references to the fathers victories are too vague and brief for us
to believe that he had any victories of his own. It is important to bear in mind
that the Hellenistic edition of the epinikia in fact represents a very heterogeneous
set of poems, so that we must imagine multiple dierent constraints at work
in dierent poems.
So, for example, Thomas Gelzer long ago convincingly
identied a signicant subtype of poems composed on the spot, to be performed
at the site of the games.
We might consider other subtypes of poems in which
the poet labored under dierent constraints, e.g., (1) the poem commissioned
for a father-son dyad; and (2) the poem whose performance was intended for a
public religious context in a non-autocratic state. I raise the second possibility
because of the striking parallels of structure and emphasis between Pythian 11
and Nemean 8. Thus notice that in both cases, the bulk of the rst triad is
devoted to setting the scene in a public epichoric religious context (Pythian 11:
summoning of the heroines of Thebes to the Ismenion; Nemean 8: deposition
6.17.2). We might note also Pausanias report that Damiskos of Messenia won the boys stade race at
Olympia at the age of 12 (Paus. 6.2.10); this suggests that Thrasydaios could have been as young
as 12 or 13 at the time of his rst Pythian stade victory, and so 32 or 33 twenty years later. For
long careers for ancient runners, see von der Muhll 1958: 143, Miller 1978: 134, 15354n.26. Note
that even Finglass emended text of Inscr.A credits Thrasydaios with two Pythian running victories
twenty years apart; so Finglass does not deny such a 20-year span for Thrasydaios athletic career;
it is simply not his problem if Pythian 11 dates to 474. The elegance of Bowras suggestion of
homonymy of father and son is that it obviates this problem of a single athletes 20-year running
175. For an eective formulation of the issues involved, see the prefatory remarks of Gelzer
1985: 9597.
176. Gelzer 1985.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 162
of the victors llet at the Aiakeion in Aigina),
while the central myth in each
poem allows Pindar to engage in a contestatory dialogue of epinikion with another
genre refashioned by himas blame or strife (Pythian 11: tragedy; Nemean 8: epic).
Then, in both poems, the poet devotes several verses in the last triad to generic
rst-person statements that apply to the victor and his father, representing them
in contrast to the negative mythic paradigms as good middling citizens within
their poleis (P.11.5058; N.8.3539).
And, together with all this, we might note
how vague and minimal the references to the athletic victories of father and son
are in Nemean 8, even though we can be almost certain that both father and son
had victories in this case. As Ive already noted, these references are limited to
| c | . o c . of l. 16 and c
c . . j . of ll. 4748.
Thus the brevity and vagueness of
Pindars references to the athletic victories of father (and son) in Pythian 11 cannot
be used as proof that they didnt have any; we might say instead that the poet
had other business to attend to, other topics that needed to be covered in the ambit
of his song.
Indeed, we might combine Hamiltons suggestion of a father-son commission
with Bruno Curries recent treatment of the performance of epinikia linked to
public festivals in non-autocratic states. Currie imagines these as special one-o
performances, perhaps celebrating an athletic victors entire career, when the
civic authorities allow the victor or his family to mount a choral performance
attached to a public festival at his own expense (presumably combined with
sacrice and feasting, in which the victor hosts the city, c7 j ).
Applied to Pythian 11, Hamiltons and Curries models encourage us to take
ll. 1214 as the poems program and understand them to mean that the ode
celebrates three Panhellenic athletic victories earned over an extended period by
father and son: . . .in the contest of Kirrha, in which Thrasydaios made men
mindful of his paternal hearth by casting a third crown upon it. Notice that here,
in what Hamilton calls the Naming Complex, we get the naming of the victor
Thrasydaios, together with reference to his father (c), and mention of three
All these elements are then resumed in Pindars return to the victor
177. For these ritual settings, see Gelzer 1985: 9697n.5, Krummen 1990: 275, Carey 2007: 202.
178. For the striking similarities of these generalized rst-person statements, see Carey 1976:
3334, Hubbard 1985: 146.
179. Cf. Farnell 1932.2: 304 on Nemean 8: but there is less than the average reference to the
athlete and his family. . . .
180. Currie 2011: 269300.
181. I am thus suggesting that we give full weight to the mention of three crowns as part of
the poets program for the ode. Scholars have not previously considered this possibility because
the Pindaric parallels for mention of a specic number of crowns (I.1.11, O.8.76) would seem to
tell against it. But these passages are not precisely parallel: I.1.11, early in the ode, mentions six
crowns bestowed by the Isthmos on the city of Thebes (hence we do not expect treatment of all six in
an ode for Herodotos; cf. Bacch. 12.3437), while O.8.76, late in the poem, refers to twenty-ve
crowns earned by Bassiads as part of an extended family victory catalogue.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 163
and his father after the break-o from the myth (P.11.4150). Here the linkage of
father and son as the contractual topic of the poets song is made explicit, and then
we are given (in the briefest possible formulation), three Panhellenic victories of
father and son: an Olympic victory with horses, and two Pythian running victories
(allowing the ambiguity of o. . . to cover two dierent events). If
we follow Bowras suggestion (scenario [1] above), the father Thrasydaios won
the boys stade race at Pytho in 474 (and this is signaled by Pindars diction at
l. 43, the father, victorious at Pytho), and more recently an Olympic hippic
event, while the son Thrasydaios won the mens diaulos in 454. If, on the other
hand, we reject Bowras suggestion of homonymy, we still have three victories
shared between father and son (scenario [2b] above): the father Pythonikos won
an Olympic hippic victory, while his son Thrasydaios won the boys stade race at
Pytho in 474 and the mens diaulos in 454.
On the latter scenario, Thrasydaios
remarkable second win, together with the fathers Olympic hippic success, inspire
the familys public celebration linked to a civic festival. But, by the same token,
that civic festival context requires from the poet a dierent kind of rhetoric (as
we see also in Nemean 8)much more community-oriented and moderate on
the part of the victor and his family.
Thus, as noted above, in both poems
other themes dominate the ode, while reference to the actual athletic victories
of father and son is kept to a bare minimum. We might say that it is the mere
existence of the song in its special performance context that acknowledges the
victors/familys extraordinary athletic achievement(s), rather than any explicit,
extended treatment within the song itself.
182. Note that either Scenario (1) or (2b) also conforms to another scholion ad P.11.22 (2: 256
57 Drachmann): o c | c. c. . o .o o . c |. v`
vc o j . | c. . .o .( o v .
.c .c c . c | (The third crown: not that the victor himself won three
victories, but his father is recorded as having been an Olympic victor, and he himself having been
successful so that [the poet] implied that all three victories occurred for him and for his father).
As for the dating of the fathers Olympic victory: there are gaps or questionable identications in
Morettis (1957) list of Olympionikai for the winner in the four-horse chariot race in 464 (Moretti no.
257), and for the single horse race in 468 and 460 nci (Moretti nos. 257, 266). Note that Pindars
language at P.11.4748 is ambiguous, and so could accommodate either chariot or horse race. Thanks
to Nigel Nicholson for discussion of all these issues.
183. Cf. Kurke 2007: 9597 and Currie 2011: 300 on the ideological complexities of such poems.
184. I oer this suggestion as a response to the objection of DAlessio (per litteras) that, if
Thrasydaios really did win two Pythian running victories twenty years apart, Pindar would have
drawn the audiences attention to such an extraordinary achievement. Finally, on this reading (giving
full weight to the three crowns as the poems topic), the fathers name Pythonikos as indicator of some
shadowy Pythian chariot victory won by a family member in the distant past (and never mentioned in
the ode) is simply a red herring; it may be true, but it is irrelevant to our poem.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 164
As C. M. Bowra noted long ago, the strong Spartan coloring of Pythian 11
makes little sense in 474 nci, shortly after the end of the Persian Wars and (if
we can trust Plutarch Them. 20) Spartas eort to oust Thebes from the Delphic
Amphiktiony for medizing.
On the other hand, a date of 454 would place the
composition and performance of Pindars ode within the period sometimes re-
ferred to by modern scholars as the First Peloponnesian War (461446), when
(apparently) Athens was aiming to establish a land empire in mainland Greece
through domination of Boiotia and Phokis. Most of what we know about this
period comes from Thoukydides terse, minimalist summary in the Pentekontae-
tia (Thouk. 1.10713), supplemented on occasion by (sometimes confused) later
accounts. As I noted above, in 462/1, Athens forged an alliance with Argos
an alliance referred to and aetiologized in Aeschylus Oresteia of 458. In 457,
according to Thoukydides (1.107), an army of Spartans and their Peloponnesian
allies marched into central Greece to defend the region of Doris against Phokian
aggression. Thoukydides typically oers no explanation for this Spartan military
intervention, and it has always been something of a mystery why Sparta should
take such interest in this insignicant region of central Greece. Simon Hornblower
has recently proposed that Spartas interest in defending her eponymous mother
region of Doris was in fact motivated by an urgent need to preserve her access to
seats on the Delphic Amphiktiony, which, Hornblower reasons, she only enjoyed
through this northern outpost from which the Dorians claimed to have made their
way to the Peloponnese in the legendary time of the Dorian invasion.
speculative, Hornblowers analysis at least helps account for an otherwise inexpli-
cable major military action on Spartas part, while it also suggests that inuence at
Delphi was a powerful motivating factor for the Spartans throughout this period.
In any case, as Thoukydides continues his narrative, the Athenians proceeded
to garrison and thereby cut o the Spartan armys routes back to the Peloponnese,
both land and sea, so that this large Peloponnesian contingent was trapped in
Boiotia (Thouk. 1.107.34). At this point (457/6), a large force of Athenians
and their allies (including 1,000 Argives) marched into Boiotia and engaged the
Spartan army in battle at Tanagra. According to Thoukydides (1.107108), the
Spartan army had the edge in this close battle, so that the Spartan-led force was
now able to withdraw to the Peloponnese unopposed.
Again according to Thoukydides (1.108), on the sixty-second day after Tana-
gra (457/6?), an Athenian force under the command of Myronides marched into
Boiotia and defeated the Boiotian forces at Oinophyta, whereupon the Athenians
became masters of the territory of Boiotia and Phokis (j. . .c c
185. Bowra 1936: 13536.
186. Hornblower 1991: 16869, 1992: 18182, 2007; cf. Lewis 1992: 114n.62, citing earlier
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 165
j | . |)whatever exactly this means.
Scholars have
struggled to reconcile two other brief, (possibly) contradictory reports that seem
to apply to the Athenian management of Boiotia after Oinophyta: (1) Aristotle
Politics 5.3, 1302b2730: and in democracies, when the well-o are contemptu-
ous of the disorder and anarchy, as in Thebes, when things were badly run after the
battle of Oinophyta, the democracy collapsed, and (2) [Xenophon] Ath.Pol. 3.11:
but however many times [the Athenians] attempted to choose the best people,
it didnt work out for them, but within a short time the demos among the Boiotians
was enslaved. . . . Aristotles statement is often taken to mean that immediately
after the battle of Oinophyta, the Athenians installed a pro-Athenian democracy
in Thebes, which quickly collapsed because of incompetence and disorganization,
while the Old Oligarchs brief reference suggests Athenian support for oligarchies
throughout Boiotia. David Lewis wisely urges caution in the face of these con-
tradictory statements: There is little point in trying speculative combinations;
Athens will have backed whatever groups seemed likely to support her, perhaps
without regard to their ostensible political colour, and may have changed policy
from time to time.
Even if the details of internal governance are obscure, the main point is
that Athens was able to dominate Boiotia for eleven years after the battle of
Oinophyta. Indeed, in the 1980s and 90s, David Lewis proposed new readings
for fragmentary Athenian tribute lists that would make the Boiotian towns of
Orchomenos and Akraiphia tribute-paying subject cities of Athens in the late
450s nci.
Simon Hornblower eectively draws out the implications of Lewis
suggested supplements: These startling suggestions would mean that Athens
was prepared to regard the inland Boiotian communities as tribute-paying subject
allies and Boiotia as part of the empirea notable piece of assertiveness.
Another intriguing ancient testimony for this complex and obscure period
may be relevant. Diodorus Siculus in his account, probably following Ephoros,
reports that the Thebans approached the Spartans after the battle of Tanagra and
proposed a deal: in return for Spartan assistance in establishing her hegemony
in Boiotia, Thebes would undertake the conduct of the war against Athens on her
own, so that the Spartans would not in future need to lead a land army beyond the
Peloponnese. The Spartans agreed to this proposal and provided various kinds of
assistance to the Thebans in their struggle for hegemony in Boiotia (D.S. 11.81.2).
Many modern historians have questioned the reliability of Diodorus narrative,
187. Most modern scholars do not accept the report of D.S. (11.83.1) that the Athenians took
all of Boiotia except Thebes; see Gomme 1972: 317, Buck 1979: 14748, Lewis 1992: 116. For
a defense of D.S.s account and an attempt to reconcile it with Thoukydides, see Demand 1982:
188. Lewis 1992: 116, partially quoted by Hornblower 1991: 172. For dierent eorts to reconcile
the statements of Aristotle and the Old Oligarch, see Gomme 1972: 31718, Buck 1979: 14850,
Mackil 2013.
189. Lewis 1981: 77n.43, 1992: 116n.72.
190. Hornblower 1991: 172; see also Mackil 2013.
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cissici 1iqti1v Volume 32/ No. 1/ April 2013 166
because his account of this whole period seems confused (with two battles at
Tanagra and two battles at Oinophyta); his chronology substantially dierent
from Thoukydides; and his assumption of a fully formed Boiotian League in this
period possibly anachronistic.
So we cannot be sure that this Spartan-Theban
negotiation actually ever took place around the time of the battle of Tanagra. Still,
it is an intriguing possibility given Pindars extraordinary rhetorical emphasis on
mythic and cultic connections between Thebes and Sparta in Pythian 11.
Also perhaps relevant, given the eorts we have noted in the Oresteia and
Pythian 11 to forge competing networks with Delphi, is Thoukydides extremely
terse account of the so-called Second Sacred War in 449/8, in the course of
which Athens and Sparta tussled over the control of Delphi: After this the
Spartans marched out on a sacred war, and becoming masters of the temple at
Delphi, placed it in the hands of the Delphians. Immediately after their retreat, the
Athenians marched out, became masters of the temple, and placed it in the hands
of the Phokians (Thouk. 1.112.5, trans. R. Crawley).
As I noted above, if we
accept Hornblowers argument about Spartan motivation in coming to the aid of
Doris in 457, we have a consistent pattern of Spartan interest in Delphi throughout
this period. At the same time, Athens clearly wanted to wield inuence at Delphi
through her allies/subjects, the Phokians.
In the meantime, by 447/6, resistance to Athenian domination was devel-
oping in northwestern Boiotia. Thoukydides tells us that Boiotian exiles took
control of Orchomenos, Chaironeia, and some other places in Boiotia, and
that in response the Athenians dispatched an army of 1,000 Athenians and allied
contingents under the command of Tolmides (Thouk. 1.113). This force captured
and enslaved Chaironeia, but, as it was returning to Attica, was intercepted and
attacked at Koroneia by the Boiotian exiles from Orchomenos, Lokrians with
them, Euboian exiles, and others who were of the same way of thinking. This
force of Boiotian exiles and others defeated the Athenians, killing some and taking
others captive. In order to redeem these captives, the Athenians made a truce with
the Boiotians whereby the Athenians evacuated all of Boiotia, the Boiotian exiles
returned, and all the cities became autonomous again (probably 446).
Although Thoukydides narrative here is typically concise, it is clear that the
defeat at Koroneia had a momentous impact on Athens and the subsequent shape of
her empire. The successful Boiotian resistance immediately sparked coordinated
revolts in Euboia and Megara, together with a Spartan land invasion that got as far
as Eleusis and the Thriasian Plain (Thouk. 1.114). By swift action, the Athenians
managed to suppress the revolts in Euboia and Megara, but they were now in
a precarious position, so that at this point they negotiated a thirty-years truce
with the Lakedaimonians, giving up Megaras two ports Nisaea and Pegai, as well
as Troizen and Achaia. That is to say, the Athenians (at a strategic disadvantage)
191. For skepticism about D.S.s account, see Buck 1979: 14547; for defense of D.S.s version,
Demand 1982: 3235.
192. For the dating, see Gomme 1972: 337, 409.
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ktnki: Pindars Pythian 11 and the Oresteia 167
withdrew from the Peloponnese and the Megarid entirely, and essentially also
gave up their aspiration to a land empire in central Greece.
For the Boiotians
as well, Koroneia was a crucial turning point. After eleven years of Athenian
domination, all Boiotia was liberated and its cities autonomous again. Indeed,
according to Emily Mackil, it may well have been the remarkable success at
Koroneia that rst crystallized a formal Boiotian League, the koinon whose in-
stitutional structures we know from the fourth-century Oxyrhynchus Historian.
But, as Mackil also points out, it is worth emphasizing that the Boiotian resistance
that culminated in the battle of Koroneia apparently did not originate fromThebes,
but from northwestern Boiotia, where the exiles were able to occupy Orchomenos
and Chaironeia.
For my purposes, this is a signicant point. If, as I have argued on internal
and intertextual literary grounds, Pindars Pythian 11 is to be dated to 454 nci,
the general context of the First Peloponnesian War, together with Athens and
Spartas various tussles over Delphi, oers a plausible background for Pindars
careful elaboration of cult networks linking Thebes, Sparta, and Delphi. But more
specically, in 454, with Thebes and all Boiotia under Athenian domination of
some kind, Theban aristocrats might well be looking to Sparta to assist her against
her overbearing southern neighborespecially if Thebes was not the main force
behind Boiotias eventual self-liberation.
University of California, Berkeley
193. For 446 as a signicant turning point for the shape of Athenian empire (and the Spartan
relation to it), see Lewis 1992: 13338, esp. the summary statement on p. 137: It seems that the
Spartans felt that they had done well to conne Athens to her proper sphere. . . . Athens had renounced
meddling on the mainland, and the freeing of the Megarid and Boeotia had made Attica much more
vulnerable to invasion if there was future misbehaviour. To maintain pressure of a type which would
threaten the naval empire would be beyond Spartas powers and aspirations. . . . In eect, the dualism
of Cimons aspirations, Sparta to dominate by land, Athens by sea, was being accepted on both
194. Mackil 2013; cf. Lewis 1992: 133.
195. Mackil 2013. Other scholars have tended to assume that Thebes must have led this movement
based on two literary testimonies: (1) Thouk. 3.62.5: the Thebans speech of self-defense before the
Spartans for their aggression vs. Plataia. Here the Thebans say, when the Athenians attacked the rest
of Hellas and endeavored to subjugate our country, of the greater part of which faction had already
made them masters, did we not ght and conquer at Koronea and liberate Boiotia...? (trans. R.
Crawley). But this is clearly tendentious, and even on its own terms extremely slippery rhetorically;
after all, who is we? Thebans or Boiotiansor some fantasy retrojection of the Boiotian koinon
with Thebes already at its head? (2) Plut. Ages. 19.2, tells us that the commander of this rebel
force was one Sparton. This is assumed to be a Theban name by Buck 1979: 150, Lewis 1992:
133. But even if there was some Theban involvement, clearly the rest of Boiotia was important
hereespecially the northwest.
196. This argument was already articulated by Bowra 1936: 136 (although he does not mention
D.S.s story of Theban-Spartan negotiation around the time of the battle of Tanagra, nor the
geographic specicities of Boiotian resistance to Athens in 447/6); cf. also Hubbard 2010, suggesting
that the victor Thrasydaios father was a key player in Theban politics, who wanted to signal via
the Spartan coloring of our ode his alignment with Sparta in this troubled period.
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