Odes of Pindar (Myers)/Prefatory Note

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The Extant Odes of Pindar, translated into English  (1874)  by Pindar, translated by Ernest Myers
Prefatory Note


The few notes appended to this translation are not intended to supply the place of such reference to Dictionaries of Mythology, Antiquities and Geography, as is needful to the student of Pindar who is not already somewhat accomplished in knowledge of the customs, history and legendary traditions of Hellas. And although it may reasonably be supposed that the chief of these will be already known to most readers of Pindar, yet so profusely allusive is this poet that to understand his allusions will very often require knowledge which would not have been derived from a study of the more commonly read Hellenic writers.

Nor have I attempted to trace in detail the connection of the parts in each ode which binds them into one harmonious whole with many meanings—a connection so consummately contrived where we can trace it that we may suppose it no less exquisite where we cannot. Study and thought will generally suggest explanations, though these will sometimes approve themselves differently to different minds. Too often we must acknowledge, as elsewhere in ancient literature, that the key is lost beyond all certain hope of recovery.

Still less have I attempted to discuss questions of critical scholarship. Sometimes where there are more than one plausible reading I have signified which I adopt; once only (Ol. 2. 56.) I have ventured on an emendation of my own. For the most part I have, as was natural, followed the text of the admirable editor and commentator Augustus Böckh. So far as I know or have heard, there is no ancient author for whose better understanding more has been done by any one man than what has been done by Böckh for the better understanding of Pindar.

In the spelling of names I remain in that inconsistency which at present attaches to most modern writers who deal with them. Olympus, Athens, Corinth, Syracuse, and the like are naturalized among us by long familiarity; it seems at present at least pedantic to change them. In the case of other less familiar names I have concurred with the desire, which seems in the main a reasonable one, that the names of Hellenic persons and places should be reproduced, as far as possible, without Latin mediation.

Of the Fragments I have translated six of the longest and most interesting. They are 289 in all, but the greater part are not longer than a line or two, and very many even shorter.

The odes are unequal in poetical merit, and many readers may not unreasonably wish to have those pointed out which, in the judgement of one acquainted with all, are. among the best worth reading; though of course the choice of individual readers will not always be the same. To those therefore who would wish to begin with a selection, the following may be recommended as at any rate among those of preeminent merit: Pyth. 4, 9, 1, 10, 3; Ol. 7, 6, 2, 3, 13, 8, 1; Nem. 5, 10; Isthm. 2, 7[errata 1]; all the Fragments translated.

In the arrangement of the odes I have adhered to the traditional order. I should much have liked to place them in what must always be the most interesting and rational arrangement of a poet's works, that is, in chronological order. This would have been approximately possible, as we know the dates of the greater part of them. But convenience of reference and of comparison with the Greek text seems to supply a balance of reasons on the other side. Subjoined however is a list of the odes in their probable chronological order so far as it can be obtained.

Pythian 10 B.C. 502.
Pythian 6 „ 494.
Pythian 12 „ 494 or 490.
Pythian 7 „ 490.
Pythian 3 „ 486 or 482.
Olympian 10 484.
Olympian 11
Isthmian 5
Nemean 5
Isthmian 7 „ 480.
Isthmian 3
Pythian 8 B.C. 478.
Pythian 9 „ 478.
Pythian 11 „ 478.
Pythian 2 „ 477.
Olympian 14 „ 476.
Olympian 2 476.
Olympian 3
Pythian 1
Nemean 1 „ 473.
Olympian 1 B.C. 472.
Olympian 12 „ 472.
Nemean 9
Isthmian 2
Olympian 6 „ 468.
Pythian 4 466.
Pythian 5
Olympian 7 „ 464.
Olympian 13 „ 464.
Nemean 7
Nemean 3
Nemean 4
Nemean 6
Nemean 8
Olympian 9 B.C. 456.
Isthmian 6
Olympian 4 452.
Olympian 5

The Olympic games were held once in four years, in honour of Zeus. The prize was a wreath of wild olive.

The Pythian games were held once in four years, in honour of Apollo. The prize was a wreath of bay.

The Nemean games were held once in two years, in honour of Zeus. The prize was a wreath of pine.

The Isthmian games were held once in two years, in honour of Poseidon. The prize was a wreath of parsley.


  1. Original: Isthm. 2 was amended to Isthm. 2, 7: detail