Page:Odes of Pindar (Paley).djvu/15

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ix
PREFACE.

the one great idea, the contemplation of human glory as attained by the grace of the gods, in the great athletic contests of Hellas. In him we see reflected the intense admiration of the early Greeks for bodily strength, skill, beauty, endurance, and all those qualities which adorn the outer man and make him enviable in the sight of others. Additional value is imparted to works as early as Pindar's, viz., reaching back five centuries before our era,[1] by the knowledge that we have, in most cases, of the exact year in which the odes were composed, or at least, in which the victories they commemorate were gained. Contrasted with the utter vagueness and uncertainty attending the dates of the poems which have come to us under the names of Homer and Hesiod, this is a satisfactory circumstance. We now for the first time in Grecian, annals feel that we are fairly and safely within the historic period; and though the historical facts are incidental, and generally subordinate to the legendary, they have this special interest,—the victors are real persons, whose country, parentage, clan, and in part, family history, are given us with circumstantial minuteness. The localities are real, and the games, if mythical in their institution, were historical in their periodical recurrence. From these considerations alone we perceive how different is the posi-

  1. The oldest extant ode, Pyth. x., dates B.C. 502.