Pindar and Anacreon/Pindar/Isthmian Odes
THE ISTHMIAN ODES.
|Of the Isthmian Games||228|
OF THE ISTHMIAN GAMES.
These games received their name from the isthmus of Corinth, the scene of their celebration. The traditional account of their origin is, that they were instituted by Sisyphus, king of Corinth, and brother of Athamas, B. C. 1326, to commemorate the metamorphosis of Melicerta, son of Athamas and Ino, into a sea deity, named afterward Palæmon by the Greeks, and Portumnus by the Latins, whom his mother had in her phrensy thrown with herself into the sea; after which the name of Ino was changed to Leucothea. (See the opening of the eleventh Pythian ode.) Melicerta was saved from death by the Nereids, one of whom appeared to Sisyphus, and enjoined him to institute games in order to commemorate this event. They were sacred to Neptune, as the Olympic were to Jupiter, the Pythian to Apollo, and the Nemean to Hercules. Some time after their first celebration they were interrupted by the incursion into Greece of a band of robbers, headed by the fierce and cruel Sciris and Scyron; but at length Theseus, son of Ægeus, cleared the country of these marauders, who terrified strangers from being present at these games, and reinstituted them about B. C. 1220. He changed the time of their celebration from night to day, and they were held after an interval of three years. (See Nem., vi., 69.) Every kind of combat was exhibited at these games, and the reward of the victor at first consisted of a wreath of pine leaves, which was afterward changed to parsley, as being a funereal plant, and therefore more appropriate to games instituted in honour of the drowned Melicerta. The Corinthians originally presided at them; but on the capture of Corinth by Mummius, A. C. 146, this honourable office was transferred to the Sicyonians. Afterward, however, it was restored to the Corinthians, and enjoyed by them as long as the celebration of these games continued. It is to them that St. Paul so finely alludes: (1 Cor., ix., 24–27.)