Gold, Glory, Victory

Pindar has just received his entry in Who's Who. He became a huge favourite of mine at University when I studied Olympian Odes 1 and 7, and Pythian Odes 1, 8, and 9 as part of a general Greek Literature of the Fifth-Century BC paper. I seem to remember I quoted the opening of Pythian 1 on the power of music as the great eagle of Zeus is lulled into a peaceful, joyous slumber by the lyre of Apollo.


Tonight, the WoW (Word of the Week) is Olympian 1. I shall guide you through its beautiful opening lines (1-20):


"Water is best, and gold, like a blazing fire in the night,

stands out supreme of all lordly wealth.

But if, my dear heart, you wish to sing of contests,

look no further for any star warmer than the sun, shining by day

through the lonely sky, and nor shall we sing any contest mightier than Olympia.

From there the song of fame enfolds the wise utterances of poets, so that they loudly sing

the son of Cronus, upon arriving at the rich and blessed hearth of Hieron,

who wields the scepter of law in Sicily of many flocks, reaping every excellence at its peak,

and is glorified by the choicest flower of music, which we men often play around his

hospitable table."


Water is pure and gold the most precious of metals. Pindar is setting up his comparison of the Olympic games to nature's purest element and finest metal. Pindar rises to the sun in its lone shining glory to elevate the radiant glory of the games. The Olympic games were in honour of Zeus, the king of gods just as the sun is king of stars and Pindar gives Zeus his due glory. The setting of this honorific song is the hearth of Hieron of Syracuse, victor of the games (well, sponsor of the victorious horses and chariot). Hieron, like Zeus, is a king. He is king of a city in Sicily which is tagged with the beautiful epithet 'rich in flocks'. Sicily is prosperous and filled with excellence. Now the party comes to settle and be celebrated at Hieron's palace. He is depicted as kind and welcoming, as all gather to pay due honour to his victory.


We continue to celebrate sporting prowess. Lucky Hieron that he had a Pindar.

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