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Table of Contents > 1.85-1.87 Pindar

1.85: Pindar, fragment 123 S-M
This short skolion (a drinking song for performance at symposia) praises the beauty of the boy Theoxenus. Some critics have supposed it to be Pindar's personal declaration of love, but it was more likely commissioned by the boy's lover and the first-person is meant to express the erotic attraction of any man who likes boys.
[strophe] One must pluck loves, my heart, in due season and at the proper age.
Ah! But any man who catches with his glance
The bright rays flashing from Theoxenus' eyes67
And is not tossed on the waves of desire,
5 Has a black heart of adamant or iron
[antistrophe] Forged in a cold flame, and dishonored by Aphrodite of the arching brow
Either toils compulsively for money
Or, as a slave, is towed down a path utterly cold
By a woman's boldness.
10 But I, by the will of the Love Goddess, melt
[epode] Like the wax of holy bees stung by the sun's heat,
Whenever I look upon the fresh-limbed youth of boys.
And surely even on the isle of Tenedos
Seduction and Grace dwell
15 In the son of Hagesilas.

1.86: Pindar, Tenth Pythian Ode 55-68
This is from Pindar's earliest datable poem, publicly celebrating the footrace victory of the boy Hippocleas in the Pythian games of 498 BCE. The poem may have been commissioned by the Thessalian prince Thorax, whom an ancient commentator identifies as the young athlete's lover.
55 [strophe 4] When Ephyrean68 choristers pour out
My sweet voice around the Peneius,69
I expect by my songs to make the crowned Hippocleas
Still more splendid to look upon both among his age-mates and older men,
And a heartthrob for young maids. For
60 Different loves tickle the fancies of different folks.
[antistrophe 4] Whatever each man reaches for,
If he wins it, let him hold as his desire an ambition near at hand;
Things a year in the future are impossible to foreknow.70
I have relied on the kind hospitality of Thorax, who bustling about for my sake
65 Yoked this four-horse chariot of the Muses,71
Favoring one who favors him, giving willing guidance to one who guides him.
[epode 4] To one who tests it, gold is revealed on the touchstone --
So too an upright mind.72

1.87: Pindar, First Olympian Ode
This poem was commissioned in 476 BCE to celebrate the Olympic horse-race victory of Hieron, monarch of Syracuse, the most powerful Greek city in Sicily. Within the poem, Pindar tells the myth of the sea-god Poseidon's love for the young Pelops.
[strophe 1] Water is preeminent and gold, like a fire burning in the night,
outshines all possessions that magnify men's pride.
But if, my soul, you yearn
to celebrate great games,
5 look no further for another star
shining through the deserted ether brighter than the sun,
or for a contest mightier than Olympia —
where the song has taken its coronal design of glory,
plaited in the minds of poets as they come,
10 calling on Zeus' name,73
to the rich radiant hall of Hieron
[antistrophe 1] who wields the scepter of justice in Sicily,
reaping the prime of every distinction.
And he delights
15 in the flare of music,
the brightness of song
circling his table from man to man. Then take the Dorian lyre74 down from its peg
if the beauty of Pisa75 and of Pherenicus76
somehow cast your mind under a gracious spell,
20 when by the stream of Alpheus,
keeping his flanks ungrazed by the spur,
he sped and put his lord in the embrace of power --
[epode 1] Syracusan knight and king, blazoned with glory
in the land of Pelops:77
25 Pelops, whom earth-cradling Poseidon loved,
since Clotho78 had taken him out of the pure cauldron,
his ivory shoulder gleaming in the hearth-light.
Yes! marvels are many, stories starting from mortals somehow stretch truth
to deception woven cunningly on the loom of lies.
30 [str. 2] Grace, the very one who fashions every delight for mortal men,
by lending her sheen to what is unbelievable,
often makes it believed.
But the days to come
are the wisest witness.
35 It is proper for a man to speak well of the gods -- the blame will be less.
Pelops, I will tell your story differently from the men of old.79
Your father Tantalus had invited the gods
to banquet in his beloved Sipylus,
providing a stately feast in return for the feast they had given him.
40 It was then Poseidon seized you,
[ant. 2] overwhelmed in his mind with desire, and swept you on golden mares
to Zeus' glorious palace on Olympus,
where, at another time,
Ganymede came also
45 for the same passion in Zeus.80
But after you had disappeared and searchers again and again returned to your mother without you, then one of the neighbors, invidious, whispered
that the gods had sliced you limb by limb
into the fury of boiling water,
50 and then they passed morsels of
your flesh around the table, and ate them.
[ep. 2] No! I cannot call any of the blessed gods a savage: I stand apart.
Disaster has often claimed the slanderer.
If ever the watchlords of Olympus honored a man,
55 this was Tantalus. But he could not digest
his great bliss -- in his fullness he earned
the doom that the father poised above him,
the looming boulder which, in eternal distraction, he strains to heave from his brow.81
[str. 3] Such is the misery upon him,
60 a fourth affliction among three others,82 because he robbed the immortals —
their nectar and ambrosia,
which had made him deathless,
he stole and gave to his drinking companions.
But a man who hopes to hide his doings from the gods is deluded.
65 For this they hurled his son Pelops back
among the short-lived generations of men.
But when he grew toward the time of bloom
and black down curled on his cheeks,
he thought of a marriage there for his seeking—
70 [ant. 2] to win from her Pisan father83 the girl Hippodameia.
Going down by the dim sea, alone in the dark,
he called on the god of the trident,
loud pounding Poseidon,
who appeared and stood close by.
75 "If in any way," Pelops said to him, "the gifts of Aphrodite count in my favor,
shackle the bronze spear of Oenomaus,
bring me on the swiftest chariot
to Elis, and put me within the reach of power,
for he has slain thirteen suitors now,
80 and so he delays his daughter's marriage.
[ep. 3] Great danger does not come upon the spineless man,
and yet, if we must die, why squat in the shadows,
coddling a bland old age, with no nobility, for nothing?
As for me, I will undertake this exploit.
85 And you — I beseech you: let me achieve it."
He spoke, and his words found fulfillment: the god made him glow with gifts—
a golden chariot and winged horses never weary.
[str. 4] He tore the strength from Oenomaus and took the maiden to his bed.
She bore him six sons, leaders of the people, intent on prowess.
90 Now in the bright blood rituals
Pelops has his share,
reclining by the ford of Alpheus.84
Men gather at his tomb, near the crowded altar. The glory
of the Olympiads shoots its rays afar in his races,
95 where speed and strength
are matched in the bruise of toil.
But the victor, for the rest of his life,
enjoys days of contentment,
[ant. 4] as far as contests can assure them. A single day's blessing
100 is the highest good a mortal knows. I must crown him
now to the horseman's tune,
in Aeolean rhythms,85
for I believe the shimmering folds of my song
shall never embrace a host
105 more lordly in power or perception of beauty.
Hieron, a god is overseer to your ambitions,
keeping watch, cherishing them as his own.
If he does not abandon you soon,
still sweeter the triumph I hope
110 [ep. 4] will fall to your speeding chariot,86 and may I be the one to praise it,
riding up the sunny Hill of Cronus!87
The Muse is tempering her mightiest arrow for me.
Men are great in various ways, but in kingship the ultimate crest is attained.
Peer no farther into the beyond.
115 For the time we have, may you continue to walk on high, and may I for as long
consort with victors, conspicuous for my skill among Greeks everywhere.
This website makes available to the public the first two chapters of Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook of Basic Documents, edited by Thomas K. Hubbard and published by University of California Press in April 2003. The index also lists the rest of the sourcebook's contents; the book may be ordered at www.ucpress.edu, list price $34.95 paperback. In addition, a file of close to 200 pertinent artistic images is assembled, including those published in the sourcebook and many others. Acknowledgement is made to University of California Press for permission to reproduce this material, as well as to the various museums that have granted permission to use their photographic images. Comments may be directed to Prof. Hubbard at tkh@mail.utexas.edu.