Last reviewed: June 2018
c. 518 b.c.e.
Cynoscephalae, near Thebes, Boeotia, Greece
c. 438 b.c.e.
Pindar (PIHN-dur), also known as Pindaros or Pindarus, was born at Cynoscephalae, near Thebes, about 518 Pindar
Pindar’s home was chiefly Thebes, but he frequently visited Athens, which was then gaining in literary reputation, and he spent several years at the court of Hieron of Syracuse. There he wrote what was to be called the Pindaric Ode, the epinicion or epinikion, a poem to welcome home the victors in the national games: the Pythian, the Isthmian, the Nemean, and the Olympic. Pindar’s formula was to select a myth and then in some way relate it to the victor and provide words for the chorus to use in the parade. From internal evidence many of the forty-five odes that survive intact can be dated by the games whose victors he celebrates.
High moral tone, patriotism, and religious fervor characterize the works of this outstanding Greek lyric poet. Though he wrote them to order, and was paid for them, the odes show no signs of cheapening art for cash. Not until they were imitated in England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries did the form become debased. Only fragments of Pindar’s other poems survive.