The Olympian and Pythian Odes, Commentary on Olympian Odes (O.9.1) by Basil
The date of this ode is uncertain, and the Scholiasts are at variance. According to Bockh the victory was won Ol. 81 (456 B.C.), shortly after a Pythian victory, Ol. 80, 3 (458 B.C.), which is celebrated in this ode together with the Olympian one. Leopold Schmidt finds that Bockh's computation agrees with his theory of P.'s poetical decline. Fennell puts the date Pyth. 30 (468 B.C.), acc. to one Scholiast, on the ground that at the later date (456) the Lokrian oligarchy was threatened, if not overthrown, by the Athenians. Cf. Thuk. 1, 108. Besides his many local successes, Epharmostos had been victorious in all the great national games, and was, consequently, a periodonikes. Pindar tells us all we know of him -- his noble personal appearance, his ancient stock, his intimacy with Lampromachos, also a friend of Pindar's.
The song was sung in Opus at a festival of Aias Oiliades ... The Lokrians are better known to us through the Epizephyrian representatives of the stock than by the members of the family that remained in Central Greece, and for us Opuntian Lokris is more lighted up by this ode of Pindar's than by the rude inscriptions, which doubtless give a false impression of the people. Writing may be rude, and song, for which the Lokrians were famous, refined. The position of woman among the Lokrians seems to have been exceptionally influential, and even one who knew nothing of Lokris and the Lokrians could hardly fail to be struck by the predominance of woman in this ode. Pindar is a manner of "Frauenlob," at any rate, but here "das Ewig-Weibliche" is paramount. Archilochos does not suffice; we must have the Muses. Lydian Pelops is mentioned for the sake of the dowry of his bride, Hippodameia. Themis and Eunomia are the patronesses of the renowned city, mother of the Lokrians. The city is the city of Protogeneia. Opus, son of Zeus and an Epeian heroine, bore the name of his mother's father. When Menoitios is mentioned, his mother is not forgotten; Achilles is only Thetis's son.
The fundamental thought is to de phuai kratiston hapan. It matters not that in the previous song P. had sung: agnomon de to me promathein (O. 8.60). Here no Melesias is to be praised. The phua comes from God; hence P. sings, aneu de theou sesigamenon ou skaioteron chrem' hekaston. The poem is full of the strange dealings, the wonderful workings of the deities, of the Supreme, culminating in the story of Protogeneia and her son. The fortune of Lydian Pelops reminds us of Poseidon. The dowry of Hippodameia was a gift of God, as Pindar's garden of song was allotted him by Fate. The Charites are the bestowers of all that is pleasant. Men are good and wise according to the will of Heaven. If Herakles withstood the gods themselves, it is clear that there was a greater god within him. That god was Zeus, and P., after deprecating impiety toward the gods, tells of the marvels Zeus hath wrought. Behold the miracle of the stones raised up as seed to Deukalion and Pyrrha. That is the decree of Zeus, aiolobronta Dios aisai. Behold the deluge abated. That is the device of Zeus, Zenos technais. Protogeneia is caught up. Zeus interferes again to give life to the dying house.
Epharmostos has been singularly favored by nature and fortune. Nature and fortune mean God, and the narrative of his successes closes the poem with a recognition of the divine decree that made him quick of hand, ready of limb, and valorous of eye.
The Lokrian or Aiolian (logaoedic) rhythms are light and festive. They whirr like arrows, they flame, they speed faster than mettlesome horse or winged ship.
The first triad contains the introduction. The myth, the story of the heroine who made Opus what it was, is announced in the first epode, the theme of which is continued in the second triad. After unfolding his moral (agathoi de kai sophoi kata daimon' andres egenonto), P. resumes the myth, tells of Deukalion and Pyrrha and the stone-folk, and the union of Zeus and the ancestress of Opus and the Opuntian nobles. About the city thus founded gathered nobles of different Grecian lands, chief of them Menoitios, father of Patroklos. From this story, which shows what God can do, P. passes, at the close of the third triad, to the achievements of the descendants of this favored stock, and, in the last triad, recounts the exploits of Epharmostos
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