Pindar and the Poetics of Autonomy: Authorial Agency in the Fourth Pythian Ode
Alley, Dennis Robert
Over the last decade a growing number of scholars have questioned the veracity of the longstanding commission-fee model which placed the Greek lyric poet Pindar in the thrall of various aristocratic patrons to secure his pay. This seismic shift in our view on Pindar’s composition reveals manifold new questions to explore in its wake. What happens to our understanding of the 45 extant odes and extensive fragments, when, for example, angling for commission no longer mandates procrustean generic strictures? How do we understand praise poetry if not as exclusively solicited and sold? Where do we even begin examining the odes under this new model? Pindar and the Poetics of Autonomy suggests one ode in particular has suffered from the rigidity of scholarly expectations on commission and genre. In the corpus of Pindaric epinicia, Pythian Four, written around 462 for Arcesilaus the fourth of Cyrene, is conspicuously anomalous. At 299 exceptionally long lines, the poem is over twice as long as the next longest ode. While most epinicia devote considerable space in their opening and closing sections to celebrating the present victory, Pythian Four makes only one clear mention of it. Unlike other Pindaric epinicia which develop myths focusing on a critical crisis which reveals a hero’s exceptional character, Pythian Four features a continuous narrative which lingers on emotional moments of loss, recognition, deceit, success, and return. Finally, the ode concludes with a request for the repatriation of a Cyrenean exile—a feature not only unattested in other Pindaric poems, but which lacks clear precedent in extant Greek poetry. While any one of these features might easily be placed in an epinician to achieve, for example, variation or vividness, the accretion of so many irregular features in a single ode should at least encourage us to consider other generic options, or, alternatively, freer constraints on its composition. This dissertation does just that. It suggests that our understanding of Pindaric lyric, and Pythian four especially, has been problematically skewed by long assumed—but poorly documented—compositional and generic constraints. Finally, it offers a different way of understanding Pindar and Greek Lyric generally.
Pindar; Classical literature; Classical studies; Exile; Greek Lyric
Pelliccia, Hayden Newhall
Rusten, Jeffrey S.; Roby, Courtney Ann; Kirk, Athena E.
Doctor of Philosophy
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dissertation or thesis
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