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PINDAR
Form: Gr. Pindaros.
The greatest of the Greek lyric poets, born about 622 B.C. at Cynoscephalae, near Thebes; son of the fluteplayer Dalphantus of the ancient and noble family of the Aegidae. His instruction in music, begun by his father, was continued by the musician and dithyrambic poet Lasus of Hermione and the two Boetian poetesses Myrtis and Corinna. He subsequently enjoyed the instructions of the eminent musicians Agathocles and Apollodorus at Athens. He lived chiefly at Thebes, but was renowned and honoured far and wide, among free communities as well as by tyrants and monarchs, not only for his skill in his art, but also for his profound piety. As a special favourite. of Apollo, he was given a seat in the temple at Delphi, and was regularly invited to the divine banquet called the Theoxenia. When he was condemned to a fine by his fellow citizens for glorifying the hostile city of Athens, the Athenians recouped him and accorded him the honour of proxenia, and afterwards erected a bronze statue in his honour. He was on the most intimate terms with Amyntas of Macedon, the Aleuadae in Thessaly and Arcesilaus of Cyrene, but more especially with Theron of Agrigentum and with Hieron of Syracuse at whose court he lived 476-472. He died a peaceful death 422, aged eighty, in the theatre at Argos. It is well known that, in the destruction of Thebes, Alexander the Great spared Pindar's house and descendants alone (Dion Chrysostom, Or. ii, p. 25 M; cp. Milton's third English sonnet]. As a poet, Pindar was remarkably prolific. His works, divided by the Alexandrian scholars into seventeen books, included hymns, paens, prosodia, parthenia, encomia, solia, threni, and epinicia [cp. Horace, Odes iv 2]. Of most of his poetry we have only fragments, but the four books of epinicia are nearly complete. These were songs celebrating the victors in the great national games, and sung by a chorus, sometimes at the scene of the victory, sometimes at the feast on the victor's return home. They contain fourteen Olympian, twelve Pythian, eleven Nemean, and eight Isthmian odes. Pindar's poetry is characterized by magnificence and sublimity of thought, expression, and metrical form. It is permeated by deep and warm religious sentiments resting on the popular creed, still unimpugned by sophistic teaching, and only ennobled by the impress of the poet's personality. He does not celebrate the victors by particular description; he takes his main ideas from the circumstances of the victor's home or personal position, or from the nature of the contest, and works them into a plot always artistic, though often obscured by the interlacing of the strands of thought and by the myths which are interwoven in appropriate detail. Harmony in thought, expression, and metre make the shortest and longest of his poems equally complete in themselves as works of art. Pindar's poetic language is the Ionic Homeric dialect, intermingled with Aeolic and especially with Doric forms. By some mistake his name (Pindarus Thebanus) became attached to an abstract of Homer's Iliad written in Latin hexameters for the use of schools in the 1st century A.D., and much used in the Middle Ages.
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