The biographical elements that we have on him are thin, in spite of the six Vies left by Antiquity.
According to the tradition, he is member of an aristocratic family. He is born in 518 in Cynocéphales, in Béotie. In fragment 193, it evokes “the quinquennial/escorted festival oxen where for the first time/I were slept, cherished in my langes” - this allusion to the Jeux Pythiques shows us that it is born at August or September. In its Ve Pythique , it seems to affirm that he is a member of the Égéides and he testifies to a particular sympathy to the institutions doriennes. Its family has a house with Thèbes, where Pindare will live often thereafter. Hérodote makes of him the pupil of Lasos of Hermione. With Athens, it also has as professor Agathoclès. It enters young person the contests of poetry, where it is beaten by Corinne of TANAGRA. This one then advises to him “to sow with full hands, not with full bag”.
Its first ode, Xe Pythique , is made up at age the 20 years. It celebrates the victory of the Thessalie N Hippokléas at the double stage, as well as the family of the athlete, the Aleuades. Very quickly, he becomes a famous poet. In 490, it composes its Life Pythique in the honor of Xénocrate, brother of Théron, future Tyran of Agrigente. In 480, the Perses invade Greece. Thèbes compromises with the enemy. No doubt Pindare pursues the policy of its native area, because it is Simonide de Céos which celebrates the victory of Salamine.
Far from limiting itself to the local theater, it sticks to different aristocratic courses Greek, like that of the Tyran Hiéron of Syracuse, in the honor of which it composes the First Pythique , or that of the king of Cyrène, for which it composes the Pythiques III and IV. On this ground, it is competed with by the poet Bacchylide, characterized by its more elegant style. It adopts as a whole a point of view panhellenic. He thus regards the Persian invasions as a threat for the Greece as a whole.
The corpus pindaric reached us in the form of papyrus (of second century BC at 2nd century a. J. - C.), including/understanding many fragments of péans and épinicies. We also have the manuscripts (12th and 13th centuries), among which most important are the Ambrosianus C222, the Vaticanus Græcus , the Laurentianus and the Parisinus Græcus . They come from a selection carried out at the 3rd century and include/understand only épinicies.
We preserved of Pindare four books of épinicie S ( ἐπίνικοι / epinikoi ). They were songs of victory made up in the honor of the winners of the four Jeux panhellenic, sung then by choruses of dancers on the passage of the winner. In its épinicies, Pindare does not celebrate the athletic performance as well as the personal value of the athlete: its victory reflects the triumph of the Beautiful and the Good on the mediocrity.
The épinicies represent only one weak part of the whole of its work, which also included/understood Hymne S, Péan S, songs of procession, songs for choruses of virgins (parthénies), the songs of praise, the songs with drinking, etc the unit constituted 17 pounds, published by the grammairiens alexandrines Zénodote and Aristophane de Byzance starting from copies or of the original editions. It is Aristophane which gathers the Odes in four books, according to the Plays concerned: the Olympic , the Pythiques , the Isthmian Néméennes and .
The pindaric question
The pindaric odes do not conform to any plan. The poet himself declares in his Xe Pythique : “similar to the bee, my beautiful anthems of praise fly of a subject to the other. ” This variety and this volatility gave to Pindare the reputation of a difficult poet, even obscure. So it has its detractors, whose Voltaire is not the least: in a letter with his friend Chabanon, it names it “the inintelligible one and risen Pindare”. If the Greeks very quickly carried it to the pinnacle, Hérodote among the first, Pindare does not have imitateurs. He was admired by Horace and Quintilien, then by the French poets of the Renaissance, the first of which Pierre de Ronsard. One owes with Rabelais the verb mocker “pindariser”, in reference to the followers of the lyric poet.
At the hellenistic time, Aristophane de Byzance and Aristarque de Samothrace place it in the Canon alexandrine. They establish an edition on which the philologists were based a long time: indeed, it seems not very probable that the odes of Pindare were in writing lying the alive one of their author. The hellenistic grammairiens fix the text in the shape of cola (of the Greek κῶλα / cola , “members”, then “periods oratories”). It is necessary to await the 19th century and work of August Bœckh ( Pindari operated quæ supersunt , Leipzig, 1811-1881) to see rebuilt the worms pindaric, all the more with difficulty as each ode has its own metric system.
Then the question of the unit of the ode arises. A first current of research, qualified of “historicist”, represented by authors like Bœckh and Wilamowitz (19th century), attempts to locate in the text of the biographical or historical elements. Another current prefers to be focused on the “lyric idea” being behind each art (Dissen, Metger, Croiset, 19th century). Contemporary criticism for its part tries to raise the recurrence of reasons and images.
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