Isthmian 7 (Pindar)

The lyric poet Pindar composed victory odes for winners in the four Panhellenic Games (Olympian, Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian). This one is to a certain Strepsiades from Thebes who won in the pankration, a form of competitive fighting that combined wrestling and boxing, with few rules besides a prohibition on biting or attacking the eyes. This ode to Strepsiades begins with an iteration through seven events, some historical and some mythical, associated with the victor’s hometown of Thebes (which happens to be Pindar’s place of origin as well).

Part I (ll. 1–15)

Part II (ll. 16–30)

Part III (ll. 31–51)


Isthmian 7 (Pindar)—Part III

Go to Part II

τὺ δέ, Διοδότοιο παῖ, μαχατὰν
αἰνέων Μελέαγρον, αἰνέων δὲ καὶ Ἕκτορα
Ἀμφιάραόν τε,
εὐανθέ’ ἀπέπνευσας ἁλικίαν

31   τύ = σύ ‘thou’—Διοδότοιο Διόδοτος gen sg; the father of Strepsiades the uncle—μαχατάν = μαχητήν; in apposition to l. 32 Μελέαγρον

32   This line and the next liken the elder Strepsiades to legendary heroes who died famous deaths.—αἰνέων ‘bringing glory to’ = ‘imitating’—ΜελέαγρονMeleager,’ host of the hunt for the Calydonian Boar, killed by his mother thereafter—ἝκτοραHector,’ prince of Troy and paragon of virtue, slain by Achilles while defending his homeland towards the end of the Trojan War

33   ἈμφιάραονAmphiaraus‘ fought in the war of the Seven Against Thebes, and avoided death on the battlefield when Zeus opened up the earth to bury him along with his horses and chariot (a subject treated more extensively in Pindar’s Nemean Ode IX)

34   εὐανθέα acc sg ‘blooming’ lit. ‘well (εὐ)-flowered (ἄνθος)’—ἀπέπνευσας ἀπο-πνεύω 2 sg aor ind ‘breathed out’—ἁλικίαν lit. ‘lifetime’ = ‘life’

προμάχων ἀν’ ὅμιλον, ἔνθ’ ἄριστοι (στρ. γ’) 35
ἔσχον πολέμοιο νεῖκος ἐσχάταις ἐλπίσιν.
ἔτλαν δὲ πένθος οὐ φατόν· ἀλλὰ νῦν μοι
Γαιάοχος εὐδίαν ὄπασσεν
ἐκ χειμῶνος. ἀείσομαι χαίταν στεφάνοισιν ἁρ- 39a
μόζων. ὁ δ’ ἀθανάτων 39b
μὴ θρασσέτω φθόνος, 39c

35   προμάχων πρό|μαχος gen pl ‘one fighting (μαχέομαι) in the front (πρό)’—ἔνθα ‘where (relative)’

36   νεῖκος neut ‘strife, quarrel’

37   ἔτλαν τλάω 3 pl root aorist ‘endured, suffered’—φατόν adj neut ‘spoken, speakable’ from φημί ‘I speak’; take οὐ φατόν as ‘unspeakable’

38   Γαιάοχος ‘Earth (γαίη)-Shaker (*ϝεχ- ’cause to move’ < PIE *weģʰ-),’ an epithet of Poseidon, god of the ocean and of earthquakes—εὐδίαν ‘fair weather’ = ‘tranquility, peace’

39   χειμῶνος usually ‘winter, winter storm’ but here = ‘storm’—ἀεἴδω 1 sg fut mid/pass—ἁρμόζων ‘fitting, entwining’ looks ahead to l. 39c φθόνος—μὴ θρασσέτω θράσσω (Att. θράττω) 3 sg pres imp ‘may it not trouble’; the object is the following clause, beginning with l. 40 ὅ τι ‘that which’—φθόνος ‘ill-will, jealousy’

ὅ τι τερπνὸν ἐφάμερον διώκων (ἀντ. γ’) 40
ἕκαλος ἔπειμι γῆρας ἔς τε τὸν μόρσιμον
αἰῶνα. θνᾴσκομεν γὰρ ὁμῶς ἅπαντες·
δαίμων δ’ ἄϊσος· τὰ μακρὰ δ’ εἴ τις
παπταίνει, βραχὺς ἐξικέσθαι χαλκόπεδον θεῶν 44a
ἕδραν· ὅ τοι πτερόεις 44b
ἔρριψε Πάγασος 44c

40   τερπνόν adj neut acc ‘delightful, pleasant’—ἐφάμερον ἐπ-ήμερος ‘lasting but a day, short-lived’ (cf. ephemeral) from ἐπὶ + ἡμέρα

41   ἕκαλος = ἕκηλος ‘gladly’—ἔπειμι ‘I come (εἶμι) upon (ἐπί), approach’—μόρσιμον ‘allotted, appointed by fate’

42   θνᾴσκομεν = θνῄσκομενὁμῶς ‘in the same way’

43   δαίμων = ‘fate, destiny’—ἄϊσος ‘unequal,’ from ἀ- + ἴσος—τὰ μακρά ‘far-off things’—εἴ is the first word of this clause in sensible English

44   παπταίνει ‘look about at’—βραχύς here has the sense of ‘too short to’ + inf.; take the adjective as predicative, i.e. ‘he is too short’—ἐξικέσθαι ‘reach’; the infinitive limits the domain of βραχύς—χαλκόπεδον ‘with floor (πέδον) of bronze (χαλκός)’ἕδραν ‘sitting-place,’ from ἕζομαι ‘sit’— looks ahead to Πάγασος—πτερόεις ‘winged’ lit. ‘feather-having,’ with the same suffix as in l. 22 μορφάες; cf. πτερόν ‘feather’—ἔρριψε ῥίπτω 3 sg aor ‘threw,’ as horses do; the object is in ll. 45 and 46—Πάγασος = Πήγασος ‘Pegasus

δεσπόταν ἐθέλοντ’ ἐς οὐρανοῦ σταθμοὺς (ἐπ. γ’) 45
ἐλθεῖν μεθ’ ὁμάγυριν Βελλεροφόνταν
Ζηνός. τὸ δὲ πὰρ δίκαν
γλυκὺ πικροτάτα μένει τελευτά.
ἄμμι δ’, ὦ χρυσέᾳ κόμᾳ θάλλων, πόρε, Λοξία,
τεαῖσιν ἁμίλλαισιν 50
εὐανθέα καὶ Πυθόϊ στέφανον.

45   δεσπόταν = δεσπότην ‘master,’ as of an animal; from PIE *dems (gen. of *doms ‘house’) + potis ‘master’; cf. despotἐθέλοντα ‘wishing’ agrees with δεσπόταν and l. 46 Βελλεροφόνταν—σταθμούς here = ‘dwelling-places’

46   ἐλθεῖν is dependent on l. 45 ἐθέλοντα—ὁμάγυριν = ὁμήγυριν ‘assembly’ (ὁμός + ἀγείρω)—Βελλεροφόνταν = Βελλεροφόντην acc ‘Bellerophon,’ who tamed Pegasus

47   Ζηνός gen ‘of Zeus’—τὸ … πὰρ δίκαν γλυκύ ‘that which is sweet beyond measure, sweetness beyond measure’ is the beginning of a gnomic line

48   πικροτάτα πικρός fem nom sg superlative ‘most bitter,’ here figurative—μένει ‘awaits’ = ‘is the consequence of’ takes l. 47 τὸ … γλυκύ as its object

49   ἄμμι is Aeolic for ἡμῖν—θάλλων ‘blooming’—πόρε 2 sg aor imp act ‘give!’—Λοξία Λοξίης voc a nickname of Apollo, in whose honor the Pythian Games were held

50   τεαῖσιν τεός fem dat pl ‘thy’—ἁμίλλαισιν ‘contests’

51   Πυθόϊ loc adv ‘at Pytho’ i.e. ‘at the Pythian Games

And you, son of Diodotus, emulating
the warrior Meleager, and also emulating Hector
and Amphiaraus,
breathed out your blooming life

Strophe Γ
in the crowd of those at the front, where the very best 35
kept up the strife of war with their final hopes.
They endured unspeakable grief; but now
the Earth-Shaker has provided me with tranquility
out of the storm. I shall sing, fitting my hair with 39a
wreaths. May the 39b
jealousy of the immortals not disturb 39c

Antistrophe Γ
whatever day-to-day delight I pursue as 40
I gladly approach old age and my fate-appointed
time. For we all die in the same way,
but our destinies are unequal; if someone is looking at
far-off things, he is too short to reach the gods’ bronze-floored 44a
seat; for that winged one, 44b
Pegasus, threw 44c

Epode Γ
his master Bellerophon when he wished to go 45
to the dwelling-places of heaven among the assembly
of Zeus. A most bitter end awaits that which is
sweet beyond measure.
Give to us, O Loxias blooming with golden hair,
from your contests, 50
a flowery wreath at Pytho as well.

Isthmian 7 (Pindar)—Part II

Go to Part I

ἀλλὰ παλαιὰ γὰρ
εὕδει χάρις, ἀμνάμονες δὲ βροτοί,

16   παλαιά = παλαιή fem nom sg ‘ancient, of earlier days’

17   εὕδει ‘sleeps’—ἀμνάμονες adj ἀ|μνήμων ‘forgetful’; take as the predicate of βροτοί

ὅ τι μὴ σοφίας ἄωτον ἄκρον (στρ. β’)
κλυταῖς ἐπέων ῥοαῖσιν ἐξίκηται ζυγέν.
κώμαζ’ ἔπειτεν ἁδυμελεῖ σὺν ὕμνῳ 20
καὶ Στρεψιάδᾳ· φέρει γὰρ Ἰσθμοῖ
νίκαν παγκρατίου· σθένει τ’ ἔκπαγλος ἰδεῖν τε μορ- 22a
φάεις· ἄγει τ’ ἀρετὰν 22b
οὐκ αἴσχιον φυᾶς. 22c

18   ἄωτον τὸ ἄωτον ‘the choicest, the flower of its kind’

19   ζυγέν ζεύγνυμι neut sg aor pass participle ‘joined’

20   κώμαζε κωμάζω 2 sg pres imp ‘revel! make merry!’; the addressee is still l. 1 Θήβα ‘Thebes’—ἁδυμελεῖ ἡδυ|μελής ‘sweetly (ἡδύς) singing (cf. μελῳδέω)’

21   Ἴσθμοῖ a locative adverb = the eponymous Isthmus

22   σθένει dat sg ‘strength, might’—ἔκπαγλος ‘marvelous’—ἰδεῖν ‘to see’ is an infinitive that limits μορφάεις, i.e. ‘shapely to behold’ = ‘shapely, as one looking upon him can see’—μορφάεις = μορφή-εις lit. ‘having (-εις) a shape (μορφή)’ = ‘having a pleasing shape’; the suffix -εις (cf. νιφόεις ‘having snow’ = ‘snowy’; ἠνεμόεις ‘having wind’ = ‘windy’) is from *-went-s (cf. Skt -vant- with the same meaning; e.g. bhaga-vān ‘fortune-having’ = ‘blessed’)—αἴσχιον αἰσχρός comp; the neuter accusative is used adverbially, i.e. ‘more shamefully, more basely’; οὐκ αἴσχιον thus means ‘in no baser a way’ which basically = ‘no less’—ἀρετὰν … φυᾶς ‘excellence of stature’; φυή is from the verb φύω ‘grow’

φλέγεται δὲ ἰοπλόκοισι Μοίσαις, (ἀντ. β’)
μάτρωΐ θ’ ὁμηνύμῳ δέδωκε κοινὸν θάλος,
χάλκασπις ᾧ πότμον μὲν Ἄρης ἔμειξεν, 25
τιμὰ δ’ ἀγαθοῖσιν ἀντίκειται.
ἴστω γὰρ σαφές, ὅστις ἐν ταύτᾳ νεφέλᾳ χάλα- 27a
ζαν αἵματος πρὸ φίλας 27b
πάτρας ἀμύνεται, 27c

23   ἰοπλόκοισι ‘with violet (ἰο-) hair (πλόκος ‘lock of hair, plait’)’—Μοίσαις = Μούσαις; in Aeolic, *-nts clusters (as in *montsya ‘memory’ = ‘Muse’) are always resolved with loss of the nasal and the emergence of a diphthong ending in ι

24   μάτρωϊ = μήτρως ‘maternal uncle’; Strepsiades had uncle with the same name (ὁμηνύμῳ ‘homonymous’) who had previously fallen in battle, and who Pindar is now going to tell us a little bit about—θάλος ‘olive wreath,’ of victory

25   χάλκασπις ‘with shield (ἄσπις) of bronze (χαλκός),’ here an epithet of Ἄρηςἔμειξεν μίγνυμι 3 sg aor ind lit. ‘mixed’ but here fig. ‘concocted, devised’

26   This is a gnomic statement.

27   ἴστω οῖδα 3 sg perf imp ‘let him know’; the subject is ὅστις—νεφέλᾳ = νεφέλη ‘cloud’ = ‘cloud of battle’—χάλαζαν ‘hail, hailstorm,’ here fig.

λοιγὸν ἄντα φέρων ἐναντίῳ στρατῷ, (ἐπ. β’)
ἀστῶν γενεᾷ μέγιστον κλέος αὔξων
ζώων τ’ ἀπὸ καὶ θανών. 30

29   ἀστῶν ἀστός gen pl ‘townsmen, citizens’—κλέος ‘fame’ < PIE ḱlew- ‘hear’ cf. Rus слушать ‘listen,’ also Eng ‘loud,’ ‘listen’—αὔξων is the main verb in the indirect discourse started by l. 27 ἴστω (verbs of knowledge and perception, like οἶδα, use participles and not infinitives in oratio obliqua), i.e. ‘may he know that he increases…’

But ancient glory
sleeps, and mortals are forgetful

Strophe B
of whatever does not reach the highest peak of wisdom,
joined with renowned streams of words.
Therefore, with a sweet-singing chant, rejoice 20
also in Strepsiades; for at the Isthmian Games he has carried away
victory in the pankration; marvelous in his might and 22a
shapely to behold; and he brings excellence 22b
of physique no less. 22c

Antistrophe B
He shines bright by the violet-haired Muses,
and gave a common olive-wreath to his uncle of the same name,
for whom Ares of the bronze shield concocted death; 25
honor is offered as recompense to brave men.
Let that one know, whoever wards off the hailstorm of blood 27a
in this cloud of war for the sake 27b
of his dear homeland 27c

Epode B
by bringing destruction to the opposing army,
that he increases the utmost fame for the generation of townsmen,
both while living and dying. 30

Go to Part III

Isthmian 7 (Pindar)—Part I

Go to Intro


Τίνι τῶν πάρος, ὦ μάκαιρα Θήβα, (στρ. α’)
καλῶν ἐπιχωρίων μάλιστα θυμὸν τεὸν
εὔφρανας; ἦρα χαλκοκρότου πάρεδρον
Δαμάτερος ἁνίκ’ εὐρυχαίταν
ἄντειλας Διόνυσον, ἢ χρυσῷ μεσονύκτιον 5a
νείφοντα δεξαμένα 5b
τὸν φέρτατον θεῶν, 5c

1   Τίνι ‘at which?’ with l. 3 εὔφρανας

2   ἐπιχωρίων adj ‘of the country, local’ = ἐπί + χώρα

3   εὔφρανας = εὔφρηνας; εὐφραίνω 2 sg aor ‘cheered, gladdened’—ἦρα = ἦ + ῥα; introduces a question—χαλκοκρότου χαλκό-κροτος ‘resounding (κρότος) with bronze (χαλκός)’ (epith. of Demeter, alluding to instruments used in her worship)—πάρεδρον ‘one sitting beside’ + gen.

4   ἁνίκ’ = ἡνίκα ‘at the time when’—εὐρυχαίταν ‘with wide-streaming hair’

5   ἄντειλας ἀνα-τέλλω ‘made to rise up’—χρυσῷ μεσονύκτιον νείφοντα; on this occasion, Zeus is supposed to have caused it to snow with gold in the middle of the night—τὸν φέρτατον θεῶν i.e. Zeus

ὁπότ’ Ἀμφιτρύωνος ἐν θυρέτροις (ἀντ. α’)
σταθεὶς ἄλοχον μετῆλθεν ἡρακλείοις γοναῖς;
ἤτ’ ἀμφὶ πυκναῖς Τειρεσίαο βουλαῖς;
ἤτ’ ἀμφ’ Ἰόλαον ἱππόμητιν;
ἢ Σπαρτῶν ἀκαμαντολογχᾶν; ἢ ὅτε καρτερᾶς 10a
Ἄδραστον ἐξ ἀλαλᾶς 10b
ἄμπεμψας ὀρφανὸν 10c

6   Ἀμφιτρύωνος ‘of Amphitryon‘ can depend on either θυρέτροις ‘doorway’ or l. 7 ἄλοχον ‘wife’

7   ἄλοχον = Alcmene, the mother of Heracles— ἡρακλείοις γοναῖς lit. ‘for Heraclean begettings’ = ‘for the birth of Heracles

8   πυκναῖς ‘close-packed’ = ‘numerous, frequent’

9   ἸόλαονIolaus,’ a hero of Theban origin—ἱππόμητιν ‘skilled with (μῆτις) horses (ἵππος)’

10   Σπαρτῶν = the legendary Sown Men (cf. σπείρω ‘sow, scatter’), ancestors of Theban nobility, who sprang from the ground where Cadmus, the city’s mythical founder, had sown the teeth of a slain dragon—ἀκαμαντολογχᾶν ἀ-καμαντο-λόγχης gen pl ‘unwearied (ἀκάμας) by the spear (λόγχη)’—The expulsion of Adrastus back to Argos is a reference to the Seven Against Thebes incident.—ἀλαλᾶς ‘war-cry’ = ‘battle’—ὀρφανόν ‘as an orphan’ = ‘bereft of’ + gen.

μυρίων ἑτάρων ἐς Ἄργος ἵππιον; (ἐπ. α’)
ἢ Δωρίδ’ ἀποικίαν οὕνεκεν ὀρθῷ
ἔστασας ἐπὶ σφυρῷ
Λακεδαιμονίων, ἕλον δ’ Ἀμύκλας
Αἰγεῖδαι σέθεν ἔκγονοι, μαντεύμασι Πυθίοις; 15

11   ἵππιον ‘equestrian,’ epithet of Ἄργος

12   Δωρίδα fem adj Δωρίς ‘Dorian’—ἀποικίαν ‘settlement far from (ἀπό) home (οἰκία)’ = ‘colony’—ὀρθῷ … σφυρῷ ‘on an upright ankle,’ fig. = ‘solidly’

14   ἕλον ‘took (with military force)’—Ἀμύκλας = Amyclae, a town in Lacedaemon

15   Αἰγεῖδαι ‘the Aegeidae’ (lit. ‘sons of Aegeus’), a clan of Theban nobility—σέθεν ‘from you’—ἔκγονοι ‘born (cf. γίγνομαι) from (ἐκ)’—μαντεύμασι Πυθίοις read the dative as ‘in accordance with’; Πυθίοις refers to the Oracle of Delphi


Strophe Α
O blessed Thebes, at which of the past
glories of the country did you gladden your heart
the most? (1) Was it when you raised up him who sits
next to Demeter of the resounding bronze,
Dionysus with wide-streaming hair? 5
(2) Or when you received that greatest of gods
in the middle of the night when he made it snow with gold, 5b

Antistrophe A
when he stood in Amphitryon’s doorway
and wooed his wife for the purpose of the birth of Heracles?
(3) Or was it for the numerous counsels of Teiresias?
(4) Or was it for Iolaus, skilled with horses?
(5) Or for the Sown Men, unwearied by the spear? 10
(6) Or when you repelled Adrastus
from the mighty battle, bereft 10b

Epode Α
of his countless companions, back into equestrian Argos?
(7) Or because you set the Dorian colony
of the Lacedaemonians on solid footing,
and the Aegeidae, sprung from you, took
Amyclae, in accordance with the Pythian prophecies? 15

Go to Part II