A literary study of Pindar's fourth and fifth Pythian odes
Pythian 4 is Pindar's grandest ode. It was commissioned along with Pythian 5 to celebrate the chariot victory at Delphi of Arcesilas IV of Cyrene. The lengthy myth of Pythian 4 narrates the tale of Jason and the Argonauts, long established in the Greek mythic tradition. Pindar's treatment of this tradition to create his myth is examined. It reveals much about his aims in writing the ode, in particular in the characterisation of his hero, Jason, and his opponent, Pelias. The poem's structure and the narrative technique employed in the myth are also examined. A remarkable feature of Pythian 4 is its epic flavour. Analysis of Pindar's production of this effect reveals many different devices which would remind his audience of epic, not least a singular concentration of epic language in the ode. The epilogue of Pythian 4 refers to the contemporary political situation in Cyrene. The poet's presentation and use of this material is assessed in the light of his treatment of contemporary allusions elsewhere in the odes. The complex relationship between the two odes for Arcesilas is considered in the light of other double commissions. Pythian 4 contains an unusual plea for an exile, Damophilus. He may have paid for the ode. The unusual features of Pythian 5 are examined: an extraordinary tribute to Arcesilas' charioteer, Carrhotus; vivid and numerous details of the topography of Cyrene and details of religious cult practice there. Pythian 5 also raises the question of the identity of the first person in Pindar. The poet's treatment of Cyrenean history, especially the figure of Battus, the victor's ancestor, who features in the myths of both odes, is also considered.