Sport as the Pragmatic Determiner, Motif and Theme of Pindaric Odes
The vast majority of Pindar’s integrally preserved poetry is linked to sport: his epinicia, collected in four volumes, are dedicated to victors in various sporting disciplines at the four pan-Hellenic games. This is more than an external pragmatic circumstance: an obligatory constituent of the epinicium is the victor’s genealogy, often accompanied by a detailed account of the victor’s feat and career as well as the sporting achievements of his ancestors. Sporting success is a peak of human life, worth any exertion or cost, but even so it cannot lead to transcendence: it is a single moment blending into the shadow of transience. The sporting victory motif thus expands into the theme of human identity, which is in Pindar’s religious world crucially determined by man’s closeness or semblance to the gods on the one hand and the insurmountable difference on the other.
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