Values in Pindar Essay

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Values in Pindar

Pindar was composing his poetry at the start of the fifth century B.C. at a similar time to Aeschylus, and as much as three centuries after the completion of Homer's works. The values he displays, however, do not seem to have developed since the time of Homer; Pindar's ethics are those of a shame-culture, and in this way thoroughly Homeric. They are aristocratic, favouring the strong, powerful ruler over the weak and dominated. Wealth and prosperity are praised, not frowned upon. Nietzsche approved of Pindar's praise of the strong, be they tyrants or athletes (or indeed both), and conversely disapproved of the way Socrates later denied the good to be had in strength and power.
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Furthermore, the joy that comes from victory and success surpasses wealth:

õ d¢ kalñn ti n¡on laxÆn brñtatow ¦pi meg‹law ¤j ¤lpÛdow p¡tatai êpopt¡roiw Žnor¡aiw, ¦xvn kr¡ssona ploætou m¡rimnan.[4]

Pindar states that there is a something "greater than wealth", a glory that surpasses all things material. Honour in Homer is represented in a concrete manner through material prizes, but for Pindar the wealth that comes from victory is not itself the source of joy: the joy is external. Furthermore, while Pindar does not scorn wealth and the aristocracy, he does see greed and over-ambition in a highly negative light. Tantalus was greatly honoured by the gods:

eÞ d¢ d® tin' ndra ynatòn ƒOlæmpou skopoÜ ¤tÛmasan, ·n T‹ntalow oðtow[5]

However, he was not satisfied with his m¡gan ölbon, and was overpowered by greed, stealing from the gods the means necessary for immortality, nectar and ambrosia, and giving them to his drinking companions - and for this he was punished. The result of his greed is suffering: ¦xei d' Žp‹lamon bÛon toèton ¤mpedñmoxyon. What we see here is one of Pindar's core moral messages -

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