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ISTHMIAN 2: COMMODITY OR GIFT?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 February 2020

Extract

Isthmian 2 was composed for Xenokrates of Akragas’ chariot victory, probably in 471–470 bc. The winner was dead by the time that the ode was performed, and as a result the recipient of the ode was his son, Thrasyboulos. The victor's family, the Emmenidai, was politically prominent and one of the founding families of Akragas: Theron, son of Ainesidamos and tyrant of Akragas (488–487 bc), was Xenokrates’ brother, and Xenokrates is also commemorated by Pindar in Pythian 6 for his victory at a chariot race (490 bc).

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Classical Association 2020

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Footnotes

I am grateful to Richard Seaford for his support and comments. His Money and the Early Greek Mind inspired the way I approached Greek literature. I am also grateful to Vayos Liapis for his attention, comments, and patient proofreading.

References

1 Xenokrates may have been victorious at the Isthmian Games sometime between 488 and 476 bc. His victory seems to have been celebrated by Simonides: see Molyneux, J. H., Simonides. A Historical Study (Wauconda, Illinois, 1992), 233–4Google Scholar. The dating of Isthmian 2 has been a matter of debate. Wilamowitz, U. von, Pindaros (Berlin, 1922), 310–11Google Scholar, dates it after the fall of the Emmenids (472 bc); see also Norwood, G., Pindar (Berkeley, CA, 1945), 152Google Scholar; and Bowra, C. M., Pindar (Oxford, 1964), 124Google Scholar. Snell, B. and Maehler, H., Pindari carmina cum fragmentis, 2 vols. (Leizpig, 1980–9)Google Scholar date it to 470 bc, while C. Pavese, ‘ΧΡΗΜΑΤΑ, ΧΡΗΜΑΤ’ ΑΝΗΡ ed il motive della liberalità nella seconda Istmica di Pindaro’, QUCC 2 (1966), 103, argues that the first performance of the ode must have been sometime between 476 and 472 bc. I follow Kurke, L., The Traffic in Praise. Pindar and the Poetics of Social Economy (Ithaca, NY, 1991), 192–3Google Scholar, who dates the ode after the fall of the Emmenids (i.e. to c.471 bc), arguing that Thrasyboulos is praised as an aristocrat of high prestige and not as a member of a ruling family.

2 See Nisetich, F. J., ‘Convention and Occasion in Isthmian 2’, Californian Studies in Classical Antiquity (1977), 133–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 139. According to E. L. Bundy in his semantic work Studia Pindarica (Berkeley, CA, 1962), the odes should be approaches as encomia. For him – and his followers – there is nothing in the odes that does not have a laudatory or rhetorical function. Thus, the study of Pindar becomes a study of genre.

3 Kurke (n. 1), 240–56. Elsewhere in this work, Kurke states that coinage represented a tremendous threat to a stable hierarchy of aristocrats and others, while ‘the aristocratic monopoly on precious goods within a closed system of gift-exchange guarantees an absolute (naturalized) status hierarchy’ (ibid., 46–7).

4 Seaford, R., Money and the Early Greek Mind. Homer, Philosophy, Tragedy (Cambridge, 2004), 15CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 On the Theognis passage, see Kurke (n. 1), 254; Seaford (n. 4), 161–2.

6 Polanyi did not explicitly use this term; it has become established, however, by subsequent scholarship based on his work. See Ruggie, J. G., ‘International Regimes, Transactions, and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the Postwar Economic System’, International Organization 36 (1982), 379415CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 For a concise definition of ‘embeddedness’, see Block, F., ‘Introduction’, in Polanyi, K., The Great Transformation. The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, second edition (Boston, MA, 2001), xxiiiGoogle Scholar: ‘The term “embeddedness” expresses the idea that the economy is not autonomous, as it must be in economic theory, but subordinated to politics, religion, and social relations.’ For Polanyi's treatment of embeddedness in premodern societies, in which the principal motors of economic activity are reciprocity, redistribution, and ‘householding’ (production for the use of one's own social group, free of profit-making calculations), see Polanyi (this note), 45–58. It is important to keep in mind that Polanyi repeatedly insisted ‘that the goal of a disembedded, fully self-regulating market economy is a utopian project; it is something that cannot exist’ (Block [this note], xxiv). See e.g. Polanyi (this note), 3: ‘Our thesis is that the idea of a self-adjusting market implied a stark utopia. Such an institution could not exist for any length of time without annihilating the human and natural substance of society; it would have physically destroyed man and transformed his surroundings into a wilderness.’

8 Polanyi (n. 7), 57–61.

9 Kurke (n. 1), 249.

10 Ibid., 222.

Ibid

11 The discussion about the differences between commodities and gifts has many dimensions. According to Gregory, C. A., Gifts and Commodities (London, 1982)Google Scholar, gifts belong to the sphere of household and personal relationships, while commodities belong to the sphere of trade and impersonal relationships. Gregory argues that gift-exchange is conducive to the creation of qualitative relationships, to the interdependence between the actors, and to a feeling of indebtedness after a gift has been received. In addition, gift economies are characteristic of clans, whereas commodity-based economies are characteristic of social classes. M. Strathern, The Gender of the Gift (Berkeley, CA, 1988) focuses on the role of gender in the process of exchange and production. Weiner, A. B., Inalienable Possessions. The Paradox of Keeping-While-Giving (Berkeley, CA, 1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar argues that some goods cannot be exchanged at all, although Parry, J. and Bloch, M., Money and the Morality of Exchange (Cambridge, 1989)CrossRefGoogle Scholar add that in traditional Indian societies – as also happens in Homer (see e.g. Od. 21.35 ff.) – some gifts are actually alienable. Veleri, V., ‘Buying Women But Not Selling Them: Gift and Commodity Exchange in Huaulu Alliance’, Man, 29 (1994), 126CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and Appadurai, A. (ed.), The Social Life of Things. Commodities in Cultural Perspective (Cambridge, 1986)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, cannot accept the strict division between gift- and commodity-economies, and emphasize that gift exchange is also a matter of self-interested calculation. See also on this point Bourdieu, P., Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans. Nice, R. (Cambridge, 1977), 171–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

12 See Kromer, G., ‘The Value of Time in Pindar's Olympian 10’, Hermes 104 (1976), 421–2Google Scholar.

13 Throughout this article, I use Race's, W. H. translation, Pindar. Nemean Odes. Isthmian Odes. Fragments (Cambridge, MA, 1997)Google Scholar, and Race, W. H., Pindar. Olympian Odes. Pythian Odes (Cambridge, MA, 1997)Google Scholar, with slight modifications.

14 Wilamowitz (n. 1), 311 with n. 1, noted that the vocabulary (ἐργάτις and ἐπέρναντο) used to describe the Muse alludes to prostitution. He cites Archilochos’ fr. 206 W (ἐργάτις, an offensive reference to Neoboule). Also possibly relevant here is Archilochos’ fr. 35W, if indeed βοῦς…ἐργάτης is an allusion to Neoboule suggesting a prostitute's labour. For the relation between πέρνημι and πόρνη, see Davidson, J., Courtesans and Fishcakes. The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens (London, 1997), 117Google Scholar.

15 Seaford (n. 4), 161.

16 See Gregory (n. 11), 19, 42–3; Seaford, R., Reciprocity and Ritual. Homer and Tragedy in the Developing City-State (Oxford, 1994), 14Google Scholar.

17 See, for example, Reden, S. von, ‘The Commodification of Symbols: Reciprocity and Its Perversion in Menander’, in Gill, C., Postlethwaite, N., and Seaford, R., Reciprocity in Ancient Greece (Oxford, 1998), 258Google Scholar.

18 Bourdieu (n. 11), 171–2, emphasis in original.

19 Rawles, R., ‘Eros and Praise in Early Greek Lyric’, in Athanassaki, L. and Bowie, E. (eds.), Archaic and Classical Choral Song. Performance, Politics and Dissemination (Berlin and Boston, MA, 2011), 139–59Google Scholar, discusses the embarrassment that poets felt at the commercialization of poetry, and the consequent presentation of their poems as erotic and disinterested. Woodbury, L., ‘Pindar and the Mercenary Muse: Isthm. 2.1–13’, TAPhA 99 (1968), 532Google Scholar, based on the scholia, claims that the ‘old poets’ are specifically Alkaeus, Ibycus, and Anakreon. However, his interpretation in the light of epinikian conventions is not very persuasive and, as Nisetich (n. 2), 138, points out, it does not explain Pindar's concern about the old poets as love poets.

20 On this point, see Nicholson, N. J., Aristocracy and Athletics in Archaic and Classical Greece (Oxford, 2005), 67Google Scholar.

21 Pavese (n. 1), 103–12, and Kurke (n. 1), 240, argue that the point of σοφός is that Thrasyboulos possesses an understanding of the nature and uses of wealth; but there is nothing in this passage to suggest that wisdom specifically concerns the wise use of money. See also Nisetich (n. 2), 137, for a refutation of Pavese's claims.

22 On the mutual convertibility between symbolic and material capital, see further Bourdieu (n. 11), 179–83.

23 I. Kopytoff, ‘The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process’, in Appadurai (n. 11), 73–7; Osteen, M., The Question of the Gift. Essays Across Disciplines (Routledge, 2002), 233–47Google Scholar.

24 For the ambiguity of αἰδοῖος here (‘revered’ but also ‘respectful’), see Σ 54a (III 219 Drachmann).

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