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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 February 2020


Pindar's odes for Aeginetan victors revolve around two major Aeginetan virtues: inborn excellence (phya) and generous guest-friendship (xenia). The latter virtue is, of course, one of the most pervasive themes in Pindar's poetry, in which the poet's relationship with his patrons is presented in terms of guest-friendship, with the odes themselves as the poet's gift to his guest-friends. As for the former virtue, the Aeginetans’ inborn excellence is implicit in the mythic section of almost all Aeginetan odes, which focuses on the line of Aiakos, the progenitor of two of the greatest Greek heroes, Achilles and Ajax. In view of this almost exclusive emphasis, one might be forgiven for assuming that the Aiakidai were the mythical progenitors of the Aeginetans. However, this is simply not true, as Pindar himself was fully aware: in fact, the Aeginetans were a Doric tribe whose ancestry was no more remarkable than that of other Doric cities; at best, they could claim the Aiakidai as their ancestors only metaphorically.

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 2020

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An earlier version of this article was presented as part of the ‘Aristocracy and Monetization’ panel at the Classical Association Conference, Leicester, 6–9 April 2018. I am very grateful to Professors Richard Seaford and Vaios Liapis for their valuable comments, suggestions, and guidance.


1 Murray, O., Early Greece (Atlantic Highlands, NJ, 1980), 210Google Scholar.

2 See de Ste Croix, Geoffrey, Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World (New York, 1981), 120Google Scholar; The Origins of the Peloponnesian War (London, 1972), 267; and esp. ‘But What About Aegina?’ in D. Harvey and R. Parker (eds.), Athenian Democratic Origins and Other Essays (Oxford, 2004), 371–420, following H. Winterscheidt Aigina (Wurzburg, 1938), who maintained that Aeginetan elites had nothing to do with trade, which was primarily an occupation of the lower classes.

3 Figueira, T., Aegina. Society and Politics (Salem, NH, 1981), 299305Google Scholar; ‘Aeginetan Independence’, CJ 79 (1983), 9–33. Figueira's view has been accepted by many scholars, e.g. Zunker, A., Untersuchungen zur Aiakidensage auf Aigina (St Ottilien, 1988), 35Google Scholar; Arnheim, M. T. W., Aristocracy and Greek Society (London, 1977), 127–8Google Scholar; Burnett, A. P., Pindar's Songs for Young Athletes of Aigina (Oxford, 2005), 1328CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Fisher, N., ‘“Aristocratic” Values and Practices in Ancient Greece: Aegina, Athletes and Coaches in Pindar’, in Fisher, N. and van Wees, H. (eds.), ‘Aristocracy’ in Antiquity. Redefining Greek and Roman Elites (Swansea, 2015), 227–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 According to fourth-century sources, Aegina was the first mainland Greek city to strike coins. This view has, however, been challenged by recent scholarship. See Seaford, R., Money and the Greek Early Mind. Homer, Philosophy, and Tragedy (Cambridge, 2004), 130–3CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 For the ambiguity of the seal, see Detienne, M.Le phoque, le crabe et le forgeron’, in Hommages à Marie Delcourt (Brussels, 1970), 219–33Google Scholar.

6 Telamon is the principal murderer only at Apollod. 2.12.6. In the earliest source, the epic Alkmeonis (fr. 1 West = Σ Eur. Andr. 687), the two brothers were equally responsible for Phokos’ murder (Telamon accidentally strikes Phokos with a discus, and the victim is then deliberately struck by Peleus in the back with an axe).

7 Murray (n. 1), 224.

8 On the road and related images in Pindar, see Becker, O., Das Bild des Weges und verwandte Vorstellungen im frühgriechischen Denken (Berlin, 1937)Google Scholar; on Pindar's maritime metaphors, see Péron, J., Les images maritimes de Pindare (Paris, 1974)Google Scholar. Significantly, L. Kurke's anaylsis of nostos – the athlete's return to his native oikos and polis – in The Traffic in Praise. Pindar and the Poetics of Social Economy (Ithaca, NY, 1991), 43–54 is mainly based on the Aeginetan odes (Nem. 3.22–6, 41–2; Nem. 4.36–8, 69–72, 73–5; Nem. 5.3–9; Nem. 6.13–16, 25–6, 28–30; Nem. 8.44–8; Pyth. 8.35–7). There are a few exceptions, such as Pyth. 10, Pyth. 11, and Nem. 2, where the poet describes the literal return of the athlete to Athens.

9 Gerber, D.Pindar. Nemean Six: A Commentary.HSCP 99, (1999), 66Google Scholar; cf. Figueira (n.3), 323.

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

11 Burnett (n. 3), 63.

12 Dougherty, C., The Raft of Odysseus: The Ethnographic Imagination of Homer's Odyssey (New York, 2001), 41Google Scholar.

13 E.g. Ol. 8.20–3, 25–8; Nem. 3.2–3, 4.12–13, 5.8, 7.61–2, 8.42; Isthm. 6.70, 9.5. For a discussion of such passages (both in Pindar and in Bacchylides), see Hornblower, S., ‘Dolphins in The Sea’, in Hornblower, S. and Morgan, K. (eds.), Pindar's Poetry, Patrons, and Festivals. From Archaic Greece to the Roman Empire (Oxford, 2007), 294–5Google Scholar.

14 Hornblower (n. 13), 300, counts more Pindaric passages on Aegina's xenia than on that of Sicily or Thessaly, although they too score well.

15 See e.g. Isthm. 5.22 (εὔνομος, ‘well ordered’); Pyth. 8.22 (δικαιόπολις, ‘just’); Nem. 4.12–13 (δίκᾳ ξεναρκέι κοινὸν | φέγγος, ‘that beacon of justice protecting all foreigners’), Pae. 6.131 (θεμίξενον ἀρετ[άν, ‘that virtue of just regard for strangers’); Isthm. 9.4–6: ‘Her citizens live in obedience to their rule, transgressing neither divine law nor the justice due to strangers’ (transl. Race).

16 Pindar alludes to the myth in Isthm. 6.19–27; Nem. 5.10–12; and Pae. 6.125. In Isoc. 9.191–2 and Paus. 2.29 the envoys come to Aiakos as suppliants rather than merely in order to ask for his assistance (as in Diod. Sic. 4.61.1–3). See also Σ. Pind. Nem. 5.17b, 8.19a; Σ. Ar. Eq. 1253a.

17 Kowalzig, B., ‘Musical Merchandise “on every vessel”: Religion and Trade on Aigina’, in Fearn, E. (ed.), Aigina. Contexts for Choral Lyric Poetry. Myth, History, and Identity in the Fifth Century bc (Oxford, 2011), 134–5Google Scholar.

18 Polinskaya, I., A Local History of Greek Polytheism. Gods, People and the Land of Aigina, 800–400 bce (Leiden and Boston, MA, 2013), 154CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

19 Hubbard, T. K., ‘Theban Nationalism and Poetic Apology in Pindar, Pythian 9.76–96’, RhM 134 (1991), 30Google Scholar n. 28. See e.g. Ol. 8.45 f., Nem. 3.36 f., Isthm. 5.35–8, Isthm. 6.27–31.

20 H. Indergaard, ‘Thebes, Aigina, and the Temple of Aphaia: A Reading of Pindar's Isthmian 6’, in Fearn (n. 17), 294–322, reads the ode as symbolizing the relationship of Aegina with Thebes in their anti-Athenian stance.

21 Sigelman, A., Xenia and the Unity of Time in Pindar's Victory Odes (Boston, MA, 2004), 194Google Scholar.

22 Herakles probably arrived at Telamon's house while his oikos was celebrating a marriage. I follow von der Mühll's restoration (γάμον vel γάμους).

23 Burnett (n. 3), 84.

24 Indergaard (n. 20), 320, remarks that ‘in Isth. 6 Heracles speaks not only to Zeus, Telamon, and the guests at the wedding, but also, through the embedded speeches, to the audience of Pindar's poem, as a parallel for Pindar's own prayers for future successes for Lampon's family’.

25 Hubbard, T. K., The Pindaric Mind. A Study of Logical Structure in Early Greek Poetry (Leiden, 1985), 107CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

26 For a full account of the vocabulary of the terms associated with ‘inborn’ qualities, see Rose, P., Sons of the Gods, Children of the Earth. Ideology and Literary Form in Ancient Greece (Ithaca, NY, 1992), 161Google Scholar.

27 Ibid., 160–1. Kurke (n. 8), 19, esp. n. 14, finds thirty-seven passages in which athletic victory is presented as a hereditary achievement which increases the symbolic capital of the oikos, and twenty-eight in which the achievement is attributed only to the victor. One obvious problem here is that some odes belong in both categories (e.g. Ol. 7; Isthm. 8; etc.). In addition, Kurke includes the case of Arkesilas of Cyrene (Pyth. 4 and Pyth. 5) in the second category, although Pindar makes a strong connection between Arkesilas and the mythic founder of Cyrene.


28 I note thirteen odes in which Pindar includes in his praise the victor's relatives (apart from his father): Ol. 7, 8, 13; Pyth. 6, 8; Nem. 4, 6, 10; Isthm. 2, 5, 6, 7, 8.

29 Rose, P., ‘The Myth of Pindar's First Nemean: Sportsmen, Poetry and Paideia’, HSCPh 78 (1974), 152Google Scholar.

30 Phokos killed, Peleus and Telamon exiled: Nem. 5.9–16; Ajax killed, Teukros exiled: Nem. 4.46–7. See J. S. Carnes, ‘Pindar's Use of Aiginetan Autochthony Myths’, PhD thesis (University of North Carolina, 1986), 94–5.

31 There are only two exceptions to this: Pyth. 1.65 refers to the re-founded city of Aitna, and Isthm. 7.10 refers to a Theban athlete.

32 The dolphin simile is reminiscent of the unusual simile for Melesias in Nem. 6.64–6. Nicholson, N. J., Aristocracy and Athletics in Archaic and Classical Greece (Cambridge, 2005), 152–3Google Scholar, points out that the dolphin was a symbol of the aristocracy of Aegina. Furthermore, the local athletic festival was called ‘Delphinia’.

33 Burnett (n. 3), 61 n. 2, suggests that Lampon is the son of Kleonikos (Isthm. 6.16), who is mentioned by Herodotus (9.78.1) as the most important individual from Aegina who fought in Plataia.

34 I follow Burnett's suggestion (Burnett [n. 3], 61) that Pytheas’ uncle competed with him at Nemea. For a different view, see Pfeijffer, I.Pindar's Eighth Pythian: The Relevance of the Historical Setting’, Hermes 123 (1995), 318–22Google Scholar.

35 Isthmian 6 is the second of the odes commissioned by Lampon, probably three years after Nem. 5. It is dated to 480 bc as there is no mention of the battle of Salamis (contr. Isthm. 5.49). See Burnett (n. 3), 81 n. 1; Nicholson (n. 32), 255–6 n. 1; Indergaard (n. 20), 295.

36 My analysis of this passage is indebted to Nicholson (n. 32), 170–5.

37 Ibid., 171–2.


38 D'Alessio, G. B., ‘Ordered from the Catalogue: Pindar, Bacchylides, and Hesiodic Genealogical Poetry’, in Hunter, R. (ed.), The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women. Constructions and Reconstructions (Cambridge, 2005), 231Google Scholar.

39 The reference is to Works and Days 412: μελέτη δέ τοι ἔργον ὀφέλλει (‘care/industry is good for work’).

40 Burnett (n. 3), 92–3, esp. n. 1.

41 It is implied that the brothers won a victory each at Nemea (Σ. Isthm. 5.18a–21a). On the question whether Phylakidas’ second Nemean victory is an exaggeration or an accurate reflection of his achievements, see Cole, T., ‘1 + 1 = 3: Studies in Pindar's Arithmetic’, AJPh 108 (1987), 559Google Scholar. The latter possibility is suggested by Isthm. 6.1–7, 57–66.

42 The reference to Aiakos possibly indicates that the ode was first performed near Aiakos’ ἡρῷον (‘cult’). See Steiner, D. T., ‘Pindar's Ogetti Parlanti’, HSCPh 95 (1993), 163Google Scholar; Pfeijffer, I.Three Aeginetan Odes of Pindar. A Commentary on Nemean V, Nemean III & Pythian VIII (Leiden, 1999), 193CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Pavlou, M.Fathers in absentia in Pindar's Epinician Poetry’, GRBS 52 (2010), 6Google Scholar.

43 Likewise, in Nem. 7.82–5 (a passage full of phya-related words), Aegina is personified as a mother who bequeaths divine blood to her descendants after she receives the seed of Zeus.

44 It should be noted, however, that the meaning of εὔανδρον is not straightforward. Race (n. 10) translates it as ‘of brave men’. The context suggests that there is more to the semantics of the word than this. In the myth that follows, Peleus shows himself to be pious (31–4), respectful towards aristocratic codes, such as hospitality (ξεινίου πατρός; 33), and a man whom it is difficult to deceive, in contrast to Akastos (27–30).

45 Bourdieu, P., Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans. Nice, R. (Cambridge, 1977), 180CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

46 Ibid., 183.


47 See also V. Liapis, ‘Payback Time: Metamorphoses of Debt and Commodity in Pindar's Olympian 10’, in this issue.

48 Bourdieu (n. 45) 171–83 (quotations from pp. 171, 172, emphasis in original).

49 On short- and long-term transactional orders see further Liapis (n. 47).

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