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The Odes of Pindar (Classics) Paperback – 30 Sep 1982

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Paperback, 30 Sep 1982
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (30 Sept. 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014044209X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140442090
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 217,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com: 6 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Ian Myles Slater on Lattimore's Pindar 14 Sept. 2003
By Ian M. Slater - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The late Richmond Lattimore was a poet and a classical scholar. He held, in the opinion of many, an outstanding place among American translators of the classical literature. In the role of a scholar of Greek, he published late in life of series of translations from the New Testament, eventually collected in one volume; it is dedicated to the sense of the Greek text, without theological commitments. In a combined role he was responsible for a long series of distinguished translations, alone and with collaborators, or as an editor.

He appeared as all three in the University of Chicago Press "Greek Tragedies," and as translator-poet of the "The Iliad," "The Odyssey", Hesiod (Theogony, Works and Days, and Shield of Heracles), and, in the case at hand, the large-scale lyrics of Pindar (c. 518-438 BC). Originally published by the University of Chicago Press in 1947, and reprinted in paperback in that form, it was reissued in a revised translation in 1976, a few years after C.M. Bowra's British translation had appeared as a Penguin Classic. The Odes are songs for public performance in honor of athletes and other victors (owners of horses and chariot teams) at the major Games of classical Greece in the years around the Persian Wars.

Although Lattimore's Homeric translations are quite well known, and seem to remain continuously in print, his version of Pindar seems to have suffered from the relative obscurity of this magnificent, but difficult, poet, who has almost always found more favor with classical scholars than the public. Given the difficulties in translating his rich, densely allusive, and often terribly obscure poems celebrating long-forgotten athletic contests, this is not surprising.

Lattimore manages to give exceptionally clear translations, without masking the difficulties in following Pindar's lines of thought. His commentary is pretty sparse (as usual), which at least spares most of it from becoming outdated as approaches to Pindar shift. As in most translations (but not Bowra's) the Epinician (Victory) poems are presented in their traditional order, in sets according to the Games (Olympic, Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian) with which ancient scholars associated them (not always correctly).

Another translation of the Odes, by G.S. Conway, has been reprinted in Everyman Paperback Classics as "The Odes: and Selected Fragments," with an excellent introduction, expanded notes, and translations of additional texts, some fairly substantial, by Richard Stoneman. Stoneman provides a good account of trends in Pindar studies; I have discussed some of the issues he raises in my review of that volume.

A fourth alternative, with a translation facing the Greek texts, is the Loeb Classical Library edition, re-edited in two volumes by William H. Race (1997), which is probably a bit too intimidating for the merely curious reader.

It should be noted that this and several other translations of Pindaros (the full Greek form) have been appearing on the listings as the work of "Peter Pindar". (Or formerly were, when this review was first written, and for quite a while after I reported it to Amazon.) This was a pseudonym for John Wolcot, an eighteenth century physician and author from Cornwall, and seems to have been used by others as well. Its only connection with the Greek poet is the borrowing of his name.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Ian Myles Slater on: Bowra's Pindar, Not Lattimore's 8 Oct. 2003
By Ian M. Slater - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I am here reviewing C. M. Bowra's translation of "The Odes of Pindar" for the Penguin Classics, not Richmond Lattimore's version from the University of Chicago Press, my review of which has been appearing under this heading as well. Fortunately, I rank Bowra's work as highly as Lattimore's, so I won't have to quibble over how many stars should be assigned. Lattimore's translation is, at the moment, out of print; one hopes that Penguin will keep Bowra's available. I will refer to a third translation, as well.

Pindar was one of the most famous poets of ancient Greece, and besides fragments (which are all that survive of most of his rivals) we have four reasonably intact books out of a much larger collection. As it happens, the four books contain celebrations of victors at major Games (Olympic and three others, Pythian, Isthmian, and Nemean), and are otherwise unlike what moderns think of as typical poetry. They are also densely allusive, and in a Greek which is generally acknowledged to be as difficult to follow as it is beautiful. My own command of Greek is too small to judge, but Bowra is one of several modern translators who have managed to persuade me to read him for pleasure, rather just than for his allusions to myths and heroic legend.

Bowra, who also wrote a major work on Pindar, provides useful annotations to a very attractive translation. He also decided to arrange the poems according to their likely dates, or at least the dates assigned to them by ancient scholars who had list of victors in the various games. There are inherent problems with this, since some of the Odes actually relate to victories in other Games, and some were certainly performed at delayed celebrations. On the whole, however, it does give some sense of Pindar as a developing poet, and of the Victory Ode as a form continuing to grow during his career.

The real drawback is the need to consult a table of references to find any given poem. This can be a real annoyance for a student if Bowra is the only translation you have on hand, and you really want to check a statement supported by a reference to, say, Olympian 3, lines 7 to 10. In most translations, you can just follow the page headings.

Bowra's critical writings on Pindar are now considered obsolete -- at least for the moment His translation remains worth reading, and compares well with Lattimore's, and with Richard Stoneman's recent expanded edition, with excellent critical material, of G.S. Conway's translation of the Odes, which first appeared a few years after Bowra's.

This last was Issued as "Odes: and Selected Fragments," in the Everyman Paperback Classics series, and I have reviewed it, with a more extended discussion of Pindar and related critical disputes. I am glad to have all three; it would be nice if all of them were all in print simultaneously. A fourth alternative, with a translation facing the Greek texts, is the Loeb Classical Library edition, re-edited in two volumes by William H. Race (1997), which is probably a bit too intimidating for the merely curious reader.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Pindar's Odes: The Mytho-Poetic and Heroic Spirit of Ancient Greece 6 Oct. 2008
By Johannes Platonicus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Scholars today generally consider Pindar (ca 513-438 BC) to be the best lyric poet of ancient Greece. Among the ancients Pindar's high-repute was also, with out a doubt, universally accepted. We may base this on account of Plato's admiration of him, who spiritedly quotes and alludes to Pindar more than a dozen times in his dialogues. Thus, Plato's nod of approval undoubtedly seals Pindar's canonicity as a legitimate poet. Practically, the Odes of Pindar celebrate--and are an encomium of--the victories of athletes in the pan-hellenic games. Events ranged from wrestling to chariot-races, from boxing to foot-races and the pentathlon, to name a few. Adding a further charm, flare and substance to the odes are the pithy mythological tales worked into the theme of each poem: the tales told were of the gods, and or, heroes traditionally tied to the cities in which the games were held--where the victorious athletes gained their crown. The basic structure of the odes is comprised of three portions: (1) they open and close with praise of the victor, (2) have a central mythological tale, (3) and conclude with moral, and or, didactic admonitions with religious and philosophical implications. In a word, the Odes of Pindar are phenomenal poetry and the student of the classical world cannot pass the Odes over, since they embody the spirit of classical Greece; and general lovers of poetry cannot pass the Odes over, simply because they are good poetry. Therefore, no classicist or lover of poetry should be without the Odes of Pindar in their collection.

Excerpt from (Isthmian, 6.1): "...if any man delights in expense and effort/ And sets in action high gifts shaped by the Gods/ And with destiny/ Plants the glory which he desires/ Already he casts his anchor on the furtest edge of bliss,/ And the Gods honor him."
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Informative, But Terribly Dry 25 Feb. 2009
By Ryan Mease - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The translation is incredibly hard to read, with no pattern to the text and sadly thread-bare quality to the language itself. This reads like an astute yet uninspired translation by an academic writer. The tranliterations are a bit out-of-date (Athena as Athana, for example).

Admittedly, Bowra suggest that Pindar himself is hard to read. There is evidence for this in the subject matter of the poems: Pindar covers enormous depth in small space.

There are notes at the end of every poem, which, for me, are preferable to endnotes. One learns more than expect about the life of a lyric poet: Pindar's movements from city to city and his expectation of payment for poetry.

I would not recommend this translation to a friend.
Five Stars 8 Jan. 2015
By robert - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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