In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Pindar

  • Introduction
  • Biographies
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies
  • English Translations
  • Collections of Papers
  • Text
  • Emendations
  • Lexicons
  • Traditional Interpretation
  • Rhetorical Interpretation
  • New Historical Interpretation
  • Religion
  • Use of Earlier Greek Poetry
  • Style
  • Reception

Classics Pindar
Mary R. Lefkowitz
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 December 2009
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0043


Pindar has been admired since antiquity for the dramatic brilliance of his poetry. Of the various genres in which he wrote, only the odes that he wrote in honor of victors in the Greek games have come down to us as complete poems; his other works survive only in fragments. The victory odes (epinikia) display an extraordinary ability to draw from earlier myth the details that would confer lasting meaning on the specific occasions that he had been called to celebrate. Although his extended narratives can be relatively easy to follow, Pindar has acquired a reputation for difficulty because of the dazzling speed with which he moves from topic to topic, as well as the complex metrical forms in which he composed his poetry.


Pindar was born in Thebes in Boeotia, probably in 518 BCE. The ancient lives preserve improbable stories about his childhood and conflicting testimony about the names of his parents and other members of his family (Lefkowitz 1981, pp. 57–66.). Most of what we know about his life comes from his works: his talent was recognized by the time he was twenty, when he was invited to write for a young victor in Thessaly (Pythian Ode 10, 498 BCE); he died sometime after 446 BCE, the date of the victory celebrated in his Pythian Ode 8, the last of his poems that can be securely dated. He was commissioned by patrons all over the Greek world, and he appears to have traveled to many of the places that he celebrates. The biographies from the Byzantine manuscripts may be found in Drachmann 1903. There is also a brief biography in Suidas Lexicon (Adler 1928–1938, vol. 4, pp. 132–133).

  • Adler, Ada. 1928–1938. Suidas lexicon. 5 vols. Leipzig: Teubner.

    The Greek text and evolving English translation are available online.

  • Drachmann, A. B. 1903. Scholia vetera in Pindari carmina. Leipzig: Teubner.

    Contains the text of the biographies of Pindar from Byzantine manuscripts. (Reprint, Amsterdam: Adolph M. Hakkert, 1969.)

  • Lefkowitz, Mary R. 1981. The lives of the Greek poets. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

    Collection of biographies of Greek poets; see chapter on Pindar.

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