Pindar Isthmian 8 for Kleandros of Aigina, winner pancratium
Translated by Steven J. Willett
These two black-figure vase paintings of pancratium come from the late 7th-century BC. The first shows the end of a boxing match as one fighter raises his index finger to offer defeat. Both boxers are not wearing gloves, and the man on the right is the umpire. The second shows a bout at the Olympic Games with the use of gloves. The man on the left is the umpire here, the man on the right is an assistant.
Word definitions by strophe: str. 1, your own troubles = Pindar; Tantalos was punished by living in fear of an overhead boulder, here a metaphor for the Persian Marathon Invasion of 490BC; str. 2, these were twins are the eponymous nymphs Thebe and Aigina; Asopos is a Boiotian river; str. 3, Oinona is an ancient name of Aigina and reflects its viticulture; although Aiakos settled disputes and became a judge in the underworld, he didn’t settle divine disputes; his godlike sons were Peleus and Telamon, his grandsons Achilles and Aias; str. 5, Cheiron married Peleus and Thetis; a full moon evening was preferred for major celebrations; they say the lord = Zeus; for the youthful valor of Achilles see Nem. 3 43~52; str. 6, sinews/of Troy slicing = defenders of Troy; str. 7, Nikokles is Kleandros’ cousin; praise him is a plural imperative referring to the celebrants and possibly the Muses.
Note 1: Willam H. Race, the Loeb editor of Pindar Nemean Odes, Isthmian Odes and Fragments (Harvard, 1997) beautifully summarized the tone of the ode: “The dominant theme of the ode is ‘deliverance.’ The prominent treatment of the war ending in the expulsion of the Persians in 479 provides a somber backdrop for the joyful celebrations portrayed in the opening five lines and makes it likely that Kleandros won his Isthmian victory in the following year.”
Note 2: I used the Alexandrian strophic meter in this translation rather than the standard one you will find in modern Greek editions. It is based on G. Aurelio Privitera, Pindar Le Istmiche (3rd edition, 1998). His scansion has 12-line strophes rather than the 10-line strophes that are now universal.
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