Wisdom in Pindar : gnomai, cosmology and the role of the poet

Boeke, Hanna (2005-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2005

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study investigates the cosmological context of Pindar' s victory odes, and its importance for their encomiastic purpose. The introductory chapter deals with selected aspects of Pindaric scholarship in order to establish the usefulness of such an investigation. The first part of the study focuses on gnomai as a reflection of cosmological ideas. In Chapter 2 modem scholarship on the proverb and maxim, various ancient texts on gnomai and a number of references in Pindar are analysed in support of the contention that gnomai provide a legitimate basis for an overview of the cosmology revealed in Pindars poetry. The overview presented in Chapter 3 discusses three broad topics. The first concerns the elemental forces, fate, god and nature, the second deals with the human condition and the third considers man in society from the perspectives of the household and family relationships on the one hand and relationships outside the OtKOs on the other. The overview suggests that Pindar's work is founded on a mostly conventional outlook on man and his relationships with both extra-human powers and his fellow man. To complement the overview three epinikia, Olympian 12, Isthmian 4 and Olympian 13 are analysed in Chapter 4. They demonstrate how the complexity of an actual situation compels the poet to emphasise different aspects of the cosmology or even to suggest variations to accepted views. The analyses imply that presenting the cosmological context of a particular celebration in an appropriate way is part of the poet's task. This aspect is further investigated in Chapter 5, which looks at the role of the poet as mediator of cosmology. In some cases the poet demonstrates certain preferred attitudes which in tum presuppose particular cosmological convictions. In others this role involves changing the perspective on the circumstances or attributes of a victor or his family through a modification of cosmological principles. Different approaches to the same theme in different poems show the author Pindar shaping the narrator-poet to represent varying viewpoints in order to praise a specific victor in the manner most suitable to his wishes and circumstances. The fact that the poet's task includes situating the victory in its cosmological context means that the glorification of a victor includes presenting him as praiseworthy in terms of broader life issues, such as the role of the divine in human achievement, a man's attitude to success and his status in society. Pindar's use of cosmological themes in general speaks of pragmatism rather than conformity to and the consistent defense of a rigid framework of values. However, the prominence of cosmology in the odes and the sometimes very conspicuous role of the poet in communicating it also reveal Pindar's abiding interest in man and his position in the world

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie ondersoek die kosmologiese konteks van Pindaros se oorwinningsodes, en die belangrikheid daarvan vir die gedigte as prysliedere. Die inleidende hoofstuk behandel geselekteerde aspekte van Pindaros-navorsing om die nut van so 'n ondersoek te bepaal. Die eerste deel van die studie fokus op gnomai as 'n bron van kosmologiese idees. In hoofstuk 2 word moderne navorsing oor spreekwoorde en wysheidspreuke, verskeie antieke tekste oor gnomai en 'n aantal verwysings in Pindaros se werk ontleed ter ondersteuning van die stand punt dat gnornai 'n redelike grondslag bied vir 'n oorsig van die kosmologie wat in Pindaros se digkuns na vore kom. Die oorsig aangebied in hoofstuk 3 bespreek drie bree onderwerpe, eerstens die fundamentele magte, die noodlot, god en die natuur, tweedens die menslike toestand en derdens die mens in die samelewing uit die hoek van die huishouding en familieverhoudings enersyds en verhoudings buite die OtKOs ; andersyds. Die oorsig dui aan dat Pindaros se werk gebaseer is op 'n hoofsaaklik konvensionele uitkyk op die mens en sy verhoudings met beide buite-menslike magte en sy medemens. Ter aanvulling van die oorsig word drie oorwinningsodes, Olimpiese Ode 12, lsmiese Ode 4 en Olimpiese Ode 13 in hoofstuk 4 ontleed. Die ontledings toon aan hoe die kompleksiteit van 'n gegewe situasie die digter verplig om verskillende aspekte van die kosmologie te beklemtoon of selfs afwykings van aanvaarde menings voor te stel. Die ontledings impliseer dat dit deel van die digter se taak is om die kosmologiese konteks van 'n spesifieke viering op die gepaste wyse aan te bied. Hierdie aspek word verder ondersoek in hoofstuk 5, waarin die rol van die digter as bemiddelaar van kosmologie bekyk word. In sommige gevalle demonstreer die digter sekere voorkeurhoudings wat op hulle beurt spesifieke kosmologiese oortuigings veronderstel. In ander gevalle behels hierdie rol die verandering van die perspektief op die omstandighede of eienskappe van 'n oorwinnaar of sy familie deur die modifisering van kosmologiese beginsels. Verskillende benaderings tot dieselfde tema in verskillende gedigte wys hoe die outeur Pindaros die vertellerdigter vorm om wisselende standpunte te verteenwoordig sodat 'n spesifieke wenner op die mees geskikte manier in ooreenstemming met sy wense en omstandighede geprys kan word. Die feit dat die digter se taak die plasing van die oorwinning in sy kosmologiese konteks insluit, beteken dat die verheerliking van 'n wenner insluit dat hy voorgestel word as lofwaardig kragtens breer lewenskwessies, soos byvoorbeeld die rol van die goddelike in menslike prestasie, 'n mens se houding tot sukses en sy status in die gemeenskap. Oor die algemeen spreek Pindaros se gebruik van kosmologiese temas van pragmatisme eerder as onderwerping aan en die volgehoue verdediging van 'n rigiede stel waardes. Die belangrikheid van kosmologie in die odes en die soms besonder opvallende rol van die digter in die kommunikasie daarvan openbaar egter ook Pindaros se blywende belangstelling in die mens en sy plek in die wereld.

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