This book consists of an introduction (7-11), a list of bibliographical abbreviations (13-19), and three chapters: 1. “Epinicio ed epos” (21-84), 2. “Repliche dell’epinicio” (85-119), 3. “La Musa artigiana” 121-60). It ends with two indices: places discussed (161-67), and modern scholars quoted (169-77). The three chapters are enriched by expansive and learned footnotes. Nowhere does Loscalzo (hereafter L.) specify which edition he follows when quoting Pindaric odes; nor does he say at whom this book aims, although one easily deduces that it is for scholars and graduate students who are familiar with Pindar. Long Pindaric Greek quotations are usually accompanied by an Italian translation provided by L. himself.
L.’s overall analysis argues for the superiority of epinician poetry to contemporary poetic genres and artistic products in the ability to ensure inextinguishable glory and memory of the laudandus and the laudator. The odes were a concrete kosmos, a sort of real goods, like the contemporary craftsmanship’s products, which the rich laudandus could leave to his descendants and which thus could be repeatedly performed, after their first performance in the context of the victory’s celebration. As an acquirable product, the odes could also be exported and so pass from place to place, which means that they could be re-performed even out of the victor’s hometown. In L.’s view, it is precisely this kind of real mobility through time and space that promotes the epinician ode’s function of perpetuating memory (8).
The first chapter mostly deals with the superiority of epinician ode to epos. The discussion focuses on Ol. 2. 83-88: the image of the eagle and the ravens is re-interpreted in light of the contrast that, according to L., occurred between choral lyric poetry and epos.1 The eagle, i.e., the
In chapter 2, L. wonders whether, when claiming the superiority of his poetry to any other material-artistic products in spreading and preserving fame through space and time, Pindar alludes to performances really repeated on occasions and in places other than those within the victory’s festival or merely conjectures about unlimited potential performances of epinician odes (91). L. thinks that real re-performances through time and space are what Pindar meant, though admitting the conjectural nature of his arguments (91-92). First, going beyond Irigoin’ theory, L. proposes the existence of more than two copies of the same ode, which might make the ode more easily circulate. Also, the copy destined for the victor’s family could have musical notations as well as that destined for the chorodidaskalos. Provided that some members of the family were expert in music, the odes might have had repeated performances, accompanied by music, during both domestic and public occasions. Then, focusing on the issue of the concrete spreading through space, L. discusses Nem. 6.29-34. Considering that the Bassidai (the laudandus‘ family) were sea-traffickers, L. states that Pindar’s words
In chapter 3, L. describes Pindar as a
Many of the arguments, as unfolded in each chapter, seem to be circular and questionable. Also, L. often falls into inconsistencies.
First regarding the decline of the epinician genre and the appeal of epic performances L. seems to assume that Pindar treats his odes as if the decline constantly affected his poetics. Yet the epinician odes were mostly composed within 490-460 B.C., while the ancient evidence L. adduces, to argue about the decline, involves the last quarter of the 5th cent. and beyond it and is not drawn from Pindaric production.2 On the other hand, we do not see an increasing concentration of poetic claims late in Pindar’s production, as we might expect close to the actual period of epinician genre’s decline. That at Pindar’s time there was a competition among several kind of public spectacles and professions is true, and this may be the reason why Pindar defends his poetry throughout the whole career by keeping his present time in mind rather than by being concerned about the future of epinician genre.
Pindar’s supposed worry about epic performances and the related interpretation of Ol. 2. 86-88 arouse some perplexities, as well. Pindar opposes the poet’s traditional, inborn sophia to learned knowledge and skills, but these could be achieved by everyone, not exclusively by the rhapsodoi. In the end, we also cannot forget that Pindar had to compete for commission and, consequently, for as great an audience as possible. Thus, contrary to L.’s arguments (43 and n. 67), the competition issue may make the polemics against peer poets like Simonides and Bacchylides in the context of an epinician performance more understandable than polemics against epic poets, especially given that epic encomium (the only possible epic ‘antagonist’ to epinician odes) developed only at the end of the 5th cent. (see L., 46, 50).3 Furthermore, although L. distinguishes (without any persuasive evidence) three kind of more or less contemporary epic poems (mythological, historical and encomiastic, he actually focuses on the performances of professional reciters (53-4), without specifying which kind of epos should be the ‘antagonist’ of epinician. Also, when discussing the superiority of epinician poetry, L. seems not to take firmly into account that epinician poetry and epos are two different genres, with obviously different characteristics and purposes. Thus, for instance, epinician’s refusal to tell everything and its preference to select are more likely due to the different nature of the lyric ode than to an innate superiority. Besides, when assessing epos on the basis of both brevitas and selection criteria, L. seems to be affected by Alexandrian precepts rather than by Pindar’s. The other reason of epinician poetry’s superiority is also questionable. In L.’s view, it is the anteriority of the lyric genre compared to Epic poetry: “Il secondo aspetto della polemica con l’ epos è dato dall’anteriorità del genere lirico: l’ epos sarebbe più recente e pertanto il compositore di epinici si servirebbe di modelli più nobili, proprio perché più antichi” (69). Here, again, it is not clear about which kind of epos he is talking. Moreover, the fact that Pindar insists on the ancient nature of epinician songs (70-2) is not clear evidence that Pindar considers Lyric poetry superior to epic poetry because the former is more ancient than the latter.
Neither persuasive nor clear are L.’s arguments concerning the possibility of real re-performances of the odes through time and space, before a large audience capable of spreading the news and of preserving them. It seems that L. doubts the persistence of the poetic word per se (he talks of petitio principii), and thus needs to anchor it to tangible facts. For instance, L. believes that Pindar’s hints at the odes’ shipment (mostly expressed by the verb
As to the possibility for epinician odes to be really transported and so performed elsewhere, there is a certain unevenness in the evidence. L. focuses on only one passage, Nem. 6.29-34, and the peculiar verb,
Finally, L.’s overall discussion about Pindar and the painting (152-4) provokes perplexity. After having stated that Pindar never compares his poetry with the painting, L. refers to the opposite evidence provided by Simonides (fr. 190b Bergk; Plutarchus, De glor. Athen. 346f). He comments on it, first by ascribing to Simonides a mimesis theory nowhere ascribed to him then by contrasting Simonides’ presumably consequent interpretation of poetry with Pindar’s one in such a way to imply that Pindar does not care for the painting since, as presumably interpreted by Simonides, this art is close to epos. Thus Pindar, hostile to epic genre, cannot contemplate painting. Among other questionable arguments L. introduces in this section, one must notice the cursory and misleading discussion of such an important concept as mimesis; as a result, there is a certain confusion between Plato’s and Aristotle’s concept of poetry as mimesis (see 154 and n. 99).
Although L.’s analysis shows knowledge and expertise in dealing with Pindaric poetry, due to the several inconsistencies and some quite weak arguments, the general and final impression is that of certain confusion.5
1. In the first Chapter, L. first analyzes Ol. 2. 83-86 (21-9), and focuses on the poet’s image as archer. His discussion is confusing and contradictory. Not only does L. give to the words
2. L. mentions Aristophanes, Clouds 1353 ff., Plato, Leg. 2, 658a-e (9), and Euripides, fr. 755/1 Page (84 and n. 188). As to the first two authors, the discussion is too cursory if one considers that L. refers to them as important evidence of what he is arguing. Also, with reference to Aristophanes, passing over the incorrect, or misprinted, date (424 B.C.) ascribed to the Clouds, to consider the notoriety of Euripides as being due to his choice of indecent subjects, like incest, and consequently to defend the youth’s preference for Euripides’ rhesis is misleading and strongly diminishes both the reception of the dramatist by the contemporary audience and the meaning underpinning that Aristophanic passage. Note also on p. 158 there is also an incorrect reference: it is Frogs 1008 ff. instead of Clouds 1006 ff.
3. To dismiss altogether any reference to contemporary cultural trends is not as simple as L. seems to imply. At least, one cannot avoid considering the overall impact that the novelty of Simonides’ activity could have on Pindar’s poetics. For a well-known episode recorded by Cicero ( De orat., II.86), according to which Simonides invented the method of memorizing, which meant, in a way, to make memory no longer the exclusive, divine, inborn competence of the poets, see, e.g., M. Detienne, Simonide de Céos ou la sécularisation de la poésie, “Rev. Etud. Gr.” LXXVII (1964), 405-419. As to the contrast between inborn sophia and learned knowledge/skills, possibly involving hints at contemporary trends likely shared by other lyric poets, see, e.g. Bacchylides, fr. 5 Maehler.
4. Moreover, although L. analyzes
5. At times L. seems erroneously to report other scholars’ thoughts. Namely, on G. Pasquali see L. p. 51 n. 90, and cf. G. Pasquali, Orazio lirico, Firenze 1920, p. 302; on G. Arrighetti see L. p. 158 n. 108, and cf. G. Arrighetti, La cultura letteraria in Grecia, Roma-Bari 1989, p. 3, where Arrighetti says exactly what L. thinks the scholar has never thought and stated.