Pindar's Voice(s). The Epinician Persona Reconsidered

Abstract

This paper proposes a new approach to solving the grave and ever since antiquity controversially discussed problems pertaining to the voices connected with Pindar’s epinician odes and especially the persona loquens of these songs.

In a first step, it will be discussed why the most wide-spread theories on the epinician speaker seem to be problematic. That is, those theories that identify the ego of the odes with Pindar himself or with a polyphonous bunch of voices including Pindar, the choir and the victor. 

In a second step, a historically adequate interpretation of the pragmatic situation will be sketched in which Pindar’s epinician odes stood as poems originating from an oral, public and festive culture stood, proposing that they were ritualized processional songs sung on the occasion of the victor’s first home-coming and at the same time purporting to be spontaneous impromptu songs sung during a komos coming from the games. 

This will lead, in a final step, to a new comprehensive suggestion as to what the diverse innertextual and outertextual voices connected with epinician odes actually were and what the relationship between them was: whereas the historical Pindar is only the outertextual author who nowhere appears in the texts as himself in the first person, he lends in some sort of disguised inspiration his voice to the fictional persona of an idealized spectator of the victory and subsequent komast – whom the victor’s actual fellow-citizens (or a professional choir) in turn lend their voices by performing the song during a ritualized procession to glorify and thank the victor.