Here we present and analyze an excerpt from Pindar, the lyric poet.
Olympionikos ΙΙΙ, Verses 11-34
In Ancient Greek: «ώ τινι κραίνων εφετμάς Ηρακλέος προτέρας ατρεκής Ελλανοδίκας γλεφάρων Αιτωλός ανήρ υψόθεν αμφί κόμαισι βάλη γλαυκόχροα κόσμον ελαίας, τάν ποτε Ίστρου από σκιαράν παγάν ένεικεν Αμφιτρυωνιάδας, μνάμα των Ουλυμπία κάλλιστον αέθλων, δάμον Υπερβορέων πείσαις Απόλλωνος θεράποντα λόγω. Πιστά φρονέων Διός αίτει πανδόκω άλσει σκιαρόν τε φύτευμα ξυνόν ανθρώποις στέφανόν τα’ αρετάν. Ήδη γαρ αυτώ, πατρί μεν βωμών αγισθέντων, διχόμηνις όλον χρυσάρματος εσπέρας οφθαλμόν αντέφλεξε Μήνα, και μεγάλων αέθλων αγνάν κρίσιν και πενταετηρίδ’ αμά θήκε ζαθέοις επί κρημνοίς Αλφεού. Αλλ’ ου καλά δένδρε’ έθαλλεν χώρος εν βάσσαις Κρονίου Πέλοπος. Τούτων έδοξεν γυμνός αυτώ κάπος οξείαις υπακουέμεν αυγαίς αελίου. Δή τότ’ ες γαίαν πορεύεν θυμός ώρμα Ιστρίαν νιν. Ένθα Λατούς ιπποσόα θυγάτηρ δέξατ’ ελθόντ’ Αρκαδίας από δειράν και πολυγνάμπτων μυχών, εύτέ νιν αγγελίαις Ευρυσθέος έντυ’ ανάγκα πατρόθεν χρυσόκερων έλαφον θήλειαν άξονθ’, αν ποτε Ταϋγέτα αντιθεί’ Ορθωσίας έγραψεν ιεράν. Τάν μεθέπων ίδε και κείναν χθόνα πνοιαίς όπιθεν Βορέα ψυχρού»
In English: «(…)to those who above the eye-brows around their hair, applying the old laws of Hercules, one of the just Hellanodikai (jury), a man from Aetolia, as a prize will place the wreath of the grayish-green olive, that once upon a time the son of Amphitryon (Note: that is, Hercules) brought from the shady spring of Istros (Note: the older name for the Danube), incomparable jewel and memory of the Olympic Games (Note: the term is actually ‘αγώνες’ instead of ‘games’ and it includes much deeper meanings, religious too, among others). He persuaded the people of the Hyperboreans who worshiped Apollo. He convincingly asked for it with the thought of planting it at Zeus’ lively grove, a tree with a lot of shade and crown of virtue common for men. Because he had dedicated the altars to his father and Menis (Selene)* with the golden chariot, a full brightness eye that lighted up the night, was at the half of the month and determined the just judgement of great games (Note: ‘αγώνες’, as before) and five years interval at the sacred shores of Alphaeus river. But the trees were not greening in the valleys of Pelopas** at Cronium. The garden looked to him bleak under the hot beams of the sun. Then his temper pushed him to go to the land of Istros. There he was received by the daughter of Leto with the horses, when he arrived from the mountain ridges and Arcadia’s canyons with their many turns, while, being forced by his parent to accomplish Eurestheus’ orders. He should bring from there the golden-horned doe, the one that Taegete the nymph had promised some time ago to Orthea Artemis***. Seeking for this, he saw the land that lays behind ****Boreas’ frozen breaths»
*Menis or Selene = the Moon
**valleys of Pelopas = the Peloponnese
***Artemis = the goddess Diana in Latin
****Boreas = North
NovoScriptorium: Hercules, the founder of the Olympics was son of Amphitryon (in ancient literature there are 8 different people named ‘Hercules’; in the later years of Antiquity stories of them were told and written as if they were stories of one sole person. The reason for this is not 100% clear, but it is an undoubted fact). Istros river is today’s Danube. So, Pindar informs us that Hercules travelled to Danube’s ‘shady spring’ in order to bring back to Olympia, Peloponnese, Greece, a kind of tree! Which one? The ‘grayish-green olive’.
Here is our first remark: in the era when this event took place, the geographical region of Danube’s spring had such climate that allowed the existence of some species of olive. It is well-known that the olive tree does not grow in northern climates. Hence, we must accept that at the time of the event the climate in the referred to area was most likely temperate warm, so that it can host an olive tree. As it is mentioned e.g. in Wikipedia: “The olive tree thrives in temperate climates without temperature extremes (with an average annual temperature of 16 ° C) and humidity, which is why it is very widespread in the Mediterranean zone (like Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Algeria and elsewhere). It thrives in many parts of the world, as long as the temperature does not drop too much and for long periods of time below zero. That is why the most suitable areas for its cultivation are the seaside”.
That area was inhabited by the Hyperboreans. As Pindar informs us, they were worshipping Apollon. We consider it totally irrational for a people of different racial and cultural background to honor a Greek god, a ‘foreign god’. In accordance, we must accept that the Hyperboreans were a people of Greek origin, living in distance from the Metropolitan Center (Greece) for whatever reason that happened. Modern Genetics Science has already shown that the agricultural populations of Europe came/evolved from populations that moved north from the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean (you may find various relative scientific publications in our Archeology-Paleontology-Ancient Greece section)
Another crucial verbal detail is this: Hercules desires to plant this olive in Zeus’ grove and from this to have crowns created to be given to men/humans for their virtue. The text does not refer to ‘Greeks’ only, but ‘men/humans’ in general. We do not believe that the Greeks of that era considered only themselves as ‘men/humans’ in contrast to other nations. There is a chance though that at that distant era, they were perhaps the only similar/alike people in the area; of same national and racial background. Before we dare any further conclusions, it is necessary to define, as much as (and if) it is possible, the era we are referring to, and then compare with the archeological and genetic finds in the area up to now.
Another crucial verbal detail is this: the Moon, Earth’s satellite, in the text is called ‘Menis’. One may wonder ‘why’ this has any importance. It has for the following reason; In Mythology we read that the Earth’s satellite was named ‘Menis’ by the ‘gods’ while ‘men’ called it ‘Selene’. Our extensive study in ancient Greek literature has convinced us that the ‘gods’ were nothing more than people with great achievements who lived in very distant times, most probably before the Cataclysm. These people received honor from the people who lived after them for their great deeds, achievements, even inventions. We suppose that the usage of the term ‘Menis’ in the text probably indicates a very ancient era, most likely before the Cataclysm or a little bit afterwards.
The reference to the climate of the Peloponnese, at the time when Hercules travelled to the Hyperboreans, is also significant. In the text we read about ‘οξείαις αυγαίς αελίου’, i.e. for ‘very hot rays of the sun’, i.e. for a very warm climate. We also see written that ‘the trees were not greening’, i.e. the description is of a very warm and dry climate. Maybe all these, in a possible paleoclimate study, could help us determine a timeframe within which this voyage of Hercules took place.
The land of the Hyperboreans was populated by deer. It was also situated “behind Boreas’ frozen breaths”. So we must conclude that the extent of the Hyperboreans’ land was such that both can happen (explanation: existence of olive tree, hence temperate warm climate, and being frozen at the same time). Some short of ‘Northern –Greek- Empire’ of those times then.
We see how many scientific studies could be based on Mythology references, always using Logic and in comparison with the data provided by Modern Sciences. Without these two though the avocation with Mythology can be ‘dangerous’ and, very often, lead to ‘monsters’.