Primeval population movements and Paleoclimatology (Part II) – Pindar

Here we present and analyze an excerpt from Pindar, the lyric poet.


Olympionikos ΙΙΙ, Verses 38-45

In Ancient Greek: «εμέ δ’ ών πα θυμός οτρύνει φάμεν Εμμενίδαις Θήρωνί τα’ ελθείν κύδος ευίππων διδόντων Τυνδαρίδαν, ότι πλείσταισι βροτών ξεινίαις αυτούς εποίχονται τραπέζαις, ευσεβεί γνώμα φυλάσσοντες μακάρων τελετάς. Ει δ’ αριστεύει μέν ύδωρ, κτεάνων δε χρυσός αιδοιέστατος, νύν δε προς εσχατιάν Θήρων αρεταίσιν ικάνων άπτεται οίκοθεν Ηρακλέος σταλάν. Το πόρσω δ’ εστί σοφοίς άβατον κασόφοις. Ού νιν διώξω. Κεινός είην»

In English: «my temper pushes me to say to the Emmenides* and Theron that the glory came from the Tydarides* with the horses, because they honor many people with hospitality tables, and guard the ceremonies of the apathetic/unperturbed (Note: the gods) piously. If water is the best of all things and gold the most special of all things that can be obtained, now Theron, having left his house, reached the far ends, at the column of Hercules for his virtues. The beyond (Note: he means the territory beyond the column of Hercules) is non-accessible for the wise and the non-wise. I will not try to go there. I would be foolish»

*these are names of Houses, of Families

NovoScriptorium: Pindar praises the hospitable man and the man who piously guards the various ceremonies in honor of the Divine. And he attributes the victories, the glory and the virtues achieved, to this temper-practice. He calls ‘water’ as ‘the best of all’, something which is valid, as there is no life without water. He calls ‘gold’ as ‘the most special of all things that can be obtained’, something that shows us, before anything else, that already from that era the property of gold to remain unchangeable/unalterable over time was well known. It is because of this fact (or at least we are allowed to suppose that it must have been for this) that gold was given its high exchange value; something which still holds today. Theron ‘makes it to a great distance’ (not only in spiritual level but practical, too) due to his virtues. This, as well as the rest mentioned earlier, is a clear indication of Pindar’s philosophical-religious views.

Afterwards we find some valuable reference about the border/limit of the Mediterranean World, the ‘column of Hercules’, but, at the same time, a clear reference about the existence of ‘the beyond’, which is nothing less than the Atlantic Ocean and Hesperia (i.e. the land where the Sun sets, the West, the American continent). So Pindar calls this ‘beyond’ from modern day’s Gibraltar as “non-accessible”. And underlines that this stands for both the wise (the exact word in Greek is ‘σοφός’ which literally means a person who knows plenty of things and is capable for a multitude of practical achievements) and the non-wise. So it is rather clear that he is not talking about some short of ‘technical’ difficulty but for something else. He continues by characterizing anyone who even tries to go towards that direction as a ‘fool’. We believe that this could mean one of two things.

Maybe Pindar attempts to prevent most people from going that way because he has ‘something’ –which he obviously knows- to hide. We can only make assumptions on this really. Maybe the gold reference earlier is not at all coincidental, as America had indeed huge amounts of gold and maybe ‘few people’ travelled there exclusively for this (for commerce). It remains though just an assumption.

On the other hand, it could be that he informs us that in that era, when Hercules son of Amphitryon lived, the era when the first Olympics were founded and Hercules travelled to the Hyperboreans (as we presented in the first part), some geological or climatic phenomenon prevented people from moving securely on the Atlantic Ocean and towards Hesperia (America). In an article coming soon, we will present some other details that Pindar offers us on the subject in order to obtain a more transparent conclusion.

The sure thing about all these is that, according to this text from Pindar, at the era of the first Olympics, the Greeks are found from Northern and Central Europe up to Gibraltar. If we could use properly the climatic, astronomical and other elements the ancient texts offer us, we would be able to determine the time interval in which this occurred with satisfying accuracy. This would be a great success and could be much helpful for Sciences like Archeology and Anthropology.

Isidoros Aggelos

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