Here we present and analyze an excerpt from Pindar, the lyric poet.
Olympionikos VII, Verses 20-57
In ancient Greek: «εθελήσω τοίσιν εξ αρχάς από Τλαπολέμου ξυνόν αγγέλλων διορθώσαι λόγον, Ηρακλέος ευρυσθενεί γέννα. Το μεν γαρ πατρόθεν εκ Διός εύχονται. Το δ’ Αμυντορίδαι ματρόθεν Αστυδαμείας. Αμφί δ’ ανθρώπων φρασίν αμπλακίαι αναρίθμητοι κρέμανται. Τούτο δ’ αμάχανον ευρείν, ό, τι νύν εν και τελευτά φέρτατον ανδρί τυχείν. Και γαρ Αλμήνας κασίγνητον νόθον σκάπτω θενών σκληράς ελαίας έκτανεν Τίρυνθι Λικύμνιον ελθόντ’ εκ θαλάμων Μιδέας τάσδε ποτε χθονός οικιστήρ χολωθείς. Αι δε φρενών ταραχαί παρέπλαγξαν και σοφόν. Μαντεύσατο δ’ ες θεόν ελθών. Τώ μέν ο χρυσοκόμας ευώδεος εξ αδύτου ναών πλόον είπε Λερναίας απ’ ακτάς ευθύν ες αμφιθάλασσον νομόν, ένθα ποτέ βρέχε θεών βασιλεύς ο μέγας χρυσέαις νιφάδεσσι πόλιν, ανίχ’ Αφαίστου τέχναισιν χαλκελάτω πελέκει πατέρος Αθαναί α κορυφάν κατ’ άκραν ανορούσαι’ αλάλαξεν υπερμάκει βοά. Ουρανός δ’ έφριξε νιν και Γαία μάτηρ. Τότε και φαυσίμβροτος δαίμων Υπεριονίδας μέλλον έντειλεν φυλάξασθαι χρέος παισίν φίλοις, ως αν θεά πρώτοι κτίσαιεν βωμόν εναργέα, και σεμνάν θυσίαν θέμενοι πατρί τε θυμόν ιάναιεν κόρα τα’ εγχειβρόμω. Εν δ’ αρετάν έβαλεν και χάρματ’ ανθρώποισι προμαθέος αιδώς. Επί μάν βαίνει τι και λάθας ατέκμαρτα νέφος, και παρέλκει πραγμάτων ορθάν οδόν έξω φρενών. Και τοί γάρ αιθοίσας έχοντες σπέρμ’ ανέβαν φλογός ού. Τεύξαν δ’ απύροις ιεροίς άλσος εν ακροπόλει. Κείνοισι μέν ξανθάν αγαγών νεφέλαν (Ζεύς) πολύν ύσε χρυσόν. Αυτά δε σφισιν ώπασε τέχναν πάσαν επιχθονίων Γλαυκώπις αριστοπόνοις χερσί κρατείν. Έργα δε ζωοίσιν ερπόντεσσι θ’ όμοια κέλευθοι φέρον. Ήν δε κλέος βαθύ. Δαέντι δε και σοφία μείζων άδολος τελέθει. Φαντί δ’ ανθρώπων παλαιαί ρήσιες, ούπω, ότε χθόνα δατέοντο Ζεύς τε και αθάνατοι, φανεράν εν πελάγεϊ Ρόδον έμμεν ποντίω, αλμυροίς δ’ εν βένθεσιν νάσον κεκρύφθαι»
In English: «I want to speak for them, beginning from Tlepolemos, and correct their common history which relates to the powerful bloodline (genus) of Hercules. They boast that they are related to Zeus from the part of their father. From their mother’s part from Astydamea and they are Amyntorides*. But, in both sides of the brains of men hang many sins/mistakes/fallacies and it is difficult to find, now and at death, what is the best to happen. Because Lekymneos, Alkmene’s illegitimate brother, when he once arrived to Tiryntha from the palaces of Midea, was killed by the enraged settler of this land, beaten with a stick of hard olive (olive tree wood). Agitations of the brains mislead even the wise man. He went to the oracle to receive divinations/prophecies of its god. And from the fragrant sanctuary of the temple, the golden-hair god told him to travel from the coasts of Lerna straight to the county that is washed by sea from both its sides, where once the great king of the gods threw golden flakes at the city, when, with the bronze axe made by Hepheastus, the head of the father was cleaved open and the jumping/emerging Athena yelled with terrifying voice. Uranus and mother Earth (Gaia) were horrified. Then, the light-giver god of the mortals, the son of Hyperion, ordered to the beloved children to guard their future debt and first before anyone else to build a bright altar and by doing a pure sacrifice to soften the anger of the father and of the daughter with the thunderous pole. Pudency, which looks ahead, grants virtue and joy to men. But there comes some uncertain cloud of oblivion and leads the brains astray from the right/proper road of things. Because they ascended to the acropolis without having sparks of ready fire and set there a sacred ground for the fire-free sacrifices. To them, Zeus threw a lot of gold by gathering/conducting a golden cloud. And to them gave Glaukopis (Athena) herself to hold in their hands every craft/art of men. There were works (creations) on the streets similar to living and walking creatures. Their glory was great. Guileless wisdom tends to grow for anyone who continues learning (who doesn’t stop learning). The old stories of men say that when Earth was distributed/shared between Zeus and the immortals, Rhodes (the island of Rhodes) could not be yet seen at the spaciousness of the sea, but it was hidden in the salty depths»
*name of a House, a Family
NovoScriptorium: The text was written for Diagoras from Rhodes, great boxer and winner at the Olympics. It refers to the history of the island of Rhodes. He tells us that the Rhodians are related to the bloodline (genus) of Hercules. They believe that, from their father, they originate from Zeus. Anyone who has studied Mythology good enough knows that there existed various people with the name ‘Zeus’. Let not the reader be confused with Theology here; this has to do with History and Genealogies of existing people that had the same name. The same is valid for the rest of the ‘gods’. Quite often such names interpolate in a historical narration to describe religious/theological or scientific (mainly Cosmology) beliefs. This is not some comfortable fabrication of ours but undisputable information received straight from the ancient writers.
In the text we examine, Pindar interpolates theological and philosophical views. First such view is the one that says “But, in both sides of the brains (mind) of men hang many sins/mistakes/fallacies and it is difficult to find, now and at death, what is the best to happen”
So, what he presents us is a human nature very prone to the various sides of evilness. Indeed, he believes that everything starts from the brains, our mind. We consider this to be an indirect urge for all those who want to avoid sins/mistakes/fallacies in their lives, to start from their brains-their mind. If there can be proper cultivation of the mind, if it can be adequately controlled, then all the products of evilness can be reduced or even eliminated. It is thus obvious that Pindar belonged to those philosophical men who considered as a top priority procedure the cleansing of the mind (nous). He also affirms what we already know; all the procedure needed to achieve this goal is ‘difficult’. It concerns both the life and the death of Man, as it results from the above phrase.
Then we have a description of a murder with a stick of olive wood used as weapon. This may indicate the level of technology of that time: wooden weapons. It is not certain, however, because even in our time, where there are a lot of sophisticated weapons, there are people still being murdered with primitive means.
Then he offers us the phrase “Agitations of the brains mislead even the wise man”
This strengthens the position we just analyzed. It is very important for the brains/mind to be found in balance, not in agitation. So, here we have one goal: calmness of the mind. He stresses that even if a man is already ‘wise’, the disturbance of the mind can also lead him to fallacy. There are many examples both historical and ecclesiastical about how true this word is over time.
Apollo is called “the light-giver god of the mortals” but also as “son of Hyperion”. As the reader notes, the word spoken here is for some other ‘Apollo’ and not for the son of Zeus. As for the ‘light-giver’ epithet, the reference is made for the many benefactions to men that one of the people with the name ‘Apollo’ had offered. In one of our future articles, for example, we will present some other ‘Apollo’ that, according to the ancient writers, was described as ‘World ruler’ in his time. Now, this person, the son of Hyperion, calls ‘the beloved children’ to do their ‘debt’ and to perform a ‘pure sacrifice’ on a ‘bright altar’ to ‘soften the anger’ of Zeus and Athena. So, honoring the Divine is considered as a ‘debt’, and must take place at ‘bright altars’. The reference to ‘pure sacrifice’, as it is explained in the text slightly afterwards, is a ‘sacrifice’ without fire. So, it is a bloodless sacrifice, without burning, the one that Apollo exhorts them to do. For these ‘sacrifices’ they receive reciprocation from Zeus, who is ‘raining gold’ for them. This means that he welcomes the bloodless and without fire, sacrifices. We believe that in this part a theological view on how to honor the divine is presented.
Then this phrase interpolates: “Pudency, which looks ahead, grants virtue and joy to men. But there comes some uncertain cloud of oblivion and leads the brains astray from the right/proper road of things.”
This of course constitutes notional continuity of the first philosophical-theological phrase we analyzed. Here he informs us that ‘pudency’, as long as it exists in Man, helps him to look ahead and it is his constant assistant in the process of achieving Virtue. All this process ends up in joy. Such is the importance of pudency, i.e. the awareness of sin. He adds that the mind may be led astray from the proper road of things, which is the road of pudency as it can be realized from the text, when ‘oblivion’ clouds it.
Essentially, he tells us that ‘the lasting memory of Good’ is what keeps the mind on the right path. I.e., as we, Orthodox Christians, know, ‘memory of God’ (because God is the ultimate Good) is what keeps the mind focused at thinking of Good and always doing it. It is known from the Paternal Tradition that Oblivion (Lethe) is one of the main causes that lead Man to sin. The ‘keeping of the nous (mind)’ is a fundamental practice in the Spiritual Struggle.
Then he says that ‘Glaukopis’, i.e. Athena, gave those people ‘to hold in their hands every craft/art of men’. In previous articles we have analyzed that Athena constitutes personification of the Wisdom of God. So, what he teaches here is that to the people who keep/guard the previously mentioned, God grants, as a gift, the ability for ‘every craft/art of men’.
Now, the text continues with a historical reference and says that those people have constructed ‘works (creations) on the streets similar to living and walking creatures’! It is rather clear that he speaks about ‘automata’ or ‘robots’ as we would call them today. We indeed meet here a distinct reference to very high Technology. This is at least amazing! The text certainly has double meaning, apart from the theological extension we gave above. Athena gave to those people the knowledge to construct sophisticated machines. Which Athena though? And what does this all mean? The various ‘gods’, as we are probably tiresome to repeat every now and then, from the ancient writers themselves were considered as people that have lived many generations before their time, who were given great honors for their great deeds and offering to the rest of the people. What we learn from here then is that in Rhodes, some very old technological tradition had been continued, its beginnings dating back to the so-called ‘era of the gods’, i.e. at a very old, unknown really, era.
Then another philosophical-theological phrase interpolates: ‘Guileless wisdom tends to grow for anyone who continues learning (who doesn’t stop learning)’
Only if the wisdom we seek is ‘guileless’ it can increase all the time. And we need continuous learning to support this. This is what we are taught here; the basic thing is that no guile exists. Guileless is only and surely, the Divine Wisdom. Whichever other learning procedure that does not include God as base, starting point, reference, and targeting, is considered to be guile and will never finally lead to Good. And sometimes, this without-God-quest for practical knowledge stops, with terrible side-effects for Man, such as madness, paranoia, and sometimes even self-destruction. This is also clearly stated in other ancient writers’ texts. We will try to bring them to your knowledge in future articles.
The text ends with a shocking geological and historical information:
‘The old stories of men say that when Earth was distributed/shared between Zeus and the immortals, Rhodes (the island of Rhodes) could not be yet seen at the spaciousness of the sea, but it was hidden in the salty depths’
What he says is that not only humans existed at the time, but also they recorded –and preserved over the centuries- the tradition that the island of Rhodes was still below sea level! They claim that this was happening when Zeus and the immortals, the ‘gods’, distributed the Earth between them. We repeat that the ‘gods’ have been humans that lived at very old times. Consequently, here we have an amazing record of things that took place probably thousands, even millions of years ago. ‘Fairy tales’? ‘Exaggerations’? Let the reader decide for himself.
In order to complete our analysis, we should present the second possible interpretation of this fragment. The names of the “gods”, as we have explained, were also used to develop scientific views and knowledge. So here, instead of what you read above, we may have a record of a scientific view of the ancients. What could that be?
Our study in ancient Greek literature shows that Zeus has often been identified in the cosmological analyzes of the ancients with the Sun, the star of our solar system. The rest of the gods were often identified with elements of nature or with celestial bodies, such as the planets. It would not be unlikely that we deal with such an approach here. But, what exactly does it mean we will, most likely, never know it. In any case, even if it is a theory of the ‘historical’ times, it refers to an extremely old era and exposes the remarkable fact that the ancient Greeks were engaged in the science of Geology, creating theories for things that happened thousands or millions of years before their time, just like we do today.