Theological elements in Pindar – Truth, Piety, Prayer and Memory of Hades

Here we present and analyze four excerpts from Pindar, the lyric poet.


Olympionikos II, Verses 95-98

In ancient Greek: «αλλ’ αίνον επέβα κόρος ου δίκα συναντόμενος, αλλά μάργων υπ’ ανδρών, το λαλαγήσαι θέλον κρυφόν τιθέμεν εσλών καλοίς έργοις»

In English: «but envy, which does not meet with justice, rushes at commendation, wanting to cover the good deeds of the worthy with the palaver of the wroth and greedy men»

NovoScriptorium: Pindar disapproves envy. He assures that it is unjust by definition. Characteristic of the envious person is the aggression towards any other person who receives some kind of praise. The envious cannot suffer of better people living around him. And so he decries them. And he does so using palaver, too. He is also wroth and greedy. It is clear that this type of person cannot be pious and godly, neither can be counted among the good people. Because the pious, godly and well-intentioned person, one who has the characteristics of a Philosopher –as we have explained in previous articles- avoids injustice, self-vindication, possessivity, palaver, evilness in general; he is decent, he does not judge the others before strictly having judged himself first, the importance he appoints to matter is strictly associated with survival/subsistence and not as a means associated with Power and Pleasure (Hedone – Ηδονή).

Olympionikos IV, Verses 17-18

In ancient Greek: «ου ψεύδεϊ τέγξω λόγον. Διάπειρά τοι βροτών έλεγχος»

In English: «I will not spoil my words with lies. Trial/Ordeal controls Men (or, ‘hard times check people’, meaning their abilities, wisdom, deeds, etc.)»

NovoScriptorium: Pindar disapproves mendacity. We do not believe that some special analysis is necessary on the importance of Truth.

He suggests that Trials constitute some kind of check for Men. Every difficulty in the life of Μan, as long as it becomes motive for the deepening of self-knowledge, it is actually a ‘gift’! Since Man becomes more experienced and stronger – like our body when it manages to beat a virus – whenever he passes one of these tests, then this can only be good! And, of course, it is also a form of ‘Divine check’ on the actions of Μan. For both this mortal life and Eternity – something the Philosophers indeed believed in.

Olympionikos VII, Verse 8

In ancient Greek: «άνεται δε προς χάριν ευσεβίας ανδρών λιταίς»

In English: «prayers made with piety are rewarded»

NovoScriptorium: Here we are informed about the importance of piety and praying. Pindar suggests that Man should pray to the Divine. The way to do this is with great respect. Of course, a prayer done with great respect, with the heart truly humble before God, with awe for God –i.e. fear of God- and absolute faith, it is almost certain that it will receive response by God. There is no need from our part to write much about the importance of Faith and Prayer. The Holy Scripture and the Church Fathers describe everything clearly and in every possible extent.

Olympionikos VIII, Verses 72-73

In ancient Greek: «Αΐδα τοι λάθεται άρμενα πράξαις ανήρ»

In English: «when one enjoys, he forgets Hades»

NovoScriptorium: ‘Enjoyement’ equals ‘Pleasure’. ‘Hades’ equals ‘Eternity’ (Hades – Άδης or Αίδης, in Greek, derives from the adjective ‘αΐδιος’ which means ‘eternal’). So, Pindar suggests that Man forgets about Eternity when he is consumed by/focused on Pleasures. In ancient Greek Mythology/Theology it was believed that there will be judgement of every Man after physical death. And this judgement, a Divine judgement, will determine Man’s position/condition for Eternity.

What Pindar writes here is very interesting, when compared to the writings/teachings of the Orthodox Church Fathers who inform us that, whoever maintains ‘memory of death’, i.e. his mind ‘in Hades’, protects himself continuously from mistakes, small and big –the Sins. Because he continuously thinks of God and if God approves his deeds; he never forgets that there is a Divine judgement for his deeds. In this way, ‘memory of death’ becomes an ‘assistant of salvation’ for Man –for this life and for Eternity. It is very often for – the carried away by temporary successes and joys – Man to have the illusion that he ‘doesn’t need God’, and hence doesn’t feel the necessity to really and deeply check his thoughts and actions. This stance of life is well proven to be catastrophic for Man – individually and socially. So, it is important and necessary to always remember God and to ‘keep our mind in Hades’.


Research-Analysis for NovoScriptorium: Isidoros Aggelos


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