Epinician Variations: Music and Text in Pindar Pythians 2 and 12

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The importance of music for epinician, as for all other types of choral performance in Archaic and Classical Greece, has long been recognized, but the exiguousness of the evidence for the compositional principles behind such music, and for what these poems actually sounded like in performance, has limited scholarly enquiries. Examination of Pindar's texts themselves for evidence of his musical practices was for a long time dominated by extensive and often inconclusive debate about the relations between metres and modes. More recently scholars have begun to explore Pindar's relations to contemporary developments in musical performance, and in doing so have opened up new questions about how music affected audiences as aesthetically and culturally significant in its own right, and how it interacted with the language of the text. This article will investigate the performance scenarios of two of Pindar's epinicians, arguing that in each case the poems contain indications of specific musical accompaniments, and use these scenarios as a starting point for engaging with wider interpretative questions. The self-referential dimension of these compositions will be of particular importance; I shall argue that Pindar deployed a type of musical intertextuality, in which his compositions draw on pre-existing melodic structures, utilizing their cultural associations for the purposes of his own pieces, a process crucial to the dynamics of performance of the poems concerned. By doing so I shall attempt to reach a better understanding of the roles played by music in epinician performance and of Pindar's place in relation to the musical culture in which he worked.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37–56
Number of pages10
JournalClassical Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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