This poem was written for Hagesidamos, the son of Archestratos, from Epizephyrian Locri, a decent sized city on the toe of Italy. Hagesidamos had won the boys’ boxing contest at the great Olympic festival of 476, the first after the Persian Wars and the one at which Hieron of Syracuse won the horse race (the victory celebrated in Olympian 1).
Pindar wrote poems in return for money, and this ode is striking because it begins by addressing the issue of payment head on. While some might see such payments as compromising the praise that Pindar offered, Pindar here suggests that a delay in providing the poem has served to transform the relationship from one of debt to one of friendship, as he will compensate for the delay by adding an interest payment that, like a wave on the shore, will wash away the pebbles used to calculate a debt.
τὸν Ὀλυμπιονίκαν ἀνάγνωτέ μοι
Ἀρχεστράτου παῖδα, πόθι φρενὸς
ἐμᾶς γέγραπται· γλυκὺ γὰρ αὐτῷ μέλος ὀφείλων ἐπιλέλαθ᾽· ὦ Μοῖσ᾽, ἀλλὰ σὺ καὶ θυγάτηρ
Ἀλάθεια Διός, ὀρθᾷ χερὶ
ἕκαθεν γὰρ ἐπελθὼν ὁ μέλλων χρόνος
ἐμὸν καταίσχυνε βαθὺ χρέος.
ὅμως δὲ λῦσαι δυνατὸς ὀξεῖαν ἐπιμομφὰν τόκος· ὁρᾶτ᾽ ὦν νῦν ψᾶφον ἑλισσομέναν
ὅπα κῦμα κατακλύσσει ῥέον,
ὅπα τε κοινὸν λόγον
φίλαν τίσομεν ἐς χάριν.
The Olympic victor, read his name to me,
The son of Archestratos, where on my heart
It has been written. For, although owing him a sweet song, I forgot it. But you, Muse, and you, Truth,
Daughter of Zeus, with upright hand
Ward off the reproach that with lies
I wronged my friend.
For, coming from far away, the future
Made me ashamed of my deep debt.
Still, interest is able to release the bitter censure; see now how the flowing wave washes away
The rolling pebble,
How we will pay out a tale shared by all
To secure our dear friendship.
Chosen and translated by Nigel Nicholson, author of Aristocracy and Athletics in Archaic and Classical Greece.
The above text is provided by the Perseus Digital Library.