Pindar: the Odes and Selected Fragments Tranls. G. S. Conway and Richard Stoneman; Ed. Richard Stoneman. London: Everyman, 1997 Pp. Ivi + 434. £7.99. ISBN 0 460 87674 0
Review by Grainne McLoughlin
The market targets for this book are students, their teachers, and others with a general interest in ancient literature. As far as these potential purchasers are concerned, this has to one of the best bargains around. The Everyman edition of Pindar translates all the odes and many of the fragments, but does much more than that. With respect to the fragments, the helpful notes provide Greek-Iess readers with what one hopes they will find tantalizing glimpses of the sort of academic detective work necessary in order both to make sense of isolated fragments and to consider the thematic content of the fragments in relation to the odes. It is no bad thing for the reader of a polished translation to be aware of the fragility of the textual and contextual integrity of the printed page. An example is Stoneman' s introductory comments on "Fr. 140a For the Parians? (Hyporcheme?)" (pp. 383-5): "This remarkably obscure fragment is a good example of the way scholarship may be left groping in front of a tattered piece of papyrus." He then goes on to present the reader with the options facing a critic attempting to make sense of the mythological material concerning the foundation of a temple for Apollo on Paros. This edition is therefore helpful from the point of a view of anyone teaching Pindar in translation, because the method of presentation of the fragments in particular encourages discussion of problems of textual transmission and interpretation. Taken with A. P. Burnett' s introductory cloak-and-dagger account of how the text of Bacchylides reached the West (The Art of Bacchylides (Harvard, 1985)), a seminar on epinician textual tradition actually becomes a possibility. In addition, the validity of the exercise of relating the fragments to the odes is seen in Stoneman' s remarks on the significance of fragments 129-31a, when taken with Olympian 2.56-80, for an understanding of Pindar's religious beliefs and early Greek views on reincarnation (p. 383). Readers with a philosophical bent will be interested to see Stoneman connect fr. 133 with ideas in Empedocles, although it would have been helpful to recommend a recent English translation of presocratic philosophy such as J. Barnes, Early Greek Philosophy (London, 1987) at this point. Readers from a non-classical background are, however, given details of the Loeb edition of all the fragments in case they wish to pursue Pindar further, together with suggestions for background reading.
The proof of the pudding, however, is in the odes. Stoneman provided his own annotated translations of the selected fragments, but Conway's translation of 1972 has been retained as previously published (and is not therefore commented on here). Stoneman has relegated his points of disagreement with Conway to his edited and updated versions of the accompanying notes and the introduction (e.g. p. 187 on the problem of an accurate translation of the Greek wind instrument aufos in Pythian 12). The difficulty of the task of making the special language of Pindar's lyrics intelligible without being pedestrian is alluded to (pp. lv-lvi). Although Stoneman prefers Conway's approach, the fact that he alerts the reader to the qualities of Nisetich's more vernacular verse translation (F. J. Nisetich, Pindar's Victory Songs (Baltimore, 1980)) is indicative of the good-humour of his scholarship. This might not seem worthy of comment, had not scholarly debate in recent years on the performance of Greek lyric bordered on blood-feud. As it is, Stoneman's revised notes to the odes complement the text without detracting from the authority of the original translator.
More is required, however, than translation and annotation of individual odes if general or undergraduate readers are to negotiate epinician panegyric successfully. They need to know what an epinician poem is, when it was composed, and why. As these preliminary questions inevitably generate further queries about ancient Greek athletic events and the method and circumstances of performance of the victory song, background material on these matters is necessary .In addition, given the conventional, rhetorical, and highly symbolic use of language, readers need enough explanation to be able to crack the epinician code. In particular, the use of mythological material must be explained. Finally, a summary of the history of Pindaric scholarship is required so that readers can appreciate how, perhaps more than with any other ancient poet, the critical process has been one of almost biblical revelation. Everyman's Pindar satisfies all the above desiderata. Apart from the customary list of abbreviations, suggestions for further reading, a section on critical responses to Pindar, and introductory and end notes to each poem (which include helpful genealogical tables for such poems as Olympian 13 and Pythian 4), the following are provided: a chronological table relating the main events in Pindar's life and the dates of composition of his poetry to key literary and historical events in ancient Greece; maps of Greece, Sicily, and the Italian mainland in the fifth BCE showing places mentioned by Pindar; explanatory tables on panhellenic and local gameS'; a list for each book of the odes detailing its starting page, the name of the victor, the event, and the main mythological figures in the poem; a note on translation and line-numbering; and a thirty-two page introduction (including notes). The introduction not only covers the poet's life and works but also contains much useful explanatory information on, for example, the less well-known sorts of song such as the dithyramb, and, indeed, epinician. There is also a short section outlining the different events at the games and describing the likely order in which they took place. The central section of the introduction is the longest and covers respectively the interpretation of Pindar's poetry, its rhetoric and structure, and imagery .Stoneman describes here how an epinician poem is put together and how it is supposed to work.
Readers will come away from this section of the introduction able to recognize the key elements in Pindar's armory. However, this is also inevitably the section most likely to generate disagreement amongst teachers and scholars of Pindar .For example, there is an element of repetition in that some of the material in the introductory section on the interpretation of Pindar's poetry is duplicated in the thirty page section on responses to Pindar at the end of the book. It might have been clearer for readers to have one concluding section summarizing the various approaches to Pindar, thereby leaving the introduction as a completely self-contained unit of basic explanatory material. Furthermore, although the selection of excerpts from critics throughout the ages must have been an invidious task for Stoneman, there are nonetheless some surprising omissions. For example, Mary Lefkowitz features twice in this section and Hugh Lloyd-J ones' collected papers are cited several times throughout the edition. However, Kevin Crotty, Song andAction: the Victory Odes of Pindar (Baltimore, 1982) does not figure either here or in the suggested background reading, although his work on how Pindar uses social and religious structures to help integrate his subject into the wider community has stimulated scholars such as Carol Dougherty and Leslie Kurke, who are cited in the section on further reading. Simon Goldhill, The Poet's Voice: Essays on Poetics and Greek Literature (Cambridge, 1991) is not referred to, although his _chapter on Pindar is an exceptionally fine analysis of the poet's panegyric technique and critical responses to Pindar. Given that Stoneman acknowledges that sombre or dark tones are a feature of the genre which critics have found particularly problematic in poems such as Pythian 8 or even Olympian 1, the lack of reference to Goldhill is a pity since his work confronts this issue directly and is also one of the few works to discuss Olympian 6 in detail. Crotty and Goldhill are also more accessible to Greek-less readers.
In general this edition is well prepared and presented, although readers will perhaps find some inconsistencies in the style of referencing confusing. As noted above, Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Greek Epic, Lyric and Tragedy: Academic Papers (Oxford, 1990) is cited in full in the section on further reading, the section on responses to Pindar, and, for example, in the introduction to fragment 346. In contrast, Wolfgang Schadewaldt, Der Aujbau des pindarischen Epinikion (Tubingen 1966) is cited on p. xlvii in the notes to the introduction with a typographical error in the date, on p. 331 without an initial, and is absent from the section on critical responses to Pindar. Furthermore, given the likely readership of the edition, it would have been more helpful to cite Hermann Fraenkel's Early Greek Poetry and Philosophy (Oxford, 1975), where Greek passages are translated into English, rather than the original version of the work where the Greek is, for most people, less helpfully translated into German. However, given the amount written over the years in various languages on Pindar, references and suggestions for secondary reading in an edition such as this must be restricted and subjective; overall, there is enough to motivate the enthusiastic reader without discouraging the less intrepid.
Comparison with Bowra' s Penguin edition of Pindar may be invidious but is inevitable. Overall, the Everyman comes out on top. Bowra's introduction to his translations is now very out-of-date indeed. Although the translations hold their own, and indeed some readers (myself included) may prefer Bowra's versions, the notes by Stoneman on occasion show how his edition can be more helpful to the general reader. For example, it would be possible to read Bowra's notes on Nemean 10 and Pythian 9 and not realize that the Danaids marry different men at the end of Pythian 9, whereas Stoneman's note on this poem precludes such confusion.
In short, therefore, the Everyman edition of Pindar is a very welcome addition to the range of annotated translations available. Taken with Mark Golden, Sport and Society in Ancient Greece (Cambridge, 1998), teachers now have up-to-date ammunition with which to teach a relatively neglected area of Greek civilization.