Pindar and kingship theory

Simon Hornblower

in Ancient Tyranny

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print February 2006 | ISBN: 9780748621255
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651047 | DOI:
Pindar and kingship theory

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This chapter explores Pindar's construction of the good and bad ruler, and his ideas about the nature of kingship and the king's relation with the people. These ideas, worked out in practice at the court of Hieron I, find echoes among the fourth-century orators and especially in the works of Plato. Pindar had one thing in common with Plato: first-hand knowledge of Sicilian tyranny. Where the upstart Sicilian tyrants are concerned, Pindar naturally stresses inherited excellence less on the whole. The chapter asks how, if at all, Pindar influenced kingship theory in the fourth century BC and the post-classical period. Pindar is an oblique author who uses metaphor richly, sometimes packing several metaphors into a single short sentence. Medicine is a favourite topic with Pindar generally, not just as a vehicle for ruler-advice. There are many relevant passages: Pythian 3 is the most obviously ‘medical ode’ in Pindar. Both Pindar and Thucydides, or at least a Thucydidean speaker, treat politics as a kind of medicine: ruler as doctor.

Keywords: Pindar; kingship; Plato; tyranny; tyrants; kingship theory; metaphors; Pythian 3; Thucydides; politics

Chapter.  5482 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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