(BLSB) - Pederastic Desire in a Poem by Pindar

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Pindar (c. 522–443 BC). Roman marble copy of the 2nd century AD after an original Greek bust of the 5th century BC. Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale.


From Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook of Basic Documents, edited by Thomas K. Hubbard (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003). Footnote omitted.

1.85 Pindar, fragment 123 Snell–Maehler

This short skolion (a drinking song for performance at symposia) praises the beauty of the boy Theoxenus. Some critics have supposed it to be Pindar’s personal declaration of love, but it was more likely commissioned by the boy’s lover and the first-person voice is meant to express the erotic attraction of any man who likes boys. Pindar’s lyric poems are built out of metrically equivalent stanzas (“strophe” and “antistrophe”) followed by a stanza in a different meter (the “epode”).

[strophe] One must pluck loves, my heart, in due season and at the proper age.
Ah! But any man who catches with his glance
The bright rays flashing from Theoxenus’ eyes
And is not tossed on the waves of desire,
Has a black heart of adamant or iron 5
[antistrophe] Forged in a cold flame, and dishonored by Aphrodite of the arching brow
Either toils compulsively for money
Or, as a slave, is towed down a path utterly cold
By a woman’s boldness.
But I, by the will of the Love Goddess, melt 10
[epode] Like the wax of holy bees stung by the sun’s heat,
Whenever I look upon the fresh-limbed youth of boys.
And surely even on the isle of Tenedos
Seduction and Grace dwell
In the son of Hagesilas. 15


Youths Watch, Crown, And Kiss Boy Athletes. Attic red-figure amphora by the Dikaios Painter, c. 510 BCE. Paris, Musée du Louvre, G 45.

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