1.87 Pindar, First Olympian Ode
This poem was commissioned in 476 B.C.E. to celebrate the Olympic horse-race victory of Hieron, monarch of Syracuse, the most powerful Greek city in Sicily. In the poem Pindar tells the myth of the sea-god Poseidon’s love for the young Pelops.
Pelops, whom Earth-cradling Poseidon loved, 25
since Clotho had taken him out of the pure cauldron,
his ivory shoulder gleaming in the hearth-light.
Pelops, I will tell your story differently from the men of old.
Your father Tantalus had invited the gods
to banquet in his beloved Sipylus,
providing a stately feast in return for the feast they had given him.
It was then Poseidon seized you, 40
[ant. 2] overwhelmed in his mind with desire, and swept you on golden mares
to Zeus’ glorious palace on Olympus,
where, at another time,
Ganymede came also
for the same passion in Zeus. 45
For this they hurled his son Pelops back 65
among the short-lived generations of men.
But when he grew toward the time of bloom
and black down curled on his cheeks,
he thought of a marriage there for his seeking—
[ant. 2] to win from her Pisan father the girl Hippodameia. 70
Going down by the dim sea, alone in the dark,
he called on the god of the trident,
who appeared and stood close by.
“If in any way,” Pelops said to him, “the gifts of Aphrodite count in my favor, 75
shackle the bronze spear of Oenomaus,
bring me on the swiftest chariot
to Elis, and put me within the reach of power,
for he has slain thirteen suitors now,
and so he delays his daughter’s marriage. 80
[ep. 3] Great danger does not come upon the spineless man,
and yet, if we must die, why squat in the shadows,
coddling a bland old age, with no nobility, for nothing?
As for me, I will undertake this exploit.
And you—I beseech you: let me achieve it.” 85
He spoke, and his words found fulfillment: the god made him glow with gifts—
a golden chariot and winged horses never weary.
[str. 4] He tore the strength from Oenomaus and took the maiden to his bed.
She bore him six sons, leaders of the people, intent on prowess.
Now in the bright blood rituals 90
Pelops has his share,
reclining by the ford of Alpheus.
Men gather at his tomb, near the crowded altar. The glory
of the Olympiads shoots its rays afar in his races,
where speed and strength 95
are matched in the bruise of toil.