Light and Vision in Pindar’s Olympian Odes: Interplays of Imagination and Performance

in The Look of Lyric: Greek Song and the Visual


In archaic Greece, light and vision have a similar basis, i.e. the emission of fire-rays, be they strong or smooth, focused or diffused. The generic term φάος (with its lexical group φαίνω / φαίνομαι, φαεννός, etc.) belongs to various intricate metaphorical / cognitive systems and plays a major role in Pindar’s poetics and pragmatics. This vocabulary associates human and divine sights with the glare of the sun, shaping out positive concepts such as excellence, glory, success, wealth, beauty, truth and harmony, etc. This chapter concentrates on the Olympian Odes and analyses two main points: the construction of visual images in the mythological discourse, in Ol. 2.53–74, 6.39–58, and 7.54–71, through the notions of gnomic, narrative, and ritual imagination; and the melic praise as a spectacular action, with epidictic, political and gnomic effects, in Ol. 1.1–11, 9.89–99, and 10.20–25. At the core of epinician poetics, the efficiency of light imagery, in the audience’s imagination and spectacular reception, depends on reverberations between the mythological, gnomic and encomiastic components of the Odes, between the diffused day-light images and other kinds of light and vision, and ultimately between the metaphors and other textual and musical effects.

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The Look of Lyric: Greek Song and the Visual

Studies in Archaic and Classical Greek Song, vol. 1


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