Was Pindar an Avaricious Poet?
The ancient scholia of Pindar is a compilation of opinions from various periods and various scholiasts. In this extant work there are many insightful views on the Pindaric odes. However, it has been noticed that sometimes the scholiasts misinterpret Pindar. Among the misconceptions those that are connected with the issue of wealth and payment are the main concern of this essay.
The ancient scholars charge Pindar with the moral defect of avarice, which significantly affects the way they perceive and interpret the poet’s literary devices. The problem is obvious in the case of metaphors and digressions. According to the scholiasts the poet’s inability to enforce his desire and to subjugate his miserly nature, lessens his poetic impact. The fact that Pindar is accused of poetic errors is associated not only with the inability of the scholiasts to understand his poetry, but also with their tendency to interpret poetry in moral terms. They present him in terms of a conflict between his character and his poetical debt. In this conflict Pindar seems to be defeated due to his weakness of will. I hope to show that the moral flaw that characterised Pindar, according to the scholiasts, is akrasia. The principle of akrasia, according to the scholiasts, impacts on Pindar’s literary form and on his content. As a result the poet loses his way, he praises money indiscriminately, and he confuses formal aspects, embodying seemingly unrelated stories within the encomium form.
As one might expect this impression is not dominant through the scholia. In several cases the scholiasts are not judgemental towards the poet or they simply paraphrase the meaning of the lyrics. However, it is interesting to investigate the circumstances in which the scholiasts provide us with indications of their moral attitude towards money and to see to what extent this affects their literary criticism.