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  • Home is the Hero:Deixis and Semantics in Pindar Pythian 8
  • Richard P. Martin
Abstract

Richard Martin argues that Pythian 8, probably the last epinician Pindar composed, is unusual in the way it ties the victor's home island to a number of other landscapes. His paper traces several elaborate figural systems that Pindar employs to map out a vast parallel space within which gods, heroes, athletes, kings, mortals, and poets interact. The specific technique employed to bring about this poetic effect involves intensive use of several varieties of deixis. Alongside the familiar configuration of demonstratives and other deictic markers, the poet draws on what might be termed "embedded" or "implicit" deictics, by using verbs that imply contact or distance, including verbs of directed motion, or deictic verbs. Martin's close analysis of such deictics in Pythian 8 enables him to explicate some of the notoriously difficult passages of the ode and offers, in addition, a useful tool for reading other archaic Greek poetry, choral and monodic.

Pythian 8, probably the last epinikion Pindar composed, is unusual in the way it points elsewhere: of all the odes for Aiginetan victors, only this one fails to employ a myth related to the family of Aiakos. Instead, through its central narration of an Argive tale and through a complex network of pathways, the poem ties the victor's home island to a number of other landscapes. Even more ambitiously, through several elaborate figural systems, Pindar maps out a vast parallel space within which gods, heroes, athletes, kings, mortals, and poets interact. The poetic construction of such a cosmos produces a vivid sense of powerful contiguities at work in the world.1

But how does it all happen? The specific technique employed to bring about this effect, the means by which Pindar builds his triumphant, unifying assertion, is worth articulating. Not only is such an investigation of this much-studied ode still lacking; the explication may provide a useful tool for reading other archaic Greek poetry. For Pythian 8, pushing, as it does, the limits of choral poetic art, demands that we, in turn, expand our critical horizons to find new ways to understand and describe its ancient artistry. Invoking the notion of deixis is one step along this road.2 [End Page 343]

A basic deictic reality can be noticed at once: the ode, composed for the wrestling victory of Aristomenes in 446 B.C., has managed to move through time, revealing itself to varied audiences, up to our own day, while pointing backwards to, and even imitating, an originating celebration.3 This dynamic, anaphoric movement reiterates the original communicative act of the ode, which centered on making vivid to a local community the place that its athletic hero's victory occupied along a sunlit pathway stretching back to the heroic age.4 Of course, one might say this about any epinikion. What makes Pythian 8 a special case is its intensive use of a range of deictic devices to signal and create such connections.

In order to view the full spectrum of devices, we should begin with two theoretical considerations about the nature of linguistic deixis, and then examine the ways in which several varieties of this phenomenon interact in the ode. First, we need an expanded awareness of the term deixis. Most literary critics think of it primarily as the pragmatic indication of space and time within language, and use the overt linguistic markers available in any given language as the immediate starting point for their investigations.5 Within ancient Greek, these would include pronominal forms, adverbs, verbal tense markers, and suffixes with deictic function (such as the functionally productive , the "iota demonstrativum" found in such forms as ). But the deictic resources of any language do not stop at such features. Beyond these, one has to pay attention to verb semantics, particularly to the deictic implications of verbs of motion, and in addition, to what we might call "contact" verbs.6 I hope to show that both this verb-semantic [End Page 344] deixis and the more familiar markers are consciously and artfully interwoven in the construction of the Pindaric poem. Beyond this, I want to suggest that the enactment...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6504
Print ISSN
0004-0975
Pages
pp. 343-363
Launched on MUSE
2004-10-26
Open Access
No
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