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Seminar Greek: Pindar and epinician poetry


Admission requirements

This course is open to MA and research MA students in Classics and Ancient Civilizations (specialization Classics).


The object of this seminar is to familiarize students with the conventions and Greek of Pindaric (and, to a lesser extent, Bacchylidean) epinician lyric and to explore the variety of ways that scholars have attempted to set this poetry in its cultural context.

Pindar in his victory poetry has traditionally been viewed as the last great exponent of an Archaic-period aristocratic ethos, wherein noble achievement brings undying fame. Scholars have also focused on the technical aspects of his poetic production: structure and formulaic language.

While this body of work is of undoubted value, the aim in this seminar is to move beyond questions of form and also beyond the picture of Pindar as a remnant of a sixth-century aristocratic worldview. How, for example, does epinician fit into contemporary programs of commemoration at panhellenic sanctuaries? How does its vision of poetic immortality resonate with contemporary religious beliefs? How might we read the odes for Sicilian tyrants against the background of the Persian Wars? How cohesive (or not) a genre is epinician? In what circumstances should we imagine that it performed (or re-performed?). Broadly speaking, the course will move from issues of form to those of context.

Course objectives

Students will acquire:

  • Knowledge of the formal features of epinician poetry;

  • Insight into the contextualization of epinician within the early fifth century;


  • Research skills: independent formulation of a complex research question, collecting materials (both primary texts and results of earlier research). Analyzing results, constructing arguments, formulating conclusions;

  • Critical assessment of secondary literature;

  • Oral presentation: presenting clearly and making effective use of hand-outs, illustrations and/or multi-media techniques;

  • In case of 10 EC, a written presentation: setting out research results effectively, clearly and in a well-structured manner.


See timetables Classics and Ancient Civilizations

Mode of instruction

Seminar and independent research

Assessment method

When taken for 10 EC:

  • Preparation and active participation in class (10%);

  • Oral presentation (20%);

  • Prepared response to another student’s presentation (5%);

  • Written or oral exam on Greek texts (35%);

  • Paper (30%).

When taken for 5 EC (no final paper is required):

  • Preparation and active participation in class (20%);

  • Oral presentation (35%);

  • Prepared response to another student’s presentation (5%);

  • Written or oral exam on Greek texts (40%).


In this course we make use of Blackboard.

Reading list

  • Participants must have the Snell-Maehler Teubner edition of Pindar (paperback: 172 pages; Publisher: de Gruyter (August 28, 2008); ISBN-10: 311020844X; ISBN-13: 978-3110208443).

  • Secondary literature will be made available through the University Library.


Via uSis


To be announced