Thursday, September 24, 2015

TFBT: Pindar's Great Mother and Pan

Recently The Hour 25 Book Club hosted  a discussion on Pindar Pythian 3, Olympian 1, and Gregory Nagy Pindar’s Homer Chapter 4: “Pindar’s Olympian 1 and the Aetiology of the Olympic Games” I was struck by the lines;

But I will pray to the Great Mother, to whom night after night before my doors, a stately goddess, the maidens dance and to Pan beside her.”  (Pythia 3)

I could think of no myth about the Great Mother, whether Cybele, Rhea or Demeter and the great god Pan.  I recalled a couple of myths about satyrs in Cybele or Dionysus’ train, but neither tale was about Pan.I looked at several resources and found only vague suggestions and nothing specific.  So I went to JSTOR and found a great article “Pindar and Pan: frs. 95-100 Snell” by Joan A. Haldane Phoenix Vol. 22, No. 1 (Spring, 1968), pp. 18-31

Haldane’s article seems well researched.  She says the shrine in question was actually established by Pindar.  “Pindar had a vision of (the Great Mother) descending towards him from the mountains in the form a  of a wooden image.”  So in honor of the epiphany he established the shrine.  Additionally, Pan was seen outside of Thebes singing one of Pindar’s Odes.  In thanks for the rather flattery compliment, Pindar established Pan next to the goddess in the shrine. 

Mystery solved!

1 comment:

  1. Pan singing Pindar's Ode! Reminds me of an old Russian joke: the authorities make a contest for projects for a memorial of the renowned 19th century writer Anton Chekhov. Results:
    3rd prize: a statue of Chekhov.
    2nd prize: a statue of Lenin reading Chekhov's book.
    1st prize: a statue of Chekhov reading Lenin's book.