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Page:Pindar in English Verse (Way 1922).djvu/12

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INTRODUCTION

in that of a friend. Hence the praise in an ode was distributed widely: the bard celebrated the champion, his family, former victors, the city or island of his birth, his ancestors, the ancient heroes of the land, so that the φθόνος might fall heavily on none, especially as all success was ascribed to the Gods, to whom the competitors sacrificed before engaging in the contest. A religious halo surrounded the Great Games. "Not unto us" is the burden of more than one ode, in which success is expressly attributed to the help of a God, as Poseidon, and often to the Graces.

A feature of the Games which strikes us moderns unpleasantly is the absence among the Greeks of what we call the sporting spirit. While no praise was too high, no reward too splendid for the victor, his unsuccessful competitors neither expected nor obtained any sympathy even from their fellow-townsmen. Even the victor was sometimes assailed by envious disparagement, especially where a state was rent by political factions; while the vanquished had to hide his head from the storm of derision which greeted his failure.