Abstract–Gender, Genre, and Truth in Pindar: Three Case Studies

This paper explores three deceptive and seductive female figures in Pindar’s myths: the Hera-cloud in Pythian 2, Koronis in Pythian 3, and Hippolyta in Nemean 5. The Hera-cloud is created by Zeus to deceive Ixion and to mark the end of the guest-friendship between Ixion and Zeus; thus, she represents the deception excluded from a relationship based on mutual respect and trust. Likewise, Koronis engages in a sexual relationship with Ischys in secret from her father. In doing so, she also deceives her previous lover Apollo, whose child she is carrying. Her deception damages the guest-host relationship between Ischys and her father and the pseudo-marriage between herself and Apollo. Finally, Hippolyta attempts to seduce Peleus, who, fearing retribution from Zeus Xenios, refuses her; she then concocts a story of Peleus’ attempts to seduce her. Gender is the key factor in coupling deception with seduction in each of these cases. Female figures and the falsehood they enact or even embody are central to the disruption of a guest-host relationship. My examination contextualizes Pindar’s depiction of deceptive female figures within the epinician poems in which they appear, and points out the significance of their situation in these epinician contexts. As a genre that is predicated on reciprocity as its fundamental principle, epinician depicts truth and falsehood in their relationship to this reciprocity; thus, the deceptiveness of female figures is depicted as detrimental specifically to the relationships of reciprocity that govern epinician poetry. Pindar’s use and adaptation of a deceptive, seductive female type (cf. Hesiod’s Pandora) demonstrate how he carves out a niche for himself in Greek literature by assimilating earlier gender paradigms to his epinician models of truth, falsehood, and reciprocity.