Pindar of Thebes, (c.518-c.438 BCE)
Around the year 518 BCE, Pindar was born in Kynoskephalae, a village just outside Thebes in Boeotia. Pindar was an aristocrat of the distinguished Spartan family Aegeidae, whose name was known thoughout ancient Greece. As a child, Pindar studied music with the famous musicians Agathocles and Apollodoros in Athens. It is said that Pindar also received instruction from uncle, Scopelinus, a skilled flute player. The young Pindar was, of course, also adept as a poet. He is said to have studied with the poetess Corinna, a fellow Boeotian from Tanagara. Legend holds that the two developed a rivalry and engaged in poetry contests. After Pindar had been defeated in one contest, Corinna is said to have criticized the lushness of his style and excessive use of myth, with the famous lines: "sow with the hand, and not the whole sack." Despite this early criticism, Pindar's skill of employing myth was to earn him repute as one of the greatest Greek lyric poets of all time - it was his ability to express Panhellenic spirituality and religion that earned him this distinction.
Pindar soon gained much fame in his home city. He became known as "The Eagle of Thebes," who bore a likeness to the "roar of the river." As his fame grew throughout Greece, Pindar received invitationses from rulers to visit their courts. Amyntas of Macedon, Arkesilaos of Kyrene, Theron of Agrigentum and Hieron of Syracuse were among the many who were patrons of Pindar. Pindar was a rather prolific poet. Later, Alexandrian scholars divided his works into seventeen books, yet today all that remain are his epinicia, songs celebrating victorious athletes at the Panhellenic games, sung by a chorus usually at the scene of the victory or during a celebratory feast. The epinicia contained 14 Olympian, 12 Pythian, 11 Nemean and 8 Isthmian odes.
In 438 BC, Pindar died in the theater of Argos while reciting a poem. The Athenians honored Pindar after his death by making him an ambassador, proxenos, and erected a bronze statue of him. Thebans were angered at Pindar for glorifying the enemy city of Athens, but later constructed a temple near his former home.