The Joy of Reception
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To be victorious for the ancient Greeks was a moment of fulfillment and happiness, but also a moment of intense anxiety. For the Greeks, the self was not an autonomous ?thinking thing,? but was instead an active, agonistic thing which was grounded in power, in the ability to affect and oftentimes simply to overcome others. To be victorious therefore was not a side benefit of a brilliant display of athletic talent but was in fact the fullest expression of self. Yet, victory implies the negation of others, not only the defeated athletes from rival cities, but even more immediately the citizens of the victor?s own city. Consequently, victory is problematic because it impinges on the selfhood of those on whom the victor depends, thus making the concept of community impossible. Pindar, regarded by the Greeks as the greatest lyric poet, rehabilitates Greek society by addressing this potential crisis in his epinician odes, the celebration of the victor by the community. Epinician ode focuses on these pre-existing tensions, then resolves them by the creation of poetry that suggests a ?metaphysics of reception.? The epinician ode concedes the exultation of victory and action, yet notes that all action is derived from possession, and that the only secure means of possession is reception. As Pindar?s final and most famous ode, Pythian 8 is the supreme example of the poet?s individual style and the components of his genre. Pythian 8 thus becomes the occasion that allows for the joyful affirmation of victory and community together.