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Khronos, Cronos, and the Cronion Hill: The Spatialization of Time in Pindar’s Olympian 10

Citation with persistent identifier:

Pavlou, Maria. “Khronos, Cronos, and the Cronion Hill: The Spatialization of Time in Pindar’s Olympian 10.” CHS Research Bulletin 2, no. 2 (2014). http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hlnc.essay:PavlouM.Chronos_Kronos_and_the_Kronion_Hill.2014

The mountain sat upon the plain
In his eternal chair,
His observation omnifold,
His inquest everywhere.

The seasons prayed around his knees,
Like children round a sire:
Grandfather of the days is he,
Of dawn the ancestor.

E. Dickinson, ‘The Mountain’

 

§1 Olympian 10 celebrates Hagesidamus, a boy wrestler from Western Locri who won his victory in 476 BCE.[1] From Pindar’s apologetic style at the opening of the poem, and his promise to pay back his overdue debt with interest (τόκος), it becomes clear that there must have been some delay in composing the ode. The “tardiness” of the poem, the historicity of which should be taken at face-value and not merely as a topos—notwithstanding its touch of poetic exaggeration—is explicable if we take into account that the Olympiad of 476 BCE proved victorious also for Hieron of Syracuse and Theron of Acragas for whom Pindar composed three elaborate and quite extensive epinicians: Olympian 1, and Olympians 2, and 3 respectively.[2] The chronological proximity of these odes is significant, for it accounts for a number of similarities they share, not only in terms of the mythical centrepiece, but also in their reverberations vis-à-vis the notion of time.

§2 Khronos holds a central and pivotal place in Olympian 10, an ode that Hubbard aptly characterized as “an orchestrated reflection upon the nature of time.”[3] My intention, though, is not to provide a detailed and extensive overall analysis of Pindar’s treatment of time in this poem, but rather, to focus my attention on a specific excerpt which, as I will attempt to demonstrate, promotes an association between Khronos and the primeval God Cronos. This association is noteworthy not only with reference to Pindar’s handling of time per se, but also because it could shed light upon other contemporary or roughly contemporary representations of time, such as the ones found in Pherecydes of Syros and the Derveni Papyrus. In fact, it is not irrelevant that Olympian 10, along with Olympian 2, have often been cited as evidence by a number of scholars in order to either bolster or refute the role played by time in the above mentioned texts. Heretofore there has been no systematic attempt to approach the Cronos/Khronos issue in Olympian 10 in more depth, taking into account both the wider context of the ode and Pindar’s overall attitude towards time. The current article is offered as a contribution towards this direction.

§3 The song’s mythical section dwells upon a foundation story: the institution of the quadrennial Olympic festival by Heracles.[4] Heracles arrives at Elis in order to perform the most disgraceful and humiliating of his Labors; to clean the dung from the byres of Augeas, the king of Elis.[5] Unwilling to compensate him for his menial services, Augeas assigns Cteatus and Eurytus, the sons of his brother Actor also referred to in the poem with the eponym “Moliones,” to prevent the hero from acquiring his wager.[6] Heracles, however, ambushes the Moliones near Cleonae and, after killing them, destroys Elis with his army and gathers together all the booty at Pisa. There he wholeheartedly engages in a series of activities that radically transform the landscape of Olympia: he plots out a precinct for Zeus, makes a resting place for banqueting, builds six double altars for the ruling gods, and honors the river Alpheus by dedicating an altar to him.[7] Finally, he names the hill of Cronos:

ὁ δ’ ἄρ’ ἐν Πίσᾳ ἔλσαις ὅλον τε στρατόν

λᾴαν τε πᾶσαν Διὸς ἄλκιμος

υἱὸς σταθμᾶτο ζάθεον ἄλσος πατρὶ μεγίστῳ·

περὶ δὲ πάξαις Ἄλτιν μὲν ὅγ’ ἐν καθαρῷ

διέκρινε, τὸ δὲ κύκλῳ πέδον

ἔθηκε δόρπου λύσιν,

τιμάσαις πόρον Ἀλφεοῦ

μετὰ δώδεκ’ ἀνάκτων θεῶν· καὶ πάγον

Κρόνου προσεφθέγξατο· πρόσθε γάρ

νώνυμνος, ἇς Οἰνόμαος ἆρχε, βρέχετο πολλᾷ

νιφάδι. ταύτᾳ δ’ ἐν πρωτογόνῳ τελετᾷ

παρέσταν μὲν ἄρα Μοῖραι σχεδόν

ὅ τ’ἐξελέγχων μόνος

ἀλάθειαν ἐτήτυμον

Χρόνος.                                 (43−55)

 

Thereupon, Zeus’ valiant son gathered the entire army

and all the booty at Pisa,

and measured out a sacred precinct for his father

mostly mighty. He fenced in the Altis and set it apart

in the open, and he made the surrounding plain

a resting place for banqueting,

and honored the stream of Alpheos

along with the twelve ruling gods. And he gave the hill

of Cronos its name, because before that it had none,

when during Oinomaos’ reign, it was drenched

with much snow. And at that founding ceremony

the Fates stood near at hand,

as did the sole assayer of genuine truth,

Time.[8]

§4 This is a dense and complex passage and it is no wonder that Pindar saves for it a place exactly in the middle of the ode. Through his actions Heracles transforms the undesignated space of Olympia into a place, namely into space loaded with cultural and social meaning. The way in which Heracles’ activities are flagged, which is both clipped and freewheeling, speeds the narrative up thus evoking a feeling of urgency which tallies with the time of the “story,” considering that all these activities were completed within a single day.[9] Pindar rounds off this vignette in a grandiloquent way, declaring that present during the founding ceremony were the Moirai and Khronos. What merits particular attention is that these figures are not depicted as mere onlookers leisurely observing the ceremony from afar, but as overseers of the ongoing mystery. Their presiding over the πρωτόγονος τελετά is heightened through the use of the verb παρίσταμαι and the adverb σχεδόν, both of which indicate their spatial proximity and serve to gloss them as concrete entities, thus probing a feeling of ‘marvelous sublimity’ (mira sublimitas).[10] The reference to Khronos and the Moirai is overlaid with a number of adjectives that slow down the narrative in a way that chimes well with the ‘stillness’ of the image evoked.

§5 As far as the Moirai are concerned, their presence is not difficult to explain, considering that Heracles’ ritual embraces a number of “births:” the “birth” of Olympia as a sanctuary dedicated to Zeus, the “birth” of the Olympic games, even the “birth” of the Cronion Hill, insofar as “naming” could be seen as a kind of “coming into being.”[11] The presence of Khronos, on the other hand, defies easy interpretation not least because Khronos was not a birth deity. Moreover, whenever personified, Khronos in Pindar is typically portrayed in action—either moving or performing some other kind of activity.[12] This is the only instance where Khronos is emphatically depicted “standing still,” a particularity that gains in significance if we take into account that in Olympian 10 Khronos is twice portrayed in movement. The first such instance occurs at the proemium, where Pindar explains how Khronos, approaching from afar, has shamed his indebtedness:

ἕκαθεν γὰρ ἐπελθὼν ὁ μέλλων χρόνος

ἐμὸν καταίσχυνε βαθὺ χρέος  (7−8)

 

For what was then the future has approached from afar

and shamed my deep indebtedness.

The second instance is to be found in the line immediately following the passage under discussion, where Pindar declares that moving forwards Khronos revealed the truth about the foundation of the Olympic games:

Xρόνος. τὸ δὲ σαφανὲς ἰὼν πόρσω κατέφρασεν,

ὁπᾷ τὰν πολέμοιο δόσιν

ἀκρόθινα διελὼν ἔθυε καὶ

πενταετηρίδ’ ὅπως ἄρα

ἔστασεν ἑορτὰν σὺν Ὀλυμπιάδι πρώτᾳ

νικαφορίαισί τε (55−59)[13]

 

Τime. Moving forwards it clearly revealed

how Herakles divided up that gift of war

and offered up its best portion,

and how he then founded

the quadrennial festival with the first Olympiad

and its victories.

Finally, the accumulation of the adjectives πρωτόγονος,[14] μόνος, ἐτήτυμος, and the evocation of the notions of “firstness,” “uniqueness,” and “genuineness,” as well as the particle ἄρα, which here expresses a lively feeling of interest in what follows,[15] are vociferous indications that Pindar wanted to throw into relief Khronos’ attendance at the ceremony; the crucial question is why?

§6 Modern scholars tend to see in this reference Pindar’s attempt to emphasize that the founding ceremony took place in time. According to Brisson, Khronos is present at the ceremony because “time allows the act to survive in memory once it has been performed;” a somewhat similar stance is adopted by Barrett: “It is in the process of time that this version of the legend becomes established as true, and others as false; hence it is Time who proves its Truth, and if he is to prove it he must know it, and he knows it because he was there in person.”[16] Even though this is one possible interpretation, in my view what Pindar seeks to achieve here is much more poetic, sublime, and grandiose. In order to fully appreciate the dexterous and subtle way in which this is engineered and achieved, it would be instructive to cast a look first at Pindar’s description of Mount Cronion, which Heracles “baptizes” during the πρωτόγονος rite.

§7 The Cronion is a conical hill about 500 feet in altitude. It towers over Olympia right on the north edge of the Altis and constitutes a significant and distinctive topographical marker in Olympia’s physical landscape. This is the reason why Pindar often uses it metonymically in order to refer to Olympia as a whole.[17] In the passage under discussion Pindar notes that the hill was anonymous (νώνυμνος) during the reign of the king Oenomaus, and he even figuratively elaborates on its anonymity detailing that it was continuously covered with snow: βρέχετο πολλᾷ νιφάδι.[18] This piece of information is noteworthy, for Olympia seems to have been associated with cultic activity even before Heracles’ arrival. Pausanias reports that the Cronion was esteemed as sacred to Cronos prior to the establishment of the Olympic games, an association that crops up three times in his narrative. In 5.7.6 we learn that during the Golden Age Cronos had a temple at Olympia, a detail that Pausanias claims to have retrieved “from the most learned antiquaries of Elis,” while in 5.7.10 he refers to a struggle that allegedly took place at that very spot between Zeus and Cronos.[19] Of particular importance is 6.20.1, where the so-called Bασίλαι are said to have done homage and sacrificed to Cronos on the summit of the hill during the month of Elaphion:

Τὸ δὲ ὄρος τὸ Κρόνιον κατὰ τὰ ἤδε λελεγμένα μοι παρὰ τὴν κρηπῖδα καὶ τοὺς ἐπ’ αὐτῇ παρήκει θησαυρούς. ἐπὶ δὲ τοῦ ὄρους τῇ κορυφῇ θύουσιν οἱ Βασίλαι καλούμενοι τῷ Κρόνῳ κατὰ ἰσημερίαν τὴν ἐν τῷ ἦρι, Ἐλαφίῳ μηνὶ παρὰ Ἠλείοις. [20]

 

Mount Cronius, as I have already said, extends parallel to the terrace with the treasuries on it. On the summit of the mountain the Basilae, as they are called, sacrifice to Cronus at the spring equinox, in the month called Elaphius among the Eleans.

Even though Pindar refers several times to the Cronion,[21] he never explicitly associates it with any kind of pre-Olympian religion. Most scholars seem to concede, though, that his insistence on the anonymity of the hill in Olympian 10 should be interpreted as a veiled attempt to challenge an established competing variant. In support of this view I would propose that Pindar’s awareness of the tradition reported by Pausanias could, in fact, be reflected in the impressive locution that features near the coda of Olympian 1 for Hieron of Syracuse: τὸ δ’ ἔσχατον κορυφοῦται βασιλεῦσι (113). Literally this phrase means that “the farthest limit has a peak placed on it for kings” and is typically taken to highlight the supremacy of kingship, hailing it as one of the ultimate goals that can be reached.[22] Yet, considering that the mythical account of Olympian 1 dwells upon the story of Pelops and his involvement with the Olympic games, it would not be forced to argue that this phrase could, in fact, serve as an indirect allusion to the ancient ritual supposed to have taken place on the summit of the Cronion by the priestly caste of the Βασίλαι, whose name clearly resonates with the word βασιλεύς.[23]

§8 Νow, assuming that Pindar knew of an alternative tradition attesting to a pre-Olympian cult of Cronos, why does he refute it? Some contend that in doing so he manages to aggrandize Heracles’ achievement by ascribing to him not only the institution of the games but also the sacralization of the Olympic landscape.[24] Still, this explanation does not account for the hero’s decision to name the hill Cronion; why not name it after Zeus, to whom the sanctuary was dedicated (45), or even after Pelops, whose tomb—the only man-made structure in existence at Olympia upon his arrival—is emphatically mentioned in line 24? I would propose that Pindar’s conspicuous silence is evocative, aiming to incite his audience to draw an association between the appellation Cronion assigned to the hill by Heracles and Khronos who, just like the hill, witnessed the founding ceremony “standing still” nearby.[25]

§9 This suggestion naturally begs the question: would the audience be able to grasp and comprehend the association and its ramifications? What should be stressed is that Cronos’ identification with Khronos was not a fancy of Pindar’s own invention. In fact, according to Plutarch this association had been widespread among the Greeks.[26] Even though it is difficult to trace its origin, the notional proximity of Khronos and Cronos in Olympians 2 and 10, and their syntactical proximity throughout Pindar’s oeuvre,[27] leave it to be inferred that the numinous identification Cronos/Khronos was already current in philosophical discussions during Pindar’s time and that his audience—at least part thereof—could recognize the etymological connection put forward here. The thrust of this suggestion is reinforced by the fact that this very association is also evident in the treatise of Pindar’s older contemporary Pherecydes of Syros.[28]

§10 The proposal put forward here is further supported by the following internal evidence:

1. First, the emphatic way in which Khronos is associated with ἀλάθεια; to be sure, the depiction of Khronos as an unveiler of truth was widespread in antiquity with Solon of Athens being its first fervent exponent. In Pindar the idea also crops up several times.[29] Nοnetheless, the tantalizingly reverent title of “sole assayer of the genuine truth” ascribed to Khronos elevates him to something more than a mere revealer of truth. Here Khronos assumes an ordering capacity and is promoted to the wisest power of the universe. The wisdom attributed to Khronos bolsters its association with Cronos who, despite being notorious for his “craftiness,” also had a mysterious relationship to wisdom.[30]

2. It is Pindar’s common practice, whenever referring to a birth, to stress the close relationship between the name given (signifier) and its significance (signified), and there is no reason whatsoever why Heracles’ naming of the Cronion would have formed an exception.[31] On the contrary, the very presence of the adjective ἐτήτυμος in line 54—the reduplicated form of ἔτυμος—rather prompts us to search for the etymology of the hill’s nomenclature.[32] What is more, etymology in general seems to play an important role throughout Olympian 10. In his opening gambit, for instance, Pindar skillfully juxtaposes Ἀλάθεια with its etymological cognate ἐπιλανθάνομαι, thus bringing to the fore Ἀλάθεια’s association with non-forgetfulness.[33] Notable also is Pindar’s predilection for the term πάγος in lieu of other nouns which he typically employs with reference to the Cronion.[34] Scholars have drawn attention to the etymological connection between πάγον and the compound verb περιπήγνυμι (περὶ…πάξαις) used at 45 in relation to Heracles’ fencing of the Altis.[35] In my view there is another suggested etymological overtone here which has passed mostly unnoticed: the relationship between the snow-covered Cronion and the term πάγος, which after Homer is also used to indicate “frost.”[36] This etymological play would have served as yet another cue for the audience to search for a similar etymological reasoning in Heracles’ appellation of the Cronion.

3. The bold and powerful enjambment in line 54 created by having Khronos “carried” over into the first line of the following epode would also be conducive to the identification envisioned here, since the delay of the identifying name Khronos would definitely have evoked the expectation that the second entity presiding over the ceremony would have been Cronos after whom the hill was named.

4. Last but not least, Olympian 10 was composed soon after Olympian 2, an ode replete with Orphic and Pythagorean connotations, where an association between Khronos and Cronos is also claimed. Not only this but Khronos is once again spatialized in Olympian 2; this time, however, it is located on the Isle of the Blessed, where Cronos is presented living in a tower.[37]

§11 One possible objection to the suggestion advanced here could be that the representation of Khronos moving forwards in the line immediately following the description of the foundation rite runs counter to the idea of its “spatialization.”[38] What we should bear in mind, though, is that in Pindar the term Khronos is particularly nuanced and can take on a wide range of meanings; on some occasions Khronos is personified and is depicted as an actor and agent in human affairs; on others it is presented merely as a framework within which things happen. One could also make a distinction between the Khronos of the gods, which is cyclical and complete, and human time, which is incomplete and linear.[39] What is more, Pindar typically shifts from one meaning to the other effortlessly and with great ease.[40] In light of this, I would suggest that in the passage under discussion Khronos should be understood in two different ways: the Khronos that presided over the ceremony and that we identified with Cronos stands for “all time,” while the Khronos that moved forwards revealing the aetion of the Olympian festival represents linear, fragmented time. Only if we accept this distinction can we explain the fact that while in lines 53−55 Khronos is hailed as the only arbiter of the genuine truth, at the opening salvo of Olympian 10 it is linked with falsehood and forgetting in the sense that mortals forget in the course of time and, therefore, the truth is in thus “concealed.”[41] This twofold aspect of Khronos is also ingeniously alluded to through the spatial proximity between the Cronion and the altars of the twelve gods, whom Heracles honors in the hill’s immediate vicinity; whereas the succession from the age of Cronos to the age of Zeus involves change and the passage of time, the Olympian order itself repudiates, so to speak, time because it never falls or changes.[42]

§12 Through the conflation of Khronos with Cronos and, accordingly, the advance of the Cronion hill as the abode of Khronos/Cronos, Olympia is elevated to a single place permeated by different temporalities. Consequently, Pindar’s audience is encouraged to visualize Olympia as a place where human and divine time meet. The power of naming to determine our perception of space is nicely put by Tuan:

words alone, used in an appropriate situation, can have the power to render objects, formerly invisible because unattended, visible, and impart to them a certain character: thus a mere rise on a flat surface becomes something far more—a place that promises to open up to other places—when it is named “Mount Prospect.”[43]

Seen from this perspective, Hagesidamus’ victory is emphatically presented not merely as a victory in wrestling, but also as a victory over time. This last point is eloquently articulated in the ode’s last simile, where the young athlete is likened to Ganymede:[44]

             παῖδ’ ἐρατὸν <δ’> Ἀρχεστράτου

αἴνησα, τὸν εἶδον κρατέοντα χερὸς ἀλκᾷ

βωμὸν παρ᾽ Ὀλύμπιον

κεῖνον κατὰ χρόνον

ἰδέᾳ τε καλόν

ὥρᾳ κεκραμένον, ἅ ποτε

ἀναιδέα Γανυμήδει θάνατον

ἆλκε σὺν Κυπρογενεῖ.         (99−105)

 

I have praised the lovely son of Archestratos,

whom I saw winning with the strenght of his hand

by the Olympic altar

at that time,

beautiful in form

and imbued with the youthfulness that once averted

ruthless death from Ganymede,

with the aid of the Cyprus-born goddess.

At the exact moment of the victory (κεῖνον κατὰ χρόνον), Pindar declares, Hagesidamus was as beautiful as Ganymede who, although mortal, gained immortality.[45] The ode ends thus, in a remote and unspecified moment in the past (ποτε). As in Nemean 1, Nemean 10, Olympian 4, and Pythian 9, also ending in myth, Pindar does not have to return to the present, for once again the distance that separates past and present collapses. What happened to Ganymede ποτε has just happened to Hagesidamus now. Like Heracles, who through his appelation of the Cronion puts “deep time” into the very landscape of Olympia thus joining its linear and fragmented time with the cyclical time of the gods, so Pindar has averted death from his laudandus by inscribing his name on the complete divine time.[46] Hagesidamus might not be ageless and immortal like the gods; he can, however, receive eternal youth and immortality through song; for all time to come he will be remembered as winning at Olympia “beautiful of form and imbued with youthfulness.”[47]

§13 The power of song to “freeze” time by turning it from direction to duration is, in fact, articulated in a performative way throughout the poem. As noted above, at the opening of the epinician, Pindar laments that the future approaching from afar (note the “coming view” of the future here, which heightens the feeling of threat)[48] has shamed his βαθὺ χρέος, that is his indebtedness to write a tribute of praise for the victorious Hagesidamus. Nonetheless, Pindar promises to pay back his due with interest. His promise is cast in the form of simile:

ἕκαθεν γὰρ ἐπελθὼν ὁ μέλλων χρόνος

ἐμὸν καταίσχυνε βαθὺ χρέος.

ὅμως δὲ λῦσαι δυνατὸς ὀξεῖαν ἐπιμομφὰν

τόκος. ὁράτω[49] νῦν ψᾶφον ἑλισσομέναν

ὁπᾷ κῦμα κατακλύσσει ῥέον,

ὁπᾷ τε κοινὸν λόγον

φίλαν τείσομεν ἐς χάριν.  (7−12)

 

For what was then the future has approached from afar

and shamed my deep indebtness.

Nevertheless, interest on a debt can absolve one from

a bitter reproach. Let him see now:

just as a flowing wave washes over a rolling pebble,

so shall we pay back a theme of general concern

as a friendly favor.

Even though scholars do not agree on the origin of this image,[50] they unanimously take the flowing wave to refer to the torrent/rush of Pindar’s verse, and the rolling pebble to his shame. The meaning, accordingly, is that the torrent of Pindar’s verse will wash his shame off like a flowing wave washes over a rolling pebble.[51]

§14 Bearing in mind the poem’s overall orientation towards time, I would rather take a different path and propose a more “daring” reading. Even though I agree that the flowing wave of the simile stands for Pindar’s verse (χρέος), personally I would associate the rolling pebble not with the poet’s shame, but rather with the cause of this shame, that is the Khronos of line 7. The juxtaposition between χρόνος and χρέος is, I believe, supported by the placement of the two terms at the end of lines 7 and 8 respectively, as well as by the strong acoustic effect generated by the complex χρ. The participle ἑλισσομέναν attached to the pebble also enhances such an interpretation not only because ἑλίσσομαι would be quite apposite for describing the movement of Khronos, but also because Pindar employs it in close association with time in Olympian 4.[52] In light of the above, what the poet seems to say here is not “let him see now how the torrent of my verse will wash over shame,” but rather “let him now see how the torrent of my song will wash over time.” While in lines 7–8 time (χρόνος) is said to have shamed the poet’s debt (χρέος), Pindar is now promising to do the exact opposite: his song (χρέος) will wash over the rolling time (χρόνος) thus rendering Hagesidamus’ name immortal.[53]

§15 The performance is, therefore, transformed into an arena—so to speak—where the poet must freeze and outweigh Khronos. Nevertheless, assisted by his Muse and Truth, Pindar manages by the end of the poem not only to ward his shame off but also to cancel out Khronos’ passage that brings to mortals shameless death. What is even more remarkable, however, is that this gradual harnessing of linear, human time is mirrored on the level of language. So, whereas in lines 5−6 Khronos is put in the nominative and is presented as a threat and a source of forgetting, in line 55 it is void of negative connotations and is positively valorized as a revealer of truth. In line 85 Khronos comes to the fore again; this time, however, it is not personified but is used in the dative and stands for the texture within which events occur: χλιδῶσα δὲ μολπὰ πρὸς κάλαμον ἀντιάξει μελέων / τὰ παρ’ εὐκλέϊ Δίρκᾳ χρόνῳ μὲν φάνεν (84−85). Notably, Pindar’s “lavish tribute” appears (note that it is not Khronos that “reveals” it) by Dirke in the course of time.[54] Finally, at 102 Khronos only denotes a point in time (κεῖνον κατὰ χρόνον),[55] a moment which Pindar’s poetry, though, immortalizes thus rendering it “at once a finite point and an infinite duration.”[56]

Conclusion

§16 To sum up: My main objective in this paper was to further support the hypothesis tentatively/superficially put forward by some scholars that in lines 50−55 of Olympian 10 Pindar may seek to promote an etymological connection between Khronos and Cronos. As I have tried to demonstrate, this conflation is, in fact, vouched for by both internal and external evidence. By encouraging his audience to visualize Mount Cronion as the abode of Cronos/Khronos, Pindar manages to promote Khronos to a dominant and ordering power of the Universe. At the same time, by spatializing Time at Olympia, he both turns the Cronion Hill into a sublime object and Olympic victories into victories over time. Even though Pindar tailors his representation of Khronos so as to befit his encomiastic purposes and his attempt to portray himself as a “master of time,” we should not forget that although a poet of the sublime, Pindar did not live in vacuo. Accordingly, it would be legitimate to suppose that his songs are laden with contemporary philosophical ideas and that they capture the zeitgeist of his time. Following from this, the masterful way in which he treats time in Olympian 10, and more specifically the association he advances between Khronos and Cronos, could shed light upon other contested instances where Khronos is identified with Cronos, such as the work of Pherecydes of Syros, and perhaps also the Orphic poems and the role that Khronos could play in the Theogony commented upon in the Derveni Papyrus.


The initial idea for this article was conceived during my stay as a Fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies (Spring Term 2014). I would like to express my gratitude to the CHS Director, Prof. Gregory Nagy, the Senior Fellows, and all the members of the staff for providing excellent conditions for research. Thanks should also go to the audience at the CHS Research Symposium for their comments and suggestions and, more specifically, to Ioanna Papadopoulou for sharing with me her expertise on various issues related to the Derveni Papyrus. Last but not least, many thanks should go to all my co-Fellows for encouragement; I am most grateful to Elena Martin González, who read and commented upon the final version of the article.

[1] The ancient Scholia give both the seventy-fourth and seventy-sixth Olympiads as possible dates for Hagesidamus’ victory. Based on the fragmentary list of Olympic victors in P. Oxy. 222.1.16, the victory must have taken place during the latter Olympiad, that is in 476 BCE. On the ode see, among others, Erbse 1970; Nassen 1975; Kromer 1976; Burgess 1990; Hubbard 1985:60−70; Barrett 2007; Eckerman 2008; Patten 2009:217−233.

[2] Most seem to agree on the historicity of the delay; see e.g., Nassen 1975:223−224; Catenacci et al. 2013:248; Hubbard 1985:61. Contrast Erbse 1970:23−24, 28 who argues that Pindar’s “apology” should rather be construed as a pretence.

[3] Hubbard 1985:69.

[4] Olympians 1 and 3, composed immediately before Olympian 10, also dwell upon the Olympic games, but mainly deal with peripheral issues, such as Pelops’ association with the games (see Nagy [1990] http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/nagy/PHTL/chapter4.html) and Heracles’ fetching of the olive tree from the Hyperborean Land. On the foundation of the Olympic festival see Pausanias 5.7.9, 5.8.1; Diodorus Siculus 4.14.1, 5.64.6.

[5] The specific task was not a flattering one for Heracles (see Diodorus Siculus 4.13.3 who remarks that Eurystheus entrusted this Labor to Heracles ὕβρεως ἕνεκεν) and it can hardly be a coincidence that Olympian 10 provides the first extant literary reference to the story. This Labor was also the least favored in Greek art. In fact, its only monumental representation is to be found on the east porch of the Olympian temple of Zeus built around 470−456 BCE. There is also a testimony for a statue by Lysippus, which has not survived; see Brommer 1986. According to the myth, Heracles managed to wash the filth out by rerouting the nearby rivers and turning their course through the stables. Even though Pindar does not dilate on the actual cleaning, this detail is echoed in the term ὀχετός in line 37. This mythical story serves as an illustration of the maxim in lines 22−23 that glory requires effort and toil and it is also used as a springboard for the introduction of the poem’s main mythical centrepiece.

[6] On Heracles’ encounter with the Moliones see Bernardini 1982:55−68. The story is also attested by Pherecydes of Athens (FGrHist 3F 79a), even though in his version during his first encounter with the Moliones Heracles is outweighed by them and is forced to retreat; he kills the two brothers at a later stage, on their way to Corinth. On the Moliones see also Homer (Iliad 2.620−621, 11.750−752, and 23.638−642) and Hesiod (fr. 17 M-W); cf. Scholia ad Iliad 11.709 and 23.638, 639. Of particular interest is the tradition attested by Ibycus (285 PMG), according to whom the Moliones were born from a silver egg: τοὺς τε λευκίππους κόρους / τέκνα Μολιόνας κτάνον, / ἅλικας ἰσοκεφάλους ἑνιγυίους / ἀμφοτέρους γεγαῶτας ἐν ὠέωι / ἀργυρέωι; cf. Athenaeus 2.58. The allusive and elliptical narrative style leaves it to be inferred that this story must have been known to Pindar’s Locrian audience.

[7] See Olympian 5.5 where Pindar makes explicit reference to the six double altars at the Olympic sanctuary: βωμοὺς ἕξ διδύμους ἐγέραρεν ἑορταῖς θεῶν μεγίσταις. By means of Herodorus (FGrHist 31F 34a), whom the Scholia ad Olympian 5.10a (Drachmann I, 141) quote, we know that Heracles dedicated the six altars to Zeus-Poseidon, Hera-Athena, Hermes-Apollo, Charites-Dionysus, Artemis-Alpheus, and Cronos-Rhea. Contrast Verdenius 1988 ad 49, who disputes the deification of Alpheus and prefers to read the preposition μετά as an equivalent of καί.

[8] Quotations from Pindar are from the Snell-Maehler 1984 Teubner edition. Translations are taken from Race’s 1997 Loeb translation with slight modifications.

[9] This can be implied from Pindar’s reference to the moon in 73−75.

[10] Quintilian 8.6.11 on personification.

[11] On the power of “naming” see, among others, Segal 1986a:67 and passim. See also Tuan 1991:688: “Naming is power—the creative power to call something into being, to render the invisible visible, to impart a certain character to things.”

[12] See, e.g. Olympian 6.97; Pythian 1.46; Nemean 1.46−47, 7.68.

[13] In his translation Race does not keep the punctuation after Xρόνος and translates as “Time, which in its onward march revealed…” Yet, as it will become clear in what follows, the punctuation is crucial for the interpretation of the passage.

[14] On the adjective πρωτόγονος and similar comparanda see Segal 1986a:77. Άlvarez 2008:1163n8 draws attention to the fact that the term is imbued with orphic connotations; in the Orphic cosmogonies of the Rhapsodies Protogonos (or Phanes) is the hermaphrodite being generated from the egg fashioned by Khronos. In addition to πρωτόγονος a number of other words in the passage could also function as “buzzwords” for Orphism: καθαρός, λύσις, ἀλάθεια, τελετή. Ι οwe this remark to Prof. A. Chaniotis.

[15] Denniston 19592: 33−34; see also Verdenius 1988 ad 52.

[16] Brisson 1997:163; Barrett 2007:67.

[17] See, e.g. Olympian 1.111, 9.3.

[18] Αccording to the Scholia ad Olympian 10.62a (Drachmann I, 326) this locution is a rhetorical trope and should be taken as an equivalent of the verb κατασιωποῦμαι; either because of its lack of name or because king Oenomaus was not well-known, before Heracles’ arrival at Pisa the hill was doomed to obscurity. Modern scholars adopt a rather different stance and tend to take the phrase literally, either as providing information about the climatic conditions of Pisa or as Pindar’s attempt to draw a distinction between the snowfall during Oenomaus’ time, and the sunshine that replaced it in the wake of the foundation of the games; see, e.g., Gildersleeve 1885:217. Based on the description of Olympus in the Odyssey (5.43−45) as a place free from rain and snow Verdenius 1988 ad 51 even put forward the tentative suggestion that perhaps Pindar is here trying to connect Olympia and Olympus etymologically. See also Norwood 1945:235n35, who argues that Pindar probably took this piece of information from an account of the district of Elis which he might have found in a chronicle and in which “the snowfall was somehow genuinely relevant.” Based on the fact that Olympian 10 lays much emphasis upon the polarities concealment/revelation, light/darkness I believe that this paradoxical climatic detail should be taken metaphorically. However, it seems that the emphasis on the snow could serve other purposes as well; see the discussion below.

[19] See also Pausanias 8.2.2. On the traditions attested by Pausanias see Hubbard 2007.

[20] The cult is also attested by Dionysius of Halicarnassus (Antiquitates Romanae 1.34). See Frazer 1913 ad 6.20.1; Weniger 1906:20−22. Peak sanctuaries and rituals on mountaintops akin to the cult of Cronos mentioned by Pausanias seem to have been quite widespread in the Bronze Age; see e.g. Kyriakidis 2005.

[21] Olympian 1.111, 3.21−23, 5.17−19, 8.15−18, 9.1−4.

[22] Gerber 1982 ad 113−114; see also Verdenius 1988 ad 113.

[23] It has been proposed that the priesthood probably dated from the old regal days and may have been held by the kings themselves; see Frazer 1913 ad 6.20.1. Frazer also draws attention to the association between the title Bασίλαι and the noun βασιλεύς. I was glad to see that in his recent article on Olympia Eckerman 2013:9 makes a similar point.

[24] See, e.g, Catenacci et al. 2013 ad 50−51: “Con la descrizione di una collina anonima e desolata, Pindaro evidemente intende insistere sul ruolo di Eracle nella fondazione dei giochi di Olympia.”

[25] Contrast Huxley 1975:17 who maintains that Pindar’s silence is due to his inability to explain “why Heracles called the hill after Cronos, whom Zeus has displaced in Olympus rather than after Zeus himself, the hero’s father.” The Cronos/Khronos conflation has been proposed by some scholars, but rather in a superficial manner; Quincey 1963:146, for instance, emphatically declares that in this passage “Κρόνου is outrageously connected with Χρόνος,” but without pursuing the issue further. This Pindaric passage along with Olympian 2.17−19 and frr. 33 and 159 have often been cited by scholars in order to support the association between Khronos and Cronos in Pherecydes of Syros and the Derveni Papyrus; see e.g. Schibli 1990; Piano 2013.

[26] Plutarch De Iside et Osiride 363d: ὥσπερ Ἕλληνες Κρόνον ἀλληγοροῦσι τὸν Χρόνον; see Griffiths 1970 ad loc. On this identification and more examples see McCartney 1928; López-Ruiz 2009 and 2010:151−167; Panofsky 1939, who places, however, this conflation much later, during the first century CE. For an anthropological explanation of the conflation between Khronos and Cronos see Leach 1961:124−132.

[27] Νotably, no less than ten times Cronos and the patronymics Cronios/Cronidas/Cronion are placed in close proximity to the word Khronos and its derivatives: see, e.g., Olympian 1.108−115, 2.12−17, 4.6−10.

[28] Schibli 1990:135−139; of course, the presence of Khronos in Pherecydes is not accepted by all scholars.  Ιn his article on Cronos/Khronos in Egypt Pettazzoni 1954:173n8 refers to a fourth century inscription from Elateia published by Paris in 1886 (see also Hoffmann [1893] n339), where Poseidon is presented as son of Khronos: Ποντίωι ἱππομέδοντι Ποσειδῶνι Χρόνο(υ) υἱεῖ / ἡ πόλις εὐξαμένη τούσδ’ ἀνέθηκε θεῶι  / ἡμιθέους σωτῆρας ὑπὲρ προγόνων τε καὶ αὐτῶν  / καὶ γῆς καὶ τεκέων καὶ σφετέρων ἀλόχων. However, Dittenberger, who republished the inscription in IG IX. 1.130 contends that the first letter of Paris’ Xρόνο(υ) is, in fact, a clear K; accordingly he writes Kρόνο(υ) instead. In the more recent publication by Hansen in CEG 2 (1989) n807 the inscription is also published with a K.

[29] Solon 3, 14, 30 G-P2; see the recent commentary by Noussia-Fantuzzi (2010) 240−242, 323−326, 466−467.  As far as Pindar is concerned see Olympian 1.33−34: ἁμέραι δ’ ἐπίλοιποι μάρτυρες σοφώτατοι; cf. Pythian 8.13.

[30] For Khronos as the wisest see, Diogenes Laertius 1.35, who ascribes to Thales of Miletus the maxim Σοφώτατον χρόνος∙ ἀνευρίσκει γὰρ πάντα; a similar remark is made by Plutarch Quαestiones Romanae 266e-f:  Διὰ τί δὲ τὸν Κρόνον πατέρα τῆς ἀληθείας νομίζουσι; Πότερον, ὥσπερ ἕνιοι τῶν φιλοσόφων χρόνον οἴονται τὸν Κρόνον εἶναι, τὸ δ’ ἀληθὲς εὑρίσκει χρόνος∙ ἢ τὸν μυθολογούμενον ἐπὶ Κρόνου βίον, εἰ δικαιότατος ἦν, εἰκός ἐστι μάλιστα μετέχειν ἀληθείας. Cronos is tagged with the adjective ἀγκυλομήτης in Ηomer (Iliad 2.205, 319, 4.59, 75, 9.37, 12.450, 16.431, 18.293; Odyssey 21.415) and Hesiod (Theogony 18, 137, 168, 473, 495). The same adjective is used in the Orphic Hymn to Cronos (13.9), where Cronos is also called “begetter of time infinite” (αἰῶνος Κρόνε παγγενέτωρ 5); on this see Ricciardelli 2000:292−294 and Alderink 1997:190−194. On Cronos’ wisdom see also Plato Cratylus 396b where Cronos’ name is etymologized as meaning “pure intellect” (κόρος νοῦς); the issue is discussed by Robinson 1995. Cronos’ name is also etymologized as the κρούων νοῦς in the Derveni Papyrus, Col. X-XI; see Bernabé 2013:10. Plotinus also comments on Cronos’ wisdom in the Enneades 5.1.7: ὡς τὰ μυστήρια καὶ οἱ μῦθοι οἱ περὶ θεῶν αἰνίττονται Κρόνον μὲν θεὸν σοφώτατον πρὸ τοῦ Δία γενέσθαι. For more examples see Brendel 1977: 33−35.

[31] Salient examples are the association of Iamos’ name with the ἴα (Olympian 6.55), and Ajax’ name with the eagle (αἰετός) that appears while Heracles prophesizes his birth (Isthmian 6.49−54);  see also Olympian 9.41−46 and fr. 105.1, as well as the Scholia ad Nemean 7 1a (Drahmann III, 116−117) where etymology is defined as a typical Pindaric practice. See also Dickson 1990:116−119; Patten 2009:226−233; Gini 1989.

[32] On the significance and function of ἔτυμος, ἐτήτυμος, and ἐτός in Pindar see Bury 1965 ad Nemean 7.24 and 63.

[33] See Catenacci et al. 2013:251. See also Hesych. s.v. ἀληθεῖς: oἱ μηδὲν ἐπιλανθανόμενοι ὡς Πίνδαρος. On the notion of alatheia in the archaic period see, among others, Cole 1983; Detienne 1996.

[34] Pindar typically uses only the adjective Cronion when referring to the hill. When supplying a noun he uses either ὄχθος (Olympian 9. 3, Nemean 11.25) or λόφος (Olympian 5.17, 8.17).

[35] Quincey 1963:146; Patten 2009:229.

[36] See, e.g., Sophocles Philoctetes 293; Plato Symposium 220b.

[37] Khronos’ association with space is not peculiar to Pindar; see, e.g. Aristotle Physics 4.10.218a-b on the Pythagoreans; Aëtius 1.21.1: Πυθαγόραν τὸν χρόνον τὴν σφαῖραν τοῦ περιέχοντος εἶναι. Interestingly, in Column XII of the Derveni Papyrus Khronos is identified with Olympus; on this vexed reference see, among others, Tortorelli Ghidini 1989, 1991; Brisson 1997; Betegh 2004; Piano 2013.

[38] In fact this is one of Brisson’s 1997 objections to Khronos’ representation as a dominant power in Olympian 10: “In this passage, personified time presents the characteristics described by Hermann Fränkel: an orientation towards the future and a strikingly active role. Consequently, nothing forces us to identify it with the primordial divinity which intervenes at the beginning of the Rhapsodies and in the Theogony known as that of ‘Hieronymus’ and ‘Hellanicus’.” (162)

[39] For a perceptive discussion on the issue see Segal 1986b:180−193; id. 1974.

[40] See Hurst 1984:171, who makes a similar observation for Olympian 2.

[41] At the same time, though, the image of the Khronos who after the birth-rite moved forwards could also stand as the figurative representation of the beginning of the “history” of the Olympic games, an idea implied in the adjective πρωτόγονος which, apart from “taking place for the first time” also bears the overtone “creating the beginning;” see Verdenius 1988 ad 51.

[42] I owe this observation to Prof. R. Martin.

[43] Tuan 1994:684.

[44] The myth of Ganymede is also employed in Olympian 1.44−45.

[45]According to tradition Ganymede was transferred to Olympus by Zeus, who was aroused by the lad’s beauty. See also Kromer 1976:435 who traces further implications in Pindar’s use of the Ganymede story.

[46] By doing so, Heracles mythologizes Olympia in the same way as Pindar mythologizes Hagesidamus’ victory.

[47] Burgess 1990:281 emphasizes the erotic overtones of the last strophe.

[48] On this issue see Fleischman 1982.

[49] Ι adopt Fennell’s reading ὁράτω instead of the manuscripts’ unmetrical θνατῶν, which is adopted by Snell-Maehler. On this issue see the discussion in Barrett 2007:61.

[50] Scholia ad Olympian 10.13a-m (Drachmann I, 311−312) assume that the image comes from the sea and, therefore, that the floating wave stands for the torrent of Pindar’s verse. Modern scholars, on the other hand, typically take the image to refer to a river in the mountains rather than to a wave. See Farnell 1932 ad 9−12 and Bowra 1964:19; Norwood 1945:11−12 offers a somewhat different interpretation, arguing that the image alludes to “the work of the gardener who irrigates his land, making a channel for the bubbling water that thrusts along all the little pebbles in its course;” Cf. Homer Iliad 21.257−264.

[51] See Scholia ad Olympian 10.13a-m (Drachmann I, 311−312). Even though the majority of scholars endorse this interpretation, it has been suggested that the pebble might also refer to the idea of indebtedness (abacus-pebble); see, e.g. Finley 1955:120.

[52] Olympian 4.1−2: τεαὶ γὰρ Ὧραι / ὑπὸ ποικιλοφόρμιγγος ἀοιδᾶς ἑλισσόμεναί μ᾽ ἔπεμψαν. See also Isthmian 8.14−15 where αἰών (here indicating a kind of daemon, rather than “lifetime”) is depicted unrolling the course of life: δόλιος γὰρ αἰὼν ἐπ’ ἀνδράσι κρέμαται, / ἑλίσσων βίου πόρον; cf. Isthmian 3/4.18: κυλινδομέναις ἁμέραις.

[53] See also lines 97−99 where Pindar asserts that through his song he has drenched with honey the city of the Locrians, also an indication of immortality; this image clearly harks back to the image of the snow-covered Cronion at 50−51.

[54] For this meaning of the dative χρόνῳ see Aeschylus Agamemnon 126, 463; Libation Bearers 650. The notion of “delay” is also implied; cf. Sophocles Philoctetes 1041; Euripides Hercules Furens 740.

[55] Contrast Fränkel 1955 who maintains that Khronos in Pindar is always associated with the future, a remark that he credits to Pindar’s primitive notion of time; likewise Vivante 1971, 1972. A more balanced discussion is offered by Accame 1961.

[56] Hubbard 1985:69. Ηubbard makes a somewhat similar observation ad 68−69, even though from a different point of view. Nemean 1 offers an apposite comparandum. At the beginning of the poem (46−47) Khronos is depicted as a force that rushes forwards bringing things to a telos. By the end of the ode this moving Khronos is turned into the immovable Khronos of the gods; see Segal 1974. On Pindar’s attempt to portray himself as a ‘master of time’ see Pavlou 2011.


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