Pindar and the Presocratics

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The present work investigates the interrelations between Pindar and various Presocratic philosophers, namely Xenophanes, Heraclitus, Empedocles, and Parmenides. Herewith, Pindar shall be compared to each thinker following a thematic principle: the critique of traditional accounts of the gods will emerge as a term of comparison for Pindar and Xenophanes (Chapter 1); the concept of σοφία will nuance the ways in which Pindar and Heraclitus relate and recast their conception of wisdom (Chapter 2); death and visions of the afterlife will cast light upon affinities and differences between Pindar and Empedocles (Chapter 3); and, finally, the poetics of competition will inform the relationship between Pindar and Parmenides (Chapter 4).
Given that Pindar and the Presocratics often worked in a shared geographical area—and occasionally in close chronological proximity—it is apposite to investigate whether they also shared attitudes and ideas. On the one hand, I shall argue that, by contrast with many Pindaric scholars, Pindar engages in critical and innovative thought, which is comparable to that of the Presocratics. On the other hand, I shall highlight the ways in which the first philosophers engaged with traditional tropes and avenues of expression (including poetry), thereby giving a more contextualised approach to their enterprise.
Finally, we shall see how Pindar and the Presocratics were, at the same time, part of a common intellectual milieu: while being anchored in a certain intellectual tradition, they were simultaneously exposed to—and involved in—the cultural ferment of their time. From a disciplinary perspective, then, the present work implores scholars of both Pindar and the Presocratics to relax their adherence to rigid disciplinary categories, embracing a more flexible mode of inquiry, whereby philosophy and literature are no longer two disparate arenas of study.
Date of Award1 Aug 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorShaul Tor (Supervisor) & Pavlos Avlamis (Supervisor)

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