Sports-writing: Bacchylides’ Athletic Descriptions

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Colleges, School and Institutes


The avowed purpose of the epinician genre is to praise the athletic victory and the victor. The athletic event, however, is not mentioned in the victory ode, and this absence would suggest that an athletic description had no role within the economy and rhetoric of the poem. Nevertheless, the absence is not total. It has long been observed that Bacchylides is more prone than Pindar to describe the athletic victory. In general, however, scholars have been satisfied to note the fact and simply enumerate the instances in Bacchylides in comparison to the Pindaric ‘descriptions’. The present study will look at the role of victory descriptions within the economy of Bacchylides’ victory odes. I would like to examine the narrative of the particular descriptions, their contribution to the commemoration and celebration of the event, and the rhetorical aim they serve within the poem.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363–392
Number of pages30
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2015


  • Bacchylides, victory, athletic descriptions, rhetoric, performance, audience