Francis Cairns Publications

ARCA Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs ISSN 0309-5541

Bacchylides. Five Epinician Odes (3, 5, 9, 11, 13)

Text, Introductory Essays, and Interpretative Commentary

D. L. Cairns

Translations by D. L. Cairns and J. G. Howie

ARCA 49. 978-0-905205-52-6. xiv + 380 pp.  2010

Among the works of the fifth-century BC lyric poet Bac­chylides are epinician odes celebrating victors in the cycle of Greek Games, which were occasions of major political, cultural and religious significance in the Greek world. Fourteen of Bac­chylides’ epinician odes survive wholly or in part. The five included in this volume are those that have come down to us in fullest form; they are of great importance for the study of epinician poetry in particular and of early fifth-century lyric in general.

In his Introductory Essays and Commentary D. L. Cairns explicates the social, ethical, cultural, and artistic features of Bacchylidean epi­nician within the contexts in which it is so deeply embedded. The volume will be of interest to advanced students and scholars with a good knowledge of the Greek language. It is also designed to be usable by students with little or no Greek. The commentary is keyed to the translation as well as to the Greek text, and the emphasis throughout is more on contextual and literary interpretation than on purely technical aspects of language and metre.

D. L. Cairns is Professor of Classics in the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of Aidōs: The Psychology and Ethics of Honour and Shame in Ancient Greek Literature (Oxford 1993) and of numerous papers on early Greek literature and culture, and he is the editor or joint editor of five volumes of collected essays including Oxford Readings in Homer’s Iliad (2002).

J.G. Howie has written ground-breaking papers on early Greek poetry, and is the translator of D. Fehling’s Die Quellengangaben bei Herodot (1971) as Herodotus and his ‘Sources’ (1989), and of  E. Krummen’s Pyrsos Hymnon (1990) as Cult, Myth, and Occasion in Pindar’s Victory Odes (2014), both in the series ARCA. A volume of his own collected articles on early Greek literature, Exemplum and myth, criticism and creation, was published in 2012 in the series Collected Classical Papers.


Mnemosyne 65 (2012) 148-50 (C. Eckerman): “The general introduction to Bacchylides is the best on the market and should serve as one-stop shopping for the serious reader coming to Bacchylides for the first time. The introductions to the individual odes are thoughtful and the commentaries on them are especially rich. … Cairns’ commentaries now take up a prominent position in epinician criticism and integrate the findings of the quarter century of research since the time of Maehler’s commentary. This is a fantastic, well-produced book that repays time spent with it.”

CR 61 (2011) 365-7 (H. Maehler): "The book is a rich mine of thought-provoking observations on choral lyric conventions, style and compositional techniques; it will do much to reinstate Bacchylides as a poet in his own right."

G&R 58 (2011) 242 (M. Heath):  "Throughout one finds Cairns’ characteristic skill in synthesizing existing scholarship, and drawing judicious and carefully argued conclusions. There are also opportunities to enjoy his felicity and pungency of expression: ‘following the Bundyan revolution…one could have been forgiven for thinking that Bacchylides’ first name was “cf.”’ (16). A major work of scholarship that takes Bacchylides seriously in his own right merits enthusiastic acclaim.."

RÉG 124 (2011) (Pascale Hummel): “… un ensemble d’une impeccable solidité … Avec une rigueur et une clarté exemplaires, le tandem de savants anglo-saxons à l’origine de cette réalisation a su rendre avenant le meilleur de l’érudition pour faire connaître un poète lyrique trop souvent perçu comme mineur et méconnu.”

Scholia Reviews ns 20 (2011) 2 (Roosevelt Rocha). “… this is an attractive book and I am sure that it will become indispensable to those who, for any reason, want to understand Bacchylides most important epinicians”.

Gnomon 58 (2012) 289-97 (O. Poltera)