The same characteristic is found in the epinikia of Bacchylides. His fifth ode, and Pindar's first Olympian, alike celebrate the victory of the horse Pherenicus; but, while Pindar's reference to the race itself is slight and general (vv. 20-22), Bacchylides describes the running of the winner much more vividly and fully (vv. 37-49).
The MS. contains fourteen epinikia, or thirteen if Blass be right in supposing that Odes vi. and vii., as numbered by Kenyon in the editio princeps, are parts of a single ode (for Lachon of Ceos). Four (or on the view just stated, three) of the odes relate to the Olympian festival; two to the Pythian; three to the Isthmian; three to the Nemean; and one to a Thessalian festival called the πετραῖα. This comes last. The order in which the MS. arranges the other epinikia seems to be casual; at least it does not follow (1) the alphabetical sequence of the victors' names, or of the names of their cities; nor (2) chronological sequence; nor (3) classification by contests; nor (4) classification by festivals - except that the four great festivals precede the Petraea. The first ode, celebrating a victory of the Cean Argeios at the Isthmus, may possibly have been placed there for a biographical reason, viz., because the poet treated in it the early legends of his native island.
A mythical narrative, connected in some way with the victor or his city, usually occupies the central part of the Pindaric ode. It serves to lift the poem into an ideal region, and to invest it with more than a local or temporary significance. The method of Bacchylides in this department of the epinikion is best illustrated by the myth of Croesus in Ode iii., that of Heracles and Meleager in Ode v., and that of the Proetides in Ode x. Pindar's habit is to select certain moments or scenes of a legend, which he depicts with great force and vividness. Bacchylides, on the other hand, has a gentle flow of simple epic narrative; he relies on the interest of the story as a whole, rather than on his power of presenting situations. Another element, always present in the longer odes of victory, is that which may be called the "gnomic." Here, again, there is a contrast between the two poets. Pindar packs his γνῶμαι, his maxims or moral sentiments, into terse and sometimes obscure epigrams; he utters them in a didactic tone, as of one who can speak with the commanding voice of Delphic wisdom.
The moralizing of Bacchylides is rather an utterance of quiet meditation, sometimes recalling the strain of Ionian gnomic elegy.
The epinikia of Bacchylides are followed in the MS. by six compositions which the Alexandrians classed under the general name of διθύραμβοι, and which we, too, must be content to describe collectively as Dithyrambs. The derivation of δι-θύραμβος is uncertain: δι may be the root seen in δῖος (cp. διπόλια, and θύραμβος another form of θρίαμβος, a word by which Cratinus (c. 448 B.C.) denotes some kind of hymn to the wine-god. The "dithyramb," first mentioned by Archilochus (c. 670 B.C.), received a finished and choral form from Arion of Lesbos (c. 600 B.C.). His dithyrambs, produced at Corinth, belonged to the cult of Dionysus, and the members of his chorus (τραγικὸς χορός) personated satyrs. Originally concerned with the birth of the god, the dithyramb came to deal with all his fortunes: then its scope became still larger; it might celebrate, not Dionysus alone, but any god or hero.
This last development had taken place before the close of the 6th century B.C. Simonides wrote a dithyramb on Memnon and Tithonus; Pindar, on Orion and on Heracles. Hence the Alexandrian scholars used διθύραμβος in a wide sense, as denoting simply a lyric poem occupied with a mythical narrative. Thus Ode xvii. of Bacchylides (relating the voyage of Theseus to Crete), though it was clearly a παιάν for the Delian Apollo, was classed by the Alexandrians among his "dithyrambs" - as appears not only from its place in our MS., but also from the allusion of Servius (on Aen. vi. 21). The six dithyrambs of Bacchylides are arranged in (approximately) alphabetical order: Ἀντηνορίδαι, Ἡρακλῆς, Ἠΐθεοι ἢ θησεύς, θησεύς, Ἰώ, Ἴδας. The principal feature, best exemplified by the first and third, is necessarily epic narrative, - often adorned with touches of picturesque detail, and animated by short speeches in the epic manner.
Several other classes of composition are represented by those fragments of Bacchylides, preserved in ancient literature, which were known before the discovery of the new MS. (1) ὕμνοι. Among these we hear of the ἀποπεμπτικοί, hymns of pious farewell, speeding some god on his way at the season when he passed from one haunt to another. (2) παιᾶνες, represented by the well-known fragment on the blessings of peace. (3) προσόδια, choral odes sung during processions to temples. (4) ὑπορχήματα, lively dance-songs for religious festivals. (5) ἐρωτικά, represented by five fragments of a class akin to σκόλια, drinking-songs. Under this head come some lively and humorous verses on the power of wine, imitated by Horace (Odes, iii. 21. 13-20). It may be conjectured that the facile grace and bright fancy of Bacchylides were seen to especial advantage in light compositions of this kind. (6) The elegiacs of Bacchylides are represented by two ἐπιγράμματα ἀναθηματικά, each of four lines, in the Palatine Anthology. The first (Anth. vi. 313) is an inscription for an offering commemorative of a victory gained by a chorus with a poem written by Bacchylides. The second (Anth. vi. 53) is an inscription for a shrine dedicated to Zephyrus. Its authenticity has been questioned, but not disproved.