600-401 BC PART XIX


SCIENCE, DAILY LIFE: PART  XXI                


600 - 401 BC
Preclassic Mayan civilization
Nebuchadnezzar II burns Jerusalem
Kings of Judah
Croesus, the last Lydian king
Myth of King Midas
The Legend of Midas
The Ancient Levant
Hippias of Athens
Amasis II
The Medes and the Rise of the Persian Empire under Cyrus II
The Scythians, Sakians, and Sarmatians
Cyrus II, king of Persia
Battle of Thymbra
Battle of Thymbra
Cambyses II, king of Persia
Zerubbabel, governor of the Persian Province of Judah
The Ager of Cyrus
The Persian Empire under Darius I
Darius I, king of Persia
Servius Tullius
Athens as a Great Power
Plutarch "Life of Themistocles"
The Persian Empire under the Later Achaemenids
Xerxes I, king of Persia
Tarquinius Superbus
Sextus Tarquinius
Tarquin and Lucretia
Junius Brutus
Cleisthenes of Athens
Horatius Cocles
Gaius Mucius Scaevola
Gaius Mucius Scaevola
Legendary figures of Ancient Rome
Plutarch "Life of Pericles"
The Ionian Revolt
The Battle of Lake Regillus
Miltiades the Younger
Gaius Marcius Coriolanus
Plutarch "Life of Coriolanus"
The Age of Pericless
The Colonization of the Mediterranean Region
The Omnipresence of War
Greco-Persian Wars
History of the Persian Wars
The Persian Wars
Battle of Marathon
Battle of Marathon
The Political Organization of Sparta
Cleomenes I
The Battle of Thermopylae
Battle of Thermopylae
The Battle of Salamis
Battle of Salamis
The Battle of Plataea
Battle of Plataea
Plutarch "Life of Cimon"
The Battle of the Eurymedon
Battle of the Eurymedon
The Persian Wars
Plutarch "Life of Aristides"
Hamilcar Barca
Battle of Himera
The Battle of the Cremera
Titus Livius: "The History of Rome"- Battle of the Cremera
Plutarch "Life of Nicias"
Artaxerxes I
Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus
Magadha, ancient kingdom of India
The Military State of Sparta
The Battle of Coronea
The Course of the War
The Battle of Sybota
The Battle of Potidaea
Peloponnesian War
The Battle of Syracuse
The Battle of Syracuse
Plutarch "Life of Alcibiades"
Alcibiades and Socrates
Xerxes II
Darius II
Plutarch "Life of Lysander"
Dionysius I
Artaxerxes II
Life of Artaxerxes"
From Thucydides
Seven Sages of Greece
Chilon of Sparta
Thales of Miletus
Pittacus of Mytilene
"The Dinner of the Seven Wise Men"
Anaximenes of Miletus
Seven Sages of Ancient Greece
The Religions of India, China, and Japan
The Later Vedic Period and the Eastern Nations
Indian philosophy
Chinese philosophy
Japanese philosophy
Hundred Schools of Thought
Ancient India
Hecataeus of Miletus
Zeno of Elea
"The History"
The Death of Socrates
Law of the Twelve Tables
The Torah becomes the moral essence of the Jewish state
Old Testament
"Ion", "
Phaedo", "Cratylus", "Meno", "Philebus"
"The History of the Peloponnesian War"
Greek Men and Women
The Shwedagon Pagoda
The Second Temple
The Behistun Inscription
Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid Persian Art
The Etruscans in Italy
The Etruscans under Roman Rule
The Scythian Culture and Society
The Architecture of Ancient Greece
Orders and Plans
Doric order
Temples at Paestum
Acropolis of Athens, Parthenon, Propylaea
Ionic Temples
Contribution of Greek Architecture
Limitations of Greek Architecture
Archaic Sculpture
Kouros and Kore
Architectural Sculpture
The Temple of Artemis
Temple of Apollo at Corinth
Theseum, temple in Athens
Classical Sculpture
Temple of Zeus, Olympia
Movement in statues
Phidias and the Parthenon
Phidian Style
"Treasury of the Athenians", Delphi
The Temple of Saturn
Hypostyle Hall of Xerxes at Persepolis
The Temple of Castor and Pollux
Temple of Apollo at Delphi
Greek vase painting
Archaic Vase Painting
Rebuilding of the Acropolis
Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sunium
Temple of Poseidon, Paestum
Temple of Apollo in Rome
Ancient Greek literature
Archaic period
Clodius Aesopus
Clodius Aesopus
"Aesop's Fables"
The nine lyric poets
Anacreon of Teos
Simonides of Ceos
Classical period
Greek theatre
Prometheus Bound"
"The Odes of Pindar"
Sophron of Syracuse
Musical theories and investigations
Vichitra veena
Ancient Greek Music
The Flat Earth
Alcmaeon, Greek physician
Genesis of the Infantry
Milo of Croton
Aspasia, mistress of Pericles
Hippodamus of Miletos

William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Orestes pursued by the Furies

"Lord of the shades and patron of the realm
That erst my father swayed, list now my prayer,
Hermes, and save me with thine aiding arm,
Me who from banishment returning stand
On this my country; lo, my foot is set
On this grave-mound, and herald-like, as thou,
Once and again, I bid my father hear.
And these twin locks, from mine head shorn, I bring,
And one to Inachus the river-god,
My young life's nurturer, I dedicate,
And one in sign of mourning unfulfilled
I lay, though late, on this my father's grave.
For O my father, not beside thy corse
Stood I to wail thy death, nor was my hand
Stretched out to bear thee forth to burial. "

The Choephori by Aeschylus
600-501 BC

The "Fables" of Aesop, a former Phrygian slave

Anacreon, Greek poet(-580 to -495)

Greek poet Thespis has first public performance of a tragedy based on hymn to Dionysus

The impoverished poet Hipponax of Ephesus invents "lame" iambics as form for his political satires

Aeschylus, Greek dramatist (-525 to -456)

Cratinus, Greek author of comedies (-520 to -421)

Building of theater at Delphi

Epicharmus of Megara, Sicily (-550 to -460), writes early comedies and farces
600-501 BC
Ancient Greek literature

Franz von Matsch (1861-1942)
Greek Theatre
The stark fact about ancient Western literature is that the greater part of it has perished. Some of it had been forgotten before it was possible to commit it to writing; fire, war, and the ravages of time have robbed posterity of most of the rest; and the restitutions that archaeologists and paleographers achieve from time to time are small. Yet surviving writings in Greek and far more in Latin have included those that on ancient testimony marked the heightsreached by the creative imagination and intellect of the ancient world.

Five ancient civilizations—Babylon and Assyria, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the culture of the Israelites in Palestine—each came into contact with one or more of the others. The two most ancient, Assyro-Babylonia, with its broken clay tablets, and Egypt, with its rotted papyrus rolls, make no direct literary signal to the modern age; yet Babylon produced the first full code of laws and two epics of archetypal myth, which came to be echoed and re-echoed in distant lands, and Egypt's mystical intuition of a supernatural world caught the imagination of the Greeks and Romans. Hebrew culture exerted its greatest literary influence on the West because of the place held by its early writings as the Old Testament of the Christian Bible; and thisliterature profoundly influenced Western consciousness through translation from about the time of St. Augustine onward into every vernacular language as well as into Latin. Until then, Judaism's concentrated spirituality set it apart from the Greek and Roman world.

Though influenced by the religious myths of Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, and Egypt, Greek literature has no direct literary ancestry and appears self-originated. Roman writers looked to Greek precept for themes, treatment, and choice of verse and metre. Rome eventually passed the torch on to the early Middle Ages, by which time Greek had been subsumed under a wholly Latin tradition and was only rediscovered in its own right at the Renaissance—the “classical” tradition afterward becoming a threat to natural literary development, particularly when certain critics of the 17th century began to insist that the subjects and style of contemporary writing should conform with those employed by Greece and Rome.
  All of the chief kinds of literature—epic, tragedy, comedy, lyric, satire, history, biography, and prose narrative—were established by the Greeks and Romans, and later developments have for the most part been secondary extensions. The Greek epic of Homer was the model for the Latin of Virgil; the lyric fragments of Alcaeus and Sappho were echoed in the work of Catullus and Ovid; the history of Thucydides was succeeded by that of Livy and Tacitus; but the tragedy of the great Athenians of the 5th century BC had no worthy counterpart in Roman Seneca nor had the philosophical writings of Plato and Aristotle in those of any ancient Roman, for the practical Romans were not philosophers. Whereas Greek writers excelled in abstraction, the Romans had an unusually concrete vision and, as their art of portraiture shows, were intensely interested in human individuality.

In sum, the work of these writers and others and perhaps especially that of Greek authors expresses the imaginative and moral temper of Western man. It has helped to create his values and to hand on a tradition to distant generations. Homer's epics extend their concern from the right treatment of strangers to behaviour in situations of deep involvement among rival heroes, their foes, and the overseeing gods; the tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles are a sublime expression of man's breakthrough into moral awareness of his situation. Among Roman authors an elevated Stoicism stressing the sense of duty is common to many, from Naevius, Ennius, and Cato to Virgil, Horace, and Seneca.

A human ideal is to be seen in the savage satire of Juvenal and in Anacreon's songs of love and wine, as it is in the philosophical thought of Plato and Aristotle. It is given voice by a chorus of Sophocles, “Wonders are many, but none is more wonderful than man, the power that crosses the white sea. . . .” The human ideal held up in Greek and Latin literature, formed after civilization had emerged from earlier centuries of barbarism, was to be transformed, before the ancient world came to its close, into the spiritual ideal of Judeo-Christianity, whose writers foreshadowed medieval literature.
Of the literature of ancient Greece only a relatively small proportion survives. Yet it remains important, not only because much of it is of supreme quality but also because until the mid-19th century the greater part of the literature of the Western world was produced by writers who were familiar with the Greek tradition, either directly or through the medium of Latin, who were conscious that the forms they used were mostly of Greek invention, and who took for granted in their readers some familiarity with Classical literature.
  The periods

The history of ancient Greek literature may be divided into three periods:

Archaic (to the end of the 6th century bc);

Classical (5th and 4th centuries bc);

Hellenistic and Greco-Roman (3rd century bc onward).
Archaic period

The Greeks created poetry before they made use of writing for literary purposes, and from the beginning their poetry was intended to be sung or recited. (The art of writing was little known before the 7th century bc. The script used in Crete and Mycenae during the 2nd millennium bc [Linear B] is not known to have been employed for other than administrative purposes, and after the destruction of the Mycenaean cities it was forgotten.)

Its subject was myth—part legend, based sometimes on the dim memory of historical events; part folktale; and part religious speculation. But since the myths were not associated with any religious dogma, even though they often treated of gods and heroic mortals, they were not authoritative and could be varied by a poet to express new concepts.

Thus, at an early stage Greek thought was advanced as poets refashioned their materials; and to this stage of Archaic poetry belonged the epics ascribed to Homer, the Homer   "Iliad"  and the "Odyssey", retelling intermingled history and myth of the Mycenaean Age.
These two great poems, standing at the beginning of Greek literature, established most of the literary conventions of the epic poem. The didactic poetry of
Hesiod "Works And Days" (c. 700 bc) was probably later in composition than Homer's epics and, though different in theme and treatment, continued the epic tradition.

The several types of Greek lyric poetry originated in the Archaic period among the poets of the Aegean Islands and of Ionia on the coast of Asia Minor. Archilochus of Paros, of the 7th century bc, was the earliest Greek poet to employ the forms of elegy (in which the epic verse line alternated with a shorter line) and of personal lyric poetry.

  His work was very highly rated by the ancient Greeks but survives only in fragments; its forms and metrical patterns—the elegiac couplet and a variety of lyric metres—were taken up by a succession of Ionian poets. At the beginning of the 6th century Alcaeus and Sappho, composing in the Aeolic dialect of Lesbos, produced lyric poetry mostly in the metres named after them (the alcaic and the sapphic), which Horace was later to adapt to Latin poetry.

No other poets of ancient Greece entered into so close a personal relationship with the reader as
Alcaeus, Sappho, and Archilochus. They were succeeded by Anacreon of Teos, in Ionia, who, like Archilochus, composed his lyrics in the Ionic dialect. Choral lyric, with musical accompaniment, belonged to the Dorian tradition and its dialect, and its representative poets in the period were Alcman in Sparta and Stesichorus.

Both tragedy and comedy had their origins in Greece. “Tragic” choruses are said to have existed in Dorian Greece around 600 bc, and in a rudimentary dramatic form tragedy became part of the most famous of the Dionysian festivals, the Great, or City, Dionysia at Athens, about 534. Comedy, too, originated partly in Dorian Greece and developed in Attica, where it was officially recognized rather later than tragedy. Both were connected with the worship of Dionysus, god of fruitfulness and of wine and ecstasy.

  Written codes of law were the earliest form of prose and were appearing by the end of the 7th century, when knowledge of reading and writing was becoming more widespread.

No prose writer is known earlier than Pherecydes of Syros (c. 550 bc), who wrote about the beginnings of the world; but the earliest considerable author was Hecataeus of Miletus, who wrote about both the mythical past and the geography of the Mediterranean and surrounding lands.

To Aesop, a semi-historical, semi-mythological character of the mid-6th century, have been attributed the moralizing beast fables inherited by later writers.

Diego Velasquez, Aesop

Clodius Aesopus    
Clodius (or Claudius) Aesopus was the most celebrated tragic actor of Ancient Rome in time of Cicero, that is, the 1st century BC, but the dates of his birth and death are not known. His name seems to show that he was a freedman of some member of the Clodian gens. Cicero was on friendly terms with both him and Roscius, the equally distinguished comic actor, and did not disdain to profit by their instruction. Plutarch mentions it as reported of Aesopus, that, while representing Atreus deliberating how he should revenge himself on Thyestes, the actor forgot himself so far in the heat of action that with his truncheon he struck and killed one of the servants crossing the stage.
Horace and other authors put him on a level with Roscius. Each was preeminent in his own field; Roscius in comedy, being, with respect to action and delivery (pronuntiatio), more rapid; Aesopus in tragedy, being more weighty. Aesopus took great pains to perfect himself in his art by various methods. He dili­gently studied the exhibition of character in real life; and when any important trial was going on, especially, for example, when Hortensius was to plead, he was constantly in attendance, that he might watch and be able to represent the more truthfully the feelings which were actually dis­played on such occasions.
  He never, it is said, put on the mask for the cha­racter he had to perform in, without first looking at it attentively from a distance for some time, that so in performing he might preserve his voice and action in perfect keeping with the appearance he would have.Perhaps this anecdote may confirm the opinion that masks had only lately been introduced in the regular drama at Rome, and were not always used even for leading characters; for, according to Cicero, Aesopus excelled in power of face and fire of ex­pression, which of course would not have been visible if he had performed only with a mask.

From the whole passage in Cicero and from the anec­dotes recorded of him, his acting would seem to have been characterised chiefly by strong emphasis and vehemence. On the whole, Cicero calls him summus artifex, and says he was fitted to act a leading part no less in real life than on the stage.

It does not appear that he ever performed in comedy. Valerius Maximus calls Aesopus and Roscius both "ludicrae artis peritissimos viros," but this may merely de­note the theatrical art in general, including tragedy as well as comedy. Fronto calls him Tragicus Aesopus. From Cicero's remark, however, it would seem that the character of Ajax was rather too tragic for him.

The Beautiful Rhodope in Love with Aesop, an engraving by Francesco Bartolozzi

Like Roscius, Aesopus enjoyed the intimacy of the great actor, who calls him noster Aesopus, noster familiaris; and they seem to have sought, from one an­ other's society, improvement, each in his respective art. During his exile, Cicero received many valuable marks of Aesopus's friendship.
On one occasion, in particular, having to perform the part of Telamon, banished from his country, in one of Lucius Accius's plays, the tragedian, by his manner and skillful emphasis and an occasional change of a word, added to the evident reality of his feelings, and succeeded in leading the audience to apply the whole to the case of Cicero, and so did him more essential service than any direct defense of himself could have done. The whole house applauded. On another occasion, instead of "Brutus qui libertatem civium stabiliverat," he substituted Tullius, and the audience gave utterance to their enthusiasm by encoring the passage "a thousand times".

The time of his death or his age cannot be fixed with certainty; but at the dedication of the Theatre of Pompey in 55 BC, he would seem to have been elderly, for he was understood previously to have retired from
  the stage, and we do not hear of his being particularly delicate: yet, from the passage, ill-health or age would appear to have been the reason of his retiring. On that occasion, however, in honor of the festival, he appeared again; but just as he was coming to one of the most emphatic parts, the beginning of an oath, his voice failed him, and he could not go through with the speech. He was evidently unable to proceed, so that any one would readily have excused him: a thing which, as the passage in Cicero implies, a Roman audience would not do for ordinary performers. Aesopus, though far from frugal, realized, like Roscius, an immense fortune by his profession. He left about 200,000 sesterces to his son Clodius, who proved a foolish spendthrift. It is said, for instance, that he took a valuable pearl from the earring of Caecilia Metella, dissolved it in vinegar and drank it, a favorite feat of the extravagant monomania in Rome. The connection of Cicero's son-in-law Publius Cornelius Dolabella with the same lady no doubt increased the distress which Cicero felt at the dissolute proceedings of the son of his old friend.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The slave Aesop serving two priests,
by Francis Barlow.

Clodius Aesopus

"Aesop's Fables"


Illustrations by H. Weir, J. Tenniel, E. Griset

"A wolf, finding that the sheep were so afraid of him that he could not get near them, disguised himself in the dress of a shepherd, and thus attired approached the flock. As he came near, he found the shepherd fast asleep. As the sheep did not run away, he resolved to imitate the voice of the shepherd. In trying to do so, he only howled, and awoke the shepherd. As he could not run away, he was soon killed.

Those who attempt to act in disguise are apt to overdo it."

The Wolf Turned Shepherd.


The nine lyric poets

Henry O. Walker, Lyric Poetry.
Mural, South Corridor, Great Hall, Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington,

The nine lyric poets (nine melic poets) were a canon of archaic Greek composers esteemed by the scholars of Hellenistic Alexandria as worthy of critical study.

They were:

Alcman in Sparta (choral lyric, seventh century BC) of Sparta

Sappho (monodic lyric, c. 600 BC) of Lesbos

Ibycus (choral lyric, sixth century BC) of Rhegium

Alcaeus (monodic lyric, c. 600 BC) of Lesbos

Anacreon (monodic lyric, sixth century BC) of Teos

Stesichorus (choral lyric, sixth century BC) of Himera

Pindar (choral lyric, fifth century BC) of Thebes

Bacchylides (choral lyric, fifth century BC) of Ceos

Simonides (choral lyric, sixth century BC) of Ceos

In most Greek sources the word melikos is used (from melos "song"), but some authors have used lyrikos, which eventually became the regular word in Latin (lyricus) and in modern languages.

The ancient scholars defined the genre on the basis of the metrical form, not the content. Thus some types of poetry which would be included under the label lyric in modern literary criticism are nevertheless excluded, namely the elegy and the iambus.

Their poetry is traditionally divided into choral poetry and monodic lyric. This division is, however, contested by some modern scholars.


The nine muses:
Clio, Thalia, Erato, Euterpe, Polyhymnia, Calliope, Terpsichore, Urania, Melpomene

Ibycus, (flourished 6th century bc, Rhegium [now Reggio, Italy]), Greek lyric poet, one of the nine lyric poets in the official list, or canon, drawn up by the scholars of Alexandria in the 3rd and 2nd centuries bc, who edited his work in seven books, or papyrus rolls.

Ibycus left Magna Graecia (southern Italy and Sicily) for the Aegean island of Samos, where the tyrant Polycrates became his patron. Ancient authorities found it hard to distinguish his early work from that of Stesichorus because both poets composed choral lyrics devoted to mythical narratives. Even in the few surviving fragments of Ibycus’s lyrics, however, there are signs of marked individuality. The longest fragment, from a papyrus discovered in Oxyrhynchus (now al-Bahnasā, Egypt) in the early 20th century, is an anonymous poem attributed by modern scholars to Ibycus. In it the poet lists deeds and personages of the Trojan War while declaring that he does not want to treat that story. He then compares the beauty of Cyanippus, Zeuxippus, and Troilus, heroes of the Trojan War, to that of the young Polycrates (who is probably the future tyrant of Samos or, less likely, the tyrant’s son).   Ibycus ends with the affirmation that, thanks to his poem, Polycrates’ good looks will be eternally famous.

Ibycus’s best-known fragments describe the charms of handsome youths and reveal the narrator’s fear of falling in love. The Roman orator and statesman Cicero characterized Ibycus as being devoted to love poetry to a greater extent than were Alcaeus and Anacreon. Some papyrus fragments, attributed to Ibycus by modern scholars, seem to preserve the earliest evidence of epinician poetry.

A late legend relates that Ibycus called a flock of cranes passing overhead to witness his murder by robbers near Corinth. One of the robbers later saw the cranes over Corinth and sarcastically referred to them as the avengers of Ibycus, a remark that led to the unmasking of the murderers.

The following poem was quoted by the ancient scholar Athenaeus in his wide-ranging discourses Scholars at Dinner and it demonstrates some of the characteristics of Ibycean verse:

In spring the Kydonian
apple trees, watered by flowing
streams there where the Maidens
have their unravished garden, and vine buds,
growing under the shadowy branches
of the vines, bloom and flourish. For me, however, love
is at rest in no season
but like the Thracian north wind,
ablaze with lightning,
rushing from Aphrodite with scorching
fits of madness, dark and unrestrained,
it forcibly convulses from their very roots
my mind and heart.

The poem establishes a contrast between the tranquility of nature and the ever restless impulses to which the poet's desires subject him, while the images and epithets accumulate almost chaotically, communicating a sense of his inner turmoil. In the original Greek, initial tranquility is communicated by repeated vowel sounds in the first six lines. His love of nature and his ability to describe it in lively images are reminiscent of Sappho's work.

Anacreon of Teos

born c. 582 bc, Teos, Ionia [now Sigacık, Tur.]
died c. 485

Ancient Greek lyric poet who wrote in the Ionic dialect. Only fragments of his verse have survived.

The edition of Anacreon’s poetry known to later generations was probably prepared in Alexandria by Aristarchus in the 2nd century bc and divided into 9 or 10 books on the basis of metrical criteria.
Anacreon immigrated to the newly founded city of Abdera, on the coast of Thrace, after Teos was conquered by the Persians in 546 bc. His working life was spent largely at the courts of tyrants, who were important patrons of art and literature in the 6th century. The first was Polycrates of Samos.
After Polycrates was murdered by the Persians, Anacreon moved to Athens, writing under the patronage of Hipparchus. Even after Hipparchus’s assassination in 514 bc, the poet continued to enjoy popularity in Athens, as is shown by his appearances in works of art of the period. After Hipparchus’s death Anacreon may have moved to Thessaly; he may have died at Teos, where his tomb was said to have been found.

Anacreon wrote both serious and light poetry. A serious fragment on politics, for example, names the opponents of Polycrates. The poems quoted by later sources, however, are in praise of love, wine, and revelry. Anacreon’s treatment of these subjects is formal and elegant, since he disliked excess and vulgarity. His tone conveys ironic enjoyment, and his language and use of metre are smooth and simple but creative.

From his erotic verse there survive striking images of beloved young men: the peaceful character of Megistes, the eyes of Cleobulus, the blond locks of the Thracian Smerdies. Girls also appear, such as the girl from Lesbos and a shy and subdued Thracian girl. (Both are probably hetairai, or courtesans, attending a symposium.)

  For Anacreon love is light, fantastic, and bizarre—but never dramatic—as shown in his various images of Eros. The poet recommends the same approach, joyous and carefree rather than licentious and violent, for the dinner party. As ancient critics had already observed, Anacreon’s poetry finds room for the same human types that would populate Greek mime and New Comedy, such as the nouveau riche rascal Artemon and the bald and tiresomely pretentious Alexis.

Anacreon’s poetic sentiments and style were widely imitated by Hellenistic and Byzantine Greek writers, though they tended to exaggerate the strain of drunken eroticism and frivolity present in his work. There thus arose the Anacreontea, a collection of about 60 short poems composed by post-Classical Greek writers at various dates and first published by Henri Estienne as the work of Anacreon in 1554. These had a great influence on Renaissance French poetry. The word Anacreontics was first used in England in 1656 by Abraham Cowley to denote a verse metre supposedly used by the ancient Greek poet and consisting of seven or eight syllables with three or four main stresses. Anacreon himself, it should be noted, composed verse in a variety of Greek lyric metres. Robert Herrick, William Oldys, and William Shenstone wrote original Anacreontics in English, and Thomas Moore provided perhaps the finest translation of the Anacreontea in 1800, under the title Odes of Anacreon. The Anacreontea also influenced Italian and German literature.

Poems by Anacreon

Not to love a pain is deem'd,
And to love's the same esteem'd:
But of all the greatest pain
Is to love unlov'd again.
Birth in love is now rejected,
Parts and arts are disrespected,
Only gold is look'd upon.
A curse take him that was won
First to doat upon it; hence
Springs 'twixt brothers difference;
This makes parents slighted; this
War's dire cause and fuel is:
And what's worst, by this alone
Are we lovers overthrown.

On Himself

On this verdant lotus laid,
Underneath the myrtle's shade,
Let us drink our sorrows dead,
Whilst Love plays the Ganimed.
Life like to a wheel runs round,
And ere long, we underground
(Ta'en by death asunder) must
Moulder in forgotten dust.
Why then graves should we bedew?
Why the ground with odours strew?
Better whilst alive, prepare
Flowers and unguents for our hair.
Come, my fair one! come away;
All our cares behind us lay,
That these pleasures we may know,
Ere we come to those below.

Love's Night Walk

Downward was the wheeling Bear
Driven by the Waggoner:
Men by powerful sleep opprest,
Gave their busy troubles rest;
Love, in this still depth of night,
Lately at my house did light;
Where, perceiving all fast lock'd,
At the door he boldly knock'd.
"Who's that," said I, "That does keep
Such a noise, and breaks my sleep?"
"Ope," saith Love, "for pity hear;
'Tis a child, thou need'st not fear,
Wet and weary, from his way
Led by this dark night astray."
With compassion this I heard;
Light I struck, the door unbarr'd;
Where a little boy appears,
Who wings, bow, and quiver bears;
Near the fire I made him stand,
With my own I chaf'd his hand,
And with kindly busy care
Wrung the chill drops from his hair.
When well warm'd he was, and dry,
"Now," saith he, "'tis time to try
If my bow no hurt did get,
For methinks the string is wet."
With that, drawing it, a dart
He let fly that pierc'd my heart;
Leaping then, and laughing said,
"Come, my friend, with me be glad;
For my bow thou seest is sound,
Since thy heart hath got a wound."

translated by Thomas Stanley


  Thespis, (flourished 6th century bc, Athens), Greek poet, said to have been born in the deme (district) of Icaria. According to ancient tradition, Thespis was the first actor in Greek drama. He was often called the inventor of tragedy, and his name was recorded as the first to stage a tragedy at the Great (or City) Dionysia (c. 534 bc). Scholars differ on the scanty evidence about Thespis and his role in the development of Greek drama. According to the Greek rhetorician Themistius (4th century ad), Aristotle said that tragedy was entirely choral until Thespis introduced the prologue and the internal speeches. If so, Thespis was the first to interweave choral song with an actor’s speeches, and tragic dialogue began when the actor (Thespis) exchanged words with the leader of the chorus (choragus). The four titles and five fragments attributed to Thespis are probably not authentic.
Hipponax of Ephesus and later Clazomenae was an Ancient Greek iambic poet who composed verses depicting the vulgar side of life in Ionian society in the sixth century BC. He was celebrated by ancient authors for his malicious wit (especially for his attacks on some contemporary sculptors, Bupalus and Athenis), and he was reputed to be physically deformed (a reputation that might have been inspired by the nature of his poetry). Little of his work survives despite its interest to Alexandrian scholars, who collected it in two or three books.

He influenced Alexandrian poets searching for alternative styles and uses of language, such as Callimachus and Herodas, and his colourful reputation as an acerbic, social critic also made him a popular subject for verse, as in this epigram by Theocritus:

Here lies the poet Hipponax. If you are a scoundrel, do not approach the tomb; but if you are honest and from worthy stock, sit down in confidence and, if you like, fall asleep.


Ancient literary critics credited him with inventing literary parody and "lame" poetic meters suitable for vigorous abuse, as well as with influencing comic dramatists such as Aristophanes. His witty, abusive style appears for example in this quote by Herodian, who however was mainly interested in its linguistic aspects (many of the extant verses were preserved for us by lexicographers and grammarians interested in rare words):

What navel-snipper wiped and washed you as you squirmed about, you crack-brained creature?

where 'navel-snipper' signifies a midwife.
Ancient authorities record the barest details about his life (sometimes contradicting each other) and his extant poetry is too fragmentary to support autobiographical interpretation (a hazardous exercise even at the best of times).

The Marmor Parium, only partially preserved in the relevant place, dates him to 541/40 BC, a date supported by Pliny The Elder in this comment on the theme of sculpture:

There lived in the island of Chios a sculptor Melas who was succeeded by his son Micciades and his grandson Achermus; the latter's sons, Bupalus and Athenis, had the very greatest fame in that art at the time of the poet Hipponax who was clearly alive in the 60th Olympiad (540-37). — Natural History 36.4.11

Archeological corroboration for these dates is found on the pedestal of a statue in Delos, inscribed with the names Micciades and Achermus and dated to 550-30. The poet therefore can be safely dated to the second half of the sixth century. According to Athenaeus, he was small, thin and surprisingly strong The Byzantine encyclopaedia Suda, recorded that he was expelled from Ephesus by the tyrants Athenagoras and Comas, then settled in Clazomenae, and that he wrote verses satirising Bupalis and Athenis because they made insulting likenesses of him. A scholiast commenting on Horace's Epodes recorded two differing accounts of the dispute with Bupalus, characterized however as "a painter in Clazomenae": Hipponax sought to marry Bupalus's daughter but was rejected because of his physical ugliness, and Bupalus portrayed him as ugly in order to provoke laughter. According to the same scholiast, Hipponax retaliated in verse so savagely that Bupalus hanged himself. Hipponax in that case closely resembles Archilochus of Paros, an earlier iambic poet, who reportedly drove a certain Lycambes and his daughters to hang themselves after he too was rejected in marriage. Such a coincidence invites scepticism. The comic poet Diphilus took the similarity between the two iambic poets even further, representing them as rival lovers of the poetess Sappho!

The life of Hipponax, as revealed in the poems, resembles a low-life saga centred on his private enmities, his amorous escapades and his poverty but it is probable he was another Petronius, depicting low-life characters while actually moving in higher social circles. In one fragment, Hipponax decries "Bupalus, the mother-fucker (μητροκοίτης) with Arete", the latter evidently being the mother of Bupalus, yet Arete is presented as performing fellatio on Hipponax in another fragment and, elsewhere, Hipponax complains "Why did you go to bed with that rogue Bupalus?", again apparently referring to Arete (whose name ironically is Greek for 'virtue'). The poet is a man of action but, unlike Archilochus, who served as a warrior on Thasos, his battlefields are close to home:

Take my cloak, I'll hit Bupalus in the eye! For I have two right hands and I don't miss with my punches.

Hipponax's quarrelsome disposition is also illustrated in verses quoted by Tzetzes, where the bard abuses a painter called Mimnes, and advises him thus:

when you paint the serpent on the trireme's full-oared side, quit making it run back from the prow-ram to the pilot. What a disaster it will be and what a sensation — you low-born slave, you scum — if the snake should bite the pilot on the shin — fragment 28


Hipponax composed within the Iambus tradition which, in the work of Archilochus, a hundred years earlier, appears to have functioned as ritualized abuse and obscenity associated with the religious cults of Demeter and Dionysus but which, in Hipponax's day, seems rather to have had the purpose of entertainment. In both cases, the genre featured scornful abuse, a bitter tone and sexual permissiveness. Unlike Archilochus, however, he frequently refers to himself by name, emerging as a highly self-conscious figure, and his poetry is more narrow and insistently vulgar in scope: "with Hipponax, we are in an unheroic, in fact, a very sordid world", amounting to "a new conception of the poet's function."

He was considered the inventor of a peculiar metre, the scazon ("halting iambic" as Murray calls it) or choliamb, which substitutes a spondee or trochee for the final iambus of an iambic senarius, and is an appropriate form for the burlesque character of his poems. As an ancient scholar once put it:

"In his desire to abuse his enemies he shattered the meter, making it lame instead of straightforward, and unrhythmical, i.e. suitable for vigorous abuse, since what is rhythmical and pleasing to the ear would be more suitable for words of praise than blame." — Demetrius of Phalerum

Most of the surviving fragments are in choliambs but others feature trochaic tetrameter and even dactyls, the latter sometimes in combination with iambs and even on their own in dactylic hexameter, imitating epic poetry. Ancient scholars in fact credited him with inventing parody and Athenaeus quoted this diatribe against a glutton 'Euromedontiades', composed in dactylic hexameter in mock-heroic imitation of Homer's Odyssey:

Muse, sing of Eurymedontiades, sea-swilling Charybdis,
his belly a sharp-slicing knife, his table manners atrocious;
sing how, condemned by public decree, he will perish obscenely
under a rain of stones, on the beach of the barren salt ocean''

— fragment 128

Most archaic poets (including the iambic poets Archilochus and Semonides) were influenced by the Ionian epic tradition, as represented in the work of Homer. Except for parody, Hipponax composed as if Homer never existed, avoiding not only heroic sentiment but even epic phrasing and vocabulary. He employed a form of Ionic Greek that included an unusually high proportion of Anatolian and particularly Lydian loanwords, as for example here where he addresses Zeus with the outlandish Lydian word for 'king' (nominative πάλμυς):

Zeus, father Zeus, sultan of the Olympian gods,
why have you not given me gold...?

Eating, defecating and fornicating are frequent themes and often they are employed together, as in fragment 92, a tattered papyrus which narrates a sexual encounter in a malodorous privy, where a Lydian-speaking woman performs some esoteric and obscene rites on the narrator, including beating his genitals with a fig branch and inserting something up his anus, provoking incontinence and finally an attack by dung beetles — a wild scene that possibly inspired the 'Oenothea' episode in Petronius's Satyricon.

"Hipponax remains a mystery. We have lost the matrix of these fascinating but puzzling fragments; ripped from their frame they leave us in doubt whether to take them seriously as autobiographical material (unlikely, but it has been done), as complete fiction (but there is no doubt that Bupalus and Athenis were real people), as part of a literary adaptation of some ritual of abuse (a komos or something similar), or as dramatic scripts for some abusive proto-comic performance. Whatever they were, they are a pungent reminder of the variety and vitality of archaic Greek literature and of how much we have lost." — B.M. Knox

The extant work also includes fragments of epodes (fr. 115-118) but the authorship is disputed by many modern scholars, who attribute them to Archilochus on various grounds, including for example the earlier poet's superior skill in invective and the fragments' resemblance to the tenth epode of Horace (an avowed imitator of Archilochus)Archilochus might also have been the source for an unusually beautiful line attributed to Hipponax[nb 2] (a line that has also been described "as clear, melodious and spare as a line of Sappho"):

If only I might have a maiden who is both beautiful and tender.
— fragment 119

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Simonides of Ceos

Simonides of Ceos, (born c. 556 bc, Iulis, Ceos [now Kéa, Greece]—died c. 468 bc, Acragas [now Agrigento, Sicily, Italy]), Greek poet, noted for his lyric poetry, elegiacs, and epigrams; he was an uncle of the Greek lyric poet Bacchylides.

Simonides began writing poetry on Ceos, but he was soon called to the court of the Peisistratids (the tyrants of Athens), which was a lively cultural and artistic centre in the 6th century bc. (See ancient Greek civilization: The later Archaic periods.) He later visited other powerful figures in Thessaly, in northern Greece, such as Scopas, ruler of Crannon.
Simonides lived in Athens after the fall of the Peisistratid tyranny and the founding of the democracy. He was close to important people there, including the politician and naval strategist Themistocles, and he achieved numerous successes in dithyrambic competitions. (A later poet credited Simonides with 57 victories.)

In the competition, Simonides was selected (above such celebrated poets as Aeschylus) to compose the elegiac verses commemorating those who fell in the battle of Marathon. He celebrated the Greek victories of the Persian Wars, including a famous encomium for the Spartan dead at Thermopylae. Simonides maintained close ties with the Spartan general and regent Pausanias. He traveled to Sicily as a guest of the courts of Hieron I, tyrant of Syracuse, and Theron, tyrant of Acragas; tradition there made him and Bacchylides the rivals of Pindar. He is said to have reconciled the two tyrants when they quarreled.
Of Simonides’ extensive literary corpus, only fragments remain, most of them short.

There are many epigrams written in elegiac couplets intended to be carved on monuments to celebrate a death, a victory, or other deeds worthy of memory. (However, scholars suspect that many of the epigrams attributed to Simonides were not composed by him.) Simonides’ threnoi, songs of lamentation used for funerals, were particularly famous in antiquity—as the praise of the poets Catullus and Horace and the educator Quintilian demonstrates—because they showed genius in combining affecting poetry with praise of the deceased. Simonides played an important role in the development of the epinicion, a song in honour of an athletic victory.
  He is the author of the earliest epinicion for which the date (520 bc) and the victor (Glaucus of Carystus, for boy’s boxing) are certain. The fragments display an epinician tone that contrasts with Pindar’s high seriousness, as Simonides praises the victor with ironic and humorous references. Simonides was known for his tendency toward concision and his rejection of prolixity. He defined poetry as a speaking picture and painting as mute poetry.
There emerges from his longer fragments, such as the encomium of Scopas, an original and nonconformist personality that questions the innate and absolute values of the aristocratic ethic, which are the basis of Pindar’s worldview. Simonides’ worldview, in contrast, is in sympathy with the social setting determined by the rise of the new mercantile classes. His moral outlook is pragmatic, realistic, and relativistic; he is conscious of the imperfection and frailty of human accomplishments.
Simonides changed the conception and practice of poetic activity by insisting that a patron who commissioned a poem owed the poet fair remuneration. Simonides’ professional policy gave rise to many anecdotes about his greed. The most famous in antiquity concerned a poem he was commissioned to write for Scopas of Thessaly. When Simonides delivered the poem, Scopas paid him only half the sum they had agreed on, telling him to get the rest from the Dioscuri, to whose praise the poet had devoted much of the poem. During the banquet at the palace to celebrate Scopas’s victory, Simonides was summoned outside at the request of two young men; when he went outside, the young men were gone. When the palace then collapsed and he alone survived, he realized that the young men had been the Dioscuri. Having insisted on being paid and having been credited with the invention of a (lost) method of memorization, Simonides can be seen as a precursor of the 5th-century Sophists.
In 1992 new papyrus fragments of his elegies were published; among them are parts of a long composition on the battle of Plataea (479 bc), in which the decisive role of the Spartans is emphasized. The fragments also include pederastic works and poems that were of the type meant for symposia (dinner parties).
Simonides wrote a wide range of choral lyrics with an Ionian flavour and elegiac verses in Doric idioms. He is generally credited with inventing a new type of choral lyric, the encomium, in particular popularizing a form of it, the victory ode. These were extensions of the hymn, which previous generations of poets had dedicated only to gods and heroes:

"But it was Simonides who first led the Greeks to feel that such a tribute might be paid to any man who was sufficiently eminent in merit or in station. We must remember that, in the time of Simonides, the man to whom a hymn was addressed would feel that he was receiving a distinction which had hitherto been reserved for gods and heroes."—Richard Claverhouse Jebb

In one victory ode, celebrating Glaucus of Carystus, a famous boxer, Simonides declares that not even Heracles or Polydeuces could have stood against him—a statement whose impiety seemed notable even to Lucian many generations later.

Simonides was the first to establish the choral dirge as a recognized form of lyric poetry, his aptitude for it being testified, for example, by Quintillian (see quote in the Introduction), Horace("Ceae...munera neniae"), Catullus ("maestius lacrimis Simonideis") and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, where he says:

"Observe in Simonides his choice of words and his care in combining them; in addition—and here he is found to be better even than Pindar—observe how he expresses pity not by using the grand style but by appealing to the emotions."

"Being a man you cannot tell what might befall when tomorrow comes
Nor yet how long one who appears blessed will remain that way,
So soon our fortunes change even the long-winged fly
Turns around less suddenly."


By the end of the Archaic period, there were signs that literary traditions were becoming
centred on Athens. Athens's leading role in the Persian Wars, in which the Greek city states
successfully defended their independence against the Persian empire, opened a glorious period of expansion and prosperity, with such a flowering of literature and the arts as has perhaps never
since been equalled.

Although defeat in the Peloponnesian War (431-04 B.C.) ended Athenian dominance, its literary creativity continued until the end of the Classical era, conveniently marked by the Macedonian conquest of 338 B.C.

Classical period

5th and 4th centuries bc
Greek theatre

Drama represented the peak of Greek civilization and has remained a huge influence on the Western tradition. Anyone who comes to Greek tragedy with prior knowledge of, for example,
Shakespeare will find it strikingly familiar.

Greek drama originated as a religious ritual performed at festivals such as the Athenian festival of Dionysus, consisting mainly of songs sung by a chorus. (Music was an important part of Classical drama, but no legacy survives today.) Through the work of the three great tragic playwrights, it evolved into a new art. The subject matter remained traditional religious myths, but was reinterpreted to engender a profound investigation of human fate and the relationship between gods and human beings. Several plays were performed in one evening, including comedies, which were sometimes extremely coarse.
True tragedy was created by Aeschylus and continued with Sophocles and Euripides in the second half of the 5th century. Aristophanes, the greatest of the comedic poets, lived on into the 4th century, but the Old Comedy did not survive the fall of Athens in 404.

The sublime themes of Aeschylean tragedy, in which human beings stand answerable to the gods and receive awe-inspiring insight into divine purposes, are exemplified in the three plays of the Oresteia. The tragedy of Sophocles made progress toward both dramatic complexity and naturalness while remaining orthodox in its treatment of religious and moral issues. Euripides handled his themes on the plane of skeptical enlightenment and doubted the traditional picture of the gods. Corresponding development of dramatic realization accompanied the shift of vision: the number of individual actors was raised to three, each capable of taking several parts.

The Old Comedy of Aristophanes was established later than tragedy but preserved more obvious traces of its origin in ritual; for the vigour, wit, and indecency with which it keenly satirized public issues and prominent persons clearly derived from the ribaldry of the Dionysian festival. Aristophanes’ last comedies show a transition, indicated by the dwindling importance of the chorus, toward the Middle Comedy, of which no plays are extant. This phase was followed toward the beginning of the 3rd century by the New Comedy, introduced by Menander, which turned for its subjects to the private fictional world of ordinary people. Later adaptations of New Comedy in Latin by Plautus and Terence carried the influence of his work on to medieval and modern times.

In the 5th century, Pindar, the greatest of the Greek choral lyrists, stood outside the main Ionic-Attic stream and embodied in his splendid odes a vision of the world seen in terms of aristocratic values that were already growing obsolete. Greek prose came to maturity in this period. Earlier writers such as Anaxagoras the philosopher and Protagoras the Sophist used the traditional Ionic dialect, as did Herodotus  the historian. His successors in history, Thucydides and Xenophon, wrote in Attic.

The works of Plato  and Aristotle, of the 4th century, are the most important of all the products of Greek culture in the intellectual history of the West. They were preoccupied with ethics, metaphysics, and politics as humankind’s highest study and, in the case of Aristotle, extended the range to include physics, natural history, psychology, and literary criticism. They have formed the basis of Western philosophy and, indeed, they determined, for centuries to come, the development of European thought.

This was also a golden age for rhetoric and oratory, first taught by Corax of Syracuse in the 5th century. The study of rhetoric and oratory raised questions of truth and morality in argument, and thus it was of concern to the philosopher as well as to the advocate and the politician and was expounded by teachers, among whom Isocrates was outstanding. The orations of Demosthenes, a statesman of 4th-century Athens and the most famous of Greek orators, are preeminent for force and power.

Tragedy may have developed from the dithyramb, the choral cult song of the god Dionysus. Arion of Lesbos, who is said to have worked at Corinth in about 600, is credited with being the first to write narrative poetry in this medium. Thespis (6th century bc), possibly combining with dithyrambs something of the Attic ritual of Dionysus of Eleutherae, is credited with having invented tragedy by introducing an actor who conversed with the chorus. These performances became a regular feature of the great festival of Dionysus at Athens about 534 bc. Aeschylus introduced a second actor, though his drama was still centred in the chorus, to whom, rather than to each other, his actors directed themselves.

At the tragic contests at the Dionysia each of three competing poets produced three tragedies and a satyr play, or burlesque, in which there was a chorus of satyrs. Aeschylus, unlike later poets, often made of his three tragedies a dramatic whole, treating a single story, as in the Oresteia, the only complete trilogy that has survived. His main concern was not dramatic excitement and the portrayal of character but rather the presentation of human action in relation to the overriding purpose of the gods.

His successor was Sophocles, who abandoned for the most part the practice of writing in unified trilogies, reduced the importance of the chorus, and introduced a third actor. His work too was based on myth, but whereas Aeschylus tried to make more intelligible the working of the divine purpose in its effects on human life, Sophocles was readier to accept the gods as given and to reveal the values of life as it can be lived within the traditional framework of moral standards. Sophocles’ skill in control of dramatic movement and his mastery of speech were devoted to the presentation of the decisive, usually tragic, hours in the lives of men and women at once “heroic” and human, such as Oedipus.

Euripides, last of the three great tragic poets, belonged to a different world. When he came to manhood, traditional beliefs were scrutinized in the light of what was claimed by Sophist philosophers, not always unjustifiably, to be reason; and this was a test to which much of Greek religion was highly vulnerable. The whole structure of society and its values was called into question. This movement of largely destructive criticism was clearly not uncongenial to Euripides. But as a dramatic poet he was bound to draw his material from myths, which, for him, had to a great extent lost their meaning. He adapted them to make room for contemporary problems, which were his real interest. Many of his plays suffer from a certain internal disharmony, yet his sensibilities and his moments of psychological insight bring him far closer than most Greek writers to modern taste. There are studies, wonderfully sympathetic, of wholly unsympathetic actions in the Medea and Hippolytus; a vivid presentation of the beauty and horror of religious ecstasy in the Bacchants; in the Electra, a reduction to absurdity of the values of a myth that justifies matricide; in Helen and Iphigenia Among the Taurians, melodrama with a faint flavour of romance.

Like tragedy, comedy arose from a ritual in honour of Dionysus, in this case full of abuse and obscenity connected with averting evil and encouraging fertility. The parabasis, the part of the play in which the chorus broke off the action and commented on topical events and characters, was probably a direct descendant of such revels. The dramatic element may have been derived from the secular Dorian comedy without chorus, said to have arisen at Megara, which was developed at Syracuse by Epicharmus (c. 530–c. 440). Akin to this kind of comedy seems to have been the mime, a short realistic sketch of scenes from everyday life. These were written rather later by Sophron of Syracuse; only fragments have survived but they were important for their influence on Plato’s dialogue form and on Hellenistic mime. At Athens, comedy became an official part of the celebrations of Dionysus in 486 bc. The first great comic poet was Cratinus. About 50 years later Aristophanes and Eupolis refined somewhat the wild robustness of the older poet. But even so, for boldness of fantasy, for merciless invective, for unabashed indecency, and for freedom of political criticism, there is nothing like the Old Comedy of Aristophanes, whose work alone has survived. Cleon the politician, Socrates the philosopher, Euripides the poet were alike the victims of his masterly unfairness, the first in Knights; the second in Clouds; and the third in Women at the Thesmophoria and Frogs; whereas in Birds the Athenian democracy itself was held up to a kindlier ridicule. Aristophanes survived the fall of Athens in 404, but the Old Comedy had no place in the revived democracy.
The gradual change from Old to Middle Comedy took place in the early years of the 4th century. Of Middle Comedy, no fully developed specimen has survived. It seems to have been distinguished by the disappearance of the chorus and of outspoken political criticism and by the growth of social satire and of parody; Antiphanes and Alexis were the two most distinguished writers. The complicated plots in some of their plays led to the development of the New Comedy at the end of the century, which is best represented by Menander. One complete play, the Dyscolus, and appreciable fragments of others are extant on papyrus. New Comedy was derived in part from Euripidean tragedy; its characteristic plot was a translation into terms of city life of the story of the maiden—wronged by a god—who bears her child in secret, exposes it, and recognizes it years after by means of the trinkets she had put into its cradle.
Rhetoric and oratory
In few societies has the power of fluent and persuasive speech been more highly valued than it was in Greece, and even in Homer there are speeches that are pieces of finished rhetoric. But it was the rise of democratic forms of government that provided a great incentive to study and instruction in the arts of persuasion, which were equally necessary for political debate in the assembly and for attack and defense in the law courts.

The formal study of rhetoric seems to have originated in Syracuse c. 460 bc with Corax and his pupils Tisias and Gorgias (died c. 376); Gorgias was influential also in Athens. Corax is reputed to have been the first to write a handbook on the art of rhetoric, dealing with such topics as arguments from probability and the parts into which speeches should be divided. Most of the Sophists had pretensions as teachers of the art of speaking, especially Protagoras, who postulated that the weaker of two arguments could by skill be made to prevail over the stronger, and Prodicus of Ceos.


Antiphon (c. 480–411), the first professional speech writer, was an influential opponent of democracy. Three speeches of his, all dealing with homicide cases, have been preserved, as have three “tetralogies,” sets of two pairs of speeches containing the arguments to be used on both sides in imaginary cases of homicide. In them ideas are expressed concerning bloodguilt and the duty of vengeance. Antiphon’s style is bare and rather crudely antithetical. Gorgias from Sicily, who visited Athens in 427, introduced an elaborate balance and symmetry emphasized by rhyme and assonance. Thrasymachus of Chalcedon made a more solid contribution to the evolution of a periodic and rhythmical style.

Andocides (c. 440–died after 391), an orator who spent much of his life in exile from Athens, wrote three speeches containing vivid narrative; but as an orator he was admittedly amateurish. Lysias (c. 455–died after 380) lived at Athens for many years as a resident alien and supported himself by writing speeches when he lost his wealth. His speeches, some of them written for litigants of humble station, show dexterous adaptation to the character of the speaker, though the most interesting of all is his own attack on Eratosthenes, one of the Thirty Tyrants imposed on Athens by the Spartans in 404 bc.

The 12 extant speeches of Isaeus, who was active in the first half of the 4th century bc, throw light on aspects of Athenian law. Isocrates, who was influential in Athens for half a century before his death in 338, perfected a periodic prose style that, through the medium of Latin, was widely accepted as a pattern; and he helped give rhetoric its predominance in the educational system of the ancient world. In his writings, which took the form of speeches but were more like pamphlets, Isocrates shows some insight into the political troubles besetting Greece, with its endless bickering between cities incapable of cooperation.

The greatest of the orators was Demosthenes (384–322), supreme in vehemence and power, though lacking in some of the more delicate shadings of rhetorical skill. His speeches were mainly political, and he is best remembered for his energetic opposition to the rise of Macedonia under its king Philip II, embodied in the three “Philippics.” After Demosthenes, oratory faded, together with the political setting to which it owed its preeminence. Three more 4th-century-bc writers need only be mentioned: Aeschines (390–c. 314; the main political opponent of Demosthenes), Hyperides (c. 390–322), and Lycurgus (c. 390–324).

Greek dramatist

born 525/524 bc
died 456/455 bc, Gela, Sicily

The first of the great tragic triumvirate,
Aeschylus was born near Athens in 525 B.C. and fought in the Persian Wars. He wrote nearly 100 plays, including satyrs (comedies about satyrs, not necessarily "satires" in the modern sense). Seven complete plays have survived, including Persians, Seven Against Thebes and the Oresteia trilogy about the doomed House of Atreus, which won the last of his many drama prizes in 458 B.C. Regarded as the founder of Greek tragedy, he introduced individual actors and dramatic dialogue, adopted stage costume and 'special effects', and, although Sophocles is said to have first introduced it, he seems to have used scenery. His themes are grand and solemn, dealing with destiny and the irresistible working of fate. His language is vivid, and as a lyric poet he is unsurpassed. Legend has it he was killed when an eagle dropped a tortoise on his head.

Life and career
Aeschylus grew up in the turbulent period when the Athenian democracy, having thrown off its tyranny (the absolute rule of one man), had to prove itself against both self-seeking politicians at home and invaders from abroad. Aeschylus himself took part in his city’s first struggles against the invading Persians. Later Greek chroniclers believed that Aeschylus was 35 years old in 490 bc when he participated in the Battle of Marathon, in which the Athenians first repelled the Persians; if this is true it would place his birth in 525 bc. Aeschylus’ father’s name was Euphorion, and the family probably lived at Eleusis (west of Athens).
Aeschylus was a notable participant in Athens’ major dramatic competition, the Great Dionysia, which was a part of the festival of Dionysus. Every year at this festival, each of three dramatists would produce three tragedies, which either could be unconnected in plot sequence or could have a connecting theme. This trilogy was followed by a satyr play, which was a kind of lighthearted burlesque. Aeschylus is recorded as having participated in this competition, probably for the first time, in 499 bc. He won his first victory in the theatre in the spring of 484 bc. In the meantime, he had fought and possibly been wounded at Marathon, and Aeschylus singled out his participation in this battle years later for mention on the verse epitaph he wrote for himself. Aeschylus’ brother was killed in this battle. In 480 the Persians again invaded Greece, and once again Aeschylus saw service, fighting at the battles of Artemisium and Salamis. His responses to the Persian invasion found expression in his play Persians, the earliest of his works to survive. This play was produced in the competition of the spring of 472 bc and won first prize.
  Around this time Aeschylus is said to have visited Sicily to present Persians again at the tyrant Hieron I’s court in Syracuse. Aeschylus’ later career is a record of sustained dramatic success, though he is said to have suffered one memorable defeat, at the hands of the novice Sophocles, whose entry at the Dionysian festival of 468 bc was victorious over the older poet’s entry. Aeschylus recouped the loss with victory in the next year, 467, with his Oedipus trilogy (of which the third play, Seven Against Thebes, survives).
After producing the masterpiece among his extant works, the Oresteia trilogy, in 458, Aeschylus went to Sicily again. The chronographers recorded Aeschylus’ death at Gela (on Sicily’s south coast) in 456/455, aged 69. A ludicrous story that he was killed when an eagle dropped a tortoise on his bald pate was presumably fabricated by a later comic writer. At Gela he was accorded a public funeral, with sacrifices and dramatic performances held at his grave, which subsequently became a place of pilgrimage for writers.

Aeschylus wrote approximately 90 plays, including satyr plays as well as tragedies; of these, about 80 titles are known. Only seven tragedies have survived entire. One account, perhaps based on the official lists, assigns Aeschylus 13 first prizes, or victories; this would mean that well over half of his plays won, since sets of four plays rather than separate ones were judged. According to the philosopher Flavius Philostratus, Aeschylus was known as the “Father of Tragedy.” Aeschylus’ two sons also achieved prominence as tragedians. One of them, Euphorion, won first prize in his own right in 431 bc over Sophocles and

"Prometheus Bound"

LO! to a plain, earth’s boundary remote,
We now are come,—the track as Skythian known,
A desert inaccessible: and now,
Hephæstos, it is thine to do the hests
The Father gave thee, to these lofty crags
To bind this crafty trickster fast in chains
Of adamantine bonds that none can break;
For he, thy choice flower stealing, the bright glory
Of fire that all arts spring from, hath bestowed it
On mortal men. And so for fault like this
He now must pay the Gods due penalty,
That he may learn to bear the sovereign rule
Of Zeus, and cease from his philanthropy...


Cratinus, (died c. 420 bc), Greek poet, regarded in antiquity as one of the three greatest writers, with Eupolis and Aristophanes, of the vigorous and satirical Athenian Old Comedy.

Only about 460 fragments survive of Cratinus’ 27 known plays, the earliest of which was written not long after 450 bc. His comedies, like those of Aristophanes, seem to have been a mixture of parodied mythology and topical allusion. The Athenian war leader Pericles was a frequent target. In the Putine (The Bottle), which defeated Aristophanes’ Clouds for the first prize at the Athenian dramatic contest in 423, Cratinus good-humouredly exploited his own drunkenness (caricatured the previous year in Aristophanes’ Knights), showing Comoedia (his wife) complaining of his liaison with the idle mistress Methe (“Drunkenness”).

Epicharmus (Ancient Greek: Ἐπίχαρμος) is thought to have lived within the hundred year period between c. 540 and c. 450 BC. He was a Greek dramatist and philosopher often credited with being one of the first comic writers, having originated the Doric or Sicilian comedic form.

Aristotle writes that he and Phormis invented comic plots (muthos). Most of the information we have about Epicharmus comes from the writings of Athenaeus, Suda and Diogenes Laertius, but fragments and comments come up in a host of other ancient authors as well. There have also been some papyrus finds of longer sections of text, but these are often so full of holes that it is difficult to make sense of them. Plato mentions Epicharmus in his dialogue Gorgiasand in Theaetetus. In the latter, Socrates refers to Epicharmus as "the prince of Comedy", Homer as "the prince of Tragedy", and both as "great masters of either kind of poetry". More references by ancient authors can be found discussed in Pickard-Cambridge's Dithyramb, Tragedy, Comedy and they are collected in Greek in Kassel and Austin's new edition of the fragments in Poetae Comici Graeci.

Epicharmus' birth place is not known, but late and fairly unreliable ancient commentators suggest a number of alternatives. The Suda (E 2766) records that he was either Syracusan by birth or from the Sikanian city of Krastos. Diogenes Laertius (VIII 78) records that Epicharmus was born in Astypalea, the ancient capital of Kos on the Bay of Kamari, near modern-day Kefalos. Diogenes Laertius also records that Epicharmus' father was the prominent physician Helothales, who moved the family to Megara, Sicily when Epicharmus was just a few months old. Although raised according to the Asclepiad tradition of his father, as an adult Epicharmus became a follower of Pythagoras.
  All of this biographical information could be treated as suspect. More references to alternative origins and discussion of their likelihood can be found in Pickard-Cambridge's Tragedy, Comedy, Dithyramb, and more recently in Rodriguez Noriega Guillen's Epicarmo di Siracusa: Testimonios y Fragmentos. The standard edition of his fragments by Kaibel has now been updated with the publication of Kassel and Austin's Poetae Comici Graeci. It is most likely that sometime after 484 BC, he lived in Syracuse, and worked as a poet for the tyrants Gelo and Hiero I. The subject matter of his poetry covered a broad range, from exhortations against intoxication and laziness to such unorthodox topics as mythological burlesque, but he also wrote on philosophy, medicine, natural science, linguistics, and ethics. Among many other philosophical and moral lessons, Epicharmus taught that the continuous exercise of virtue could overcome heredity, so that anyone had the potential to be a good person regardless of birth. He died in his 90s (according to a statement in Lucian, he died at ninety-seven).

Diogenes Laertius records that there was a bronze statue dedicated to him in Syracuse, by the inhabitants, for which Theocritus composed the following inscription:

"As the bright sun excels the other stars, As the sea far exceeds the river streams: So does sage Epicharmus men surpass, Whom hospitable Syracuse has crowned."


"Judgement, not passion, should prevail."

"The mind sees and the mind hears. The rest is blind and deaf."

"A mortal should think mortal thoughts, not immortal thoughts."

"The best thing a man can have, in my view, is health."

"The hand washes the hand: give something and you may get something."

"Then what is the nature of men? Blown-up bladders!"