LA-Greek Lit: Lyric Poetry

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Last updated: December 13, 2019

Lyre
Greek lyric poetry originally took its name from the fact that it was sung by individuals or a chorus accompanied by this small harplike instrument.

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Paean(s)
Some Greek lyric poems offer religious devotion in the form of these poems expressing triumph or thanksgiving.

Dithyramb(s)
Some Greek lyric poems offer religious devotion in the form of these hymns sung and danced in honor of the god Dionysus.

Sappho (SAF-oh)
Greatest of the early Greek lyric poets (c. 620 BC – c. 580 BC), she was born on the island of Lesbos and celebrated for the beauty of her writing. Plato famously calls her “the tenth Muse.

Sappho (SAF-oh)

(The) Tenth Muse
Plato gave this nickname to Sappho because of the beauty of her poetry.

Sappho (SAF-oh)
This Greek lyric poet was an aristocrat who wrote poetry for her circle of friends which mostly consisted of women. The principal themes of her poetry are the loves, jealousies, and hates that flourished among the young women of her time. Her poems often express feelings for other women.

Epithalamium(s)
In addition to poems of friendship and homoerotic desire, Sappho also wrote examples of this type of “wedding song” to be performed at marriage ceremonies.

Sappho (SAF-oh)
One probably untrue legend about her life says that she killed herself by jumping off the Leucadian cliffs for love of the ferryman Phaon.

Though most of her poetry is now lost, the Library of Alexandria collected her poetry into nine books, many of them composed in the Aeolic dialect and meter that is now called after her, the Sapphic stanza.

(The) Brothers Poem
It is a newly-discovered poem found on a privately held papyrus by Dr. Dirk Obbink of Oxford. The poem describes Sappho’s brothers, Charaxos and Larichos.

“Hymn to Aphrodite”
Sometimes called “Fragment 1,” it is the only poem by Sappho to survive in its entirety. It is only known today because the later Roman writer Dionysius of Halicarnassus quoted it in full in one of his own works.

“Hymn to Aphrodite”
Written in Sapphic stanzas, this poem begins when the speaker (later revealed to be Sappho herself) calls on the title goddess to help ensnare a reluctant lover.

The poet describes how the goddess has previously answered her pleas. In the fifth stanza, the goddess herself replies, assuring Sappho that the reluctant lover will soon come around and return her love.

Alcaeus (al-SEE-uhs)
Greek lyric poet (c. 620 BC – c. 580 BC) who, like his close associate (and, as some sources say, lover) Sappho, was born on the island of Lesbos.

An aristocrat, he was embroiled in political battles with ruling tyrants.

Alcaeus (al-SEE-uhs)

Alcaeus (al-SEE-uhs)
This Greek lyric poet invented the four-line stanza named after him; this stanza was greatly admired by the Roman lyric poet Horace. Many of his poems reflect his involvement in the life of Mytilene, the Lesbian city where he was born. His poetry was collected into ten books with long commentaries by the scholar Aristarchus of Samothrace, the librarian of the Library of Alexandria. His verse is more “down-to-earth” than Sappho’s, which is described as having a “celestial” quality.

He wrote hymns to the gods, political songs, love songs, and drinking songs, making every occasion an excuse for drinking and merriment.

Alcaic Strophe
Term for the 4-line stanza invented by the Greek lyric poet Alcaeus. The stanza was greatly admired by the Roman poet Horace.

Anacreon (uh-NAK-ree-uhn)
The last great lyric poet of Greece (c. 582 BC – c. 485 BC) noted for his drinking songs and hymns.

His subjects were chiefly the praise of love and wine. He spent much of his life at the court of Polycrates of Samos and later lived in Athens, writing under the patronage of Hipparchus. Pliny the Elder tells the probably untrue story that he was choked to death by a grape-stone.

Anacreon (uh-NAK-ree-uhn)

Anacreontic(s)
The lyric poet Anacreon gave his name to what later poems that imitate the meter and subjects of his own poems?

Pindar (PIN-der)
A Boeotian of noble birth, he is regarded as the greatest of the Greek lyric poets (c. 518 BC – c. 438 BC).

He was the master of the choral ode (epinicia) that celebrated victories in the various official games held throughout Greece. Many of Pindar’s odes were commissioned by Hieron I of Syracuse and Theron of Acragas.

Dircean Swan
This nickname was given to Pindar because of a fountain near Thebes, where he was born.

(Choral) Ode (or, Epinicia)
Pindar was a master of writing these poems that celebrated victories in the various official games held throughout Greece.

Pindar (PIN-der)
Greek lyric poet whose 45 surviving victory odes are grouped into four books named after the Olympian, Pythian, Isthmian, and Nemean Games, all Panhellenic festivals held respectively at Olympia, Delphi, Corinth, and Nemea.

Pindaric Ode(s)
John Dryden’s “Alexander’s Feast,” William Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality,” Percy Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind,” and John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” are all English examples of this type of ceremonious poem in the style of the Greek lyric poet after whom they’re named.

Solon (SOH-luhn) (the Lawgiver)
Athenian statesman and poet (c. 630 BC – c. 560 BC), known as one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece and called “the Lawgiver.” As a statesman, he worked against political, economic, and moral decline, laying the foundations for Athenian democracy. Among his reforms were ending aristocratic control of the government and introducing a new and more humane law code.
Solon (SOH-luhn) (the Lawgiver)
He is the first Athenian poet whose work has survived to the present day and was the first citizen of Athens to reference the goddess Athena. He wrote poetry for pleasure and as patriotic propaganda, and his works gave voice to Athenian ‘nationalism’, particularly in the city state’s struggle with Megara, its neighbor and rival; he wrote, “Let us go to Salamis to fight for the island / We desire, and drive away our bitter shame!”
Theocritus (thee-OK-ri-tuhs)
Greek poet (c.310 BC – c. 250 BC) who created pastoral poetry. His poems were termed idylls, which may mean “little poems.

” His surviving poems may be divided into bucolics (pastoral poetry set in an idyllic countryside), mimes (poems set in a town or city), and epigrams (short, satirical poem dealing with a single subject and ending with a witty turn of thought). His bucolic poetry was the source of Virgil’s “Eclogues” and other poems such as Milton’s “Lycidas,” Percy Shelley’s “Adonais,” and Matthew Arnold’s “Thyrsis.”

Theocritus (thee-OK-ri-tuhs)

Bucolic(s)
Theocritus wrote examples of this type of pastoral poetry set in idyllic countrysides.

Mime(s)
Theocritus wrote examples of this type of urban poem with a town or city setting.

Epigram(s)
Theocritus wrote examples of these short, satirical poems dealing with a single subject and ending with a witty turn of thought.

Pastoral
This adjective is applied to the type of poetry Theocritus created that portrays an idealized version of country life.

Idyll(s)
Theocritus wrote many examples of these poems. Among the best known are his first, “Thyrsis,” a lament for Daphnis, the original shepherd poet, who died of unrequited love, and his seventh, “Thalysia” (“Harvest Festival”), describing a festival on the island of Cos.

Callimachus (kuh-LIM-uh-kuhs)
Greek poet and scholar (c. 305 BC – c. 240 BC) of the Alexandrian school. Ptolemy II of Egypt gave him employment in the Library of Alexandria, the most important library in the Hellenistic world. Though never chief librarian, he did produce “Pinakes,” a 120-volume bibliographic survey of the contents of the Library.
Causes (Aitia)
This most famous poetical work of Callimachus is a narrative elegy in four books containing a medley of obscure tales from Greek myth and history by which the author tries to explain the origin of obscure customs, festivals, and names.

Callimachus (kuh-LIM-uh-kuhs)
Greek poet and scholar who worked at the Library of Alexandria. He produced “Lock of Berenice,” a polished piece of court poetry and “Tablets” (“Pinakes”), an elaborate, 120-book catalog of the authors of the works held in the Library of Alexandria.

Aristarchus (ar-uh-STAHR-kuhs) (of Samothrace [SAM-uh-threys])
Born on the island of Samothrace (c. 220 BC – c.

143 BC), he was a grammarian noted as the most influential of all scholars who studied Homeric poetry. He succeeded his teacher Aristophanes of Byzantium as the librarian of the famed Library of Alexandria. In addition to his work with Homer, he collected the poems of Alcaeus.

Aristarchus (ar-uh-STAHR-kuhs) (of Samothrace [SAM-uh-threys])

Aristarch
Aristarchus’ connection to literary criticism gave rise to this term for someone who is a judgmental critic.

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