Greek Lyric Poetry
Lyrical and epic poetry from the same time period, lyrical poetry is
just as old.
In effect it is song.
Many points of contact between the two. Sometimes exactly the
Both stem from common tradition
Choral (group of people) & Monodic (one person singing)
Differentiate mainly based on occasion
Occasions: work, funeral, wedding, celebrate gods, battle
Different settlings: theatre, sanctuaries, in collection w/ athletic
Olympia – Panhellenic (all Greek), interstate sanctuary. Site
of Olympic games, traditionally founded in 776 BCE. Cult site
of Zeus, Hera, Pelops.
The poets were commissioned by the victor (or family of the victor)
to communicate the victory
Seen as a sign of divine favor
Balance between celebrating the victor and the city they were from
a. If the victor was a boy, the poet must name his father and
where they are from.
Very few collections of antiquities, did not survive (fragmented)
Often found from wrappings of ancient mummies
―The Charms of Tyranny‖
You too, Polycrates, will have
undying fame in accordance
with my song and my fame Tyrant is not necessarily bad. It was a
term to describe ONE leader. Notion of hospitality between victor &
poem, element of gift exchange. Same phrase Achilles uses.
Archilochus of Paros
7 thcentury BCE
Monodic – performs on his own
Legend of how he became a poet – his father asked to take a cow to
the market. At Slippery Rocks he met three women who asked if his
cow was for sale. They disappeared and a lyre shows up in place of
the women and cow. His father goes to the Oracle of Apollo who
tells him that his first son will be immortalized.
Known especially for bitter reproaches
Fragment 66 – I know one thing well, how, by means of bitter
reproaches, to revenge myself who has wronged me. o Writes about 2 sisters who later commit suicide because
they were shamed by Achilochus.
Fragment 1 – I am a servant to Lord Ares, god of war and
one who understands the Muses’ lovely gifts.
Fragment 2: In my spear is my kneaded bread; in my spear
Ismarian wine; I drink it leaning on my spear
Nine books of Sappho’s poetry.
Until recently there were only 3. Now we have 4 nearly complete
books (as of 2004)
Sappho is from Lesbos (7 century BCE) – ―Lesbian‖
Her poetry reflects Troy as she lived near to this area
Monodic (performs on her own)
Poetry primarily concerned with female themes.
Wedding songs, mythological songs, about personal poems
about her family, love between women, Aphrodite
Educational institution (chorus of girls) very tender & erotic
Most Famous Poems:
Poem 1 – Deathless Aphrodite of the spangled mind child of
Zeus, who twists lures, I beg you: do not break with hard
pains O lady, my heart but come here if ever before you
caught my voice far off and listening left you father’s golden
house and came yoking your car. And fine birds brought you,
quick sparrows over the black earth whipping their wings
down the skin through midair—they arrived. But you, O
blessed one, smiled in your deathless face and asked what
(NOW AGAIN) I have suffered and why (NOW AGAIN) I am
i. Finely crafted, very difficult to translate.
ii. Aphrodite is so far away. Distance between divine and
iii. NOW AGAIN – ????
Poem 31 – He seems to me equal to the gods that man who
sits close by you and listens freely to your sweet voice OR He
seems to me equal to gods that man whoever he is who
opposite you sits and listens close to your sweet speaking and
lovely laughing – oh it puts the heart in my chest on wings
i. Do not know the occasion for it (some say it is a wedding
ii. Famous to describe ero