ARCHILOCHUS OF PAROS

(earlier 7th century B.C.)

HOMER had been as impersonal as Shakespeare in his plays: Archílochus becomes as personal as Shakespeare in his sonnets. But personalities easily grow bitter -- Archíilochus is the father of European satire. He was, too, the illegitimate son of a noble father and a slave mother; that may have helped to make him feel at war with the world, like Shakespeare's illegitimate Edmund, and to scoff at it, like Shakespeare's Bastard Falconbridge.

His questionable birth (says tradition) caused another Parian noble, Ly + ̆cambes, to break off the betrothal of his daughter to the poet, who retaliated with lampoons so savage that Ly + ̆cambes and both his daughters hanged themselves. He took part in the colonization of the North-Aegean island of Thăsos, which he hated; fought the Thracian natives of the mainland -- his flight from whom on one occasion he celebrated in a poem of famous irony, which caused him to be banned from Sparta; and finally fell in battle against the men of Naxos. (It is not the worst soldiers that own laughingly to being afraid.) Tradition adds that the Delphic oracle cursed the man who had slain 'the servant of the Muses.'

Time has left us only fragments that do not make it easy to understand why some ancient critics should have ranked Archílochus next to Homer himself; though they justify Quintilian's praise of his style as 'vigorous, terse, vibrating -- full of blood and sinew.' He remains the type of poet who has more strength than sweetness, hate than love, passion than wisdom -- like Juvenal, Villon, Skelton. Theirs is not the highest type of poetry: yet literature would be poorer without them. And so Archilochus too finds his place in that garland into which Meleaāger, in the first of European 'Anthologies,' gathered the infinitely diverse flowers of Greek poetry:

Sweet as the honeysuckle that springs from its own sowing,
Here is Anácreon's singing, his nectared elegies,
And Archiílochus' thorny blossoms, in their tangled thicket growing,
Bitter as the spindrift that drives across the seas.


Life and Art

A henchman sworn of Ares, Lord God of war, I live,
And a master of that beauty the Muses' hands can give.

( E. Diehl, Anthologia Lyrica Gracca I, p. 211.)

-233-

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Greek Poetry for Everyman
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction xxv
  • Part One - Epic Period 1
  • Homer - Iliad 3
  • Notes 180
  • Hesiod of Ascra - (c. 800 B.C.?) 195
  • The Homeric Hymns 207
  • Hesiod and Hymns - Notes 224
  • Part Two - From Archilochus to Alexander 231
  • Archilochus of Paros 233
  • Part Three - Alexandrian Period 295
  • Philetas of Cos 297
  • Part Four - Roman and Early Byzantine Period 349
  • MeleĀger of Gadara 351
  • Appendix I 397
  • Appendix II 405
  • Index of Poets 413
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