Myth into Art: Poet and Painter in Classical Greece

By H. A. Shapiro | Go to book overview

3

LYRIC

The term “lyric poet” encompasses a wide spectrum of men and women over many parts of the Greek world, writing in a variety of metres and genres, from as early as the seventh century until well into the fifth. Their subjects range from the highly personal (Sappho, Archilochos) to the political and topical (Alkaios, Tyrtaios, Theognis); from light verses performed at the symposium (Anakreon) to those performed at religious festivals (Alkman). Still others drew on the same body of heroic myth that Homer and other epic poets had treated, but reshaped it into shorter poems, each in his or her own distinctive voice. The vast majority of Archaic Greek lyric has come down to us in tiny fragments, either quoted out of context by late writers or on scraps of papyrus. There is almost never a connected narrative, although one papyrus of Stesichoros, made known only twenty-five years ago, comes close, and has important and interesting implications for our understanding of the visual arts.


STESICHOROS: HERAKLES AND GERYON

A native of Himera in Sicily, Stesichoros probably flourished in the early to middle years of the sixth century. He may have had a successful career as an itinerant kitharode, traveling the world and performing his own compositions to the accompaniment of the seven-stringed kithara. He drew much of his raw material from the Trojan Cycle and other epic subjects, such as the Seven against Thebes. In some instances, like his poem on the death of Agamemnon, he must have played a crucial intermediary role between the epic tradition and the dramatic reworking of Aeschylus’ Oresteia. The assumption that Stesichoros’ works were performed at festivals and other public occasions all over the Greek world, whether by him or others, would help explain their almost immediate impact on Archaic artists. In most instances, however, we have had to try to judge that impact on the basis of very scanty testimonia to the content of the poems. As a typical example, one late source claims that Stesichoros was the first poet to depict Herakles “dressed like a bandit,” that is, in lion-skin, club, and bow. The implications of this for Greek art are obvious.

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Myth into Art: Poet and Painter in Classical Greece
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xix
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Epic 11
  • 3 - Lyric 71
  • 4 - Drama 124
  • Bibliography 183
  • Index 192
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