Overview

Archilochus

(c. 680—640 bc)


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

Greek iambic (see below) and elegiac poet, from Paros. He mentioned Gyges, who died c.652 bc, and a total solar eclipse which was almost certainly that of 6 April 648; a memorial to his friend Glaucus in late 7th‐cent. lettering, has been found on Thasos, where Archilochus spent part of his life. His poetry was concerned with his personal affairs and with contemporary public events—politics, shipwrecks, war, etc. Its tone varied widely, from grave to gay, from pleasantly bantering to bitter. Archilochus was famous throughout antiquity for the stinging wit with which he lashed his enemies and sometimes his friends, and for what appeared to be carefree admissions of such outrageous conduct, as fleeing from battle and abandoning his shield, or compromising young ladies. He repeatedly attacked one Lycambes, who had apparently betrothed his daughter Neobulē to Archilochus but later revoked the agreement. The vengeful poet then produced a series of poems in which he recounted in explicit detail the sexual experiences that he and others had enjoyed with both Neobule and her sister. This (so the legend goes) induced Lycambes and his daughters to hang themselves for shame. We have several fragments from sexual narratives. However, in the ‘Cologne Epode’ discovered in 1974 Neobule is represented as available for Archilochus, but he dismisses her as overblown and promiscuous, while gently seducing the younger sister. The whole business has to be considered against the background of the Ionian iambos (see iambic poetry, greek) and its conventions of bawdy narrative and abuse of individuals.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


Reference entries

See all related reference entries in Oxford Index »


Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.