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Simonides

(c. 556—468 bc)


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Greek poet, from Iulis on Ceos. If he worked at the court of Hipparchus 1, his career began before 514 bc; his Battle of Plataea, (see plataea, battle of) was written in or after 479; he finished at the court of Hieron 1 I, and his tomb was shown at Acragas. Tradition made him live to be 90.

No poem of Simonides survives intact, except the epigrams attributed to him. But the fragments make it clear that Simonides commanded a wide variety of genres. In choral lyric, he composed victory odes, of which he and perhaps Ibycus are the first known practitioners; dithyrambs, with which acc. to a (Hellenistic) epigram he won at least 57 competitions; thrēnoi (laments: see dirge); paeans; encomia; maiden‐songs and the like. His elegies included some sympotic pieces (see symposium literature), and some historical (on the battles of Artemisium (see artemisium, battle of) and Plataea). Many epigrams, esp. epigrams relating to the Persian Wars, were collected under Simonides' name; the epitaph for the seer Megistias may be genuine. Simonides' clients included cities, individual athletes, tyrants, and various Thessalian dynasts.

For the next generation, Simonides belonged to the classic (old‐fashioned) poets. He had the reputation of a money‐grubber. He acquired also the reputation of a sage, like Bias and Pittacus (see seven sages); various pithy sayings were ascribed to him, mostly cynical. He was credited further with discovering the art of memory.

What little remains of Simonides shows a professional poet of great scope, much in demand over his long life, spanning the tyrants and the new democracy (see democracy, athenian). Ancient critics admired him for simple pathos, and that appears in noble verses for the dead of Thermopylae (see thermopylae, battle of). In the elegies, lush eroticism contrasts with the pocket epic Plataea, whose form (a hymn to Achilles introducing a narrative of the campaign) enforces the parallel between the Trojan and Persian Wars, and between Homer and Simonides.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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