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Tyrtaeus


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Spartan elegiac poet of the mid‐7th cent. bc. His works are said to have filled five books; some 250 lines or parts of lines survive in quotations and papyri. They throw light on two crises affecting Sparta at the time. One was civic unrest that threatened the authority of the kings and elders. In a poem that later came to be entitled Eunomia (‘Good Order’), Tyrtaeus reminded the citizens of the divine right by which the kings ruled, and of the oracle which had laid down the constitutional roles of kings, council, and dēmos. The other crisis was the Second Messenian War (see sparta, 2). Here too Tyrtaeus functioned as a state poet, exhorting the Spartans to fight to the death for their city. He addresses the fighting men as if they were already on the battlefield, and perhaps they were. Certainly in the 4th cent. when Tyrtaeus was an established classic, Spartan armies on campaign were made to listen to recitations of his poetry.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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