Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Classical Dictionary. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 25 February 2024

iambic poetry, Greeklocked

iambic poetry, Greeklocked

  • Ralph Rosen


Iambic poetry refers to a loosely delineated genre of Greek poetry typically, but not exclusively, composed in the iambic metre. Iamboi tended to be comedic in tone and episodic in narrative structure, freely amalgamating elevated and low diction (including liberal use of obscenity) for parodic, humorous effect. Iambic poets were most celebrated in antiquity as poets of satire who attacked and mocked various adversaries in first-person narratives. The iamboi of Archilochus (7th century bce) and Hipponax (6th century bce), which survive only as fragments, became emblematic of such aggressive comic mockery, although other literary elements can be detected in both poets as well, including parody, picaresque narratives, and fable. Some Hellenistic Greek poets—most notably Callimachus in his Iamboi and Herodas in his Mimiamboi (a dramatized form of iambos)— composed iamboi that were influenced in particular by Hipponax’s iambic style.


  • Greek Literature

Updated in this version

Article rewritten to reflect current scholarship.

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Access to the full content requires a subscription