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Archilochus of Paros is one of the earliest surviving Greek poets, and can be dated to the 7th century bce. He composed iambus and elegy, and is most famous for his invective poems, which range from light-hearted banter with friends to vitriolic attacks on his enemies, and whose tone can be high-flown or vulgar. Despite the later tradition that narrowed the reception of Archilochus’s work to focus almost exclusively on abuse poetry, he was in fact one of the most wide-ranging of the Greek poets. The topics he treats include battle narratives, erotic stories, philosophical reflection, political criticism, lamentations for men lost at sea, heroic myths, and animal fables. Archilochus’s work survives only in fragments, but in antiquity he was highly rated as a poet, and his work is distinctive for its energy, its care with language and imagery, and its lively persona. His influence can be seen on classical, Hellenistic, and Roman writers.


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.“Iambic” metre got its name from iambos (.