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date: 26 June 2022

Archilochus, Greek iambic and elegiac poetlocked

Archilochus, Greek iambic and elegiac poetlocked

  • Laura Swift

Summary

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.

Subjects

  • Greek Literature

Updated in this version

Article rewritten to reflect current scholarship.

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