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date: 29 September 2023

elegiac poetry, Greeklocked

elegiac poetry, Greeklocked

  • Martin Litchfield West


This may be initially defined as poetry in elegiac couplets (see metre, greek), one of the most popular metres throughout antiquity. The term ἐλεγεῖον, normally meaning ‘elegiac couplet’, is derived from ἔλεγος, a sung lament that must have been characteristically in this metre, but the metre was always used for many other purposes. We also find the feminine ἐλεγεία, ‘elegy’, i.e. a poem or poetry in elegiacs.A stricter definition distinguishes between elegiac poetry (elegy) and *epigram (which was often but not necessarily in elegiac metre). Elegy, in the early period, was composed for oral delivery in a social setting, as a communication from the poet to others; an epigram was information written on an object (a tombstone, a dedication, etc.). The distinction was not always so clear after the 4th cent. bce, when the epigram came to be cultivated as a literary genre, but on the whole it can be sustained. As *epigram has its own entry in this volume, we shall concentrate here on elegy.


  • Greek Literature

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