Tyrtaeus (/tɜːrˈtiːəs/; Greek: Τυρταῖος Tyrtaios) was a Greek lyric poet from Sparta who composed verses around the time of the Second Messenian War, the date of which is not clearly established, but sometime in the latter part of the seventh century BC. He is known especially for political and military elegies, exhorting Spartans to support the state authorities and to fight bravely against the Messenians, who had temporarily succeeded in wresting their estates from Spartan control.
Traditional accounts of his life, on which we rely for biographical details, were almost entirely deduced from his poetry or were simply fiction, as for example an account by Pausanias of his supposed transformation from a lame, stupid school teacher in Athens to the mastermind of Spartan victories against the Messenians.
Nevertheless, the Byzantine encyclopedia the Suda has two entries for Tyrtaeus, summarizing conflicting reports that were current at that time. The first of them runs as follows:
Tyrtaeus, son of Archembrotus, a Laconian or Milesian elegiac poet and pipe-player. It is said that by means of his songs he urged on the Lacedaemonians in their war with the Messenians and in this way enabled them to get the upper hand. He is very ancient, contemporary with those called the Seven sages, or even earlier. He flourished in the 35th Olympiad (640–37 BC). He wrote a constitution for the Lacedaemonians, precepts in elegiac verse, and war songs, in five books.
The second entry states that the Spartans took him as their general from among the Athenians in response to an oracle.
The floruit given in the first entry is perhaps too early since Jerome offers a date of 633–32. Modern scholars are less specific: dates for the Second Messenian War and hence for Tyrtaeus are given as broad approximations, such as "the latter part of the 7th century" and "any time between the sixties and the thirties" of the seventh century. The claim in the Suda's second entry that Tyrtaeus was a Spartan general is made also by Athenaeus and Strabo.
Some of the other issues raised by the Suda are addressed under the following headings.
Confusion about his place of origin could have had several causes. It might have been due to ancient assumptions that Sparta was too "spartan" ever to have produced a talented poet of its own, or because Tyrtaeus didn't compose in the Doric dialect or vernacular of Sparta (unlike his near contemporary, Alcman) but imitated the conventional literary dialect of Homer, which was Ionian. Ancient Athenian propaganda might also have played a role. One ancient source even listed his Athenian deme, Aphidnae, but there was also a place of that name in Laconia. Variations on his Athenian origin and his deformity are found in numerous ancient sources, including Diogenes Laërtius, who said that the Athenians regarded him as deranged, and Porphyry, who labelled him "one-eyed", and Justin, who believed that he was sent to the Spartans by the Athenians as a deliberate insult. According to Pausanias, the Athenians sent the lame, mentally defective teacher/poet to Sparta as a compromise, wishing to obey the oracle, which had demanded an Athenian, but not wishing to help the Spartans in their war, which would have required a more capable individual. Even a luminary such as Plato gave credence to the poet's Athenian origin and yet Tyrtaeus wasn't listed by Herodotus among the two foreigners ever to have been awarded Spartan citizenship. The poet's tone of authority when addressing the Spartan warrior class, and the occasional Doric word in his vocabulary, indicate that he was in fact Laconian. However, the picture is complicated by modern doubts about the authenticity of the extant verses, some or all being dated by various scholars to the fifth or fourth century BC. A theory that "Tyrtaeus" was in fact a fifth century Athenian was posited by Eduard Schwartz as early as 1899.
His poems are the martial hymn-book of that discipline and devotion to the state which held Spartan ranks steady in the face of certain death at Thermopylae and became one of the enduring legends of western history.— Barron and P. Easterling
However his Sparta wasn't that Spartan. The conquest of Messenia in the eighth century, by the grandfathers of Tyrtaeus's generation, provided the foundation for a sophisticated and cultivated lifestyle. Foreign poets like the Lesbian Terpander and Cretan Thaletas were welcome guests. Ivory and gold ornaments, bronze vessels of ornate workmanship, fine pottery and the odes of Alcman all testify to refined tastes, continuing even into the sixth century. The continuance of those luxuries was "dearly purchased" in blood and toil by Tyrtaeus's generation when the Messenians revolted, and the ensuing war and civil strife inspired his entire poetic work. The crisis was mentioned by Aristotle for its instructive power:
"Moreover, factions arise whenever some (aristocrats) are extremely poor and others are well off. And this happens especially during wars; it happened too in Sparta in the course of the Messenian War, as is clear from the poem of Tyrtaeus called Eunomia. For some, hard pressed because of the war, demanded a redistribution of the land."—Aristotle
His verses seem to mark a critical point in Spartan history, when Spartans began to turn from their flourishing arts and crafts and from the lighter verses of poets like Alcman (roughly his contemporary), to embrace a regime of military austerity: "life in Sparta became spartan". Some modern scholars believe that Tyrtaeus helped to precipitate and formulate this transition but others see no real evidence for this.
Tyrtaeus in his poetry urged the Spartans to remain loyal to the state and he reminded them of a constitution based on divine providence, requiring co-operation of kings, elders and the people.[nb 1] He sought to inspire them in battle by celebrating the example of their grandfathers' generation, when Messenia was first captured, in the rule of King Theopompus,[nb 2] and he gave practical advice on weapons, armour and tactics (see for example the verses below). Some modern scholars however think his advice shows more familiarity with the schoolroom than with the battlefield, appearing to feature obsolete armour and tactics typical of Homeric rather than hoplite warfare. Others have argued that the Spartans at that time were still developing hoplite tactics or that they were adapting hoplite tactics to encounter Messenian guerillas.
Tyrtaeus's poetry is almost always interpreted teleologically, for signs of its subsequent impact on Spartan society. The similarities in meter and phrasing between Homeric epic and early elegy have encouraged this tendency, sometimes leading to dramatic conclusions about Tyrtaeus's significance. He has been called, for example, "the first poet of the Greek city state" and, in a similar vein, "he has recast the Homeric ideal of the single champion's arete (excellence) into the arete of the patriot". For some scholars, this is to credit Tyrtaeus with too much: his use of arete was not an advance on Homer's use of it but can still be interpreted as signifying "virtue" in the archaic sense of an individual's power to achieve something rather than as an anticipation of the classical sense of moral excellence, familiar to Plato and others.
The constitution mentioned by the Suda seems to be the Eunomia mentioned by Aristotle. Surviving only in a few fragments, it seems to have emphasized the role of divine providence in the development of the state and of its government. Eventually the Spartans emerged from the Second Messenian War with their constitution intact, either because victory made change unnecessary or because "religious propaganda" of the kind promoted by Tyrtaeus stemmed the pressure for change. According to the Suda, both his "constitution" (Εὐνομία) and his "precepts" (Ὑποθῆκαι) were composed in elegiac couplets, but Pausanias also mentions "anapests", a few lines of which, quoted by Dio Chrysostom and attributed to Tyrtaeus by a scholiast, could have belonged to the so-called "war songs" (Πολεμιστήρια), of which nothing else survives. According to Philodemus, who presented it as a little-known fact, Tyrtaeus was honoured above others because of his music, not just his verses, Pollux stated that he introduced Spartans to three choruses based on age (boys, young and old men) and some modern scholars in fact argue that he composed his elegies in units of five couplets each, alternating between exhortation and reflection, in a kind of responsion similar to Greek choral poetry. Ancient commentators included Tyrtaeus with Archilochus and Callinus as the possible inventor of the elegy. In fact one fanciful explanation of his lameness is that it alludes to the elegiac couplet, one verse of which is shorter than the other.
Tyrtaeus was predominantly an elegiac poet and elegy may be described as "a variation upon the heroic hexameter, in the direction of lyric poetry". Heroic hexameters were used by Homer, whose phrases and Ionian vocabulary became the mainstay of Tyrtaeus's verse, even though that was composed for Doric-speaking Spartan audiences—"...a measure of the extent to which the Ionian epics had by now created among the Greeks a cultural unity which transcended dialect and ethnic rivalry". The use of Ionian vocabulary is all the more remarkable in that Tyrtaeus gave voice to a national, military ethic peculiar to Sparta, and his verses were possibly sung at banquets on campaign and even on the march.[nb 3] However, the only verse surviving from the marching songs (Ἐμβατήρια) is in anapests, it includes Dorisms and its authenticity is doubtful[nb 4]
The elegies, being sung at military banquets, belong to a tradition of sympotic poetry while also being representative of the genre of martial exhortation. The adoption of language and thematic concerns from Homeric epic is characteristic of this genre. For instance, the words of Tyrtaeus 10.1–2 ("For it is a fine thing for a man having fallen nobly amid the fore-fighters to die, fighting on behalf of the fatherland") undoubtedly echo Hector's speech in 15.494–7 of Homer's Iliad.: ("And whoever hit by a missile or struck by a sword find his death and fated end, let him die. It is not unseemly for one to die protecting the land of his fathers"). It is possible that Tyrtaeus intentionally alludes to Homer in instances such as these for political reasons: given the fact that his poetry, like that of other archaic authors, was most likely performed in the context of aristocratic symposia, his references to epic heroism served to praise the elite status of his aristocratic audience.
The three longest fragments of surviving verse (fr. 10–12) are complete or virtually complete poems describing the ideal warrior and the disgrace or glory that attends his personal choices. Their poetic quality is uneven, they include some arresting imagery and there are some clumsy transitions, repetitions and padding. The following lines belong to one of these (fr. 11, lines 27–34, here referred to as lines 1–8) and they give a compelling picture of battle between hoplite forces.
ἔρδων δ' ὄβριμα ἔργα διδασκέσθω πολεμίζειν,
Let a man learn how to fight by first daring to perform mighty deeds,
The noble sentiment of line 1 seems to be original yet the vocabulary is entirely Homeric and, though lines 5–7 are adapted from Homer's Iliad (13.130–33),[nb 5] there is an important difference: Homer describes the advance of one side in close formation, whereas Tyrtaeus describes two sides meeting in the hoplite style of fighting. The description of the battle is rejected however by some scholars as anachronistic: for example, missiles were not characteristic of hoplite warfare. The passage demonstrates one of the more common devices employed by Tyrtaeus—the use of parallel phrases for amplification, sometimes degenerating into tedious repetition. Here it is used to communicate a sense of the crowded battlefield.
There are English verse translations by Richard Polwhele (1792) and imitations by H. J. Pye, poet laureate (1795), and an Italian version by F. Cavallotti, with text, introduction and notes (1898). The fragment beginning Τεθνάμεναι γὰρ καλόν (fr. 10 West) has been translated by Thomas Campbell, the poet. The edition by C. A. Klotz (1827) contains a dissertation on the war-songs of different countries.
The 7th century BC began the first day of 700 BC and ended the last day of 601 BC.
The Assyrian Empire continued to dominate the Near East during this century, exercising formidable power over neighbors like Babylon and Egypt. In the last two decades of the century, however, the empire began to unravel as numerous enemies made alliances and waged war from all sides. The Assyrians finally left the world stage permanently when their capital Nineveh was destroyed in 612 BC. These events gave rise to the Neo-Babylonian Empire, which would dominate the region for much of the following century.Anaxander
Anaxander or Anaxandros (Greek: Ἀνάξανδρος) was the 12th Agiad dynasty King of Sparta (ruled c. 640-615 BC).He was the son of King Eurycrates and father of King Eurycratides.
His grandson was King Leon of Sparta.Anaxander is mentioned by famous persons, including Tyrtaeus (a poet) and Pausanias (geographer).Archilochus
For the hummingbird, see Archilochus (genus).
Archilochus (; Greek: Ἀρχίλοχος Arkhilokhos; c. 680 – c. 645 BC) was a Greek lyric poet from the island of Paros in the Archaic period. He is celebrated for his versatile and innovative use of poetic meters, and is the earliest known Greek author to compose almost entirely on the theme of his own emotions and experiences.Alexandrian scholars included him in their canonic list of iambic poets, along with Semonides and Hipponax, yet ancient commentators also numbered him with Tyrtaeus and Callinus as the possible inventor of the elegy. Modern critics often characterize him simply as a lyric poet. Although his work now only survives in fragments, he was revered by the ancient Greeks as one of their most brilliant authors, able to be mentioned in the same breath as Homer and Hesiod, yet he was also censured by them as the archetypal poet of blame—his invectives were even said to have driven his former fiancée and her father to suicide. He presented himself as a man of few illusions either in war or in love, such as in the following elegy, where discretion is seen to be the better part of valour:
Archilochus was much imitated even up to Roman times and three other distinguished poets later claimed to have thrown away their shields—Alcaeus, Anacreon and Horace.Callinus
Callinus (Ancient Greek: Καλλῖνος, Kallinos) was an ancient Greek elegiac poet who lived in the city of Ephesus in Asia Minor in the mid-7th century BC. His poetry is representative of the genre of martial exhortation elegy in which Tyrtaeus also specialized and which both Archilochus and Mimnermus appear to have composed. Along with these poets, all his near contemporaries, Callinus was considered the inventor of the elegiac couplet by some ancient critics.He resided in Ephesus in Asia Minor.Only a few fragments of the Callinus' poetry have survived. One of the longest fragments, consisting of 21 lines of verse, is a patriotic exhortation to his fellow Ephesians urging them to fight the invading Cimmerians, who were menacing the Greek colonies in Asia Minor:
Works of martial elegy such as this often allude to the language and the thematic content of Homer's Iliad. It is likely that Callinus performed his poetry at symposia.Cycladic culture
Cycladic culture (also known as Cycladic civilisation or, chronologically, as Cycladic chronology) was a Bronze Age culture (c. 3200–c. 1050 BC) found throughout the islands of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea. In chronological terms, it is a relative dating system for artefacts which broadly complements Helladic chronology (mainland Greece) and Minoan chronology (Crete) during the same period of time.Diaperinae
Diaperinae is a subfamily of darkling beetles in the family Tenebrionidae. There are at least 20 genera and 60 described species in Diaperinae.Dorians
The Dorians (; Greek: Δωριεῖς, Dōrieis, singular Δωριεύς, Dōrieus) were one of the four major ethnic groups among which the Hellenes (or Greeks) of Classical Greece considered themselves divided (along with the Aeolians, Achaeans, and Ionians). They are almost always referred to as just "the Dorians", as they are called in the earliest literary mention of them in the Odyssey, where they already can be found inhabiting the island of Crete.
They were diverse in way of life and social organization, varying from the populous trade center of the city of Corinth, known for its ornate style in art and architecture, to the isolationist, military state of Sparta. And yet, all Hellenes knew which localities were Dorian, and which were not. Dorian states at war could more likely, but not always, count on the assistance of other Dorian states. Dorians were distinguished by the Doric Greek dialect and by characteristic social and historical traditions.
In the 5th century BC, Dorians and Ionians were the two most politically important Greek ethne, whose ultimate clash resulted in the Peloponnesian War. The degree to which fifth-century Hellenes self-identified as "Ionian" or "Dorian" has itself been disputed. At one extreme Édouard Will concludes that there was no true ethnic component in fifth-century Greek culture, in spite of anti-Dorian elements in Athenian propaganda. At the other extreme John Alty reinterprets the sources to conclude that ethnicity did motivate fifth-century actions. Moderns viewing these ethnic identifications through the 5th and 4th century BC literary tradition have been profoundly influenced by their own social politics. Also, according to E.N. Tigerstedt, nineteenth-century European admirers of virtues they considered "Dorian" identified themselves as "Laconophile" and found responsive parallels in the culture of their day as well; their biases contribute to the traditional modern interpretation of "Dorians".Erineus (city)
Erineus or Erineos (Ancient Greek: Ἐρινεός), also known as Erineum or Erineon (Ἐρινεόν) was a town and polis (city-state) in ancient Doris, one of the towns of the Doric Tetrapolis (along with Pindus, Cytinium, and Boium). According to Andron of Halicarnassus, the founders of these cities were coming from an area that was also called Doris, in Thessaly, and that was also called Histiaeotis. It is described by Strabo as lying below the town of Pindus; it probably stood upon the river of the latter name. Recounting the ships in the Battle of Salamis, Herodotus notes the contingents of the Peloponnese, saying that the Dorians and Macedonians were originally from Pindus, Erineus, and Dryopis. Thucydides writes that during First Peloponnesian War, about the year 458 or 457 BCE, the Phocians attacked the cities of Boium, Erineus and Cytinium in Doris. The Lacedemonians came to their defense, with troops commanded by Nicomedes of Sparta and forced the Phocians to retreat.According to Tyrtaeus, Erineus is the town from which the Spartans originally came.Its location within what is now the town of Kastellia (Καστέλλια), Greece.Les fêtes d'Hébé
Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques (The Festivities of Hebe, or The Lyric Talents) is an opéra-ballet in a prologue and three entrées (acts) by the French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau. The libretto was written by Antoine Gautier de Montdorge (1707–1768). The work was first performed on 21 May 1739 by the Académie royale de musique at its theatre in the Palais-Royal in Paris..List of Ancient Greek poets
This list of Ancient Greek poets covers poets writing in the Ancient Greek language, regardless of location or nationality of the poet. For a list of modern-day Greek poets, see List of Greek poets.Paideia
In the culture of ancient Greece, the term paideia (also spelled paedeia) (; Greek: παιδεία, paideía) referred to the rearing and education of the ideal member of the polis. It incorporated both practical, subject-based schooling and a focus upon the socialization of individuals within the aristocratic order of the polis. The practical aspects of this education included subjects subsumed under the modern designation of the liberal arts (rhetoric, grammar, and philosophy are examples), as well as scientific disciplines like arithmetic and medicine. An ideal and successful member of the polis would possess intellectual, moral and physical refinement, so training in gymnastics and wrestling was valued for its effect on the body alongside the moral education which the Greeks believed was imparted by the study of music, poetry, and philosophy. This approach to the rearing of a well-rounded Greek male was common to the Greek-speaking world, with the exception of Sparta where a rigid and militaristic form of education known as the agoge was practiced.Polyura pyrrhus
Charaxes (Polyura) pyrrhus is a butterfly in the family Nymphalidae. It was described by Carl Linnaeus in his 1758 10th edition of Systema Naturae. It is found in the Australasian realm including New Guinea, Australia, Timor, Moluccas.Richard Polwhele
Richard Polwhele (6 January 1760 – 12 March 1838) was a Cornish clergyman, poet and historian of Cornwall and Devon.Second Messenian War
The Second Messenian War was a war between the Ancient Greek states of Messenia and Sparta. It started around 40 years after the end of the First Messenian War with the uprising of a slave rebellion. This war lasted from 685 to 668 BC. Other scholars, however, assign later dates, claiming, for example, that 668 is the date of the war's start, pointing at Sparta's defeat at the First Battle of Hysiae as a possible catalyst for the uprising.Solon
Solon (Greek: Σόλων Sólōn [só.lɔːn]; c. 630 – c. 560 BC) was an Athenian statesman, lawmaker and poet. He is remembered particularly for his efforts to legislate against political, economic and moral decline in archaic Athens. His reforms failed in the short-term, yet he is often credited with having laid the foundations for Athenian democracy. He wrote poetry for pleasure, as patriotic propaganda, and in defence of his constitutional reforms.
Modern knowledge of Solon is limited by the fact that his works only survive in fragments and appear to feature interpolations by later authors and by the general paucity of documentary and archaeological evidence covering Athens in the early 6th century BC. Ancient authors such as Herodotus and Plutarch are the main sources, but wrote about Solon long after his death. 4th-century orators, such as Aeschines, tended to attribute to Solon all the laws of their own, much later times.Spartiate
The Spartiates (Greek: Σπαρτιάτες, "Spartans") or Homoioi (Greek: Ὅμοιοι, "those who are alike"; sing. homoios) were the males of Sparta known to the Spartans as "peers" or "men of equal status". From a young age, male Spartiates were trained for battle and put through gruelling challenges intended to craft them into fearless warriors. In battle, they had the reputation of being the best soldiers in Greece, and the strength of Sparta's hoplite forces let the city become the dominant state in Greece throughout much of the Classical period. Other city-states were reluctant to attack Sparta even though it could muster a force of only about 8000 Spartiates during the zenith of its dominance, such was the reputation of its soldiers.Theodor Körner (author)
Carl Theodor Körner (23 September 1791 – 26 August 1813) was a German poet and soldier. After some time in Vienna, where he wrote some light comedies and other works for the Burgtheater, he became a soldier and joined the Lützow Free Corps in the German uprising against Napoleon. During these times, he displayed personal courage in many fights, and encouraged his comrades by fiery patriotic lyrics he composed, among these being the "Schwertlied" (Sword Song), composed during a lull in fighting only a few hours before his death, and "Lützows wilde Jagd" (Lützow's Wild Chase), each set to music by both Carl Maria von Weber and Franz Schubert. He was often called the "German Tyrtaeus."Theognis of Megara
Theognis of Megara (Greek: Θέογνις ὁ Μεγαρεύς, Théognis ho Megareús) was a Greek lyric poet active in approximately the sixth century BC. The work attributed to him consists of gnomic poetry quite typical of the time, featuring ethical maxims and practical advice about life. He was the first Greek poet known to express concern over the eventual fate and survival of his own work and, along with Homer, Hesiod and the authors of the Homeric Hymns, he is among the earliest poets whose work has been preserved in a continuous manuscript tradition (the work of other archaic poets is preserved as scattered fragments). In fact more than half of the extant elegiac poetry of Greece before the Alexandrian period is included in the approximately 1,400 lines of verse attributed to him (though several poems traditionally attributed to him were composed by others, e.g. Solon, Euenos). Some of these verses inspired ancient commentators to value him as a moralist yet the entire corpus is valued today for its "warts and all" portrayal of aristocratic life in archaic Greece.The verses preserved under Theognis' name are written from the viewpoint of an aristocrat confronted by social and political revolution typical of Greek cities in the archaic period. Part of his work is addressed to Cyrnus, who is presented as his erōmenos. The author of the poems celebrated him in his verse and educated him in the aristocratic values of the time, yet Cyrnus came to symbolize much about his imperfect world that the poet bitterly resented:
In spite of such self-disclosures, almost nothing is known about Theognis the man: little is recorded by ancient sources and modern scholars question the authorship of most of the poems preserved under his name.Theopompus of Sparta
Theopompus (Greek: Θεόπομπος) was a Eurypontid king of Sparta. He is believed to have reigned during the late 8th and early 7th century BC.
Sparta was a dyarchy, having two kings at the same time, an Agiad and a Eurypontid. Theopompus was the son and successor to the Eurypontid king Nicander.
The major event of his reign was the First Messenian War, which resulted in the defeat of the Messenians, for which, Pausanias reports, Tyrtaeus credits Theompompus:
To our king beloved of the gods, Theopompus, through whom we took Messene with wide dancing-grounds.Pausanias reports that Theopompus was succeeded by his grandson Zeuxidamas or great-grandson Anaxidamus, Theopompus' son Archidamus having predeceased him, though there is some evidence that his successor was Anaxandridas I, father of Zeuxidamus.
According to Plutarch, it was in Theopompus' reign that the ephors were introduced in Sparta.