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Alcman  

Warren Anderson

revised by Thomas J. Mathiesen

[Alkman]

(fl c. 630 bce). Greek lyric poet. He was possibly a native of Sardis in Lydia. Alcman spent his entire professional life in Sparta. This city was then startlingly different from the grim barracks state that it had been and would again become: its citizens cultivated art, poetry, music, and dance with intensity and brilliance. The poet himself commented on this: ‘To play well upon the lyre weighs evenly with the steel’, that is, military valour (Edmonds, frag.62).

As the trainer of a choir of girls who sang and danced at Spartan religious festivals, Alcman wrote maiden-songs (see Partheneia), which brought him particular fame. Extensive portions of one of these have survived (PLouvre E3320); the lines recreate with great immediacy the half-humorous, half-impassioned rivalry of his young choristers. For solo performance he composed proöimia, preludes to the recitation of Homeric poetry (see Terpander...