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date: 10 December 2019

Alcaeus [Alkaios]locked

  • Warren Anderson
  • , revised by Thomas J. Mathiesen



(b Lesbos, c620 bc; d after 580 bce). Greek lyric poet. The earlier tradition of sung poetry on Lesbos had been choral, religious, impersonal; now choral lyric faced the challenge of monody. In contrast to the impersonality of the earlier poets, Alcaeus wrote as an individual, describing in an intensely personal manner his chequered political fortunes. Many of his poems, however, were amatory or convivial, consisting of drinking-songs and after-dinner verses (skolia); the range of subjects even included monodic hymns. His favourite metre was the compact four-line stanza which bears his name, although he also used the sapphic stanza. Like his compatriot and friend Sappho, Alcaeus wrote in the distinctive Aeolic dialect of Lesbos.

References to musical instruments show considerable diversity. He seems to have composed an address to the trumpet (salpinx), poeticized as a sounding conch (Edmonds, frag.85). He once mentioned the ...

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