13 Facts About Archilochus


Archilochus was a Greek lyric poet of the Archaic period from the island of Paros.

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Archilochus 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.

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Considerable amount of information about the life of Archilochus has come down to the modern age via his surviving work, the testimony of other authors, and inscriptions on monuments, yet it all needs to be viewed with caution – the biographical tradition is generally unreliable and the fragmentary nature of the poems does not really support inferences about his personal history.

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The chronology for Archilochus is complex but modern scholars generally settle for c 680 – c 640 BC.

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Thus a sanctuary to Archilochus was established on his home island Paros sometime in the third century BC, where his admirers offered him sacrifices, as well as to gods such as Apollo, Dionysus, and the Muses.

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The father is said to have betrothed his daughter, Neobule, to Archilochus, but reneged on the agreement, and the poet retaliated with such eloquent abuse that Lycambes, Neobule and one or both of his other daughters committed suicide.

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Archilochus joined the Parian colony on Thasos and battled the indigenous Thracians, expressing himself in his poems as a cynical, hard-bitten soldier fighting for a country he doesn't love on behalf of a people he scorns yet he values his closest comrades and their stalwart, unglamorous commander.

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Archilochus deliberately broke the traditional mould even while adapting himself to it.

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Alexandrian scholars collected the works of the other two major iambographers, Semonides and Hipponax, in just two books each, which were cited by number, whereas Archilochus was edited and cited not by book number but rather by poetic terms such as 'elegy', 'trimeters', 'tetrameters' and 'epodes'.

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Archilochus did in fact compose some lyrics but only the smallest fragments of these survive today.

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Archilochus 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:.

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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.

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The comic poet Aristophanes employed it for the arrival on stage of an enraged chorus in The Knights, but Archilochus uses it here to communicate the need for emotional moderation.

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