1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Alcaeus

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

ALCAEUS (Alkaios), Greek lyric poet, an older contemporary of Sappho, was a native of Mytilene in Lesbos and flourished about 600 B.C. His life was greatly mixed up with the political disputes and internal feuds of his native city. He belonged to one of the noble families, and sided with his class against the "tyrants" who at that time set themselves up in Mytilene. He was in consequence obliged to leave his native country, and spent a considerable time in exile. He is said to have become reconciled to Pittacus, the ruler set up by the popular party, and to have returned to Lesbos. The date of his death is unknown. The subjects of his poems, which were composed in the Aeolic dialect, were of various kinds: some were hymns to the gods; others were of a martial or political character; others breathed an ardent love of liberty and hatred of tyrants; lastly, some were love-songs. Alcaeus was allotted the second place among the nine lyric poets in the Alexandrian canon. The considerable number of fragments extant, and the well-known imitations of Horace, who regarded Alcaeus as his great model, enable us to form a fair idea of the character of his poems. A new fragment has recently been discovered, together with some fragments of Sappho (Classical Review, May 1902).

See Bergk, Poetae Lyrici Graeci (1882); also The Songs of Alcaeus, by J. Easby-Smith (Washington, 1901); Plehn, Lesbiacorum Liber (1826); Flach, Geschichte der griechischen Lyrik (1883-1884); Farnell, Greek Lyric Poets (1891).