The Ancient Library

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On this page: Electryon – Elegy – Elephants



mentation was known to the Greeks as early as the Homeric age through their trade with Phoenicia. In later times, mainly through the overland trade, amber was brought down from the Baltic to the mouths of the Po, and from thence farther south. In the classical times it seems to have been only in exceptional cases that amber was applied to the uses of art; and as Greek influence increased, the taste for it disappeared in Italy. It was only to­wards the end of the republican age that it gradually came into favour again, and then as a material for ladies' ornaments, such as bracelets, pins and rings, and for adorning bedsteads and similar furniture. Under the Empire it was more fashionable than it had ever been. The white, wax-coloured sort was accounted the worst, and was only used for fumigation. The ruddy amber, especially if transparent, found more favour; the bright yellow, of the colour of Falernian wine, was liked best of all. The natural colour was sometimes intensified or altered by artificial means.

Electryon (Gr. ElektryOn\ Son of Perseus and AndrSmeda, king of Mj'cenae, father of Alcmene, the mother of Heracles. (See amphitryon.)

Elegy. The general term in Greek for any poem written in the elegiac metre, a combination of the dactylic hexameter and pentameter in a couplet. The word SlegSs is probably not Greek, but borrowed from the Lydians, and means a plaintive melody accompanied by the flute. How it happened that the word was applied to elegiac poetry, the earliest representatives of which by no means confined it to mournful subjects, is doubtful. It may be that the term was only chosen in reference to the musical set­ting, the elegy having originally been ac­companied by the flute. Like the gp6s, the elegy was a production of the lonians of Asia Minor. Its dialect was the same as that of the epos, and its metre only a varia­tion of the epic metre, the pentameter being no more than an abbreviation of the hexamgter. The elegy marks the first transition from the epic to lyric proper. The earliest representatives of the elegy, Calllnus of Ephgsus (about 700 b.c.), and Tyrtaeus of Aphidnse in Attica (about 600), gave it a decidedly warlike and political direction, and so did Solon (640-559) in his earlier poems, though his later elegies have mostly a contemplative character. The eleaies of ThSognis of MegarS (about 540), though gnomic and erotic, are essentially

political. The first typical representative of the erotic elegy was Mimnermus of ColOphon, an elder contemporary of Solon. The elegy of mourning or sorrow was brought to perfection by Simonldes of Ceos (died b.c. 469). After him the emotional element predominated. Antimachus of Colo­phon (about 400) gave the elegy a learned tinge, and was thus the prototype of the elegiac poets of Alexandria, Phanocles, PhJletas of Cos, HermesTanax of Colophon, and Calllmachus of Gyrene, the master of them all The subject of the Alexandrian elegy is sometimes the passion of love, with its pains and pleasures, treated through the medium of images and similes taken from mythology, sometimes learned narrative of fable and history, from which personal emo­tion is absent.

This type of elegy, with its learned and obscure manner, was taken up and imitated at Rome towards the end of the Republic. The Romans soon easily surpassed their Greek masters both in warmth and sin­cerity of feeling and in finish of style, The elegies of Catullus are among their earliest attempts; but in the Augustan age, in the hands of Cornelius Gallus, Propertlus, Tlbullus, and Ovid, the elegiac style was entirely appropriated by Latin literature. Ovid in his Fasti showed how a learned subject could be treated in this metre. From his time onward the elegiac metre was constantly employed. In the later literature it was used, like the epic metre, for every possible subject, as, for instance, by Rutilifls Namatlanus in the description of his return from Rome to France (a.d. 416). In the 6th century a.d. the poet Maxlmlanus, born in Etruria at the beginning of the 6th century, is a late instance of a genuine elegiac poet.

Elephants. Indian elephants were first used in European warfare by the successors of Alexander for the purpose of breaking through the enemy's ranks. An elephant, if completely equipped, carried on its back, besides its driver, a tower or howdah, generally containing four archers. The Romans first learned their use in the war with Pyrrhus. In the Second Punic War they got possession of African elephants, the first which they turned to their own account, and used them against Philip of Macedon. But elephants never played so important a part in the Roman armies as they had in those of Alexander's successors. They were liable to panic if the enemy frightened them with firebrands or in any other way,


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