The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.



a spirit somewhat inconsistent with his proverbial moderation. He is said to have been the first who took money for his poems ; and the reproach of avarice is too often brought against him by his contemporary and rival, Pindar, as well as by subsequent writers, to be altogether discredited. (Schn. pp. xxiv.—xxxii.) The feelings of the poet himself upon the subject can be gathered from his own expressions, if we may believe the stories re­lated of him. His sense of the emptiness of mere fame, his conviction that he deserved all he ob­tained, mingled' with the bitter consciousness to which he sarcastically gave utterance, that mind was at the command of money, may be illustrated by the following anecdotes. In the height of his prosperity, he used to say that he had two coffers, the one for thanks, the other for money ; the former always empty, and the latter always full. (Pint. de Ser. Num. Vind. p. 555, f.; Schol. ad Aristoph. Pac. 681 ; the latter writer tells the story with a prudent reserve as to its truth.) On one occasion (if the details of the story be correct, it must have been near the commencement of his career), he had wandered about in Asia, seeking to relieve his poverty by his art, and had collected a considerable sum, with which he was returning home, when the ship was wrecked on the coast of Asia Minor. Simonides remained unconcerned, while all his fellow-voyagers were collecting their goods, and, being asked the reason, he replied, " I carry all my property about me." When the ship broke up, many, encumbered with their burthens, perished in the waves, the rest were plundered by robbers as soon as they reached the shore, and had to go a-begging ; while the poet at once obtained shelter, clothing, and money, in the neighbouring city of Clazomenae (Phaedr. Fab. iv.). On being asked, by the wife of Hiero, which was the more powerful, the wealthy or the wise man, he replied, " The wealthy; for the wise may always be seen hanging about the doors of the rich." (Aristot. Rhet. ii. 6.) These and similar stories may not be literally true, but they embody the feelings natural to the man who makes a traffic of his genius too well to be lightly passed over.

That the system of patronage under which the poet lived damaged the independence of his spirit and the uprightness of his conduct, is plain, not only from the nature of the case, and from various anecdotes, but also from the express and im­portant statement of Plato, who makes Socrates say that " Simonides was often induced to praise a tyrant, or some other of such persons, and to write encomiums upon them, not willingly, but by com­pulsion," as in the case, already referred to, of Scopas, the son of Creon. (Protag. p. 346, b. Our space does not permit us to discuss the criti­cism of Socrates-on that Epinician Ode ; our con­viction is, after repeatedly studying it, in its con­nection both with the whole dialogue and with the life of Simonides, that it is meant for a bona fide exposition, and not a mere sophistical darkening of a poem already obscure, for the purpose of perplex­ing or confounding Protagoras ; the latter end had already been sufficiently attained.) It is also clear that the bitter enmities between Simonides and Pindar were chiefly the fruit of their unworthy competition for the favour of Hiero. (See Schnei-dewin, p. xxx.)

The chief characteristics of the poetry of Simo-nides were sweetness (whence his surname of


Meliecrtcs) and elaborate finish, combined with the truest poetic conception and perfect power of ex­pression ; though in originality and fervour he was far inferior, not only to the early lyric poetics, such as Sappho and Alcaeus, but also to his con­temporary Pindar. He was probably both the most prolific and the most generally popular of all the Grecian lyric poets. The following is a list of those of his compositions of which we posses either the titles or fragments : — 1. A Poem, the precise form of which is unknown, on " The Empire of Cambyses and Dareius " (?) Ka/j.€v(rov /cat Aapeiou paffiXtia). 2, 3. Elegies on the battles of Ar-temisium and Salamis (77 ev 'Aprc/uia-icf) 1/'ia' rj ez> SaActyui/i vavaaxia). 4. Eulogistic Poems in various metres (^/ccojiua). 5. Epinician Odes <jj5c«). 6. Hymns or Prayers (vjui/ot, . 7. Paeans (Traiavss). 8. Dithyrambs (<3i6vpaiu§ui, also called TpayqSiat, see Schmidt, Diatribe in Dithyramb, p. 131). 9. Drinking songs (o-KoAta). 10. Parthenia (7rap0ei/ia). 11. Hy-porchemes (vTropxn/^ara). 12. Laments (Spijvoi). 13. Elegies (eAe^eZai). 14. Epigrams (eTriypd/*-jUara, oTroo-xeStacr/xaTa). The most remarkable of these poems were his Epinician Odes and Thrones, respecting the character of which see Muller (pp. 211, 212). The fragment of his Lament of Dana'^ is one of the finest remains of Greek lyric poetry that we possess.

The general character of the dialect of Simonides is, like that of Pindar, the Epic, mingled with Doric and Aeolic forms. Respecting the minute peculiarities of his language and of his metres, see Schneidewin, pp. xlvi.—liii.

Of the ancient commentaries on his life and writings, by far the most important was that of Chamaeleon, notices from which are preserved by Athenaeus (x. p. 456, c., xiii. p. 611, a., xiv. p. 656, c.). The Egyptian or Athenian gramma­rian Palaephatus wrote virodeoreis els ^L/j.wvi5r]i/.

His fragments are contained in the chief collec­tions of the Greek poets, in Brunck's Analecta, vol. i. pp. 120—147, who gives with them those which belong to the other poets of the same name, in Jacobs's Anthologia Graeca, vol. i. pp. 57—80, in Schneidewin's standard edition, and in his De­lectus Pocsis Graecorum, pp. 376—426, and in Bergk's Poctae Lyrici Graeci, pp.744—806. (For the editions of portions see Hoffman, Lexicon BibL Script. Graec.).

3. The younger Simonides of Ceos is said by Suidas to have been, according to some, the son of the daughter of the former, to have flourished be­fore the Peloponnesian War, and to have written a TeveaXoyia. in three books, and EvpTJ/JLara in three books.

4. A Magnesian epic poet of the time of An-tiochus the Great, whose exploits, and especially his battle with the Gauls, he celebrated in a poem. (Suid. s. v. ; Vossius, Hist. Graec. p. 161, ed. Westermann.).

5. Of Carystus or Eretria, an epic poet, only mentioned by Suidas (s. v.}, who gives a most con­fused account of his works.

6. An historian, contemporary with the philo­sopher Speusippus, to whom he wrote an account of the acts of Dion and Bion (Diog. Laert. iv. 5). He must therefore have flourished in the latter half of the fourth century b. c. He also wrote a


work upon Sicily, which is quoted in the Scholia to Theocritus (i. 65).

About | First



page #  
Search this site
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of