Greek lyric

The Greek lyric is the body of lyric poetry and it developed between the 7th century and the early 5th century BC. It’s mainly written in dialects.

Much of Greek lyric is occasional poetry and the symposium is one of the numerous settings where lyric poems were performed. The term “lyric” indicated an accompaniment of the lyre, also known as melic poetry. The lyric was divided in 4 types: elegy, iambics, monodic and choral melic. The elegy was also divided in other 4 subtypes such as the paraenetic, politic , the one about love and the gnomic one.

Paraenetic: παραινέω (parainéo), linked to the war and common values;

Politic: it was about the poleis values. Solon is well known for how political actions as διαλλακτής (diallaktés)

Gnomic: γνώμη (gnóme) “judgement”. It was about politics but it promoted aristocracy.


The word “iambics” could derive from 3 possible words:

  • ιάπτω: (I throw);
  • Ιαμβη: the old woman who helped Demeter when she was looking for her lost daughter;
  1. Ιαμβική ιδέα: “iambic style” (Aristotle).

The main poets were Archilochus, Hypponax and Semonides.

Monodic lyric.

The exponents were Alcaeus, Sappho and Anacreon. Alcaeus and Sappho were eolic, Anacreon was ionic. Alceo and Anacreon mainly wrote against tyranny, Sappho wrote about love and the goddess Aphrodite.


Choral melic.

The most important authors were Alcman, Stesichorus, Ibycus, Pindar, Simonides and Bacchylides.


Monodic lyric and choral melic comprehended poems that celebrated athletic victories (epinikia), commemorate the dead, exhort soldiers to valor, and offer religious devotion in the forms of hymns (about Gods and Heroes), paeans (about victory and Apollo) , and dithyrambs. Partheneia, “maiden-songs,” were sung by choruses of maidens at festivals.


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