Alcaeus

"Alcaeus" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Tuesday 26th April 2011

Alcaeus (Mytilene, Lesbos, 620 b.C. - 580 b.C.) Greek lyric poet who wrote hymns, love songs, and political odes.

His work was highly esteemed in the ancient world. A collection of Alcaeus' surviving poems in 10 books (only some 150 fragments survived until now) was made in the 2nd century b.C., and he was a favourite model of the Roman lyric poet Horace, who adapted from him his own alcaic stanza.

His poems may be classed in four groups: hymns in honour of gods and heroes, love poetry, drinking songs, and political poems. Many of the fragments reflect the vigour of the poet's involvement in the life of Mytilene, particularly its political life. Other fragments of Alcaeus' work convey the atmosphere of everyday life in 6th-century Mytilene.

After years of political unrest, some measure of stability had come to Mytilene through the acquisition of power by Pittacus. He had a reputation for mildness and was rated one of the Seven Sages of Greece. Alcaeus fought beside Pittacus against the Athenians, but Pittacus betrayed Alcaeus. He was exiled to Egypt, in Tracia and probably in Lidia. Thanks to amnesty issued by Pittacus, the poet returned to home and died here.

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