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satiric poets. Hipponax retorted their pleasantry with such keen strokes of satire, that they hanged themselves out of mortification: others say they only quitted the city of Ephesus, where Hipponax lived. His malignant pen did not spare even those to whom he owed his life. How monstrous was this! Horace a joins Hipponax with Archilochus, and represents them as two poets equally dangerous. In the Anthologia there are three or four epigrams, which describe Hipponax as terrible even after his death. They admonish travellers to avoid his tomb, as a place from whence a dreadful hail perpetually pours, φεύγε τον χαλαζεπῆ τάφον, τὸν φρικλίν. Fuge grandinantem tumulum, horrendum.
It is thought he invented the Scazon verse, in which the Spondee is used instead of the Iambus in the sixth foot of the verse that bears that name.
STESICHORUS. He was of Himera, a town in Sicily, and excelled in Lyric poetry, as did those other poets of whon we are going to speak. Lyric poetry is that, the verses of which, digested into odes and stanzas, were sung to the lyre, or to other such like instruments. Stesichorus flourished betwixt the 37th and 47th Olympiad. Pausanias, after many other fables, relates, that Stesichorus having been punished with the loss of sight for his satirical verses against Helena, did not recover it, till he had retracted his invectives by writing another ode contrary to the first; which latter kind of ode is since called Palinodia. Quintilian says, that he sung of wars and illustrious heroes, and that he supported upon the lyre all the dignity and majesty of epic poetry.
ALCMAN. He was of Lacedæmon; or, as some will have it, of Sardis in Lydia, and lived much about the same time as Stesichorus. Some make him the first author of amorous
ALCAUS. He was born at Mitylene in Lesbos: it is from him that the Alcaic verse derived its name. He was a professed enemy to the tyrants of Lesbos, and particularly to Pittacus, against whom he perpetually inveighed in his verses. It is said of him, that being once in a battle, he was seized with such fear and terror, that he threw down his arms, and ran away. Horace has thought fit to give us the same account of himself. Poets do not value themselves so much
In malos asperrimus
Parata tollo cornua:
Qualis Lycambre spretus infido gener,
Aut acer hostis Bupalo.
Anthol. 1 iii.
c Pausan. in Lacon. p. 200.
d Stesichorum, quam sit ingenio validus, materiæ quoque ostendunt, maxima bella et clarissimos, canentem duces, et epici carminis onera lyra sustinentem. Lib. x. c. 1. e Herod. l. v. c. 95.
f. Tecum Philippos et celerem fugam Sensi, relicta non bene parmula.
Hor. Od. vii. 1. 2.
upon prowess as upon wit. "Quintilian says, that the style of Alcæus was close, magnificent, and chaste; and, to complete his character, adds, that he very much resembled Homer.
SIMONIDES. This poet was of the island of Ceos in the Egean sea. He continued to flourish at the time of Xerxes's expedition. He excelled principally in funeral elegy. The invention of local memory is ascribed to him, of which I have spoken elsewhere. At 24 years of age he disputed for and carried the prize of poetry.
d The answer he gave a prince who asked what God was, is much celebrated. That prince was Hiero, king of Syracuse. The poet desired a day to consider the question proposed to him. On the morrow he asked two days; and whenever he was called upon for his answer, he still doubled the time. The king, surprised at this behaviour, demanded his reason for it. It is, replied Simonides, because the more I consider the question, the more obscure it seems: Quia quanto diutiùs considero, tanto mihi res videtur obscurior. The answer was wise, if it proceeded from the high idea which he conceived of the Divine Majesty, which no understanding can comprehend, nor any tongue express.
After having travelled to many cities of Asia, and amassed considerable wealth, by celebrating in his verses the praises of those who were capable of rewarding him well, he embarked for the island of Ceos, his native country. The ship was cast away. Every one endeavoured to save what they Gould. Simonides took no care of any thing; and when he was asked the reason for it, he replied, “I carry all I have about me:"-Mecum, inquit, mea sunt cuncta. Several of the company were drowned by the weight of the things they attempted to save, and those who got to shore were robbed by thieves. All that escaped went to Clazomene, which was not far from the place where the vessel was lost. One of the citizens who loved learning, and had read the poems of Samonides with great admiration, was exceedingly pleased, and thought it an honour to receive him into his
In eloquendo brevis et magnificus et diligens, plerumque Homero similis. Sed ne relictis, Musa procax, jocis
Cea retractes munera næniæ
Mcestius lacrymis Simonideis.
c Method of Teaching and Studying the Belles Lettres.
d Cic de Nat. Deor. I. i. n. 15.
e Certe boc est Deus, quod et cum dicitur, non potest dici: cum æstimatur, non potest æstimari cum comparatur, non potest comparari; eum definitur, ipsa definitione crescit. S. Aug. serm. de temp. cix.
Nobis ad intellectum pectus angustum est Et ideo sic eum (Deum) digne estimamus, dum inestimabilem dicimus. Eloquar quemadmodum sentio. Magnitudinem Dei qui se putat nosse, minuit: qui non vult minuere, non povit. Minut. Felix.
Phædr, 1. iv.
house. He supplied him abundantly with necessaries, whilst the rest were obliged to beg through the city. The poet, upon meeting them, did not forget to observe how justly he had answered them in regard to his effects: Dixi, inquit, mea mecum esse cuncta; vos quod rapuistis, perit.
He was reproached with having dishonoured poetry by his avarice, in making his pen venal, and not composing any verses till he had agreed on the price of them, In Aristotle we find a proof of this which does him no nonour. A person who had won the prize in the chariot races, desired Simonides to compose a song of triumph upon that subject. The poet not thinking the reward sufficient, replied, that he could not treat it well. This prize had been won by mules, and he pretended that animal did not afford the proper matter for praise. Greater offers were made him, which ennobled the mule; and the poem was made. Money has long had power to bestow nobility and beauty.
Et genus et formam regina pecunia donat.
As this animal is generated between a she-ass and a horse, the poet, as Aristotle observes, considered them at first only on the base side of their pedigree. But money made him take them in the other light, and he styled them "illustrious foals of rapid steeds : Χαιρετ ́ αελλοπόδων θύγατρες ἵππων.
SAPPHO. She was of the same place, and lived at the same time with Alcæus. The Sapphic verse took its name from her. She composed a considerable number of poems, of which there are but two remaining: which are sufficient to satisfy us that the praises given her in all ages, for the beauty, pathetic softness, numbers, harmony, and infinite graces of her poetry, are not without foundation. As a further proof of her merit, she was called the tenth Muse; and the people of Mitylene engraved her image upon their money. It were to be wished, that the purity of her manners had been equal to the beauty of her genius; and that she had not dishonoured her sex by her vices and irregularities.
ANACREON. This poet was of Teos, a city of Ionia. He lived in the 72d Olympiad. Anacreon spent a great part of his time at the court of Polycrates, that fortunate tyrant of Samos, and not only shared in all his pleasures, but was of his council. Plato tells us, that Hipparchus, one of the sons of Pisistratus, sent a vessel of 50 oars to Anacreon, and wrote him a most obliging letter, entreating him to come to Athens, where his excellent works would be esteemed and relished as they deserved. It is said, the only study of this poet was joy and pleasure: and those remains we have of
a Rhet. l. iii. c. 2. b Herod. 1. iii. c. 121. e In Hippar. p, 228, 229.
his poetry sufficiently confirm it. We see plainly in all his verses, that his hand writes what his heart feels and dictates. It is impossible to express the elegance and delicacy of his poems: nothing could be more estimable, had their object been more noble.
THESPIS. He was the first inventor of Tragedy. I defer speaking of him, till I come to give some account of the tragic poets.
OF THE SEVEN WISE MEN OF GREECE.
These men are too famous in antiquity to be omitted in this present history. Their lives are written by Diogenes Laertius.
THALES, the Milesian. If Cicero a is to be believed, Thales was the most illustrious of the seven wise men. It was he that laid the first foundations of philosophy in Greece, and founded the sect called the Ionic sect; because he, the founder of it, was born in the country of Ionia.
He held water to be the first principle of all things; and that God was that intelligent Being, by whom all things were formed from water. The first of these opinions he had borrowed from the Egyptians, who, seeing the Nile to be the cause of the fertility of all their lands, might easily imagine from thence, that water was the principle of all things.
He was the first of the Greeks that studied astronomy. He had exactly foretold the time of the eclipse of the sun that happened in the reign of Astyages, king of Media, of which mention has been made already.
He was also the first that fixed the term and duration of the solar year among the Grecians. By comparing the bigness of the sun's body with that of the moon, he thought he had discovered, that the body of the moon was in solidity but the 720th part of the sun's body, and, consequently, that the solid body of the sun was above 700 times bigger than the solid body of the moon. This computation is very far from being true; as the sun's solidity exceeds not only 700 times, but many millions of times, the moon's magnitude or solidity. But we know that in all these matters, and particularly in that of which we are now speaking, the first observations and discoveries were very imperfect.
c When Thales travelled into Egypt, he discovered an easy and certain method for taking the exact height of the pyramids, by observing the time when the shadow of our body is equal in length to the height of the body itself.
a Princeps Thales, unus e septem, cui sex reliquos concessisse primas ferunt, Lib. iv. Acad. Quæst. n. 118. 6 Lib. i. de Nat. Deor. n. 25.
c Plin. L xxxvi c, 12,
To show that philosophers were not so destitute as some people imagine, of that sort of talents and capacity, which is proper for business: and that they would be as successful as others in growing rich, if they thought fit to apply themselves to that pursuit, he bought the fruit of all the olive trees in the territory of Miletus before they were in blossom. The profound knowledge he had of nature had probably enabled him to foresee that the year would be extremely fertile. It proved so in fact; and he made a considerable profit by his bargain
He used to thank the gods for three things; that he was born a reasonable creature, and not a beast; a man, and not a woman; a Greek, and not a Barbarian. Upon his mother's pressing him to marry when he was young, he told her, it was then too soon; and after several years were elapsed, he told her, it was then too late.
As he was one day walking, and very attentively contemplating the stars, he chanced to fall into a ditch. Ha! says a good old woman that was by, how will you perceive what passes in the heavens, and what is so infinitely above your head, if you cannot see what is just at your feet, and before your nose?
He was born the first year of the 35th, and died the first year of the 58th Olympiad: consequently he lived to be above 90 years of age.
SOLON. His life has been already related at length.
CHILO. He was a Lacedæmonian: very little is related of him. Esop asking him one day, how Jupiter employed himself; "In humbling those," says he," that exalt themselves, and exalting those that abase themselves."
He died of joy at Pisa, upon seeing his son win the prize at boxing, in the Olympic games. He said, when he was dying, that he was not conscious to himself of having committed any fault during the whole course of his life (an opinion well becoming the pride and blindness of a heathen philosopher), unless it was once, when he made use of a little dissimultion and evasion, in giving judgment in favour of a friend: in which action he did not know, whether he had done well or ill. He died about the 52d Olympiad.
PITTACUS. He was of Mitylene, a city of Lesbos. Joining with the brothers of Alcæus, the famous Lyric poet, and with Alcæus himself, who was at the head of the exiled party, he drove the tyrant, who had usurped the government, out of that island.-The inhabitants of Mitylene, being at war with the Athenians, gave Pittacus the command of the army. To spare the blood of his fellow-citizens, he offered to fight Phrynon, the enemy's general in single combats
a Cic. 1. i. de Divin. n. 111.
b A. M. 3457. Ant. J. C. 547