Title

Stesichorus

Document Type

Encyclopedia Entry

Publication Date

11-2001

Department

Classical Studies

Language

English

Publication Title

Encyclopedia of the Ancient World

Abstract

Life: Practically nothing is known of Stesichorus's (stuh-SIHK-uh ruhs) life. Ancient Greek tradition places him either in Himera or in Matauros. He composed lyric poetry for individual performance with lyre and perhaps for chorus. As a working poet of the era, he probably was patronized by aristocratic families and cities for which he composed works as part of civic celebrations. This relationship between poet and patron is better documented for Stesichorus's successors: Simonides, Pindar, and Bacchylides. The Greek historian Pausanias relates the fanciful story that Stesichorus was blinded for portraying Helen as an adulterer who followed Paris (Alexandros) to Troy. Stesichorus's retraction, which survives in fragments, gives an alternate version in which Helen's phantom image had gone to Troy, thus proving the real Helen's virtue. Pausanias says that as a result Stesichorus was given back his sight. The poet's works were collected in twenty-six books, of which quotations and fragmentary papyri survive. His poems achieve a heightened emotional effect from their combination of Homeric and other epic narratives with lyric meters.

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