Archilochus the Parian

Information on the ancient lyric poet Archilochus from Paros

An important lyric poet who came from Paros

The ancient lyric poet Archilochus (c.680 BC – c.630 BC) was born in Paros. His father, Telesicles was a scion of an aristocratic family.

Archilochus the Parian, an important lyric poet

Telesicles was the leader of the colonization expedition in Thassos and was known for his boldness and his sharp mind. Archilochus inherited these attributes from his father and the knowledge of the folk language from his mother Enipo, who belonged to the lower class (slave). Archilochus’ life was turbulent. He fought as a mercenary in Ionia, Thrace, Toroni in Macedonia and in Euboea. He was killed during a battle between the Parians and the Naxians.

He composed elegies, hymns and poems in iambic and trochaic meters. He was regarded as the inventor of the Iambic verse and its use for satire. One of his most famous quotes is "Πολλ' οίδ' αλώπηξ, εχίνος δε εν, μέγα" (translation: The fox has many tricks, and the hedgehog only one, but that is the best of all).

Archilochus, the inventor of satire caused the wrath of the aristocratic world. He caricatured the heroic figures of the epic war. He turned against the values and the symbols of the aristocratic ideology and he castigated situations and persons of the public life with his loose tongue. The powerful class characterized him as "Lecher, adulterer and man of violence".

It is also known that Archilochus had driven a whole family to suicide. Archilochus returned to Paros after the expedition. He fell in love with the daughter of Lycambes, Neobule but since her prevented the match, he felt humiliated.

Thereafter Archilochus ridiculed the whole family so fiercely, for revenge, that they hung themselves.

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