1. One of the great lyric poets of Greece, was a native of Iulis in the island of Ceos, and the nephew as well as fellow-townsman of Simonides. (Strab. x. p.426
; Steph. Byz. s. v. Ἰουλίς
.) His father is variously called Medon (Suidas, s. v. Βακχυλίδης
), Meilon (Epigr. in novem Lyr. apud Böckh, Schol. Pind.
p. 8), or Meidylus (Etym. M. p. 582. 20): his paternal grandfather was the athlete Bacchylides. We know nothing of his life, except that he lived at the court of Hiero in Syracuse, together with Simonides and Pindar. (Aelian, Ael. VH 4.15
.) Eusebius makes him flourish in B. C. 450; but as Hiero died B. C. 467, and Bacchylides obtained great fame at his court, his poetical reputation must have been established as early as B. C. 470. The Scholiast on Pindar frequently states (ad Ol.
2.154, 155, ad Pyth.
2.131, 161, 166, 167, 171) that Bacchylides and Pindar were jealous of and opposed to one another; but whether this was the fact, or the story is to be attributed to the love of scandal which distinguishes the later Greek grammarians, it is impossible to determine.
The poems of Bacchylides were numerous and of various kinds. They consisted of Epinici (songs, like Pindar's, in honour of the victors in the public games), Hymns, Paeans, Dithyrambs, Prosodia, Hyporchemata, Erotica, and Paroenia or Drinking-songs : but all of these have perished with the exception of a few fragments.
It is, therefore, difficult to form an independent opinion of their poetical value; but as far as we can judge from what has come down to us, Bacchylides was distinguished, like Simonides, for the elegance and finish of his compositions.
He was inferior to Pindar in strength and energy, as Longinus remarks (100.33); and in his lamentations over the inexorable character of fate, and the necessity of submitting to death, he reminds one of the Ionic elegy. Like his predecessors in Lyric poetry, he wrote in the Doric dialect, but frequently introduces Attic forms, so that the dialect of his poems very much resembles that of the choruses in the Attic tragedies.
Besides his lyrical poems there are two epigrams in the Greek Anthology attributed to Bacchylides, one in the Doric and the other in the Ionic dialect, and there seems no reason to doubt their genuineness.
The fragments of Bacchylides have been published by Neue, " Bacchylidis Cei Fragmenta," Berol. 1823
, and by Bergk, " Poetae Lyrici Graeci," p. 820, &c.