), of Himera in Sicily, a celebrated Greek poet, contemporary with Sappho, Alcaeus, Pittacus, and Phalaris, later than Alcman. and earlier than Simonides, is said to have been born in Ol. 37, B. C. 632, to have flourished about Ol. 43, B. C. 603, and to have died in Ol. 55. 1, B. C. 560, or Ol. 56, B. C. 556-552, at the age of eighty or, according to Lucian, eighty-five. (Suid. s. vv. Στησίχορος, Σιμωνίδης, Σαπφώ
; Euseb. Chron.
Ol. 43. 1; Aristot. Rh. 2.20.5
; Cyrill. Julian.
i. p. 12d.; Lucian. Macrob. 26 ;
Clinton, F. H.
vol. i. s. a. 611.
vol. ii. s. aa. 556, 553.
) Various attempts have been made to remove the slight discrepancies in the above numbers ; but it appears better to be content with the general result, which they clearly establish, that Stesichorus flourished at the beginning and during the first part of the sixth century B. C.
There appears, at first sight, to be a discrepancy between these testimonies and the statement of the Parian Marble (Ep. 51
), that Stesichorus the poet came into Greece at the same time at which Aeschylus gained his first tragic victory, in the archonship of Philocrates, Ol. 73. 3, B. C. 475.
But this statement refers, no doubt. to a later poet of the same name and family.
That it cannot refer to the Stesichorus now under notice is proved, not only by the above testimonies, but also, as Bentley has shown, by the way in which Simonides mentions Stesichorus, in connection with Homer, as an ancient poet (Ath. iv. p. 172ef.); whereas, if the statement of the Marble applied to him, he must have been contemporary with Simonides. Still further light is thrown on this matter by another clause of the Parian inscription (Ep. 74
), which states that " Stesichorus the second, of Himera, conquered at Athens in Ol. 102. 3," B. C. 369.
The clear and satisfactory explanation of these statements is, that the poetic art was, as usual, hereditary in the family of Stesichorus, and that two of his descendants, at different times, went to Athens to take part in the dithyrambic contests.
There are different statements respecting the country of Stesichorus.
The prevailing account was that he was born at Himera, and he is sometimes called simply " the poet of Himera; " but others made him a native of Mataurus, or Metaurus, in the south of Italy (or, as some say, in Sicily), which was a Locrian colony. (Steph. Byz. s. v. Ματαυρός
; Suid.) Now, as Himera was only founded just before the poet's birth, it is probable that his parents migrated thither from Mataurus ; and here we have, as Kleine and Müller have observed, the explanation of the strange tradition which made Stesichorus a son of Hesiod; for there existed among the Ozolian Locrians, at Oeneon and Naupactus, a race of epic poets, who claimed to be of the lineage of Hesiod; and from this race we may suppose the family of Stesichorus to have descended.
The actual connection of the poetry of Stesichorus with the old epic poetry will be explained presently. Besides this mythical statement respecting Hesiod, the following names are mentioned as that of the father of Stesichorus,--Euphorbus, Euphemus, Eucleides, and Hyetes. (Suid. s.v. Eudoc.; Steph. Byz. l.c. ;
Epig. Anon. apud Brunck, Anal.
vol. iii. p. 24, No. 33.)
According to Suidas, the poet had two brothers, a geometrician named Mamertinus, and a legislator named Halianax. Other statements concerning his family, which rest upon very doubtful authority, will be found in Kleine, pp. 15, 16.
His own name is said to have been at first Tisias,
which was changed to Stesichorus,
because he first established a chorus for singing to the harp. (Suid. s. v. Ἐκλήθη δὲ Στησιχόρος
, ὅτι πρῶτος κιθαρῳδίᾳ χορὸν ἔστησεν
, ἐπεί τοι πρότερον Τισίας ἐκαλεῖτο
The meaning of this statement will be examined presently. Of the events of his life we have only a few obscure accounts. Like other great poets, his birth is fabled to have been attended by an omen; a nightingale sat upon the babe's lips, and sung a sweet strain. (Christod. Ecphr. ap.
Jacobs, Anth. Graec.
vol. i. p. 42; Plin. H. N.
He is said to have been carefully educated at Catana, and afterwards to have enjoyed the friendship of Phalaris, the tyrant of Agrigentum.
The latter statement rests on no better authority than the spurious letters of Phalaris; but there is nothing to prevent its being true, since it is clear that Phalaris and Stesichorus were contemporaries. Many writers relate the fable of his being miraculously struck with blindness after writing an attack upon Helen, and recovering his sight when he had composed a Palinodia. (Paus. 3.19. 11
, &c.; Kleine, Dissert.
The statement that he travelled in Greece appears to be supported by some passages in the fragments of his poems, by the known usage of the early Grecian poets, and by the confused tradition preserved by Suidas, that he came to Catana as an exile from Pallantium in Arcadia. For his connection with Catana, and his burial there, we have several testimonies. Suidas says that he was buried by a gate of the city, which was called after him the Stesichoreian gate, and that a splendid octagonal monument was erected over his tomb, having eight pillars and eight sets of steps and eight angles; whence, according to some was derived the name Στησίχορος ἄριθμος
, applied to the throw " all eight" in gaming. (Suid. s. v. πάντα ὁκτώ
; Pollux, 9.7; Eustath. ad Hom.
pp. 1229, 1397.)
Epitaphs on Stesichorus
There are extant two ancient epitaphs on Stesichorus, the one in Greek, by Antipater (Jacobs, Anth. Graec.
vol. i. p. 328). the other in Latin (Ferrett. Mus. Lapidar.
5.36, p. 354).
The people of Thermae, the town which succeeded Himera, had a bronze statue of the poet, which Cicero describes as statua senilis, incurva, cum libro, summo at putant artificio facta
This or another statue formed afterwards one of the treasures of the gymnasium of Zeuxippus at Byzantium. (Christod. Ecphr. l.c.
) There is also a bronze medal of Himera, bearing on the reverse a man standing, holding a crown in his right hand and a lyre in his left, which some suppose to have been struck in honour of Stesichorus.
Ancient writers who celebrated his praise
Among the ancient writers who celebrated his praises were Cicero (l.c.
), Aristeides (Oral.
vol. i. p. 152, ed. Steph.), Dionysius (de Comp. Verb.
vol. ii. p. 28, ed. Sylb.), Longinus (13.3), Dio Chrysostom (p. 559d. ed. Morell.), and Synesius (Insom.
p. 158b. ed. Paris. 1612), nearly all of whom compare him to Homer in character and style. Quintilian's testimony is, in general, to the same effect, but he blames the language of Stesichorus as diffuse (10.1.62). Hermogenes, on the contrary, says that his numerous epithets add sweetness to his style (de Form. Oral.
ii. p. 409, ed. Laurent.). For other testimonies see Kleine, sect. ix.
Stesichorus was one of the nine chiefs of lyric poetry recognized by the ancients He stands, with Alcman, at the head of one branch of the lyric art, the choral poetry of the Dorians; for, although he lived fifty years later than Alcman, yet the improvements made by the Himeraean poet on the chorus were so distinct from, and so far in advance of, those introduced by the Spartan, that he well deserves to share the honour, which some indeed, as we have seen, ascribed to him exclusively, of being the inventor of choral poetry.
He was the first to break the monotony of the strophe and antistrophe by the introduction of the epode, and his metres were much more varied, and the structure of his strophes more elaborate, than those of Alcman. His odes contained all the essential elements of the perfect choral poetry of Pindar and the tragedians. For an analysis of his metres, see Kleine, sect. xi.
The subjects of his poems were chiefly heroic ; he transferred the subjects of the old epic poetry to the lyric form, dropping, of course, the continuous narrative, and dwelling on isolated adventures of his heroes.
He also composed poems on other subjects. His extant remains are classified by Kleine under the following heads.
1. Mythical Poems
Of which we have the following titles : Ἄθλα, Γηρυονις
, Ἰλίου πέρσις
2. Hymns, Encomia, Epithalamia, Paeans
Among which were, Παλινῳδία εἰς Ἑλέναν
, and Ἐπιθαλάμιον Ἑλένας
3. Erotic Poems, and Scolia
A pastoral poem
Ἵππος καὶ ἔλαφος
, Γεωργὸς καὶ ἀετός
, Είς Λόκρους παραίνεσις
The dialect of Stesichorus was Dorian, with an intermixture of the epic. His nomes were mostly in the Dorian, but sometimes also in the Phrygian mode.
The fragments of Stesichorus have been printed with the editions of Pindar published in 1560, 1566, 1567, 1586, 1598, 1620
, and in the collections of the Greek poets published in 1568 and 1569
, and recently in the collections of Schneidewin and Bergk. They have also been edited by Suchfort, Gotting. 1771, 4to.
; by Blomfield, in the Museum Criticum, vol. ii. pp. 256-272, 340-358, 504, 607
, and in Gaisford's Poetae Minores Graeci ; and by Fr. Kleine, Berol. 1828, 8vo.
The last mentioned is by far the most useful edition of the fragments. and the authorities respecting the life and writings of the poet are collected and discussed in a dissertation prefixed to the fragments.
Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. ii. pp. 151-157; Müller, Hist. of Lit. of Anc. Greece,
pp. 197-203; Bernhardy, Grundriss d. Griech. Litt.
vol. ii. pp. 471-477 ; Kleine, as above quoted.