2. The celebrated musician and poet of the later Athenian dithyramb, was a native of Miletus, and the son of Thersander (Steph. Byz. s. v. Μίλητος
; Marm. Par.
Ep. 77; Alex. Aetol. apud Macr. 5.22
; Suid. s.v.
). Suidas calls him a son of Thersander, or Neomysus, or Philopolis ; but, as Schmidt observes, when Suidas mentions several names for a person's father, the first is usually the one which he has obtained from the best authorities; and the same scholar has suggested that the name Νεομύσου
should perhaps be read Νεομούσου
, which is very likely to be the invention of a comic poet, in allusion to the innovations made by Timotheus in music. (Diatribe in Dithyramb.
pp. 96, 97.)
The date of Timotheus is marked by the ancients with tolerable precision.
According to the Parian marble, he died in B. C. 357, in the ninetieth year of his age, which would place his birth in B. C. 446; but Suidas (s. v.
) says that he lived ninety-seven years.
The period at which he flourished is described by Suidas as about the times of Euripides, and of Philip of Macedon ; and he is placed by Diodorus with Philoxenus, Telestes, and Polyeidus, at Ol. 95, B. C. 398. (Diod. 14.46
The absence of any mention of Timotheus by Aristophanes (unless we suppose him to have been one of the many Timothei who, as the Scholiast on the Plutus,
5.180, tells us, were attacked by the poet) is a proof that he could not have attained to much eminence before the date mentioned by Diodorus; but yet it must have been before that year that his innovations in music began to attract public attention; for we have the testimony not only of Suidas, but also of Plutarch (see below) to the fact of his commencing his career during the life-time of Euripides, and we have also the decisive evidence of the celebrated passage from the comic poet Pherecrates, in which the musicians of the day are violently attacked as corrupters of the art (Plut. de Mus. 30,
p. 1141f.; Meineke, Frag. Com. Graec.
vol. ii. pp. 326-335).
It is evident that this attack was aimed principally at Timotheus, whom the personification of Music mentions last of all, as having inflicted more numerous and more serious injuries upon her than either of his predecessors, Melanippides, Cinesias, or Phrynis.
The following are the lines referring to him :--
ὁ δὲ Τιμόθεός μ᾽, ὦ φιλτάτη, κατορώρυχεν
καὶ διακέκναικ᾽ αἴσχιστα.
Μιλήτιός τις Πυρρίας1
κακά μοι παρέσχεν : οὗτος ἅπαντας οὓς λέγω
παρελήλυθ᾽, ᾁδων ὲκτραπέλους μυρμηκιάς
ἐξαρμονίους ὑθερβολαίους τ᾽ ἀνοδίους,
καὶ νιγλάρους, ὥσπερ τε τὰς ῥαφάνους ὅλην
κάμπτων με κατεμέστωσε ...
κἂν ἐντύχῃ πού μοι βαδιζούσῃ μόνῃ,
ἀπέδυσε κἀνέλυσε χορδαῖς δώδεκα.
Respecting the details of his life we have very little information.
He is said to have spent some time at the Macedonian court; and reference will presently be made to a visit which he paid to Sparta.
He appears to have formed his musical style chiefly on that of Phrynis, who was also a native of Miletus, and over whom he on one occasion gained a victory.
He was at first unfortunate in his professional efforts. Even the Athenians, fond as they were of novelty, and accustomed as they were to the modern style of music introduced by Melanippides, Phrynis, and the rest, were offended at the still bolder innovations of Timotheus, and hissed off his performance. On this occasion it is said that Euripides encouraged Timotheus by the prediction that he would soon have the theatres at his feet (Plut. An seni sit gerend. Rcspub. 23,
p. 795c. d.).
This prediction appears to have been accomplished in the vase popularity which Timotheus afterwards enjoyed. Plutarch records his exultation at his victory over Phrynis (De se ipsum laudand. 1,
p. 539b. c.); and even when, on one occasion, he was conquered by Philotas, a disciple of Polyidus, he could console himself with the rebuke administered to the boasting master of his successful competitor by the witty Stratonicus, ὅτι αὐτὸς μὲν
Polyidus) ψηφίσματα ποιεῖ
, Τιμόθεος δὲ νόμους
. (Ath. viii. p. 352b. : the point of the saying is in the double meaning of νόμους
and musical strains,
and is untranslateable into English.) The Ephesians rewarded him, for his dedicatory hymn to Artemis, with the sum of a thousand pieces of gold (Alex. Aetol. apud Macr. 5.22
) : the last accomplishment, by which the education of the Arcadian youth was finished, was learning the nomes of Timotheus and Philoxenus (Plb. 4.20
; Ath. xiv. p. 626c.) : and there is still extant a decree of the Cnossians, probably of the second century B. C., in which Timotheus and Polyidus are mentioned with the highest praise. and their names associated with those of the ancient Cretan poets (see POLYIDUS, p. 467b.). Timotheus died in Macedonia, according to Stephanus of Byzantium (l.c.
), who has preserved the following epitaph upon him. (Also in Jacobs, Anth. Pal.
App. No. 295. vol. ii. p. 851.)
πάτρα Μίλητος τίκτει Μούσαισι ποθεινὸν
Τιμόθεον, κιθάρας δεξιὸν ἡνίοχον.
The general character of the music of Timotheus, and the nature of his innovations, are pretty clearly described in the fragment of Pherecrates above quoted, and in other passages of the ancient writers.
He delighted in the most artificial and intricate forms of musical expression, " windings like the passages in ant-hills " (Pherecr. l.c.
) : he used instrumental music, without a vocal accompaniment, to a greater extent than any previous composer (at least if Ulrici is right in his interpretation of the words μόνῃ βαδιζούσῃ
in Pherecrates) : and, in direct opposition to the ancient practice, he preferred the chromatic to the other genera
of music, and employed it to such an extent, as to be by some considered its inventor. (Boeth. de Mus.
i. l, p. 1372, ed. Basih) But perhaps the most important of his innovations, as the means of introducing all the others, was his addition to the number of the strings of the cithara.
Respecting the precise nature of that addition the ancient writers are not agreed; but it is most protable, from the whole evidence, that the lyre of Timotheus had eleven strings.
The eight-stringed cithara, formed by the addition of the chord of the octave which was wanting in the heptachord of Terpander, was used in the time of Pindar [TERPANDER].
The ninth string appears to have been added by Phrynis (Plut. Apophthleg. Lacon.
There were already ten strings to the cithara in the time of Ion of Chios, the contemporary of Sophocles (Ion, Epigr. ap.
Euclid. Introd. Harmon.
p. 19. ed. Meibom.); and the conjecture appears therefore probable that the tenth was added by Melanippides.
There remains, therefore, only the eleventh string to be ascribed to Timotheus, for it is most probable that the mention of a twelve-stringed lyre, in the above passage of Pherecrates, according to the present text, arises from some error, and the word ἕνδεκα
may be substituted for δώδεκα
in the last verse, without injuring the metre.
The positive testimonies for ascribing the eleventh string to Timotheus, are that of Suidas (s. v.
), who, however, makes him the inventor of the tenth string also, which the testimony of Ion proves to be an error; and the tradition that, when Timotheus visited Sparta, and entered the musical contest at the Carneia, one of the Ephors snatched away his lyre, and cut from it the strings, four in number, by which it exceeded the seven-stringed lyre of Terpander, and, as a memorial of this public vindication of the ancient simplicity of music. and for a warning to future innovators, the Lacedaemonians hung up the mutilated lyre of Timotheus in their Scias. (Paus. 3.12.8
; Plut. Instit. Lacon. 17,
p. 238c., Agis, 10 ;
Artemon. apud Ath. xiv. p. 636e.; Cic. de Legg.
2.15; the number
of the additional strings is only stated in the first of these passages, but, besides the agreement of that number with the other evidence, it must be remembered that Pausanias actually saw the lyre hanging in the Scias at Sparta).
It is quite a mistake to argue, in the spirit of a pseudo-rationalistic criticism, against the truth of this tradition, from the fact of the very same story being told about the nine-stringed lyre of Phrynis (Plut. Agis, 10. Apophth. Lacon.
p. 220c.); for the conduct ascribed to the Ephor is so characteristic of the state of Spartan feelings with reference to the ancient music, that we may easily believe such an incident to have occurred every time that the attempt was made to violate that feeling; so that the two stories rather confirm one another; and, moreover, they are mentioned together, as two distinct events, by Plutarch (Agis, 10
The tradition is also embodied, with other particulars of the innovations of Timotheus, in the alleged decree of the Spartans, preserved by Boethius (de Mus. l.c.
It has been, however, very clearly proved, that this decree is the forgery of a grammarian of an unknown date. (See especially Müller, Dor.
b. 4.6.3, vol. ii. pp. 316-319, ed. Schneidewin). Still it is of importance, as embodying what the grammarian, who forged it, had collected from the ancient writers respecting the musical innovations of Timotheus.
The substance of it is an order to the Ephors to censure Timotheus the Milesian, for that he had dishonored the ancient music, and had corrupted the ears of the youth by deserting the seven-stringed lyre, and introducing a multiplicity of strings, and a novelty of melodies, in which ignoble and diversified strains took the place of the old simple and sustained movements, and by changing the genus
from the Enharmonic to the Chromatic as an Antistrophic variation, and also for that, when invited to perform at the festival of the Eleusinian Demeter, he had given an indecent representation of the myth, and had improperly taught the youth the travail of Semele; and, besides this censure, he was to be ordered to cut away the strings of his lyre which exceeded seven.
Suidas (s. v.
) describes his style in general terms as a softening of the ancient music (τὴν ἀρχαίαν μουσικὴν ἐπὶ τὸ μαλακώτερον μετήγαγεν
). And Plutarch mentions him,with Crexus and Philoxenus, and the other poets of that age, as φορτικώτεροι καὶ φιλόκαινοι
, and as especially addicted to the style called τὸν φιλάνθρωπον καὶ θεματικόν
(de Mus. 12.
With regard to the subjects of his compositions, and the manner in which he treated them, we have abundant evidence that he even went beyond the other musicians of the period in the liberties which he took with the ancient myths, in the attempt to make his music imitative as well as expressive, and in the confusion of the different subjects and department of lyric poetry; in one word, in the application of that false principle, which also misled his friend Euripides, that pleasure is the end of poetry. Unfortunately the fragments of the poems of Timotheus and the other musicians of the period are insufficient to guide us to a full knowledge of their style; but we can judge of its general character by the choral parts of the tragedies of Euripides, and by the description of Plato (de Legg.
iii. p. 700e.), aided by the ancient testimonies, and the few fragments collected by later writers.
The subject is well, though briefly, treated by Müller (Hist. of Lit. of Anc. Greece,
vol. ii. pp. 61, 62), who remarks that in the late dithyramb " there was no unity of thought; no one tone pervading the whole poem, so as to preserve in the minds of the hearers a consistent train of feelings; no subordination of the story to certain ethical ideas; no artificially constructed system of verses regulated by fixed laws; but a loose and wanton play of lyrical sentiments, which were set in motion by the accidental impulses of some mythical story, and took now one direction, now another; preferring, however, to seize on such points as gave room for an immediate imitation in tones, and admitting a mode of description which luxuriated in sensual charms." And a little above (p. 60)-- " At the same time the dithyramb assumed a descriptive, or, as Aristotle says, a mimetic character (μεταβολή
The natural phenomena which it described were imitated by means of tunes and rhythms and the pantomimic gesticulations of the actors (as in the antiquated Hyporcheme); and this was very much aided by a powerful instrumental accompaniment, which sought to represent with its loud full tones the raging elements, the voices of wild beasts, and other sounds.
A parasite wittily observed of one of these storm-dithyrambs of Timotheus, that ` he had seen greater storms than those which Timotheus made in many a kettle of boiling water' (Ath. viii. p. 338a.)."
A striking example of this mimetic and sensuous mode of representation is furnished by the dithyramb of Timotheus, entitled " the Travail of Semele" (Σεμέλης ὠδίν
), which is censured in the pseudo-Lacedaemonian decree already quoted, and on one passage of which Stratonicus is said to have asked, " If she had been bringing forth a mechanic, and not a god, what sort of cries would she have uttered ?" (Ath. viii. p. 352a.; comp. Dio Chrysost. Orat. 77,
p. 426, ed. Reiske.)
The language of Timotheus was redundant and luxuriant, as we see by a fragment from his Cyclops,
preserved by Athenaeus (xi. p. 465d.). Of the boldness of his metaphors we have a specimen, in his calling a shield φίαλην Ἄρεος
, for which he was attacked by the comic poet Antiphanes (Ath. x. p. 433c.), and which Aristotle has noticed no less than three times (Poet.
There is another example of his bold figures in a fragment of Ann. xandrides (Ath. x. p. 455f.).
In the celebrated passage of Aristotle respecting the representation of actual and ideal characters, in poetry and painting (Poet. 2
), reference is made to " the Persae
of Timotheus and Philoxenus ;" but unfortunately there is nothing in the present text to show which of the two poets Aristotle meant to represent as the more ideal.
Lyric poems other than dithyrambs
Like all the dithyrambic poets of the age, Timotheus composed works in every species of lyric. poetry, and that in such a manner as to confound the distinctions between the several species, mingling Threnes with Hymns, Paeans with Dithyrambs, and even performing on the lyre the music intended for the flute (Plato, de Legg. l.c.
The crowning step in this process appears to have been that which is ascribed to Timotheus alone, namely, the giving a dithyrambic tone and expression to the Nomes, which seem to have been hitherto preserved almost in their original form, and the adapting them to be sung by a chorus, instead of by a single performer (Plut. de Mus. 4,
p. 1132d.; Clem. Al. Strom. i. p. 365
The account which has now been given of the character of Timotheus as a musician and a poet must not be misunderstood.
It is one thing to judge an artist by pure aesthetic standards, or by a comparison with the severe simplicity of an early stage of the development of his art; it is quite another thing to form a genial estimate of his character with reference to the prevailing taste of the tines in which he lived, or to the impression he would probably make on the mind of our own age.
There was undoubtedly great power and beauty in the compositions of Timotheus, and if they could be restored, even as mere writings, and much more if they could be reproduced as they were publicly performed, they would certainly excite our admiration, whatever might be the judgment of calm criticism.
The few fragments which have come down to us afford ample proof of this. Such a line, for instance, as that with which he led off his nome entitled Persae,
κλεινὸν ἐλευθερίας τεύχων μέγαν Ἑλλάδι κύσμον
, bears upon it the impress of the true poet. (Paus. 8.50.3
; Plut. Philopoem. 11.
Lists of his works
He composed, according to Stephanus of Byzantium (l.c.
), eighteen books of citharoedic nomes, containing eight thousand verses, and προνόμια αὐλῶν χίλια
, according to the correction of Gronovius, αὐλῶν
, and, perhaps too, for προνόμια
we should read προοίμια
, but even so the meaning is not very clear, for we have no account of any flute-music by Timotheus : possibly there is some confusion between him and the flute-player of the same name, who lived in the time of Alexander the Great. Suidas gives a much fuller account of his works, and ascribes to him nineteen Musical Nomes, thirty-six Prooems, eight Diasceuae
, which Meineke supposes to mean compositions by other poets, which Timotheus recast and adapted to his own style of music, Hist. Crit. Com. Graec.
p. 32), eighteen Dithyrambs, twenty-one Hymns, some Encomiums, and other works; and, besides this general classification of his works, Suidas mentions the following special titles, Ἄρτεμις
, Πέρσαι ἢ Ναύπλιος
. Probably, instead of Πέρσαι ἤ Ναύπλιος
, we ought to read Πέρσαι
, as two distinct titles, for the Ναύτιλος
of Timotheus is quoted by Athenaeus (viii. p. 338) and by Eustathius (ad Od.
v. p. 1538). The Κύκλωψ
, which appears to have been one of the most celebrated of his Dithyrambs, has already been referred to.
The few extant fragments of these poems are collected by Bergk, Poetae Lyrici Graeci,
pp. 860-863, and by Kayser, Diatribe in Dithyrambum,
Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. i. p. 747, vol. ii. p. 325; Müller, Hist. of Lit. of Anc. Greece,
vol. ii. pp. 59-62; Ulrici, Gesch. d. Hellen. Dichtkunst,
vol. ii. pp. 604-610; Bode, vol. ii.; Bernhardy, Gesch. d. Griech. Litt.
vol. ii. pp. 551-554; Kayser, l.c. ;
Clinton, Fast. Hellen.
vol. ii. s. aa. 398, 357