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“The Teucrians from Crete, of whom we hear first in the Elegiac poet Callinus, and later in many writers after him, were answered with the following oracle, etc.” Strabo Geography [the temple of Apollo Smintheus]
“According to Callisthenes, Sardis was first taken by the Cimmerians and later by the Trerians and Lycians —his authority for this is the Elegiac poet Callinus —and last of all came its capture in the days of Cyrus and Croesus.1 Now Callinus declares that the Cimmerian invasion which involved the sack of Sardis was directed against the Esioneans, and for this reason the Scepsian (Demetrius) surmises that Esioneans is the Ionic form of Asioneans , Esionia perhaps being equivalent to Asia, like Meonia in Homer, where we read ‘In the Asian meadowland beside the streams of Cayster.’ The city made a remarkable recovery afterwards because of the fertility of the soil, becoming second to none of its neighbours, but in recent times has lost much of its population through earthquakes.” Strabo Geography [the temple of Apollo]
“In ancient times the Magnesians, after a long period of prosperity, were unfortunate enough to be exterminated by a Cimmerian people called the Trerians, and in the following year their territory was occupied by the Milesians. Now Callinus speaks of the Magnesians as a still prosperous people and succesful in their war against the Ephesians, while Archilochus clearly knows of their destruction when he says: ‘I bewail the woes of Thasos, not of Magnesia’ from which we may judge that he comes later than Callinus. It is an earlier invasion of the Cimmerians of which Callinus speaks in the line ‘Now comes upon us the army of the dastard Cimmerians,’ which he connects with the taking of Sardis.” Strabo Geography [the temple of Apollo Smintheus]
“We are told by Herodotus2 that the Pamphylians belonged to a combination of peoples who went forth from Troy with Amphilochus and Calchas. Though most of them remained behind, some were scattered over the face of the earth. According to Callinus, Calchas died at Clarus, but the peoples crossed the Taurus under Mopsus and partly stayed in Pamphylia and partly were distributed through Cilicia and Syria as far as Phoenicia.” Strabo Geography [the temple of Apollo Smintheus]
“The Magnesians of Magnesia on the Maeander were destroyed, as we read in the Elegiac Poems of Callinus and in Archilochus, by excessive luxury, their city being captured by the Ephesians.” Athenaeus Doctors at Dinner
“A few years later, Thebes was attacked by an expedition under Thersander, called by the Greeks that of the Epigoni or Young Generation... On this war the Thebans possessed Epic poems, and these Callinus, when he had occasion to speak of them, ascribed to Homer, an ascription which finds agreement among many competent authorities, and for my part I put this poetry second only to the Iliad and the Odyssey. ” Pausanias Description of Greece [the Seven against Thebes]
“Among the chief writers in this metre Proclus places Callinus of Ephesus and Mimnermus of Colophon, and also Philetas son of Telephus, of Cos, and Callimachus son of Battus.” Photius Library [on Elegy]
“Semonides is made contemporary with Archilochus, and Callinus comes a little earlier, Archilochus speaking of Magnesia as destroyed3 and Callinus as still flourishing. Eumelus of Corinth is said to have belonged to an earlier date and been contemporary with Archias the founder of Syracuse.4Clement of Alexandria Miscellanies:

The Elegiac Poems of Callinus

“ Callinus: —

How long will ye lie idle?5 When, young men, will ye show a stout heart? Have ye no shame of your sloth before them that dwell round about you? Purpose ye to sit in peace though the land is full of war?

... and let every man cast his javelin once more as he dies. For 'tis an honourable thing and a glorious to a man to fight the foe for land and children and wedded wife; and death shall befall only when the Fates ordain it. Nay, so soon as war is mingled let each go forward spear in poise and shield before stout heart; for by no means may a man escape death, nay not if he come of immortal lineage. Oftentime, it may be, he returneth safe from the conflict of battle and the thud of spears, and the doom of death cometh upon him at home; yet such is not dear to the people nor regretted, whereas if aught happen to the other sort he is bewailed of small and great. When a brave man dieth the whole people regretteth him, and while he lives he is as good as a demigod; for in their eyes he is a tower, seeing that he doeth single-handed as good work as many together.

Stobaeus Anthology [in praise of courage]

To Zeus

“ Ephesus used to be called Smyrna, as for instance in a passage of Callinus, who in addressing Zeus6 calls its inhabitants Smyrnaeans:

and have pity on the Smyrnaeans;

and again

and remember if e'er to Thee fair thighs of oxen [Smyrnaeans have burnt.]7


Strabo Geography:

8Another and an earlier invasion of the Cimmerians is mentioned by Callinus, where he says:

and now cometh the host of dastardly Cimmerians;

where he refers to the sack of Sardis.9

Strabo Geography:

“The name of the Trerians, a Thracian people, is given with three syllables in the poet Callinus:

bringing the Trerians10

Stephanus of Byzantium Lexicon:


“Tyrtaeus: —(1) Son of Archembrotus, a Laconian or a Milesian, writer of Elegy and fluteplayer, who is said to have encouraged the Lacedaemonians by his songs in their war with the Messenians, and in this way to have given them the upper hand. He is of very ancient date, being contemporary with the Seven Sages as they are called, or even before them. He flourished in the 35th Olympiad (640-37 B.C.). He wrote for the Lacedaemonians a poem called Citizenship and Exhortations in Elegiac verse, as well as War-Songs, five Books. (2) The Lacedaemonians had sworn that they would take Messena or perish, and when the oracle told them to take a general from among the Athenians, took the lame poet Tyrtaeus, who put fresh heart into them and took Messena in the twentieth year of the war. They razed the city to the ground and made Helots of the prisoners.11

Suidas Lexicon:

“Ath. Let us cite in support the Athenian born who was given Lacedaemonian citizenship, Tyrtaeus, who stands without a rival in his zeal for such things, saying ‘I would neither call a man to mind nor put him in my tale, no not if he were’ the richest of men nor possessed of many good things —and then he gives a pretty complete list of them —, if he did not show himself always best in war. Probably you, Cleinias, have heard these poems; of course Megillus knows them almost too well. —Meg. Yes, almost. —Clein. Yes, they have been imported into Crete from Lacedaemon; so we know them, too.” Plato Laws (Athenian Stranger, Megillus the Spartan, and the Cretan Cleinias)
“This Tyrtaeus was an obscure Athenian, being a lame schoolmaster, thought little of at Athens. When they had come to their wits' end in fighting the Messenians, the Spartans were told by Apollo's oracle to fetch this man; he would be able to make them see what was to their advantage. Indeed the oracle bade them make him their adviser. When he arrived in Lacedaemon he became inspired, and urged them to renew the war by all and every means in his power, including the well-known line ‘Messena is good to plough and good to plant.’ This then is the man mentioned by the Athenian Stranger as an example of one who counselled war.” Scholiast on the passage:
“The Spartans were bidden by the Delphic oracle to get ‘the Athenian’ for their counsellor, and accordingly sent Athens word of the answer they had received, and asked for a man to advise them what to do. Neither desiring that the Lacedaemonians should annex, with no great risk run, the richest part of the Peloponnese, nor yet willing to turn a deaf ear to the words of the God, the Athenians found the man they sought in a schoolmaster called Tyrtaeus who appeared to have little sense and was lame in one leg, and despatched him to Sparta, where he sang Elegiac verse and the Anapaestic lines12 both privily to the government and to any he could gather to hear him.” Pausanias Description of Greece [the Second Messenian War]
“This behaviour of the Athenians is not peculiar to the case of Socrates but is found in a great many others. If we may believe Heracleides, they fined Homer fifty drachmas for a madman, spoke of Tyrtaeus as out of his mind, and honoured Astydamas with a bronze statue in preference to men like Aeschylus.13Diogenes Laertius Life of Socrates:
“... whom we presumed originally to be more warlike than the War-Songs of Tyrtaeus.” Plato Laws:
“Athenian Stranger and Cleinias the Cretan: Ath. But really, is it not right that the lawgiver should be the only writer to advise on what is beautiful and what is good and what is just, teaching us both what they are and how they should be practised by a people that is to be happy? —Cl. Of course it is. —Ath. And is it not more disgraceful for Homer and Tyrtaeus and the other poets to have laid down evil precepts about life and institutions in their writings, than for Lycurgus and Solon and the other men who became men of letters after they had become legislators?” Plato Laws:
“When the Spartans were about to engage the Messenians, and, having resolved to conquer or die, had inscribed each man's name on a letter-stick attached to the left hand so that his friends could recognise him when the dead were taken up for burial, Tyrtaeus, desiring to strike terror into the Messenians by letting them know what the Spartans had done, gave orders that no great heed should be taken of deserting Helots, and the watch being relaxed these deserted as they chose, and told the Messenians of the desperate valour of their enemies. Terror weakened their resistance, and it was not long before they had given the Spartans the victory.” Polyaenus Stratagems:
“... Aristomenes had done the Spartans much damage, when the poet Tyrtaeus was given them by the Athenians to be their general.” Diodorus of Sicily Historical Library:

Athenaeus Doctors at Dinner [the pyrrhic dance]

The warlike character of the dance proves it a Spartan invention. The Lacedaemonians are a warlike people, and not only do their sons learn by rote the Embateria or Songs of the Battle-Charge which are also called Enoplia or Songs-under-Arms,14 but in war they themselves recite the poems of Tyrtaeus from memory and move in time to them. We are told by Philochorus that after the Spartans had defeated the Messenians by the generalship of Tyrtaeus, they made it the custom of their military expeditions that when the Paean had been sung after supper the songs of Tyrtaeus should be given one by each man, the polemarch to decide who sang the best and give the winner a prize of meat.

“When Leonidas was asked what he thought of Tyrtaeus, he replied ‘A good poet for sharpening the courage of the young.’” Plutarch Sagacity of Animals:

See also Paus. 4. 16. 2-6, 18. 1-3, Ael. V.H. 12. 50, Plut. Ap. Lac. Paus. Cleombr. 230d, Vit. Cleom. 2, Dio Chr. Or. 36. 440, Themist. 15. 197d, Harp. *turtai=os, Quint. 10. 1. 56, 12. 11. 27, Hor. A.P. 401 and Sch., Just. 3. 5. 9.

The Elegiac Poems of Tyrtaeus

From a Papyrus of the 3rd Century B.C.15 ... of stones ...16 like tribes of [swarming flies.17 Some of them did] Ares, bane of men, [hungry for the war-cry, take in open fight18], others [cast he] over the [crags. Let us, then,] go forward behind our hollow shields like [a flight of locusts]19 or [of cranes], Pamphyli, Hylleis, [Dymanes],20 each tribe severally brandishing its man-slaying ashen spears. And [thus ordered, entrusting] all to the Immortal Gods, we shall obey our [holy] leader21 for ever without end. But in a moment one and all [together] shall we be wielding the flail, standing up to spearmen; and dire will be the din when both sides clash rounded shield against rounded shield, [and awful the shrieks] as they fall one upon another, [piercing] men's breasts with [the spear; and no whit] will they draw back for the pounding [of the missiles, nay,] despite the battery of great hurlstones, the helms shall abide the rattle [of war unbowed.]

“.... nurse of Dionysus .... of fair-tressed Semele” From a Papyrus of the 3rd Century B.C. ... 22 .... triumphant about victory .... looking to the end .... bringing a wheeled chariot .... -ing .... hastening [them] backward .... locks over [her] head .... we will bear keen War together ........ nor will [he] tell in story (?) .... having

... 23 ... 24 ... 25


“He says he is of that place26 in the Elegy entitled Eunomia or Orderliness :

For Cronus' Son Himself, Zeus the husband of fair-crowned Hera, hath given this city to the children of Heracles, with whom we came into the wide isle of Pelops from windy Erineus.

Strabo Geography [Tyrtaeus]
“In aristocratic states faction arises ... also when some of the citizens have too little and others more than enough —which happens particularly often in war; for instance at Sparta about the time of the Messenian War, as appears from the poem of Tyrtaeus called Eunomia. Crushed by the burden of the war, certain citizens demanded a re-distribution of the land.” Aristotle Politics:
“When the commons were assembled, he suffered no other to give his opinion, but the people had the right of giving judgment on an opinion laid before them by the Elders and Kings. Later, however, when the commons began to twist and distort the opinions27 of the Elders and Kings by addition and subtraction, Kings Polydorus and Theopompus inserted in the rhetra or ordinance the following clause: ‘If the commons choose a crooked opinion,28 the elderborn and archleaders [that is the Elders and Kings] have powers of dissolution’ —which means that they may refuse to ratify it and may withdraw themselves altogether and dismiss the commons, as trying to divert and change the opinion of the Elders and Kings contrary to what is best —, and themselves persuaded the people to accept it in the belief that this was the command of the God, as indeed Tyrtaeus mentions in the following lines:

They heard the voice of Phoebus and brought home from Pytho oracles of the God and words of sure fulfilment;29 for thus the Lord of the Silver Bow, Far-Shooting Apollo of the Golden Hair, gave answer from out his rich sanctuary: The beginning of counsel shall belong to the God-honoured Kings whose care is the delightsome city of Sparta, and to the men of elder birth; after them shall the commons, answering them back with forthright ordinances,30 both say things honourable and do all that is right, nor give the city any crooked counsel; so shall the common people have victory and might; for this hath Phoebus declared unto their city in these matters.

Plutarch Life of Lycurgus: “... that the same Lycurgus brought an oracle from Delphi concerning their love of money, remembered as a proverb: ‘By love of pelf and nothing else shall Sparta be destroyed; for this hath Phoebus’ etc.” Diodorus of Sicily Historical Library:
31The man who brought the war to an end was this Theopompus, as is testified by the Elegiac lines of Tyrtaeus, which say ‘to our King’ etc. (ll. 1-2).

... to our king, the friend of the Gods, Theopompus, through whom we took spacious Messene, Messene so good to plough and so good to plant, for which there fought ever unceasingly nineteen years, keeping an unfaltering heart, the spearmen fathers of our fathers, and in the twentieth year the foeman left his rich lands and fled from the great uplands of Ithome.

Pausanias Description of Greece [the Second Messenian War] “On Tyrtaeus' arrival in Lacedaemon he became inspired, and urged the Spartans to end the war against the Messenians by every means in his power, among others by the famous line ‘Messene is good,’ etc.” Scholiast on Plato “Messene was taken after a war of nineteen years; compare Tyrtaeus: (ll. 4-8).” Strabo Geography:

“The vengeance the Spartans took on the Messenians is referred to in these lines of Tyrtaeus:

galled with great burdens like asses, bringing to their lords under grievous necessity a half of all the fruit of the soil.

And that they were obliged to join in their lamentations he shows in the following couplet:

making lamentation for their lords both themselves and their wives, whenever one was overtaken with the dolorous fate of Death.


Pausanias Description of Greece:

“They fought more than once because of rebellion on the part of the Messenians. The first conquest, according to the poems of Tyrtaeus, took place two generations before his time, and the second, when they rebelled in alliance with the Argives, Arcadians, and Pisatans, the Arcadians making Aristocrates king of Orchomenus their general and the Pisatans Pantaleon son of Omphalion; in the latter war he declares that he led the Lacedaemonians himself.” Strabo Geography:
“They are compelled to fight by their masters ..., and their generals and other officers who beat them if they give ground do the same thing, and the commanders who draw them up in front of trenches and the like —they all compel them; whereas a man should be brave not because he must but because he ought.” Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics [on soldiers] “As the Persians in Herodotus; for it was under such commanders that they fought the Greeks at Thermopylae. ‘In front of trenches’ etc.: this he must say of the Spartans; for such was the manner of their fighting in their war with the Messenians, recorded by Tyrtaeus.” Scholiast on the passage:
“So great was the energy, both public and private, of the men who then inhabited Athens, that the bravest people of Greece, in their war of long ago against the Messenians, received an oracle which bade them if they would defeat their enemies to take a leader from us. Now if the God preferred a general of Athens above the two Heracleid kings who rule at Sparta, that general must have been a man of extraordinary valour. Everyone in Greece knows that the general they took from our city was Tyrtaeus, by whose aid, with a wisdom that looked far beyond the dangers of that day, they both defeated their enemies and established their system of education. Tyrtaeus left behind him Elegiac Poems which are used to teach them courage, and a people whose practice is to take no account of poets, have made so much of Tyrtaeus as to pass a law that whenever they take the field under arms they shall all be summoned to the king's tent to hear his poems, in the belief that this will make them most willing to die for their country. And it would be well for you to hear the Elegiac verses, so that you may know what it was that made men famous among them:

For 'tis a fair thing for a good man to fall and die fighting in the van for his native land, whereas to leave his city and his rich fields and go a-begging is of all things the most miserable, wandering with mother dear and aged father, with little children and wedded wife. For hateful shall such an one be among all those to whom he shall come in bondage to Want and loathsome Penury, and doth shame his lineage and belie his noble beauty, followed by all evil and dishonour. Now if so little thought be taken of a wanderer, and so little honour, respect, or pity, let us fight with a will for this land, and die for our children and never spare our lives.

Abide then, O young men, shoulder to shoulder and fight; begin not foul flight nor yet be afraid, but make the heart in your breasts both great and stout, and never shrink when you fight the foe.

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