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*Tele/silla) of Argos, a celebrated lyric poetess and heroine, of the number of those who were called the Nine Lyric Muses (Antip. Thess. in Anth. Pal. 9.26), flourished about Ol. 67, B. C. 510, in the times of Cleomenes I. and Demnaratus, kings of Sparta. (Clinton, F. H. s. a., who corrects the errors of Eusebius and Fabricius). Plutarch relates the tradition that she was of noble birth, but was afflicted with a disease, concerning the cure of which she consulted an oracle, and received an answer directing her to serve the Muses. In obedience to the divine command, she applied herself to poetry and music ; and was soon rewarded by restoration to health, and by the admiration which the Argive women bestowed upon her poetry. In the war of Argos against Sparta, she obtained the highest renown, not only by her poetry, but her personal valour ; for, not content with encouraging her countrymen by her lyre and song, she took up arms at the bead of a band of her countrywomen, and greatly contributed to the victory which they gained over the Spartans. (Plut. de Mul. Virt. p. 245d. e.; Paus. 2.20.7; Max. Tyr. Diss. xxxxii. 5, vol. ii. p. 209, ed. Reiske, Diss. xxi. p. 218, ed Davis ; Said. s.v. comp. Hdt. 6.77). In memory of this exploit, her statue was erected in the temple of Aphrodite at Argos, with the emblems of a poetess and a heroine (Paus. I. c.; Tatian. ad Graec. 52, p. 114, ed. Worth); and Ares was worshipped in that city as a patron deity of women (Lucian. Amor. 30, vol. ii. p. 430); and the prowess of her female associates was commemorated by the annual festival called Ὑβριστικά, in which the women and the men appeared respectively in the attire of the other sex : this festival appears to be the same as the Ἐνδνμάτια. (Plut. de Mul. Virt. l.c.; de Mus. 9, p. 1134c.; Clem. Al. Strom. iv. p. 522, Sylburg ; Polyaen. Strat. 8.33.) Müller, however, regards this whole story as having a decidedly fabulous complexion : he explains the so-called statue of Telesilla, in the temple of Aphrodite, as being a statue of the goddess, of that well-known type, in which she was represented in the act of arming herself; and he ascribes quite a different origin to the festival of the Hybristica. (Dorier, bk. 1.8.6; Proleg. zu Mythol. p. 405; see also Grote, History of Greece, vol. iv. pp. 432-433.)

Our information respecting the poetry of Telesilla is very scanty. Athenlaeus (xiv. p. 619b.) states that she composed an ode to Apollo, called Φιληλίας, which Bode explains as the Argive name of the Paean, derived from the first words of the strain, ἔξερχ̓. (or ἔξεχ̓) φίλ ἥλιε. (Pollux, 9.123; Bode, Gesch d. lyr. Dichtkunst, pt. ii. p. 119.) Pausanias also quotes from her poems in honour of Apollo and Artemis (3.35.2, 2.28.2), and the statement respecting the children of Niobe, quoted from her by Apollodorus (Apollod. 3.5.6), must have been derived from a similar source. A scholiast on Homer (Hom. Od. 13.289) mentions her representation of Virtue as being similar to that of Xenophon in the celebrated fable of Prodicus ; and there are two or three grammatical references to single words used by her (Ath. xi. p. 467f.; Eustath. p. 1207. 14; Poll. 2.23; Hesych. s. v. Βελτιώτας). The only complete verses of her poetry which remain are the following two, which seem to come from a Parthenion, composed for a chorus of Argive virgins, on the subject of the love of the river Alpheus for Artemis:

δ᾽ Ἁρτεμις, κόραι,
φεύγοισα τὸν Ἀλφεόν.

The metre is an Ionic a Majore Dimeter Catalectic, the terminal metre being Trochaic. or, as Hephaestion, who quotes the passage, calls it, an Ionic Hephthemimeral (p. 62, ed. Gaisford, comp. p. 26), and it confirms the statement of the writer on music, appended to Censorinus (100.9), that Telesilla went further than Alcman in breaking up the strophes into short verses. (Fulv. Ursin. Carm. novem illustr. Femin. Antwerp, 1568, 8vo. pp. 49, foll.; Wolfius, Poctriarum Fragmenta, Hamb. 1734 and 1735, 4to., with the preliminary Dissertation of Olearius; Telesillae Frag. in the Program. Acad. Upsal. 1826, 8vo.; Schneidewin, Delect. Poes. Graec. p. 374; Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Graec. pp. 742, 743; Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. ii. p. 157; Bode, Gesch. d. Hellen. Dichtkunst, vol. ii. pt. 2, pp. 118. foll.)


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510 BC (1)
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  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 3.5.6
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.77
    • Homer, Odyssey, 13.289
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.20.7
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