Lyric Poet (c.582 BC – c.485 BC)
A lyric poet from Teos of Asia Minor and one of the nine lyric poets of Ancient Greece. Though not as popular as the rest of the lyric poets, Anacreon remained in history as a musician and as the last lyric poet of Ancient Greece.
When Teos was conquered by the Persians in 545 BC, Anacreon moved to Abdera, Thrace. He spent a considerable amount of his life in Athens, where he was influenced by Aeschylus’ work, who at the time was at the beginning of his career. There, he also formed friendships with Pericles’ father Xanthippus, Critias and Simonides of Ceos, another one of the nine lyric poets.
Anacreon’s poetry is primarily centered on love. Even though a representative of the Aeolic School, his works feature elements of the Ionian School. It is said that most of his poems started with an invocation to Aphrodite. They were frequently accompanied by music from a barbiton in an erotic tone. He used three musical modes. Out of his entire work today only fragments survive of the following: 3 books on erotic poetry, sympotics, and hymns to Gods, 1 book on iambs and 1 book on elegies.
Anacreon became highly successful throughout Greece. His poems were widely read and acclaimed, especially by Critias, who characterized him as “soul of the symposia” and “masterful singer of the lyre”. He inspired many poets throughout history, expanding his influence up until the Byzantine era. Many amateurs attempted to imitate him. 60 of his surviving poems were found in the Palatine Anthology, discovered in 1606. The Palatine Anthology significantly influenced European poetry, including Goethe, who studied Anacreon’s works.
When Anacreon died, his compatriots minted coins depicting him. In Athens, a bronze statue of him was sculpted that stood on the Acropolis, right next to the statue of Xanthippus. Both were said to have been sculpted by Pheidias. Anacreon was subsequently portrayed in a number of potteries, as well in paintings, most notably by Jean-Leon Gerome, where he is playing his barbiton next to two cupids and Love.
- “Anacreon”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas I. Athens, 1946. Print.
- Παλαιοθόδωρος, Δημήτρης. Ανακρέων. Εγκυκλοπαίδεια Μείζωνος Ελληνισμού. Asiaminor.ehu.gr. January 1, 2006. Web.