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Headword: Simônidês
Adler number: sigma,439
Translated headword: Simonides
Vetting Status: high
The son of Leoprepes. A citizen of the city Iulis on the island Ceos; a lyric poet, later than Stesichorus in chronology; he was also called Melikertes[1] because of his sweetness. He also invented the art of artificial memory;[2] he also invented the long (sc. vowels) and double (sc. consonants) of the alphabet[3] and the third string for the lyre. He was born in the 56th Olympiad, though some have written the 62nd. And he lasted until the 78th, after living 89 years.[4] And the following were written by him in the Doric dialect: the kingdom of Cambyses and Darius and (naval battle of) Xerxes, and the naval battle at Artemisium in elegiac meter, the naval battle at Salamis in lyric meter;[5] threnoi (laments), encomia (odes honoring people), epigrams, paeans (odes of joy), tragedies and other things.[6]
This Simonides was someone skilled at remembering, if ever anyone was. Similar to him was Apollonius of Tyana,[7] who kept his voice in silence, "but stored away[8] very many things in memory; reaching 100 years of age he surpassed Simonides in artificial memory. And a certain hymn was sung by him[9] from memory, in which he says that all things are extinguished by time, but time itself is ageless and immortal because of memory."[10]
Greek Original:
Simônidês, Leôprepous, Iouliêtês tês en Keôi têi nêsôi poleôs, lurikos, meta Stêsichoron tois chronois: hos epeklêthê Melikertês dia to hêdu. kai tên mnêmonikên de technên heuren houtos: prosexeure de kai ta makra tôn stoicheiôn kai dipla kai têi lurai ton triton phthongon. gegone d' epi tês pentêkostês hektês olumpiados, hoi de xb# gegraphasi. kai pareteine mechri tês oê#, bious etê pth#. kai gegraptai autôi Dôridi dialektôi hê Kambusou kai Dareiou basileia kai Xerxou naumachia kai hê ep' Artemisiôi naumachia, di' elegeias: hê d' en Salamini melikôs: thrênoi, enkômia, epigrammata, paianes kai tragôidiai kai alla. houtos ho Simônidês mnêmonikos tis ên, eiper tis allos. toutôi d' ên eoikôs Apollônios ho Tuaneus: hos tên men phônên siôpêi kateiche, pleista de eis mnêmên anelegeto: to te mnêmonikon hekatontoutês genomenos errôto huper ton Simônidên. kai humnos autôi tis es tên mnêmosunên êideto: en hôi panta men hupo tou chronou marainesthai phêsin, auton ge mên ton chronon agêrô te kai athanaton para tês mnêmosunês einai.
C6/5 BC. See generally P.J. Parsons in OCD4 pp.1368-69.
See also sigma 440 and sigma 441 for the many stories and legends surrounding Simonides' life; and the Bibliography below for the interest in the poet stirred in 1992 by the publication of a papyrus roll (P.Oxy. 3965), on which new fragments such as the Plataea Elegy have been recovered and joined with hitherto anonymous fragments on P.Oxy. 2327.
[1] This name (cf. sigma 442) is perhaps derived from the root for honey, meli-, but with an unexplained second part.
[2] The traditional translation (see LSJ) for the art of memorizing, to\ mnhmoneutiko/n. The Parian Marble states that Simonides invented this art (Marmor Parium 70). He gave his name to later attempts to provide an art of mnemonics, e.g. Adamus Bruxius, Simonides redivivus, sive Ars memoriae et oblivionis (quam hodie complures penitus ignorari scripserunt) tabulis expressa, 1610.
[3] These are the alphabetic letters referred to in Callimachus, Aetia fr. 64 (on the desecration of his tomb, see sigma 441) as perissa/ 'extra, superfluous'. The words used in this entry are confusing, for stoixei=a, 'elements', is more usually used of spoken phonemes and distinguished from written letters, gra/mmata. Here we should, however, accept it as 'alphabetic letters', among which the vowels eta and omega are called 'longs' and the consonants zeta, xi and psi 'doubles' (Dionysius Thrax 1.1.10,14,17; Dionysius of Halicarnassus, De compositione verborum 14; Sextus Empiricus, Adversus Mathematicos 103,113).
[4] i.e. born either 556-3 or 532-29, died 468-5. See Molyneux (below) for a discussion (and a certain hesitation over the date for his death).
[5] This troubling series of phrases has come under intense scrutiny since the publication of fragments of his poems on the Persian Wars in 1992. To interpret and correct this passage we must rely on a scholion to Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1.211-5, referring to the Naumachia ('Naval Battle') of Simonides. Rutherford (170-1) has suggested that this was a single poem of mixed genre (elegy on Artemisium, ode on Salamis). There are several ways of amending the passage to arrive at this sense, most simply by removing the former of two uses of 'naval battle', naumaxi/a. Alternatively, the phrase "naval battle of Xerxes" might be taken for the title of the whole, misplaced in the syntax. We are thus left with a poem consisting of three parts: (a) a catalog of the peoples of the Persian kingdom, followed by (b) an elegy on the failure of the Greek fleet to defeat the Persian fleet at Artemisium and (c) a victory ode on the battle of Salamis. Such a poem would neatly balance the elegy on the land-battle of Plataea and would bear marked similarities to the Persians of Aeschylus. For a treatment of the elegies of Simonides recovered on the papyrus, see West, The New Simonides and the articles from ZPE in the Bibliography.
[6] Simonides also composed in other genres, most notably epinicia (victory odes for the various Games) and 'symmikta' (perhaps referring to works in mixed genres such as the Naumachia appears to be).
[7] See generally alpha 3420.
[8] Alpha 2245 repeats this citation for the verb of 'storing away.'
[9] This "him", also the subject of the following relative clause, reads as Apollonius, but it is unlikely that he was the composer of the hymn. That composer was probably Simonides, who harps on similar themes, e.g. fr.531 Page: "Neither rust nor all-mastering time will dim such a memorial" (cf. Sider 275-6). One must then take "by him" to mean "by Simonides", which would require tou/twi instead of autwi=, although the confusion is more likely to arise from the omission of words. There is an evident allusion to this hymn at John Chrysostom, De beato Philogonio 48.750.
[10] Philostratus, Life of Apollonius 1.14.
Greek Lyric Poetry III, ed. D.A. Campbell (Loeb, 1991) 330-591
John H. Molyneux, Simonides: a historical study, 1992
P.J. Parsons, in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri 59 (1992) 4-50
M.L. West, Greek Lyric Poetry, 1993, 160-72)
M.L. West, "Simonides redivivus," Zeitschrift fuer Papyrologie und Epigraphik 98 (1993) 1-14
R.L. Hunter, "One Party or Two?: Simonides 22 West2," ibid. 11ff.
D. Boedeker, "Simonides on Plataea: narrative elegy, mythodic history," ibid. 107 (1995) 217-29
L. Sbardella, "Achille e gli eroi di Plataea," ibid. 123 (1998) 1-11
A. Schachter, "Simonides' Elegy on Plataea," ibid. 25-30
The New Simonides (=Arethusa 29.2, 1996), ed. D. Boedeker and D. Sider (including I. Rutherford, "The new Simonides: towards a commentary" 155-192; "As is the generation of leaves in Homer, Simonides, Horace and Stobaios" 263-282; bibliography 283-93.
Keywords: biography; chronology; daily life; dialects, grammar, and etymology; geography; history; military affairs; meter and music; poetry; trade and manufacture; tragedy
Translated by: Robert Dyer on 18 June 2000@09:33:57.
Vetted by:
Ross Scaife ✝ (cosmetics, status) on 29 June 2000@23:37:53.
David Whitehead (augmented notes and keywords; restorative and other cosmetics) on 12 September 2002@08:54:48.
Marcelo Boeri (Coorected the Greek in note 3.) on 15 September 2003@13:30:38.
Robert Dyer (cosmetics) on 17 September 2003@12:46:01.
David Whitehead (more keywords; cosmetics) on 24 December 2013@08:02:44.
David Whitehead (updated a ref) on 9 August 2014@10:47:57.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 22 November 2014@21:36:05.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 19 December 2014@01:59:37.
Catharine Roth (cosmeticules) on 20 February 2022@23:18:06.


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