Victim of the Muses: Poet as Scapegoat, Warrior and Hero in Greco-Roman and Indo-European Myth and History

  Compton, Todd M. 2006. Victim of the Muses: Poet as Scapegoat, Warrior and Hero in Greco-Roman and Indo-European Myth and History. Hellenic Studies Series 11. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Chapter 7. Shadows of Hesiod: Divine Protection and Lonely Death

The lives of Ibycus, Arion, Stesichorus, and Simonides echo Hesiod’s vita in their themes of divine protection, often through animals, and lonely, violent death. Therefore it will be useful to consider them in close proximity to Hesiod.




So we have, once again, a blame poet in conflict with a strong political leader; he is exiled at some point in his career; he uses animal fables for blame. He is murdered far from home by a robber, and receives a special form of hero cult. This life is notable in that there is very little in his poetry that seems to have anything to do with it.


οὐδ’ ὑμέας, Πολύδευκες, ὑπέτρεσεν, οἵ με μελάθρου
μέλλοντος πίπτειν ἐκτὸς ἔθεσθέ κοτε
δαιτυμόνων ἄπο μοῦνον, ὅτε Κραννώνιος αἰαῖ
ὤλισθεν μεγάλους οἶκος ἐπὶ Σκοπάδας.

Callimachus Aetia fr. 64.11–14Pf, trans. Edmonds

Cicero tells the complete story:

gratiamque habeo Simonidi illi Ceo, quem primum ferunt artem memoriae protulisse. dicunt enim, cum cenaret Crannone in Thessalia Simonides apud Scopam fortunatum hominem et nobilem cecinissetque id carmen quod in eum scripsisset, in quo multa ornandi causa poetarum more in Castorem scripta et Pollucem fuissent, nimis illum sordide Simonidi dixisse se dimidium eius ei, quod pactus esset , pro illo carmine daturum; reliquum a suis Tyndaridis quos aeque laudasset peteret si ei videretur. paulo post esse ferunt nuntiatum Simonidi ut prodiret; iuvenes stare ad ianuam duo quosdam, qui eum magno opere evocarent; surrexisse illum, prodisse, vidisse neminem. hoc interim spatio conclave illud ubi epularetur Scopas concidisse; ea ruina ipsum cum cognatis oppressum suis interisse.

I thank that Cean Simonides, whom they say first excelled in the art of memory. For they say that when Simonides was dining with Scopas, a wealthy and noble man, at Crannon in Thessaly, and the poet had sung a song which he had written about him, and in which, for the sake of embellishing in the manner of poets, much had been written as if to Castor and Pollux, Scopas said in a very stingy fashion [nimis … sordide] that he would give half of that which had been agreed upon [quod pactus esset] for that poem; Simonides should ask the rest from his Tyndarides, if he didn’t mind, whom he had praised equally. Not long afterward they say it was announced to Simonides that he should go forth, as a certain two youths were standing at the door, who called him out in a vehement way. He arose, went out, and saw no one. Meanwhile, during this interval, that chamber where Scopas was dining fell down, and, flattened by the wreckage, he died, along with his friends.

In a gruesome twist, all of the corpses are so crushed as to be unrecognizable, but Simonides is able to identify them because he remembered exactly where each person had been placed at the feast.


[ back ] 1. On his life, see testimonia in Davies1991:236–239;Campbell1991:209–213. All references to testimonia in Ibycus and Stesichorus refer to Davies. Translations in this chapter are by Edmonds, adapted, unless otherwise noted.

[ back ] 2. Diogenianus Proverbs 2.71 (test. 4D): “Ibycus, when he might have reigned as a tyrant over his fellow-citizens, went away to live in Ionia” (Ἴβυκος γὰρ τυραννεύειν πολιτῶν δυνάμενος ἀπεδήμησεν εἰς Ἰωνίαν).

[ back ] 3. Antipater, in Palatine Anthology 7.745.2 (test. 5D): Ἴβυκε, ληϊσταί σε κατέκτανον ἔκ ποτε νηὸς / βάντ’ ἐς ἐρημαίην ἄστιβον ἠΐονα … Cf. Suda (test. 1D). “Falling one day among robbers in a deserted spot he was killed exclaiming that the very cranes which flew over at the moment would prove his avengers” (trans. Edmonds), συλληφθεὶς δὲ ὑπὸ λῃστῶν ἐπὶ ἐρημίας ἔφη, κἂν τὰς γεράνους ἃς ἔτυχεν ὑπερίπτασθαι ἐκδίκους γενέσθαι.

[ back ] 4. Antipater of Sidon, in Palatine Anthology 7.745 (test. 5D); Plutarch On Loquacity 14 (509e–f) (test. 6D); Statius Silvae 5.3.152–3 (test. 8D); Suda s.v. Ibycus (test. 1D).

[ back ] 5. Antipater, in Palatine Anthology 7.745: “because of their cries an avenging Fury avenged your murder” (τῶνδε διὰ κλαγγὴν τίσατο σεῖο φόνον). Cf. Lefkowitz 1981:37.

[ back ] 6. ἰὼ φιλοκερδέα φῦλα / ληιστέων, τί θεῶν οὐ πεφόβησθε χόλον; Palatine Anthology 7.745; cf. Thompson 1955 s.v. “cranes of Ibycus,” N 271.3 (with extra-Greek references); Fairweather 1974:271; 272n215; Lefkowitz 1981:37.

[ back ] 7. Cf. Wilamowitz 1956:244; Falter 1934:95; Lefkowitz 1981:37. Further literature at test. 9D.

[ back ] 8. Cf. Bell 1978:31n7; Szegedy Maszak 1978:206–208; Fairweather 1974:260n149; 269n192; Fairweather 1973; Lefkowitz 1981:96n43; Martin 1993:110; the deaths of Aeschylus, Euripides, see below in chs. 12 and 13. For the extraordinary death, often ironic, in the athlete hero myth, see Fontenrose 1968:87–89.

[ back ] 9. “Sotades” 15.5–8 (see Powell 1925:243), as quoted by Lefkowitz 1981:96n43. ὅτι πάντες ὅσοι περισσὸν ἠθέλησαν εὑρεῖν / ἢ μηχανικὸν ποίημ’ ἢ σοφὸν μάθημα, / οὗτοι κακὸν εἰς τὸν θάνατον τέλος ἐποίησαν / ὑπὸ τοῦ γεννήτορος κόσμου κακῶς παθόντες.

[ back ] 10. For Anacreon’s vita, see Rosenmeyer 1992:12–15. For Anacreon as satirist, cf. fr. 43 LP.

[ back ] 11. Herodotus 1.23; Plutarch Dinner of the Seven Sages 18 (160e–162b); Aelian On Animals 12.45; Bowra 1963 (which discusses Aelian at length); Csapo 2003:91–92. For the theme of poet as protected by the gods, see Falter 1934:94. The theme is explicit in Plutarch. “He fully realized that his rescue had been guided by God’s hand” (162a, trans. Babbitt), παντάπασιν αἰθέσθαι θεοῦ κυβερνήσει γεγονέναι τὴν κομιδήν.

[ back ] 12. Falter 1934:94.

[ back ] 13. Fables 194, cf. Falter 1934:94.

[ back ] 14. For hero cult awarded Arion, see Herodotus 1.23 (statue); Clay 2004:130.

[ back ] 15. Bowra 1963:131–132 lists example of men saved by dolphins who help to establish cult, which brings Hesiod to mind. Historical examples on p. 131. Bowra believes that Arion’s story is connected with cult in some way, p. 133, perhaps in his association with dithyrambic performance.

[ back ] 16. On his life, testimonia in Davies 1991:134; Campbell 1991:39–43; see also Maas 1929:2459–2460; Vürtheim 1919; West 1971; Lefkowitz 1981:31–35. The dates for his life are separated by centuries, and some conclude that there were two (or three) poets named Stesichorus.

[ back ] 17. For the general, Phalaris, see Aristotle Rhetoric 2.1393b (test. 8D); for the tyrant, Gelon, see Conon FGH 26 F1.42 (test. 10D). Cf. Demetrius On Style 99.

[ back ] 18. Cf. West 1971:302–303.

[ back ] 19. Suda s.v. Stesichorus (test. 19D): οἱ δὲ ἀπὸ Παλλαντίου τῆς Ἀρκαδίας φυγόντα αὐτὸν ἐλθεῖν φασιν εἰς Κατάνην κἀκεῖ τελευτῆσαι.

[ back ] 20. Suda s.v. Stesichorus: φασὶ δὲ αὐτὸν γράψαντα ψόγον Ἑλένης τυφλωθῆναι, πάλιν δὲ γράψαντα Ἑλένης ἐγκώμιον ἐξ ὀνείρου, τὴν παλινῳδίαν, ἀναβλέψαι. See also Plato Phaedrus 243a–b. Plato refers to the Palinode as “an ancient mode of purification [katharmos arkhaios].”

[ back ] 21. Pausanias 3.19.12–13 (test. 40D); cf. West 1971: 303; Conon FGH 26 F1.18 (test. 41D); Hermias on Plato Phaedrus 243a (test. 42D). Cf. Detienne 1957:141.

[ back ] 22. Burkert 1972:153n182.

[ back ] 23. Quintilian 10.1.62: maxima bella et clarissimos canentem duces.

[ back ] 24. Diogenes Babylonius fr. 84 ap. Philodemus On Music 18 Kemke (test. 12D); Wilamowitz-Moellendorff 1956:235; Huxley 1962:64, 71; West 1971:303. Cf. below on Thaletas, ch. 16.

[ back ] 25. Suda s.v. epitēdeuma (test. 44D). He is identified as a kitharōidos, one who sings to the lyre.

[ back ] 26. Suda s.v. Stesichorus; Pollux 9.100; Clay 2004:152. Heroes at the gate: see below on Simonides, this chapter; and on Solon, ch. 11.

[ back ] 27. Kearns 1989:54.

[ back ] 28. See Clay’s discussion at 2004:96.

[ back ] 29. For his life, see testimonia in Campbell 1991:344ff, 375–379; Molyneux 1992.

[ back ] 30. My trans. Cf. Quintilian 11.2.11; Ovid Ibis 511; Valerius Maximus 1.8. ext.7 (following Cicero, see Oates 1932:3); Phaedrus 4.25 (following Quintilian); Aelian. fr. 63 H. = Suda s.v. Simonides; Oates 1932:2–4; 7–12; Falter 1934:94–95; Page 1962:510, 242–244; Molyneux 1971:197–205 (further bibliography, ancient and modern, 197–198); Slater 1972:232–240 (who dates the story to at least the school of Aristotle, 238); Lefkowitz 1981:55–56; Molyneux 1992:121–126.

[ back ] 31. See above, ch. 2 (Aesop); below, ch. 26 (Juvenal); ch. 17, on the poets Cridenbel and Aniér MacConglinne.

[ back ] 32. Pherekydes FGH 3 F33. Further parallels and examples of houses caving in may be found in Slater 1972:238. As happens so often, this theme is shared with the athlete-heroes’ lives, see Fontenrose 1968:102. Both may have inherited the theme from mantic mythology. It is possible that Simonides referred to this incident in his poetry, or to something like it, see Quintilian 11.2.11, who discusses variations in the details of the Scopas story, and supports one variant by citing Simonides himself : “as Simonides himself seems to indicate in a certain passage” (trans. Gerber), ut ipse quodam loco significare Simonides videtur. But this appears to be an allusion, not a retelling of the story by the poet. Cf. Oates 1932:10.

[ back ] 33. “Plato” Hipparchus 228c; Molyneaux 1992:65–80.

[ back ] 34. Chamaeleon, at Athenaeus 14.656c–d = fr. 33 of Wehrli 1969; cf. Thebaid fr. 3, in Allen 1912 5.113; West 2003b:46; Bell 1978:30.

[ back ] 35. Odyssey iii 66; Iliad XIX 179–180, cf. above, ch. 2, for sacrificial aspects of the feast in the Aesop vita; Burkert 1983:37–38; Nagy 1979:125–141. The theme of the poet demanding a correct portion of a feast has archaic dimensions. For instance, the bad poet Cridenbel always demands the best portions of his patron’s feast, see below chapter 17; cf. above on Hesiod, ch. 6; Nagy 1979:231. Significantly, Chamaeleon (see previous note) has no sympathy for Simonides: the poet was “a skinflint and sordidly greedy of gain” (κίμβιξ … καὶ αἰσχροκερδής). Again, the justice of the poet’s cause may depend on the point of view of the narrative. Cf. Plato Republic 1.331e, where Simonides is referred to as a “wise and divine man,” σοφὸς γὰρ καὶ θεῖος ἀνήρ, and Cicero The Nature of the Gods 1.22, “Simonides, of whom tradition speaks not only as a delightful poet but in all respects a learned and wise man” (Simonidem … [non enim poeta solum suavis, verum etiam ceteroqui doctus sapiensque traditur]); cf. Bell 1978:77. We seem to have parallel negative and positive traditions, a common phenomenon in poetic biography. Cf. above on Archilochus, ch. 3; and below, ch. 17, on Aithirne and other ambiguously malevolent poets.

[ back ] 36. Palatine Anthology 7.77; scholia to Aristides, 3.533 (Dindorf = p. 201 Frommel); Cicero On Divination 1.27.56–57, 2.66.135, Libanius 8.42 (Foerster); Tzetzes Chiliades 1.619–639; Valerius Maximus 1.7.ext. 3. See also Wilamowitz-Moellendorff 1893:7–8; Oates 1932:4–6; Pease 1963:194.

[ back ] 37. Plutarch Themistocles 5.

[ back ] 38. Chamaeleon fr. 34 Wehrli/Athenaeus 14.456c (see above), cf. Bell 1978:59n118; Lefkowitz 1981:54.

[ back ] 39. Timaeus (ca. 356–260 BC), quoted by a scholiast on Pindar Olympic Odes 2.29d; Molyneaux 1992:224.

[ back ] 40. Callimachus Aetia fr. 64: ἐμόν κοτε σῆμα, τό μοι πρὸ πόληος ἔχ[ευ]αν / Ζῆν’] Ἀκραγαντῖνοι Ξείνι[ο]ν ἁζόμενοι. Clay 2004:152 insightfully suggests that this might have been a “tomb at the gate,” see on Stesichorus above. According to the Suda, a general tears down the tomb to fortify the city (which suggests that it was a substantial structure), and it is at that spot that the city is taken.

[ back ] 41. Cf. the “gods of hospitality” in the story of Hesiod’s death.