Alcaeus in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities

Alcaeus (Ἀλκαῖος). A famous lyric poet of Mitylené, in Lesbos, an elder contemporary of Sappho. Towards the end of the seventh century B.C., as the scion of a noble house, he headed the aristocratic party in their contests with the tyrants of his native town, Myrsilus, Melanchrus, and others. Banished from home, he went on romantic expeditions as far as Egypt. When the tyrants were put down, and his former comrade, the wise Pittacus, was called by the people to rule the State, he took up arms against him also as a tyrant in disguise; but, attempting to force his return home, he fell into the power of his opponent, who generously forgave him. Of his further life nothing is known. His poems in the Aeolic dialect, arranged in ten books by the Alexandrians, consisted of hymns, political songs (which formed the bulk of the collection), drinking songs, and love songs, of which we have but a few unsatisfactory fragments. In the opinion of the ancients, his poems were well constructed, while their tone was in harmony with the lofty passion and manly vigour of his character. The alcaic strophe, so much used by his admirer and not unworthy imitator, Horace, is named after him. See Bergk's Poetae Lyrici (4th ed. 1878) for the fragments; and Kock, Alkaeus und Sappho (1862).

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