Simonĭdes in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)

Of Ceos, one of the most celebrated lyric poets of Greece. He was the perfecter of the Elegy and Epigram, and the rival of Lasus and Pindar in the Dithyramb and the Epinician Ode. He was born at Iulis, in Ceos, B.C. 556, and was the son of Leoprepes. He appears to have been brought up to music and poetry as a profession. From his native island he proceeded to Athens, probably on the invitation of Hipparchus, who attached him to his society by great rewards. After remaining at Athens some time, probably even after the expulsion of Hippias, he went to Thessaly, where he lived under the patronage of the Aleuads and Scopads. He afterwards returned to Athens, and soon had the noblest opportunity of employing his poetic powers in the celebration of the great events of the Persian Wars. In 489 he conquered Aeschylus in the contest for the prize which the Athenians offered for an elegy on those who fell at Marathon. Ten years later he composed the epigrams which were inscribed upon the tomb of the Spartans who fell at Thermopylae, as well as an encomium on the same heroes; and he also celebrated the battles of Artemisium and Salamis, and the great men who commanded in them (Pausan. iii. 8, 2; Thucyd. i. 132). He had completed his eightieth year, when his long poetical career at Athens was crowned by the victory which he gained with the dithyrambic chorus (477 B.C.), being the fifty-sixth prize which he had carried off. Shortly after this he was invited to Syracuse by Hiero, at whose court he lived till his death in 467. Simonides was a great favourite with Hiero, and was treated by the tyrant with the greatest munificence. He still continued, when at Syracuse, to employ his talents occasionally in the service of other Grecian States. Simonides is said to have been the inventor of the mnemonic art and of the long vowels and double letters in the Greek alphabet (Cic. De Orat. ii. 86, 352). He made literature a profession, and is said to have been the first who took money for his poems; and the reproach of avarice is too often brought against him by his contemporary and rival, Pindar, as well as by subsequent writers, to be altogether discredited. The chief characteristics of the poetry of Simonides were sweetness (whence his surname of Melicertes) and elaborate finish, combined with the truest poetic conception and perfect power of expression; though in originality and fervour he was far inferior, not only to the early lyric poets, such as Sappho and Alcaeus, but also to his contemporary Pindar. He was probably both the most prolific and the most universally popular of all the Grecian lyric poets. The general character of his dialect is the Epic, mingled with Doric and Aeolic forms. Editions of his fragments are those by Schneidewin (Brunswick, 1835); and Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Graec. (1878). On his language, see Schaumburg, De Dialecto Simonidis (1878); and Mucke, De Dialecto Simonidis cum Pind. Comparata (1879).