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Biographies (21)

Poets

Sappho

, , 630 - 570

  Sappho ( Aeolic, Psappha). One of the two great leaders of the Aeolian school of lyric poetry, Alcaeus being the other. She was a native of Mitylene, or, as some said, of Eresos in Lesbos, and flourished towards the end of the seventh century B.C. Her father's name was Scamandronymus, who died when she was only six years old. She had three brothers, Charaxus, Larichus, and Eurigius. Charaxus was violently upbraided by his sister in a poem, because he became so enamoured of the courtesan Rhodopis at Naucratis in Egypt as to ransom her from slavery at an immense price. Sappho was contemporary with Alcaeus, Stesichorus, and Pittacus. That she was not only contemporary, but lived in friendly intercourse, with Alcaeus is shown by existing fragments of the poetry of both. Of the events of her life we have no other information than an obscure allusion in the Parian Marble and in Ovid ( Her.xv. 51) to her flight from Mitylene to Sicily to escape some unknown danger, between B.C. 604 and 592; and the common story that being in love with Phaon, and finding her love unrequited, she leaped down from the Leucadian Rock. This story, however, seems to have been an invention of later times. The name of Phaon does not occur in one of Sappho's fragments, and there is no evidence that he was mentioned in her poems. As for the leap from the Leucadian Rock, it is a mere metaphor, taken from an expiatory rite connected with the worship of Apollo, which seems to have been a frequent poetical image. At Mitylene Sappho appears to have been the leader of a feminine literary set, most of the members of which were her pupils in poetry, fashion, and gallantry, so that from this association later writers have attempted to prove that the moral character of Sappho was not free from all reproach; and it is difficult to read the fragments which remain of her verse without being forced to come to the conclusion that a woman who could write such poetry could not be the pure woman that her modern apologists would have her. (See the defence of Sappho by Welcker [1816] and the various papers in the Rheinisches Museum for 1857-58.) Of her poetical genius, however, there cannot be a question. The ancient writers agree in expressing the most unbounded admiration for the passion, sincerity, and grace of her poetry. Already in her own age the recitation of one of her poems so affected Solon that he expressed an earnest desire to learn it before he died. Her lyric poems formed nine books, but of these only fragments have come down to us. The most important is a splendid ode to Aphrodite, of which we perhaps possess the whole. The best editions of the fragments is by Neue (Berlin, 1827), and that in Bergk's Poet. Lyrici Graeci, vol. iii. (4th ed. 1882). The fragments are all collected and translated into English by Wharton with a full bibliography in his Sappho (Chicago, 1895).

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Feb 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks





Phaon. A boatman at Mitylene who is said to have been originally an ugly old man; but in consequence of his carrying Aphrodite across the sea without accepting payment, the goddess gave him youth and beauty. After this Sappho is said to have fallen in love with him, and to have leaped from the Leucadian rock, when he slighted her.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Feb 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Sappho to Phaon, P. Ovidius Naso, The Epistles of Ovid


Leucatas, is a rock of white 14 color jutting out from Leucas into the sea and towards Cephallenia and therefore it took its name from its color. It contains the temple of Apollo Leucatas, and also the "Leap," which was believed to put an end to the longings of love. Where Sappho is said to have been the first, as Menander says, when through frantic longing she was chasing the haughty Phaon, to fling herself with a leap from the far-seen rock, calling upon thee in prayer, O lord and master.

This extract is from: The Geography of Strabo (ed. H. L. Jones, 1924), Cambridge. Harvard University Press. Cited Feb 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains comments & interesting hyperlinks.


Gorgo

Gorgo, a lyric poetess, a contemporary and rival of Sappho, who often attacked her in her poems. (Max. Tyr. Diss. xxiv. 9)


Damophila

Damophila (Damophile). A poetess of Lesbos, intimate with Sappho. She composed a hymn on the worship of the Pergaean Artemis (Philostrat. Vit. Apollon. i. 20).


Philosophers

Theophrastus (Theophrastos)

, , 372 - 387

   The Greek philosopher. He was a native of Eresus in Lesbos, and studied philosophy at Athens, first under Plato and afterwards under Aristotle. He became the favourite pupil of Aristotle, who named Theophrastus his successor in the presidency of the Lyceum, and in his will bequeathed to him his library and the originals of his own writings. Theophrastus was a worthy successor of his great master, and nobly sustained the character of the school. He is said to have had two thousand disciples, and among them such men as the comic poet Menander. He was highly esteemed by the kings Philippus, Cassander, and Ptolemy, and was not the less the object of the regard of the Athenian people, as was decisively shown when he was impeached of impiety; for he was not only acquitted, but his accuser would have fallen a victim to his calumny had not Theophrastus generously interfered to save him. He died in B.C. 287, having presided over the Academy about thirty-five years. His age is variously stated. According to some accounts he lived 85 years, according to others 107 years. He is said to have closed his life with the complaint respecting the short duration of human existence, that it ended just when the insight into its problems was beginning. He wrote a great number of works, the great object of which was the development of the Aristotelian philosophy. His Ethikoi Charakteres, in thirty chapters; his work on plants (Peri Phuton Istorias), in ten books; his account of the causes of plants (Peri Phuton Aition); and his treatise on stones (Peri Lithon), are extant.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Both Theophrastus and Phanias, the peripatetic philosophers, disciples of Aristotle, were from Eressus. Theophrastus was at first called Tyrtamus, but Aristotle changed his name to Theophrastus, at the same time avoiding the cacophony of his name and signifying the fervor of his speech; for Aristotle made all his pupils eloquent, but Theophrastus most eloquent of all.

This extract is from: The Geography of Strabo (ed. H. L. Jones, 1924), Cambridge. Harvard University Press. Cited Feb 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains comments & interesting hyperlinks.



  Theophrastus, the successor of Aristotle in the Peripatetic school, a native of Eresus in Lesbos, was born c. 372 BC. His original name was Tyrtamus, but he later became known by the nickname “Theophrastus,” given to him, it is said, by Aristotle to indicate the grace of his conversation.
  After receiving his first introduction to philosophy in Lesbos from one Leucippus or Alcippus, he proceeded to Athens, and became a member of the Platonic circle. After Plato's death he attached himself to Aristotle, and in all probability accompanied him to Stagira. The intimate friendship of Theophrastus with Callisthenes, the fellow-pupil of Alexander the Great, the mention made in his will of an estate belonging to him at Stagira, and the repeated notices of the town and its museum in the History of Plants, are facts which point to this conclusion.
  Aristotle in his will made him guardian of his children, bequeathed to him his library and the originals of his works, and designated him as his successor at the Lyceum on his own removal to Chalcis. Theophrastus presided over the Peripatetic school for thirty-five years, and died in 287 BC. Under his guidance the school flourished greatly - there were at one period more than 2000 students--and at his death he bequeathed to it his garden with house and colonnades as a permanent seat of instruction.
  His popularity was shown in the regard paid to him by Philip, Cassander and Ptolemy, and by the complete failure of a charge of impiety brought against him. He was honoured with a public funeral, and “the whole population of Athens, honouring him greatly, followed him to the grave” (Diog. Laert.).
  From the lists of the ancients it appears that the activity of Theophrastus extended over the whole field of contemporary knowledge. His writing probably differed little from the Aristotelian treatment of the same themes, though supplementary in details. He served his age mainly as a great popularizer of science. The most important of his books are two large botanical treatises, On the History of Plants, in nine books (originally ten), and On the Causes of Plants, in six books (originally eight), which constitute the most important contribution to botanical science during Antiquity and the middle ages. We also possess in fragments a History of Physics, a treatise On Stones, and a work On Sensation, and certain metaphysical Airoptai, which probably once formed part of a systematic treatise.
  The Ethical Characters deserves a separate mention. The work consists of brief, vigorous and trenchant delineations of moral types, which contain a most valuable picture of the life of his time. They form the first recorded attempt at systematic character writing. The book has been regarded by some as an independent work; others incline to the view that the sketches were written from time to time by Theophrastus, and collected and edited after his death; others, again, regard the Characters as part of a larger systematic work, but the style of the book is against this.

This text is cited June 2003 from the Malaspina Great Books URL below, which contains image.


Life of Theophrastus, by Diogenes Laertius



Phanias, Phaenias, Phainias

   or Phaenias (Phainias). A native of Eresus in Lesbos, a pupil of Aristotle, and a countryman and friend of Theophrastus. He flourished about B.C. 336. He was a very prolific writer on philosophy, physics, and history. Only fragments of these works remain. He was also the author of a chronicle of his native city, entitled Prutaneis Eresioi. This is supposed to have been one of the principal authorities followed in the so-called Parian Chronicle.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Parian Chronicle (Chronikon Parianon, or Marmor Parium). A marble tablet found at Paros in 1627, now placed among the Arundel Marbles in the University Galleries at Oxford. It is written chiefly in the Attic, but partly in the Ionian dialect, and consists of ninety-three lines, some of which are no longer complete. It originally contained a number of dates of the political, but chiefly of the religious and literary, history of the Greeks, from the Athenian king Cecrops to the Athenian archon Diognetus, B.C. 264; in its present condition, however, it only goes down to B.C. 354. All the dates are given according to Attic kings and archons, and the historical authorities on which it depends must have been Attic authors. The origin and aim of the tablet are unknown. It was first published by Selden in 1628; it has since been printed by Boeckh (C. I. G. ii. 2374), who considers the leading authority followed to be Phanias of Eresus.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Feb 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks



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