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Semonides

Semonides

Semonides (or Semontoes) of Amorgos was an ancient Greek iambic poet who flourished in the middle of the 7th century BC. He was a native of Samos, and derived his surname from having founded a colony in the neighbouring island of Amorgos.

According to the Suda, besides two books of iambics, he wrote elegies, one of them a poem on the early history of the Samians. The elegy included in the fragments (85) of Simonides of Ceos is more probably by Semonides of Amorgos. We possess about thirty fragments of his iambic poems, written in clear and vigorous Ionic, with much force and no little harmony of versification.

With Semonides, as with Archilochus, the iambic is still the vehicle of bitter satire, interchanging with melancholy, but in Semonides the satire is rather general than individual. His "Pedigree of Women" may have been suggested by the beast fable, as we find it in Hesiod and Archilochus, and as it recurs a century later in Phocylides; it is clear at least that Semonides knew the works of the former. Semonides derives the dirty woman from a hog, the cunning from a fox, the fussy from a dog, the apathetic from earth, the capricious from seawater, the stubborn from an ass, the incontinent from a weasel, the proud from a high-bred mare, the worst and ugliest from an ape, and the good woman from a bee. The remainder of the poem (96-118) is undoubtedly spurious. There is much beauty and feeling in Simonides's description of the good woman.

See Fragments in T Bergk, Poetae lyrici Graeci; separate editions by FG Welcker (1835), and especially by P Malusa (1900), with exhaustive introduction, bibliography and commentary.

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