Tyrtaeus, Testimonia

LCL 258: 24-25

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Elegiac Poetry



1 Suda (iv.610.5 Adler)

Τυρταῖος, Ἀρχεμβρότου, Λάκων ἢ Μιλήσιος, ἐλεγειοποιὸς καὶ αὐλητής· ὃν λόγος τοῖς μέλεσι χρησάμενον παροτρῦναι Λακεδαιμονίους πολεμοῦντας Μεσσηνίοις καὶ ταύτῃ ἐπικρατεστέρους ποιῆσαι. ἔστι δὲ παλαίτατος, σύγχρονος τοῖς ἑπτὰ κληθεῖσι σοφοῖς, ἢ καὶ παλαίτερος. ἤκμαζε γοῦν κατὰ τὴν λέ ὀλυμπιάδα. ἔγραψε πολιτείαν Λακεδαιμονίοις, καὶ ὑποθήκας δι᾿ ἐλεγείας, καὶ μέλη πολεμιστήρια, βιβλία ε΄.

Τυρταῖος· ὅτι οἱ Λακεδαιμόνιοι ὤμοσαν ἢ Μεσσήνην αἱρήσειν ἢ αὐτοὶ τεθνήξεσθαι. χρήσαντος δὲ τοῦ θεοῦ στρατηγὸν παρὰ Ἀθηναίων λαβεῖν, λαμβάνουσι Τυρταῖον τὸν ποιητήν, χωλὸν ἄνδρα· ὃς ἐπ᾿ ἀρετὴν αὐτοὺς παρακαλῶν εἷλε τῷ κ΄ ἔτει τὴν Μεσσήνην. καὶ ταύτην κατέσκαψαν καὶ τοὺς αἰχμαλώτους ἐν τοῖς Εἵλωσι κατέταξαν.





1 Suda

Tyrtaeus, son of Archembrotus, a Laconian or Milesian1 elegiac poet and pipe-player. It is said that by means of his songs he urged on the Lacedaemonians in their war with the Messenians and in this way enabled them to get the upper hand. He is very ancient, contemporary with those called the Seven Sages, or even earlier. He flourished in the 35th Olympiad (640–637).2 He wrote a constitution3 for the Lacedaemonians, precepts4 in elegiac verse, and war songs,5 in five books.6

Tyrtaeus. The Lacedaemonians swore that they would either capture Messene or die, and when the god gave them an oracle to take a general from the Athenians, they took the poet Tyrtaeus, a man who was lame.7 By exhorting them to valour he captured Messene in the 20th year.8 They razed it and grouped the prisoners among the helots.

  • 1Presumably a conjecture based on the difficulty of imagining a Spartan poet composing in Ionic.
  • 2The date may be a little early (see n. on fr. 5). Jerome (p. 96b Helm) dates him to 633–632.
  • 3Perhaps a reference to the Eunomia (see frr. 1–2).
  • 4Frr. 10–12 and 18–23a may be included in this category.
  • 5None of these has survived, since those ascribed to Tyrtaeus (frr. 856–57 PMG) are considered spurious.
  • 6No source cites from a specific book.
  • 7See testt. 3 and 7.
  • 8A confusion arising from fr. 5.7. Tyrtaeus lived during the Second, not the First, Messenian War.
DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.tyrtaeus-testimonia.1999