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There was a certain Polybius, completely uneducated and ill-spoken, who said, “The emperor has honored me with Roman citizenship.” To which Demonax responded, “If only he'd made you a Greek rather than a Roman.”:
Lucian of Samosata, Life of Demonax

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Lyra Graeca Volume I. Translated by Edmonds, J M. Loeb Classical Library Volume 28. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1922.

Terpander: Poems

Athenaeus Doctors at Dinner 14. 635d :

When Poseidonius says this, he does not realise that the magadis is an ancient instrument, because Pindar plainly states that Terpander invented the barbitos or lyre to respond12 to the Lydian pectis or lute, in the words “Which Lesbian Terpander invented of old to vibrate in answer to the low-pitched lute at the feasts of the Lydians;” and the pectis and the magadis are the same . . . It is clear that Terpander was earlier than Anacreon from the following considerations. According to Hellenicus both in his metrical and in his formal lists of Victors at the Carneian Festival, the first recorded name is Terpander’s; and we know from Sosibius’ Chronology that the festival was founded in the 26th Olympiad (B.C. 676-673), while Hieronymus’ tract On Singers to the Lyre, which forms the fifth Book of his Treatise on the Poets, assigns him to the time of the lawgiver Lycurgus, who is admitted on all hands to have arranged with Iphitus of Elis the first Olympic Games reckoned in the list (B.C. 776).

Parian Chronicle 34 :

From the time when the Lesbian Terpander son of Derdenes . . . the “nomes”. . . and changed the style of music 381 years, in the arconship of Dropides at Athens (B.C. 645).

Eusebius Chronicle Ol. 33.2 :

Olympiad 33. 2 (B.C. 647) Flourished Terpander the singer to the lyre.

Timotheus Persae 234 :

In the beginning did Orpheus son of Calliopè beget the motley-musicked shell on Mount Pieria, and after him came the famous Terpander, born of Aeolian Lesbos at Antissa, and yoked the Muse unto poems ten. And lo! now Timotheus giveth the lyre new life with times and measures of eleven strings.

Aristotle Problems 19. 32 :

Why is the octave described as diapason or “at an interval of all,” rather than numerically “at an interval of eight,” as we say “at an interval of four” or “of five”? Is it because the strings were in old times seven, and Terpander removed the “third” when he added the netè or “highest,” thus keeping the total seven and not increasing it to eight?13

Plutarch On Music 28 :

The musical historians attribute the Dorian nete or octave-note to Terpander, musicians before him not having employed it.

Ibid. 30 :

[on Timotheus]: Down to the time of Aristocleides the lyre had had seven strings. Timotheus divided the Terpandrean mode into a greater number of notes.14

Suidas Lexicon :

Terpander: Variously described as of Arnè, a Lesbian of Antissa, and of Cymè15; according to some authorities a descendant of Hesiod, or again of Homer, with the pedigree Homer – Euryphon – Boeus of Phocis – Terpander; a lyric poet who invented the lyre of seven strings and, pace those who ascribed this to Philammon, was the first writer of lyric “nomes.”

Plutarch on Music 18 :

Moreover, although the ancient poets used only some of the “modes,” they knew them all. It is not through ignorance that they confine themselves to employing so few strings, or that composers like Olympus and Terpander and their followers denied themselves the use of many strings and the variety which that entails. This is clear both from the works of Olympus and Terpander and those of the composers who belong to the same school. Though they are quite simple and written only for a few strings, they so far excel the elaborate works written for many, that the style of Olympus remains inimitable and the exponents of the opposite principle have to take the second place.

Ibid. 3 :

According to Heracleides’ Collection on the Musicians, the art of singing to the lyre and the kind of poetry which belongs to it were the invention of Amphion son of Zeus and Antiopè, who presumably was taught by his father. His authority is the register preserved at Sicyon, from which he derives his lists of the priestesses of Argos, the poets, and the musicians. Of the same generation, according to him, were Linus . . . , Anthen . . ., Pierus . . ., Philammon . . ., Thamyris . . . , Demodocus . . . , and Phemius . . . These poets’ writings were not in prose, but resembled those of Stesichorus and the old lyric poets who wrote epic lines and set them to music. Even Terpander, he declares, whose forte was the citharoedic or lyre-sung nome, and to whom he ascribes the naming of these nombes, in every one of them set his own or Homer’s epic lines to music for singing at the Games. In the same way Clonas, the first composer of flute-sung nomes and the originator of processional songs, used elegiac and epic verse . . . The nomes of these flute-poets, my excellent Onesicrates, were sung to the flute, and are these . . . The lyre-sung nomes, which were established much earlier, namely in the time of Terpander, were first named by him, and are these: Boeotian, Aeolian, Trochaic, High-pitched, Cepion, Terpandrean, and Four-song. Terpander also wrote lyric Preludes in epic metre; and it becomes clear that the ancient lyre-sung nomes were composed of epic lines, if we consider that Timotheus, when he employed the dithyrambic style, interspersed his earlier nomes with them, in order to avoid the appearance of breaking the rules of the ancient music. There is reason to believe that Terpander was supreme in the art of the lyre-song. It is recorded that he won the prize at the Pythian Games four times running; and the perios at which he lived must have been very early, because Glaucus the Italian in his History of the Ancient Poets and Musicians puts him before Archilochus, making him only a very little later than the first composers of the flute.

Alexander, in his Collections on Phrygia, declares that instrumental music was introduced into Greece by Olympus, and also by the Idaean Dactyls or Priests of Cybelè, and that while the first flute-player was Hyagnis, who was followed by his son Marsyas, who was succeeded by Olympus, Terpander (the lyrist) emulated in his verse Homer and in his music Orpheus, who appears to have been entirely original . . . It is said that some of the citharoedic or lyre-sung nomes thought to be the work of Terpander were really composed by the ancient Delphian composer Philammon. In fine, lyric song continued from Terpander’s time to that of Phrynis to be wholly simple. Poets were not permitted in those days to compose for the lyre as they do now with frequent change of mode or rhythm. They maintained in the nomes the scale proper to each, which indeed is the reason of that name, these compositions being called “nomes” or “laws” because it was not permitted to go beyond the proper scale. As soon as the composer had done his duty by the Gods, he passed on to the poetry of Homer and other epic poets. This is proved by the Preludes of Terpander. As for the form of the lyre, that was established in the time of Cepion the pupil of Terpander; and it was called “Asian” because it was used in Lesbos which is adjacent to Asia. The last Lesbian lyrist to win the prize at the Spartan Carneia was Pericleitus. His death put an end to the continuous succession of Lesbian singers to the lyre.

Suidas Lexicon :

Nome: The lyric style of song-music composed according to strict rules of mode and rhythm. There were seven nomes composed by Terpander, the Orthian, the Four-song, the High-pitched . . . 16

Ibid. :

The Boeotian (tune), as it is called, and the Phrygian were invented by Terpander.

Ibid. Orthian and Trochaic Nomes: The two nomes so called from their rhythms by Terpander. They were high-pitched and of a vigorous character . . .

Plutarch On Music 28 :

Further, Pindar tells us that Terpander was the inventor of scolia or drinking-songs.

Ibid. 12 :

Something also should be said about rhythms. For there have been innovations in the form or kind of rhythms, and indeed of methods of metre and rhythm. Terpander first broke new ground by introducing into music a beautiful style of rhythm called after him the Terpandrean. Polymnastus who followed him employed a new rhythm as well as his, but preserved throughout the same beautiful style . . .

Ibid. 9 :

The first establishment of music at Sparta was due to Terpander.

Ibid. 42 :

Many circumstances could be cited to show that good music has been a matter for concern to the best-regulated states, and not least among these the quelling of a sedition at Sparta by Terpander.

Aelian Historical Miscellanies 12. 50 :

The Spartans, who bent was for bodily exercises and feats of arms, had no skill in music. Yet if ever they required the aid o the Muses on occasion of general sickness of body or mind or any like public affliction, their custom was to send for foreigners, at the bidding of the Delphic oracle, to act as healers and purifiers. For instance they summoned Terpander, Thales, Tyrtaeus, Nymphaeus of Cydonia, and Alcman.

Suidas Lexicon :

Next to the poet of Lesbos: Said proverbially of persons who come off second best. The singers to the lyre first called in by the Spartans were of Lesbos. When their city was torn by faction there was an oracle delivered that they should fetch the poet of Lesbos, and accordingly they sent for Terpander of Antissa, who was living in exile at Sparta because of a murder, and listening to his music at their public dinners, ceased their factious strife. Another account is this: The Spartans at a time of internecine struggles sent to Lesbos for the musician Terpander, who restored harmony to their minds and put an end to the strife of parties; and so whenever after that time the Spartans listened to a musician, the saying went “Next to the poet of Lesbos.” This proverb is mentioned by Cratinus in his Cheiron.

Aelius Dionysius quoted by Eustathius Il. 1. 129 :

Aristotle in his Constitution of Sparta declares that in the saying “Next to the poet of Lesbos” the reference is to Terpander, and it is said that the Spartans used to summon to take his place of honour17 first his descendants, then any Lesbian poet present, and the rest as they came, “after the poet of Lesbos,” that is after any poet that came from Lesbos.

Palatine Anthology 9. 488 :

Trypon on the lyrist Terpes18 . . . : When in the Spartan Place of Meeting Terpes was singing a song to the thrumming of his sweet lyre, he perished never to return, not by a sword, nor yet an arrow, but by the casting of a fig between his lips. Alas! Death suffers from no lack of pretexts.

Plutarch Life of Lycurgus 28 :

Thus it is said that later during the Theban invasion of Laconia the Helot prisoners refused to sing at the bidding of their captors the songs of Terpander or Alcman or Spendon the Laconian, on the plea that their masters never allowed it.

12. i.e. to accompany it an octave higher? (hupatê lit. “highest” was according to our reckoning the lowest note in a Greek “mode”)
13. cf. fr. 5.
14. the reading is doubtful.
15. Diodorus in Tzetzes Chil. 1. 16 calls him a Methymnaean.
16. the list is incomplete, and the High-pitched was probably identical with the Orthian; cf. also Suid. And Hesych. s. orthios nomos, Hdt. 1. 24.
17. Hesych. s. meta Lesb. “called first before the judges of the musical contests”
18. apparently an abbreviation of Terpander, cf. Suid. s. gluku meli



Clement of Alexandria Miscellanies 6. 748 :

So the mode or scale of the barbarian psaltery (of David), displaying solemnity as it does and being very ancient, furnishes an example or foreshadowing of Terpander thus singing the praise of Zeus in the Dorian mode:

Zeus, the beginning of all, the leader of all; Zeus, to thee I bring this gift for a beginning of hymns.19


Suidas Lexicon : amphianaktixein: to sing the Nome of Terpander called the Orthian or High-pitched, of which the prelude begins:

Of the Far-flinging Lord come sing me, O my soul.20


Keil Grammatical Extracts 6. 6 : [on the Spondee]: This rhythm is so called from that of the songs sung to the flute at spondai or “libations,” such as:

Let us pour to the Daughters of Memory and their Lord the son of Leto.


Dionysius of Halicarnassus Composition 17 :

[on rhythms]: The rhythm which consists entirely of long syllables – called molossus by the writers on metre – is elevated and dignified and takes long strides; and this is an example of it:

O [Sons] of Zeus and Leda, saviours most beautiful.


Strabo Geography 13. 618 :

[on Methymna]: Arion was a singer to the lyre; and according to tradition the same branch of music had an exponent in a native of the same island, Terpander, who was the first to use a lyre with seven strings instead of four, as is recorded in the epic lines ascribed to him:

To thee we will play new hymns upon a lyre of seven strings, and will love the four-voiced lay no more.23


Plutarch Life of Lycurgus 21 :

Indeed if the reader will consider the Laconian poetry of which some is still extant and the march-rhythms the Spartans used to the tune of the flute when they went into battle, he will conclude that both Terpander and Pindar have good reason to connect valour with music as the former does where he says of Sparta:

Where bloom both the spear of the young men and the clear sweet Muse, and eke that aider unto noble deeds, Justice that goeth in broad streets . . . 24


Johannes Lydus On the Months 72 :

According to Terpander of Lesbos, Dionysus, who is sometimes called Sabazius, was nursed by Nysa; he was the son of Zeus and Persephone and was eventually torn in pieces by the Titans.25

19. the solemnity is partly due to the absence of short syllables if the words are really Terpander’s the meaning of “all” is prob. Not comsogonic cf. Ars. 261; Apostol. 3. 29c
20. cf. Suid. ad loc. Sch. Ar. Nub. 595 (ek tôn Terpandrou prooimiôn), Hesych. amphi anakta archê kitharôdikou nomou
21. ascription doubtful.
22. ascription doubtful
23. cf. Euc. Intr. Harm. 19, Cram. A.P. 1. 56. 10, Clem. Al. Str. 6. 814, Poll. 4. 66
24. cf. Arr. Tact. fin.
25. cf. Inscr. Theatr. Dion. Keil Philol. 23 608

text/terpander_poems.txt · Last modified: 2014/01/15 12:00 (external edit)