Elegies (II), by Theognis

Theognis antinous 4

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Theognis of Megara  was a Greek lyric poet, active in approximately the sixth century BC. The work is quite typical of the time, featuring ethical maxims and practical advice about life, while the entire body of his work (almost 1400 lines known as the Elegies) is valued today for its ‘warts and all’ portrayal of aristocratic life in archaic Greece.

A considerable portion of the text, which is considered to be a separate work included in the Elegies by a later compiler, relates Theognis’s doomed love affairs with young men, and his subsequent preoccupation with ageing.

Check out the extracts below and feel Theognis’s pain.

antinous636SONY DSCAntinous  (2)Theognis Boy 6olympicantinous793Antinous (4)Antinous 5Herculesgreek statuedio1scraperTheognis Boy 9

The other major themes of the Elegies include advice on choosing friends, behaviour in public, keeping promises,  where you should place your trust, the importance of husbanding resources, and the evils of poverty.  If the text reflects lived experience, Theognis would seem to have  lost his estate due to the duplicity of his friends who worked hand-in-hand with city administrators. There is also a striking motif of increasing civil strife, corruption and a growing threat from overseas to the polis, which would seem to have manifested in eventual invasion and the complete overthrow of the city state where Theognis resided.

The majority of images above are of ANTINOUS, a  Greek youth and a favourite of the Roman emperor Hadrian. He was deified after his death, being worshiped in both the Greek East and Latin West, sometimes as a god (theos) and sometimes merely as a deified mortal (heroes). See: The Temple of Antinous, Ecclesia Antinoi

greek statue

Read Xenophon on  ‘stealing a kiss from the most fair of youths’.

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