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Theogonis of Megara
(early 6th century BC) Greece

Theogonis of Megara

Poet, writer


Theognis (also spelled Theogonis) was one of the earlier Greek poets. He seems to have been both happily married and also devoted to a young man, his eromenos Kurnus (or Cyrnus). His Gnomai (Maxims) were a series of poems, mostly (about 50) addressed to this young lover, whom by this means he sought to guide and instruct out of the stores of his own riper experience, and the final 150 devoted to boy's love.

The verses are reserved and didactic for the most part, but now and then show a deep underlying feeling.

About 1,000 AD a Byzantine editor divided the Elegies into two books, segregating the pederastic poems (about forty in number) in the shorter second book.


"Lo, I have given thee wings wherewith to fly
Over the boundless ocean and the earth;
Yea, on the lips of many shalt thou lie
The comrade of their banquet and their mirth.
Youths in their loveliness shall make thee sound
Upon the silver flute's melodious breath;
And when thou goest darkling underground
Down to the lamentable house of death,
Oh yet not then from honor shalt thou cease,
But wander, an imperishable name,
Kurnus, about the seas and shores of Greece,
Crossing from isle to isle the barren main.
Horses thou shalt not need, but lightly ride
Sped by the Muses of the violet crown,
And men to come, while earth and sun abide,
Who cherish song shall cherish thy renown.
Yea, I have given thee wings! and in return
Thou givest me the scorn with which I burn."


Source: Theognis, Gnomai, lines 237-254, trans. by G. Lowes Dickinson

Illustration: A kylix from Tanagra, Boeotia, 5th century B.C. A symposiast sings"O paidon kalliste", the beginning of a verse by Theognis.

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