Life

Ibycus (IHB-ih-kuhs) is reported to have left Rhegium after refusing to become a tyrant and, like other poets of his era, wandered about the Greek world. He is said to have spent considerable time in Samos with the tyrant Polycrates of Samos. Perhaps he is most famous for the fabulous story of his death. When attacked by robbers, he called on a flock of cranes to avenge him. Later, in a theater at Corinth, one of the robbers saw a crane and declared that it was one of the avengers of Ibycus, thus revealing his criminality.

Ibycus began his career as a lyricist with narratives about the sack of Troy, the Calydonian boar hunt, and other mythological topics. He was noted in antiquity for his erotic poems, which show a wonderful talent at revealing his emotions, especially his lovesick longings. Most of the seven books of his verses were choral poems in a variety of meters.

Influence

Ibycus, included in the Alexandrian canon of nine lyric poets, was considered to be the most passionate of all poets and one particularly subject to the charms of youth. His innovation of passionate choral love lyrics was highly individualistic, and he seems therefore not to have influenced later poets.

Additional Resources

Barron, J. P. “Ibycus: To Polycrates.” Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 16 (1969): 119-149.

Podlecki, Anthony J. The Early Greek Poets and Their Times. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1984.