Life

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Virtually nothing is known about Theognis’s (thee-AHG-nuhs) life. Ancient authorities debate his birthplace, referencing a Megara in Greece or Sicily. The former seems to be the better candidate, despite the fact that he wrote an elegy about Syracuse. Other fragments imply that he merely visited Sicily. What can be discerned through the fragments of his surviving works is that he belonged to aristocratic circles. Many of his poems are relevant to the symposium, such as drinking songs, political expositions, and pederastic love songs. His political views seemed to have put him at odds with the leaders of a democratic revolution. Betrayed by one of his friends, Theognis found himself bereft of his property and exiled. His travels took him to Euboea, Thebes, Sparta, and eventually Sicily. His poems, many addressed to his friend Cyrnus, are filled with invective against his enemies, the bemoaning of his state of poverty, and lampoons. Also, in some poems he attempted to give political and moral advice to his friend.