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Ibycus (Ancient Greek: Ἴβυκος) (floruit: 2nd half of 6th century BC), was an Ancient Greek lyric poet, a citizen of Rhegium in Magna Graecia, probably active at Samos during the reign of the tyrant Polycrates[1] and numbered by the scholars of Hellenistic Alexandria in the canonical list of nine lyric poets. He was mainly remembered in antiquity for pederastic verses but he also composed lyrical narratives on mythological themes in the manner of Stesichorus.[2] His work survives today only as quotations by ancient scholars or recorded on fragments of papyrus recovered from archaeological sites in Egypt, yet his extant verses include some of the finest examples of Greek poetry.[3] The following lines, dedicated to a lover, Euryalus, were recorded by Athenaeus as a famous example of amorous praise:

The rich language of these lines, in particular the accumulation of epithets, typical of Ibycus, is shown in the following translation:

This mythological account of his lover recalls Hesiod's account of Pandora[5] who was decked out by the same goddesses (the Graces, the Seasons and Persuasion) so as to be a bane to mankind  — an allusion consistent with Ibycus's view of love as unavoidable turmoil.[6]

As is the case with many other major poets of ancient Greece, Ibycus became famous not just for his poetry but also for events in his life, largely the stuff of legend: the testimonia are difficult to interpret and very few biographical facts are actually known.[2]



The Byzantine encyclopaedia Suda represents a good example of a problematic biography, here translated by David Campbell:

Ibycus: son of Phytius; but some say son of the historian Polyzelus of Messana, others son of Cerdas; of Rhegium by birth. From there he went to Samos when it was ruled by the father of of the tyrant Polycrates. This was in the time of Croesus, in the 54th Olympiad (564-60 BC). He was completely crazed with love for boys, and he was the inventor of the so-called sambyke, a kind of triangular cithara. His works are in seven books in the Doric dialect. Captured by bandits in a deserted place he declared that the cranes which happened to be flying overhead would be his avengers; he was murdered, but afterwards one of the bandits saw some cranes in the city and exclaimed, "Look, the avengers of Ibycus!" Someone overheard and followed up his words: the crime was confessed and the bandits paid the penalty; whence the proverbial expression, 'the cranes of Ibycus'.[7]

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