Greek and Roman Mythology > Simonides


Simonides was one of the most prolific of the early poets of
Greece, but only a few fragments of his compositions have
descended to us. He wrote hymns, triumphal odes, and elegies.
In the last species of composition he particularly excelled. His
genius was inclined to the pathetic, and none could touch with
truer effect the chords of human sympathy. The Lamentation of
Danae, the most important of the fragments which remain of his
poetry is based upon the tradition that Danae and her infant son
were confined by order of her father Acrisius in a chest and set
adrift on the sea. The chest floated towards the island of
Seriphus, where both were rescued by Dictys, a fisherman, and
carried to Polydectes, king of the country, who received and
protected them. The child Perseus when grown up became a famous
hero, whose adventures have been recorded in a previous chapter.

Simonides passed much of his life at the courts of princes, and
often employed his talents in panegyric and festal odes,
receiving his reward from the munificence of those whose exploits
he celebrated. This employment was not derogatory, but closely
resembles that of the earliest bards, such as Demodocus,
described by Homer, or of Homer himself as recorded by tradition.

On one occasion when residing at the court of Scopas, king of
Thessaly, the prince desired him to prepare a poem in celebration
of his exploits, to be recited at a banquet. In order to
diversify his theme, Simonides, who was celebrated for his piety,
introduced into his poem the exploits of Castor and Pollux. Such
digressions were not unusual with the poets on similar occasions,
and one might suppose an ordinary mortal might have been content
to share the praises of the sons of Leda. But vanity is
exacting; and as Scopas sat at his festal board among his
courtiers and sycophants, he grudged every verse that did not
rehearse his own praises. When Simonides approached to receive
the promised reward Scopas bestowed but half the expected sum,
saying, "Here is payment for my portion of the performance,
Castor and Pollux will doubtless compensate thee for so much as
relates to them." The disconcerted poet returned to his seat
amidst the laughter which followed the great man's jest. In a
little time he received a message that two young men on horseback
were waiting without and anxious to see him. Simonides hastened
to the door, but looked in vain for the visitors. Scarcely
however had he left the banqueting-hall when the roof fell in
with a loud crash, burying Scopas and all his guests beneath the
ruins. On inquiring as to the appearance of the young men who
had sent for him, Simonides was satisfied that they were no other
than Castor and Pollux themselves.

Myth Collection

Achelous and HerculesAcis and GalateaAdmetus and Alcestis
Agamemnon, Orestes, and ElectraAmphionAmphitrite
AntigoneApollo and DaphneApollo and Hyacinthus
Aurora and TithonusBacchusBaucis and Philemon
CadmusCastor and PolluxCephalus and Procris
Ceyx and HalcyoneClytieCupid and Psyche
DaedalusDiana and ActaeonDryope
Echo and NarcissusEndymionErisichthon
Glaucus and ScyllaHebe and GanymedeHercules
IbycusIo and CallistoLeucothea dnd Palaemon
LinusMarsyasMedea and Aeson
MelampusMenelaus and HelenMidas
Minerva and ArachneMonstersMusaeus
NeptuneNereus and DorisNiobe
Nisus and ScyllaOrionOrpheus and Eurydice
Pegasus and the ChimaeraPenelopePerseus and Medusa
PhaetonPluto and ProsperinePrometheus and Pandora
PygmalionPyramus and ThisbePython
ThamyrisThe Calydonian HuntThe Camenae
The CentaursThe Golden FleeceThe Graeae and Gorgons
The Griffin, or GryphonThe IliadThe Myrmidons
The PygmiesThe Rural DeitiesThe Sphinx
The Trojan WarThe Water DeitiesThe Winds
TheseusThetisVenus and Adonis
Vertumnus and Pomona

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