Corinna – 6th Century BCE – Boeotia, Greece

Ancient Greece

Terpsichore summoned me to sing

Beautiful tales of old,

to the white-robed women of Tanagra

and the city delighted greatly

in my voice, clear as the swallow’s.

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Corinna was a poet who was renowned in her own lifetime as well as later antiquity. Like Myrtis of Anthedon, she was from the district Boeotia. Unlike other female poets of the time, who wrote love songs, Corinna’s topics included war and heroisms.

“But I myself sing the excellent deeds of male and female heroes”

Her poetry had a wide appeal and prompted the critic Antipater of Thessalonica to call her ‘an earthly muse who possessed much poetic talent’. She wrote lyric poetry to be performed at celebrations and focussed on re-telling local myths, comparing the deeds of the gods to human behaviour.

Ancient sources tell us that Corinna may have been a teacher and rival of the famous poet Pindar. Aelian describes Corinna beating Pindar in five poetry competitions, causing the humiliated poet to call her a sow. Pausanias says that after one of these defeats a statue was erected in Corinna’s honour.

Only fragments of Corinna’s poetry survive today, mostly written on papyrus.


References

Encyclopaedia of Women in the Ancient World – Joyce Salisbury

Corinna of Tanagra and Her AudienceMarylin B. Skinner

On Wikipedia:


Notes

In Greek mythology, Terpsichore is one of the nine muses and represents lyrics and dance.

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