Trigger warning – Rape
A number of lyric poets emerged from Boeotia in Greece in the sixth century, of which Myrtis is the earliest…
Myrtis came from a very small town in the Boeotia district, and possibly travelled, as she is sometimes described as the teacher of Pindar and Corinna, both highly esteemed Boeotian poets.
Unfortunately, none of Myrtis’ poetry has survived, though Plutarch paraphrased one of her works, mentioning that she wrote a story explaining why women were forbidden to enter a sacred grove in Tanagra, which was dedicated to the heroic Eunostos:
The story goes that a woman called Ocna fell in love with Eunostos, but he rejected her advances. Furious, Ochna went to her brothers and told them that Eunostos had raped her. Ochna’s brothers murdered Eunostus and were captured by his father. Feeling guilty, Ochna admitted that she had lied and killed herself by throwing herself from a cliff. Her brothers were sent into exile.
We have evidence that Myrtis competed with Pindar, considered one of the greatest poets of his time. She was described as ‘sweet-sounding’ and ‘clear voiced’ by contemporaries.
Lyric poets are so called because they usually spoke or sang their verses accompanied by music and often played a lyre.
The Woman and the Lyre: Women Writers in Classical Greece and Rome – Jane McIntosh Snyder