Ibycus

Ibycus, of Rhegium in Italy, Greek lyric poet, contemporary of Anacreon, flourished in the 6th century BC.

Notwithstanding his good position at home, he lived a wandering life, and spent a considerable time at the court of Polycrates, tyrant of Samos. The story of his death is thus related: While in the neighbourhood of Corinth, the poet was mortally wounded by robbers. As he lay dying he saw a flock of cranes flying overhead, and called upon them to avenge his death. The murderers betook themselves to Corinth, and soon after, while sitting in the theatre, saw the cranes hovering above. One of them, either in alarm or jest, exclaimed, "Behold the avengers of Ibycus," and thus gave the clue to the detection of the crime (Plutarch, De Garrulitate, xiv.).

The phrase, "the cranes of Ibycus," passed into a proverb among the Greeks for the discovery of crime through divine intervention. According to Suidas, Ibycus wrote seven books of lyrics, to some extent mythical and heroic, but mainly erotic (Cicero, Tusc. Disp. iv. 33), celebrating the charms of beautiful youths and girls. FG Welcker suggests that they were sung by choruses of boys at the "beauty competitions" held at Lesbos. Although the metre and dialect are Dorian, the poems breathe the spirit of Aeolian melic poetry.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.




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