Simonides: Poet, Mercenary, Entrepreneur?

Scholiast on Aristophanes’ Peace 695-700

“Simonides seems to have been the first to adapt money-making to songs and to compose his works for pay. This is what Pindar says deceptively in his second Isthmian: “For the Muse was not then greedy or out for hire.”

The story of Simonides’ boxes is also told, that he had two boxes next to him, one empty and one full—and he used to say that the former was full of favors and the latter full of money. [Someone] else also calls him greedy, which is why Xenophanes calls him a cheapskate.”

Schol. ad loc.

ὁ Σιμωνίδης δοκεῖ πρῶτος σμικρολογίαν εἰσενεγκεῖν εἰς τὰ ᾄσματα καὶ γράψαι ᾆσμα μισθοῦ. τοῦτο δὲ καὶ Πίνδαρος ἐν τοῖς Ἰσθμιονίκαις φησὶν αἰνιττόμενος·
. . . ἁ Μοῖσα γὰρ οὐ φιλοκερδής πω τότ᾿ ἦν οὐδ᾿ ἐργάτις . . . (2. 6).
τὸ μέντοι περὶ τῶν κιβωτῶν ἐπὶ Σιμωνίδου λεγόμενον, ὅτι παρακειμένας εἶχε δύο, τὴν μὲν κενήν, τὴν δὲ μεστήν, καὶ τὴν μὲν κενὴν χαρίτων ἔλεγεν εἶναι, τὴν δὲ μεστὴν <ἀργυρίου>, γνώριμον . . .· καὶ <. . .> μέμνηται, ὅτι σμικρολόγος ἦν· ὅθεν Ξενοφάνης (fr. 21 West) κίμβικα αὐτὸν προσαγορεύει.

Peace 695-699

Hermes: [Peace] asked what Sophokles is up to.

Trygaeus: He’s doing fine—he’s undergoing something miraculous.

H: What is that?

Tr: He is transforming from Sophokles to Simonides.

H: Simonides, how?

Tr: Because even though he is old and rotting
He’d sail on a plank to make a buck.

ΕΡ Πρῶτον δ’ ὅ τι πράττει Σοφοκλέης ἀνήρετο.
ΤΡ. Εὐδαιμονεῖ· πάσχει δὲ θαυμαστόν.
ΕΡ. Τὸ τί;
ΤΡ. ᾿Εκ τοῦ Σοφοκλέους γίγνεται Σιμωνίδης.
ΕΡ. Σιμωνίδης; πῶς;
ΤΡ. ῞Οτι γέρων ὢν καὶ σαπρὸς
κέρδους ἕκατι κἂν ἐπὶ ῥιπὸς πλέοι.

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3 thoughts on “Simonides: Poet, Mercenary, Entrepreneur?

  1. Hi,

    Thanks for all your amazing posts and digging into the literary layers of antiquity.

    I am currently doing a PhD in political theory, and need some references to ancient conceptions of stasis. I have read the references in Aristotle, some in Plato, and also Giorgio Agamben’s work on civil war. I was hoping there was also a literary dimension to the use of stasis. I have found some references to conflict in Homer but the word stasis seems to be of later usage. Any hints of where to look (like the suda or in Philo for instance) would be appreciated. My area is not specifically classics but continental philosophy, but I do have some Greek facility, especially koine and later.




    1. Dear Dimitri,

      I would start by looking into Loraux’s book–with which Agamben engages–and then looking into articles on Eris. Stasis does not become the common word for conflict, especially of the political kind, until the 5th century. Even then it coexists with Eris.

      A few articles to look at:

      Michael Gagarin, “The Ambiguity of Eris in the Works and Days.” In M. Griffith and D.J. Mastronarde Cabinet of the Muses: Essays in Classical and Comparative Literature in Honor of Thomas G. Rosenmeyer. 1990, 173–183.
      James C. Hogan. “Eris in Homer.” Grazer Beitrdge 10 (1981) 21-58.
      Jonathan P. Zarecki. “Pandora and the Good Eris in Hesiod.” GRBS 47 (2007) 5-29.

      I would also suggest looking at for politics:

      Elton T. E. Barker. Entering the Agôn: Dissent and Authority in Homer, Historiography and Tragedy. Oxford, 2009.
      David Elmer. The Poetics of Consent. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2013.
      Dean Hammer. The Iliad as Politics: The Performance of Political Thought. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002.
      Peter W. Rose. Class in Archaic Greece. Cambridge, 2012.

      Hope this helps

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