The early lyric poetry of the Greeks was made up largely of songs composed for different occasions,—marriages, funerals, celebrations of victories and the like. An important class of these were "banquet songs,"—scolia, or catches, sung as the wine-cup passed around,—which every Athenian was assumed to be ready to sing.

Of these the most celebrated in ancient times was the following, attributed to Callistratus.


Harmodius and Aristogeiton conspired to slay Hipparchus and his elder brother Hippias, tyrant of Athens, during the procession at the Panathenaic festival in 514 B. c. Through a mistake they succeeded in killing only Hipparchus. Harmodius was put to death at once by the tyrant's guard, and Aristogeiton soon after. After the expulsion of Hippias in 510 B. c, Harmodius and Aristogeiton became the most popular of Athenian heroes, and through a false view of their act were celebrated as the deliverers of Athens.

In a wreath of myrtle I'll wear my glaive,
Like Harmodius and Aristogeiton brave,
Who, striking the tyrant down,
Made Athens a freeman's town.

Harmodius, our darling, thou art not dead! 5
Thou liv'st in the isles of the blest, 't is said,
With Achilles first in speed.
And Tydides Diomede.

In a wreath of myrtle I'll wear my glaive,
Like Harmodius and Aristogeiton brave, 10
When the twain on Athena's day
Did the tyrant Hipparchus slay.

For aye shall your fame in the land be told,
Harmodius and Aristogeiton bold,
Who, striking the tyrant down, 15
Made Athens a freeman's town.

Translated by John Conington.


My wealth 's a burly spear and brand,
And a right good shield of hides untanned,
Which on my arm I buckle:
With these I plough, I reap, I sow,
With these I make the sweet vintage flow, 5
And all around me truckle.
But your wights that take no pride to wield
A massy spear and well-made shield,
Nor joy to draw the sword:
O, I bring those heartless, hapless drones, 10
Down in a trice on their marrow-bones.
To call me king and lord.

Translated by Thomas Campbell.


In ancient times as well as modern, the swallow was regarded as the harbinger of spring. Every year boys went from house to house in Rhodes, announcing the welcome arrival of this bird, and begging gifts in return for their good news. This is the song that they sang.

She is here, she is here, the swallow!
Fair seasons bringing, fair years to follow!
Her belly is white,
Her back black as night!
From your rich house 5
Roll forth to us
Tarts, wine, and cheese:
Or if not these,
Oatmeal and barley-cake
The swallow deigns to take. 10
What shall we have? or must we hence away?
Thanks, if you give; if not, we'll make you pay!
The house-door hence we '11 carry;
Nor shall the lintel tarry;
From hearth and home your wife we'll rob; 15
She is so small,
To take her off will be an easy job!
Whate'er you give, give largess free!
Up! open, open to the swallow's call!
No grave old men, but merry children we! 20

Translated by John Addington Symonds.