Early Greek Poets' Lives

The Shaping of the Tradition


This book examines the formation and development of the biographical traditions about early Greek poets, focusing on the traditions of Hesiod, Stesichorus, Archilochus, Hipponax, Terpander and Sappho. The study provides a detailed overview of the traditions and chronographical material about these poets and seeks to clarify who were the creators of the particular traditions; what were the sources; when the traditions were formed; and to what extent they are shaped by formulaic themes and story-patterns.
It challenges several mainstream assumptions on the subject, for example, that the traditions were formed mainly in the Post-Classical period; that the only significant source for the legends is the works of the particular poet; and that the poets were perceived as “new heroes.”
Open Access


Open Access

Biographical Note

Maarit Kivilo completed her D.Phil. at Magdalen College, Oxford University in 2007. She has also published on the biographical tradition of Homer.

Review Quotes

" Maarit Kivilo provides a comprehensive and accurate overview of the surviving biographical data for the poets Hesiod, Stesichorus, Archilochus, Hipponax, Terpander, and Sappho. She aims to approach the material with “a critical mind and balanced judgment,” and to demonstrate that in most cases the biographical tradition antedates the earliest surviving written information. Anyone who wishes to study the lives of these particular poets will want to begin their work by consulting this book, even if their own analysis of the evidence may in some cases lead to different conclusions. Kivilo’s coverage of the testimonia is unparalleled elsewhere, and her discussion of issues of dating is particularly informative." Mary R. Lefkowitz in Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 5.16.2011

Table of contents

1 Introduction
2 Hesiod
3 Stesichorus
4 Archilochus
5 Hipponax
6 Terpander
7 Sappho
8 The formation of biographical traditions
9 Conclusion



All those interested in Greek poets’ life and works, and the formation of their biographical and chronographical traditions. Although aimed primarily at classicists, it will be of interest also to historians