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Who's Who Ancient Greece: The Arts

Alkman of Sardis (7th century BC)

Born in Sardis, in Asia Minor, this poet lived and died in Sparta. During the time that he lived, Sparta and Corinth were the cultural centers of mainland Greece, and Sparta had not yet developed into a militaristic society.

Alkman was known mostly for his erotic poetry, though not all of it was based on his own experiences. He wrote music to accompany his poetry, with the songs performed by a chorus, usually of young women, the songs known as 'Parthenia' (Virgins' Songs).

He played an instrument similar to the lyre (the kithara-whose name in modern Greek means 'guitar'), and also the avlos (the double flute), the latter chosen by him because it went well with the voices of girls and children.

He played a major role with this joyous music in the evolution of early lyric choral poetry into a literary form. His style was simple and less passionate than that of Sappho, but with very fine descriptions of nature.