1. Birth-family

Archilochus, one of the most important representatives of lyrical poetry, is reported by the written sources as descending from Paros and Thasos. The oddity of this double origin is due to the fact that his father, Telesikles, founded, around 675 B.C., the Parian colony of Thasos (although according to another version this Telesikles was not Archilochus’ father, but his great-grandfather and Thasos was founded much earlier). Lesky sustains that Archilochus was in fact an illegitimate son of Telesikles, born around 680 B.C. by the slave Enipo. This might explain the fact that he never appeared as belonging to the upper class of the cities of the Archaic era, but rather to a class of professional soldiers. In his poems he often mentions military life and the battles, mainly the ones fought on the coasts of Thrace opposite Thasos. War was a profession for him, whereas poetry helped him express his intense commotions in a turbulent era. And it was in war where he met his death, fighting the Naxians.

2. Works

Archilochus’ poems mainly consist of elegies, iambic triple-meters, trochaic four-meters and refrains. The particular characteristic of his poetry, as well as the other contemporary lyrical poets, is the use of the first person. In one of his poems, for example, he talks about his unfortunate love for Neovouli, daughter of Lykamvis. His verses are full of bitterness and hatred. Archilochus’ biggest innovation is that he opens widely the door towards a world of personal feelings, marking a complete change in poetry worldwide. He also created a new style, combining elements from the vernacular poetry, but also from the Homeric Poems.

Archilochus’ poetic work has been mentioned and honoured by later poets but also by philosophers such as Herodotus, Plato and Aristotle. Theokritos praises him and Herakleides Pontikos wrote an essay named About Archilochus and Homer. His influence on Latin poets was also great, especially on Ovidius. But there were also criticizers, amongst whom Herakleitos and Pindar, who disapprove the fact that Archilochus often discredited or even ridiculed elements of the aristocratic view of the world, such as self-sacrifice. But Kritias also accused hum as a mean person, whose only talent was swearing.

His poetic peak can be dated to the period 670-640 B.C. Through Archilochus’ verses an era when men lived in a constant preparation for war emerges. This arranged the relations amongst them, created friendships but also enmities, it defined their fortunes. The names of his comrades in war live again for a while along with their human attributes, which Archilochus either praises or ridicules. Excavations in Thasos have unearthed the relics of the city during the Archaic period, and in some cases have also offered testimonies of the persons and the situations the poet describes.

The Parians honoured Archilochus very much. A monument with the form of a capital, which preserves an important inscription with biographical information about the poet was erected by Mnesiepis around 350-300 B.C. and might have marked a worship of Archilochus as a hero. A second monument was built during the 1st century B.C. by Sosthenis.