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Alcman or Alcmaeon (the former being the Doric form of the name), the founder of Doric lyric poetry, to whom was assigned the first place among the nine lyric poets of Greece in the Alexandrian canon, flourished in the latter half of the 7th century BC.

He was a Lydian of Sardis, who came as a slave to Sparta, where he lived in the family of Agesidas, by whom he was emancipated. His mastery of Greek shows that he must have come very early to Sparta, where, after the close of the Messenian wars, the people were able to bestow their attention upon the arts of peace.

Alcman composed various kinds of poems in various metres; Parthenia (maidens' songs), hymns, paeans, prosodia (processionals), and love-songs, of which he was considered the inventor.

He was evidently fond of good living, and traces of Asiatic sensuousness seem out of place amidst Spartan simplicity. The fragments are scanty, the most considerable being part of a Parthenion found in 1855 on an Egyptian papyrus; some later discovered hexameters are attributed to Alcman or Erinna (Oxyrhynchus papyri, i. 1898)

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.