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Properly = an inscription, such as was often written upon a tomb, a votive offering, a present, a work of art, and the like, to describe its character. Inscriptions of this sort were from early times put into metrical form, and the writer generally tried to put good sense and spirit into them. They were generally, though not always, written in the elegiac metre. The greatest master of epigram was Simonides of Ceos, the author of almost all the sepulchral inscriptions on the warriors who fell in the Persian wars. His lines are remarkable for repose, clearness, and force, both of thought and expression. Fictitious inscriptions were often written, containing brief criticisms on celebrated men, as poets, philosophers, artists and their productions. The form of the epigram was also used to embody in concise and pointed language the clever ideas, or the passing moods of the writer, often with a tinge of wit or satire. The occasional epigram was a very favourite form of composition with the Alexandrian poets, and remained so down to the latest. times. Some writers, indeed, devoted themselves entirely to it. Many of the choicest gems of Greek literature are to be found in the epigrams. The epigrammatists used other metres besides the elegiac, especially the iambic. In later times more complex and almost lyrical measures were employed. The Greek Anthology has preserved 4,500 epigrams, of the greatest variety in contents, and from the hand of more than 300 poets. (See ANTHOLOGY). Among these are found some of the most celebrated names of ancient and of later times. A great number, too, are found in inscriptions. Of all the Greek varieties of lyric poetry, the epigram was earliest welcomed at Rome. It lived on in an uninterrupted existence from Ennius till the latest times, being employed sometimes for inscriptions, sometimes for other and miscellaneous purposes. In the second half of the 1st century A.D. Martial handled it in various forms and with the power of a master. We also have a collection of epigrams by Luxorius (6th century A.D.). Many of such poems are preserved on inscriptions, besides a great quantity in manuscript, which in modern times have been collected into a Latin Anthology.
Type: Standard
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