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THEOCRITUS
The founder and principal representative of Greek bucolic poetry, born about 325 B.C. in Syracuse, or (according to another account) in the island of Cos, pupil of the poet Philetas and friend of the poet Aratus. He lived alternately in Alexandria, at the court of Ptolemy II (Philadelphus), and in Sicily with Hiero, where he was much esteemed for his poetical skill and refinement. He died about 267. Besides a number of epigrams, thirty-two poems, some of considerable length, known as idylls, have come down to us. Some of these are probably spurious. Those that are undoubtedly genuine are of great poetical merit. They include the true bucolic idylls, descriptive of the life of shepherds and herdsmen, and also the genre pictures of every-day life and of the mythical age, together with hymns and eulogistic poems to his princely patrons, an epithalamium in honour of Helen, and some pieces in lyrical form. His poems of ordinary life are especially remarkable for their minutely faithful and dramatic descriptions. Most of his idylls are written in a largely modified epic language, with a skilful admixture of the forms of the Doric dialect spoken in Sicily, which still further enhanced their popular character. Two of the lyrical poems [xxviii, xxix] are composed in the Aeolic dialect.
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