Furor poeticus  

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Ingenium misera quia fortunatius arte credit et excludit sanos Helicone poetas Democritus ... --Ars Poetica (Horace)

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In Greek thought, artistic inspiration meant that the poet or artist would go into ecstasy or furor poeticus, the divine frenzy or poetic madness. He or she would be transported beyond his own mind and given the gods' or goddesses own thoughts to embody. Plato, in Symposium 197a, Phaedrus 244, as well as Theocritus, Pindar, and Aristotle (in Poetics) argue that the poet breaks through to the world of divine truth or divine apprehension temporarily and is compelled by that vision to create.

Otherwise, Virgil, Ovid, and especially Cicero insist, like the Greek theorists before them, that artistic inspiration is a bestowed gift of the gods. Cicero, in fact, was apparently dissatisfied with the figurativeness "inspiration" had taken and used the term afflatus instead.

The end of the 15th century led to a significant return of the conception of furor poeticus.


  • E. N. Tigerstedt, “Furor Poeticus: Poetic Inspiration in Greek Literature before Democritus and Plato"

See also

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