Simonides of Ceos  

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"Painting is silent poetry, and poetry painting that speaks" -- Simonides of Ceos

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Simonides of Ceos (Ancient Greek: Σιμωνίδης ὁ Κεῖος) (c. 556 BC-468 BC), Greek lyric poet, was born at Ioulis on Kea. He was included, along with Sappho and Pindar, in the canonical list of nine lyric poets by the scholars of Hellenistic Alexandria. He was uncle to Bacchylides, another of the nine lyric poets. He is the narrator and main character of Mary Renault's historical novel The Praise Singer. He is cited by Plato in The Republic and Protagoras.

Plutarch commended "the saying of Simonides, that he had often felt sorry after speaking but never after keeping silent" and observed that "Simonides calls painting silent poetry and poetry painting that speaks" (later paraphrased by the Latin poet Horace as ut pictura poesis).

The art of memory

Among the most colourful of his "ignorant" patrons was the head of the Scopadae clan, named Scopas. Fond of drinking, convivial company and vain displays of wealth, this aristocrat's proud and capricious dealings with Simonides are demonstrated in a traditional account related by Cicero (De Oratore) and Quintilian, according to which the poet was commissioned to write a victory ode for a boxer. Simonides embellished his ode with so many references to the twins Castor and Pollux (heroic archetypes of the boxer) that Scopas told him to collect half the commissioned fee from them — he would only pay the other half. Simonides however ended up getting much more from the mythical twins than just a fee; he owed them his very life (see Miraculous escapes). According to this story he was called out of the feast hall to see two visitors who had arrived and were asking for him – presumably Castor and Pollux. As soon as he left the hall, it collapsed, killing everyone within. These events were said to have inspired him to develop a system of mnemonics based on images and places called the method of loci. The method of loci is one component of the art of memory.

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