A Woman to Know: Anyte of Tegea

Around her the sea trembles, looking upon her polished image. — Anyte

(image via National Hellenic Museum)


Anyte made her living line by line. As a poetess in 3rd century Greece, she joined a group of writers called on to inscribe epitpahs and epigrams for special occasions. Anything from battle celebrations to democratic victories: they'd be on hand to sum up the event in a few well-worded sentences.

But while Anyte's male peers wrote poetic odes to war heroes and triumphant kings, the young poetess memorialized beloved animals, old women and even servants and slaves. She became famous for her simple phrasing and beloved for her sensitivity. Today, twenty-five of her works survive — more than that of any other ancient Greek woman writer.

At the end of her life, she'd developed a unique specialty: epitaphs for daughters who had died young. Below, she dedicated three lines to a young woman named Thersis:


In place of the happy bride bed and sacred marriage songs, her mother laid her daughter in this marble tomb
A girl who had your beauty and your stature, Thersis.
And while yet we speak of her, you also fade away.

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