Lyric Genres


Sung to the accompaniment of a lyre by a chorus standing around the altar. As the paian to Apollo and dithyramb to Dionysus were developed, the hymn became limited to worship of other gods.


The Hyporcheme was both a song and a dance. At least two forms of it are known. In one, a single person played and sang while the others danced. In the other, more usual form, "one or more musicians played, a selected number of the best dancers gave full plastic expression to the theme, while the larger body, which sang, accompanied the music with a sedate orchestic movement...The presence of the first body, consisting only of dancers and officiating in conjunction with the chorus, distinguishes the hyporcheme from all other forms of melic. The dance was performed about the altar during the sacrifice of the victims." Accompaniment was flute or kithara music, or both.


Prosodia were "...chorals of supplication or thanksgiving, sung to the music of the flute in solemn processions to the temples or altars of the gods....The prosodia naturally formed the introductory part of the festival--while the approach was made to the temple or while the sacred offerings were brought to the altar." In the liturgy of a festival, the prosodion was followed by a hyporchematic song, after which came a hymn.

The paean was choral, accompanied by the lyre or flute. The term at first meant a song devoted to the worship of Apollo, then came to be used in other contexts. "It is as a song of thanksgiving and praise...that the paean is best attested in ancient literature. It was pre-eminently a song of joy....Apollo enjoined that the paean should be sung in the springtime at Delphi."


In the classical period, this choral song was one of the events in competition at the Dionysia festival in Athens. It may have its origins in the spontaneous song "of the reveller at the komos, when he is smitten in his soul by wine's thunder". "The dithyrambic dance, in which numerous figures were employed, was called the tyrbasia, and was lively and enthusiastic, often wild and extravagant." At first both dedicated to and relating the story of Dionysos, the dithyramb eventually came to concern other heroic subjects. Choral from the time of Arion, subject of competition at the Dionysia festival in Athens. Gradually solos were introduced, then dialogue between a single actor and the chorus leader. This led eventually to the development of tragedy.


A praise poem in honor of men, as opposed to the hymn which was for the gods.


A praise poem sung by a chorus in honor of a victor in an athletic contest. "The common form of accompaniment seems to have been a combination of wind and stringed instruments. Sometimes several kitharas were employed, but it is not probable that more than one flute took part in the accompaniment."


Song sung by the guests at a banquet.


Love poetry--sacred, profane, or both.


"Nuptial songs were sung on three occasions in connection with these ceremonies: at the wedding banquet, during the procession, and before the bridal chamber...hymenaios is the generic term that covers all three parts of the ceremony."


Threnoi were funeral laments; examples of from the Homeric age can be found in the Iliad. "The artistic threnos was a choral song unattended by the responsive lamentations and monodies that formed a part of the Homeric lament." The chorus wore black, and "a stately dance augmented the solemnity of the occasion. The balanced grouping in strophe, antistrophe, and (possibly) epode, gave an effect of calmness and dignity.... The flute was invariably used to accompany the words, which were sung either in a low or in a high key."


Song sung by a chorus of maidens, with the accompaniment of flute music and dance.