THEOGNIS OF MEGARA (6th century B.c.), Greek poet. More than half the elegiac poetry of Greece bef ore the Alex andrian period is included in the 1,400 lines ascribed to Theognis. This collection contains several poems acknowledged to have been composed by Tyrtaeus, Mimnermus and Solon; with two exceptions (T. W. Allen in Classical Review, Nov. 1905, and E. Harrison) modern critics unanimously regard these elegies as intruders, that is, not admitted into his works by Theognis himself ; for this and other reasons they assume the existence of further interpolations which we can no longer detect.
The best-attested elegies are those addressed to Cyrnus, the young friend to whom Theognis imparts instruction in the ways of life, bidding him be true to the "good" cause, eschew the company of "evil" men (democrats), be loyal to his comrades, and wreak cruel vengeance on his foes. Theognis lived at Megara on the Isthmus of Corinth during the democratic revolution in the 6th century B.C. ; some critics hold that he witnessed the "Persian terror" of 590 and 58o; others, including the present writer, place his floruit in 545 B.C.
There is neither profound thought nor sublime poetry in the work of Theognis ; but it is full of sound common-sense embodied in exquisitely simple, concise and well-balanced verse. In his day
verse was the recognized vehicle for political and ethical discus sion, and the gnomic poets were in many ways the precursors of the philosophers and the sophists, who indeed often made their dis course turn on points raised by Theognis and his fellow-moralists. For many generations Theognis was to the Greeks the moralist par excellence; Isocrates says that Hesiod, Theognis and Pho cylides were admitted to be the best teachers of practical moral ity ; and the Emperor Julian in his defence of paganism asks whether "the most wise Solomon is equal to Phocylides or Theognis or Isocrates." Besides the elegies to Cyrnus the Theognidea comprise much miscellaneous verse that may well have come from Theognis.
Editions by Imm. Bekker (i815, 2nd ed. 1827) ; F. G. Welcker (1826) ; both these are epoch-making books which no serious student can ignore ; Th. Bergk (1843, 4th ed. 1882 ; re-edited by E. Hiller, 1890, and 0. Crusius, 1897) ; J. Sitzler (1880) ; E. Harrison, Studies in Theognis, with text (1902) ; T. Hudson-Williams (1910). For further bibliographical references see the two last-mentioned books. There is a prose translation by J. Banks in Bohn's Classical Library (1856), which also includes verse translations by J. Hookham Frere.