Choral poetry is a type of lyric poetry that was created by the ancient Greeks and performed by choruses (see Greek chorus). Originally, it was accompanied by a lyre, a string instrument like a small U-shaped harp commonly used during Greek classical antiquity and later periods.
During public religious festivals and important family functions, performances of archaic choral lyric poetry were often presented by choruses of both men and women. The archaic choral lyric poetry spanned about three hundred years, starting with the poet, Alcman, in the 7th century BCE and evolving to the works of Timotheos (or Timotheus of Miletus) in the 4th century BCE.
In the beginning, choral poetry was mainly religious and the personal elements disappeared completely in later choral poems. It also detached itself from local ties and assumed Hellenic character. 
These are commonly known subgenres for choral lyric poetry:
- The marriage song (Epithalamium) or (Hymenaios)
- The dancing song
- The lament or dirge (Threnos)
- The paean of praise to a god
- The maiden song (Partheneion or Parthenion)
- The processional (Prosodion)
- The hymn
- The dithyramb
And in later years:
Alcman was a 7th century BCE poet who represents the earliest Alexandrian canon of the nine lyric poets. His choral poetry was known only through quotations by other Greek authors until 1855, when a discovery of a papyrus was found in a tomb at the Saqqara ancient burial ground in Egypt. This papyrus, now displayed at the Louvre in Paris, held the fragment with approximately 100 verses of his Partheneion (a poem sung by a chorus of adolescent girls).
Here is an example of choral poetry, from Alcman's Partheneion:
- "Having devised evil deeds, they suffered [paskhein] in a way that cannot be forgotten.
- There is such a thing as retribution from the gods.
- Blessed [olbios] is he who, with a sound disposition,
- weaves through the time of day
- without punishment that makes him weep. And I sing
- the radiance of Agido, seeing
- her as the sun, which for us
- is shown by Agido - she is the eyewitness
- to shine [phainein] with its sunlight. But for me to praise [ep-aineîn] her
- or to blame [mōmēsthai] her is not allowed by the glorious [kleenna] leader of the chorus [khorēgos = Hagesikhora]"
Another Ancient Greek lyric poet, named Pindar, justified and exalted choral poetry at a time when society was turning away from it. He was also one of the nine lyric poets (like Alcman), and is said to be the greatest, despite the fact that his work is known to be challenging to read and appreciate. 
The Chorus’ Role in Ancient Greek Theater
In Ancient Greek Theater, there was typically a Greek chorus that played a significant role which gave the audience more of an understanding of the characters. This was given by providing background information in order for the people to know what the characters were really thinking. As the play progressed, there was collective commentary (spoken or sung) on particular dramatic actions and events. All of the chorus performers (originally consisting of fifty members, then reduced to twelve and fifteen) were masked, looked exactly the same, and spoke at the same time, which created a sense of unity. After the 5th century, the importance of the chorus started to diminish.
During the performance, “strophe, antistrophe and epode were a kind of stanza framed only for the music," as John Milton wrote in the preface to Samson Agonistes, with the strophe chanted by a Greek chorus as it moved from right to left across the scene.
- Greek Lyric Poetry: A Complete Selection of the Surviving Passages from the Greek Song-Writers
- Merriam-Webster's Dictionary
- Ancient History on Choral Lyric Poetry on ancienthistory.about.com
- Biography of Alcman on poemhunter.com
- Translation from Harvard University's Center for Hellenic Studies
- Very Small Scripts by Kathleen McNamee
- Pindar on ancienthistory.about.com
- "What Are Strophe and Antistrophe in Literature?" on Synonym.com
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