Corinna or Korinna (Greek: Κόριννα) was an Ancient Greek poet, traditionally attributed to the 6th century BC. According to ancient sources such as Plutarch and Pausanias, she came from Tanagra in Boeotia, where she was a teacher and rival to the better-known Theban poet Pindar. Although two of her poems survive in epitome, most of her work is preserved in papyrus fragments.
It is suspected that Corinna was born in the month of May. If Pindar was indeed her pupil, it may be assumed that she was born some years earlier than his birthdate of 522 BC. Some writers, however, place her in the 5th or 4th century BC. Pausanias says she won a poetry competition against Pindar in honour of which she had a monument erected to her. According to his opinion, her success was probably chiefly due to her beauty and her use of the local Boeotian dialect, as opposed to the Doric of Pindar's poems. Aelian said she defeated Pindar five times, and in response to these defeats, Pindar called her a sow. Antipater of Thessalonica lists her in his catalogue of nine mortal muses.
Corinna wrote choral lyric poetry for celebrations in the Boeotian dialect of Greek. It is said that she criticised Pindar for introducing Atticisms into his poems. Unlike Pindar, she focused on local myths, and drew parallels between the world of mythology and ordinary human behaviour. The outlines of two of her poems survive. Minouaie (The Daughters of Minyas), tells of the three adult daughters of King Minyas of Orchomenus: Leukippe, Arsippe, and Alkathoe. Koronaie (The Shuttle Maidens), tells of Orion's two daughters Menippe and Metioche, who cut their throats with their shuttle, "accepting death for their neighbours' sake".
Many modern scholars have challenged the traditional assertion that Corinna was a contemporary of Pindar, and claim a much later date for her. Citing the Boeotian orthography of her surviving fragments, David Campbell, who edited a modern version of her fragments, argues that she lived about 200 BC, and that her traditional biography, replete with contradictory accounts of her character, emerged as legend at a much later date.
Other classicists, including Peter Levi, also claim a later date for her, based on her mythological references, which are from a later date, and the absence of any contemporary accounts corroborating her victory over Pindar. Furthermore, the earliest known fragments of her work date from the 2nd century BC, in keeping with other evidence about when she actually lived.
A fragment of Corinna's poetry
|ἐπί με Τερψιχόρα [|
καλὰ Ϝεροῖ’ ἀισομ[έναν
μέγα δ’ ἐμῆς γέγ[αθε πόλις
λιγουροκω[τί]λυ[ς ἐνοπῆς. (fr. 2)
|Terpsichore [told] me|
lovely old tales to sing
to the white-robed women of Tanagra
- T. Bergk, Poetae Lyrici Graeci, Leipzig 1882, III 543 ff.
- W. Crönert, Corinnae quae supersunt, Rheinisches Museum 63 (1908), 161 ff.
- D.L. Page, Poetae melici Graeci. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962 (repr. 1967).