Ibycus 7 (contributed by Mariangela Labate)

A lover is like an old horse reluctant to race

In this fragment Ibycus is worried about being once again a victim of Love and of his irresistibile enticements, just like an old horse who is reluctant to race, despite a glorious past, with plenty of success. Love is represented as an obscure, irrational, magical power, no differently from fragment 6 D. (= 286 P.)

The sentences of the poem are long and complex, often enriched by many adjectives and adverbs, so that we could define Ibycus’ lyric as almost “baroque”.

Mariangela Labate
Head of Classics


Ἔροϛ αὖτέ με κυανέοισιν ὑπό

βλεφάροις τακέῥ ὄμμασι δερκόμενος

κηλήμασι παντοδαποῖσ’ ἐς ἅπειρα

δίκτυα Κύπριδι βάλλει.

ἦ μὰν τρομέω νιν ἐπερχόμενον,

ὥστε φερέζυγος ἵππος ἀεθλοφόρος ποτί γήρᾳ

ἀέκων σὺν ὄχεσφι θοοῖσ’ ἐς ἅμιλλαν ἐβα.


Love, gazing upon me again

with his cerulean, languid eyes,

launched me into Kypris

in impenetrable nets

through various seductive arts

And I really shiver while it’s happening

just like a horse carrying his yoke.

Once he used to win, now is growing old?

reluctantly resumes his challenge with rapid chariots.


Links and Teaching Ideas

Here are some other passages where the image of the old horse is used to represent an old man in love:

  • Soph, El. 25-27

ὥσπερ γὰρ ἵππος εὐγενής , κἂν ᾖ γέρως

ἐν τοῖσι δεινοῖς θυμὸν οὐκ ἀπώλεσεν

ἀλλ’ ὀρθὸν οὗς ἵστησιν, ὡσαύτως δὲ σύ…

  • Ennius, fr. 441 V

Sicut fortis equos, spatio qui saepe supremo

vicit Olympia, nunc senio confectus quiescit

  • Hor. Ep. I 1, 8-9

Solve senescentem mature sanus equum, ne peccet ad extremum ridendus et ilia ducat

I think that most of them were common literary topoi, so they could not be directly influenced by Ibycus. Besides, the devasting conception of love we find in Lucretius could be included in the widespread vision of love as a strong, powerful experience which it is impossibile to avoid.

Addition to Ibycus 6

I have found this review by Pietro Giannini about fr. 6, the first one I sent you.


He refers toTheognis, vv.1275-78 where Love is connected to spring and Alcaeus (fr. 296/b Voigt) where the young Demoanatte fell in love just in spring.

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