poet of the 5th century; there is very little surviving of her works

Praxilla (Greek: Πράξιλλα; fl. 451 BC) was a Greek lyric poetess of the 5th century BC from Sicyon on the Gulf of Corinth. Five quotations and three paraphrases from her poems survive. The surviving fragments of her work come from both religious choral lyric and drinking songs (skolia); the three paraphrases are all versions of myths. Various social contexts have been suggested for Praxilla based on this range of surviving works, including that her poetry was in fact composed by two different authors; that she was an hetaira (courtesan); that she was a professional musician; or that the drinking songs derive from a non-elite literary tradition rather than being authored by a single writer. Praxilla was apparently well-known in antiquity: she was sculpted in bronze by Lysippus and parodied by Aristophanes.

Down to the necklet a girl...
...but a woman under.


  • Κάλλιστον μὲν ἐγὼ λείπω φάος ἠελίοιο,
    δεύτερον ἄστρα φαεινὰ σεληναίης τε πρόσωπον
    ἠδὲ καὶ ὡραίους σικύους καὶ μῆλα καὶ ὄγχνας·
    • The fairest things I leave behind
        Are daylight, and the purple bars
      Of sunset, and the summer wind,
        And moonrise, and the gathered stars;
      And what the terraced orchard bears,
      Ripe cucumbers and mellow pears.
    • Fragment quoted by Zenobius, Proverbs, 4, 21; as translated by A. C. Benson, The Reed of Pan (1922), "In the Underworld"
  • Ὦ διὰ τᾶς θυρίδος καλὸν ἐμβλέποισα,
    παρθένε τὰν κεφαλὰν, τὰ δ᾿ ἔνερθε νύμφα.
    • Look at the lattice above
        For a pretty wonder,—
      Down to the necklet—a girl,
        But a woman under.
    • Fragment quoted by Hephaestion, Handbook of Metre, 25; as translated by T. F. Higham, OBGVT (1938), "At the Window"
    • Other translations:
      Face at the latticed window
        Looking down so sweetly,
      Maiden head, maiden head,
        Maidenhead no more!
      W. G. Headlam, A Book of Greek Verse (1907), p. 33
  • Ὑπὸ παντὶ λίθῳ σκορπίον, ὦ ἑταῖρε, φυλάσσεο.
    • Under every stone, my friend, beware of a scorpion.
    • Fragment quoted by the scholiast on Aristophanes, Thesmophoriazusae, 529, as translated by J. M. Edmonds, Lyra Graeca, Vol. 3 (1927), p. 77; Aristophanes: τὴν παροιμίαν δ᾿ ἐπαινῶ | τὴν παλαιάν· ὑπὸ λίθῳ γὰρ | παντί που χρὴ | μὴ δάκῃ ῥήτωρ ἀθρεῖν.—"I approve the old proverb; for sure it is well to look under every stone lest an orator bite you."



Ancient sources

J. M. Edmonds, Lyra Graeca, Vol. 3 (1927), p. 73
  • Second year of the 82nd Olympiad (451 BC), flourished Crates the comedy-writer, Telesilla, Praxilla, and Cleobulina.
  • Praxilla was portrayed in bronze by Lysippus, although she spoke nonsense in her poetry.
  • Sillier than Praxilla’s Adonis.
    • Saying quoted by Zenobius, Proverbs, 4, 21 (see above): "For none but a simpleton would put cucumbers and the like on a par with the sun and the moon."
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