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Ibycus, of Rhegium in Italy, Greek lyric poet, contemporary of Anacreon, flourished in the 6th century BC.

Notwithstanding his good position at home, he lived a wandering life, and spent a considerable time at the court of Polycrates, tyrant of Samos. The story of his death is thus related: While in the neighbourhood of Corinth, the poet was mortally wounded by robbers. As he lay dying he saw a flock of cranes flying overhead, and called upon them to avenge his death. The murderers betook themselves to Corinth, and soon after, while sitting in the theatre, saw the cranes hovering above. One of them, either in alarm or jest, exclaimed, "Behold the avengers of Ibycus," and thus gave the clue to the detection of the crime (Plutarch, De Garrulitate, xiv.).

Ibycus Painting - The Cranes Of Ibycus by Heinrich Schwemminger

The Cranes Of Ibycus



The phrase, "the cranes of Ibycus," passed into a proverb among the Greeks for the discovery of crime through divine intervention.

According to the Suda, Ibycus wrote seven books of lyrics, to some extent mythical and heroic, but mainly erotic (Cicero, Tusc. Disp. iv. 33), celebrating the charms of beautiful youths and girls. F.G. Welcker suggests that they were sung by choruses of boys at the "beauty competitions" held at Lesbos. Although the metre and dialect are Dorian, the poems breathe the spirit of Aeolian melic poetry.

The Cranes of Ibycus by Friedrich Schiller , Original German version

The Greek for crane is Γερανος (Geranos), which gives us the Cranesbill, or hardy geranium. The crane was a bird of omen.

Pliny the Elder wrote that cranes would appoint one of their number to stand guard while they slept. The sentry would hold a stone in its claw, so that if it fell asleep it would drop the stone and waken.

Aristotle describes the migration of cranes in The History of Animals, adding an account of their fights with Pygmies as they wintered near the source of the Nile. He describes as untruthful an account that the crane carries a touchstone inside it that can be used to test for gold when vomited up. (This second story is not altogether implausible, as cranes might ingest appropriate gizzard stones in one locality and regurgitate them in a region where such stone is otherwise scarce)

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.

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