The Praise Singer

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Name: The Praise Singer
Creator: Mary Renault
Date(s): 1978
Medium: book
Country of Origin: South Africa
External Links:
Cover of The Praise Singer
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The Praise Singer is one of the last historical novels by Mary Renault, set like the others in Ancient Greece. It was published by Pantheon in 1978.

The Praise Singer focuses on the life of Simonides of Keos, an actual historical poet (ca. 556-469 B.C.) In a manner similar to The Last of the Wine, the novel is framed as an autobiography, told by the protagonist as he reminisces about his life, which spanned the transition from an oral to a written culture in Ancient Greece. Through Simonides' eyes we learn about the arts in Ancient Greece, the social mores of their culture, and the politics of oligarchies and tyrannies.

Simonides begins his story with his childhood. Ugly and withdrawn, he finds solace in the muses until the discovery of his talent by another poet, Kleobis, who takes him as his apprentice. Simonides' early career takes him to Ephesos, Samos and Euboia, and Athens, where he finds a powerful patron in its tyrant (ruler) Pisistratos. At the Court of Pisistratos—and later, his sons Hippias and Hipparchos—Simonides becomes a much celebrated poet. Through the course of the book, we see such festivals as the Olympics; witness the developing romance of Harmodios and Aristogeiton, the famous Athenian tyrannicides; and meet numerous historical personages, including Pythagoras and Aischylos. The Praise Singer ends with the death of Hipparchos, upon which the middle-aged Simonides flees to Thessaly.[1]

Book Discussion

No chapter-by-chapter discussion has taken place about this book but two discussions about specific aspects of The Praise Singer have been carried out in the maryrenaultfics community.

In Their Own Words

In 2008 maryrenaultfics began a project which involved "interviews" of characters from Renault's novels. Harmodios and Aristogeiton were interviewed,[4][5] as was Hippias;[6] and two extensive interviews were conducted with Simonides. In the first, appalled by how little of his poetry has survived, he is even more shaken to learn the fate of Homer in modern hands.[7][8] In the second, he is interviewed after a performance for the community and other attendees. Subjects range over religious festivals,[9] beauty,[10] and epics—not to mention the internet. In particular, having been told that epic is no longer written, Simonides is delighted to be able to introduce the Interviewer to modern examples of the mode.[11] There then followed a discussion of Mary Renault herself by several of her characters, including Simonides.[12].

Simonides appeared again during the Six-Word Novels Challenge, reluctantly penning his own contribution;[13] and he was one of the characters who received an invitation to the maryrenaultfics community's five-year anniversary celebrations.[14] He is the focus of one of the posts in the Christmas series;[15] and, during the 2010 World Poetry Day celebrations, he bestows inspiration on those community members who are contributing poems to the haiku challenge.[16]

For more details please see the article about the ITOWverse.

Fan Fiction

There has been very little fan fiction written based on The Praise Singer.


Notable Stories


  1. ^ It has been suggested[1] that Renault had initially planned to write a sequel to this book before she died, but may have been daunted by the scope of the necessary historical research.
  2. ^ Post by erised_dream in the maryrenaultfics community, 13 June 2005. Accessed 1 August 2010.
  3. ^ Post by baranduin in the maryrenaultfics community, 26 June 2005. Accessed 1 August 2010.
  4. ^ Harmodios and Aristogeiton (Part One) comment in maryrenaultfics by fatwatson, 15 June 2008. Accessed 1 August 2010.
  5. ^ Harmodios and Aristogeiton (Part Two) comment in maryrenaultfics by fawatson, 15 June 2008. Accessed 1 August 2010.
  6. ^ Hippias interview in a comment thread started by Anonymous (fawatson) on maryrenaultfics, 15 June 2008. Accessed 1 August 2010.
  7. ^ Simonides and Poetry (Part One) comment by fawatson in maryrenaultfics, 1 June 2008. Accessed 1 August 2010.
  8. ^ Simonides and Poetry (Part Two) comment by fawatson in maryrenaultfics, 1 June 2008. Accessed 1 August 2010.
  9. ^ Simonides' Second Interview (Part One) comment by fawatson in maryrenaultfics, 14 June 2008. Accessed 1 August 2010.
  10. ^ Simonides' Second Interview (Part Two) comment by fawatson in maryrenaultfics, 14 June 2008. Accessed 1 August 2010.
  11. ^ Simonides' Second Interview (Part Two) and (Part Three) comment by fawatson in maryrenaultfics, 14 June 2008. Accessed 1 August 2010.
  12. ^ On Writing comment by fawatson in maryrenaultfics, 22 June 2008.
  13. ^ To Cut, or Not to Cut commentfic by fawatson on maryrenaultfics, 14 February 2009. Accessed 1 August 2010.
  14. ^ Five Year On: Simonides invitation written by queen_ypolita on maryrenaultfics, 6 May 2009. Accessed 1 August 2010.
  15. ^ Christmas at the Clubhouse: On the Third Day of Christmas... by fawatson on maryrenaultfics, 27 December 2009. Accessed 1 August 2010.
  16. ^ Poetic Leanings by fawatson, 7 March 2010. Accessed 1 August 2010.
  17. ^ "What Deserves Remembrance" by Katherine, as archived on AO3. Accessed 6 January 2012.
  18. ^ "Tartarus" by fawatson, on maryrenaultfics. Accessed 30 December 2013.