What is an Epigram?
An epigram is a short, memorable, witty saying that is usually about a single event. The word epigram comes from the Greek word ‘epigramma’ and ‘epigraphein’ which means ‘inscription’ and ‘to write on’ respectively.
The Greeks started writing epigrams as dedications in graves and statues. They were poetic verses which ascribed to the subject they were written for. One of the most famous epigrams from this period was from Greek lyrical poet Simonides of Ceos, for the dead of Sparta after the battle of Thermopylae: ‘O stranger, go and report to the Lacedaemonians that here we lie at rest; the commands they gave us have been obeyed.”
More modern versions of epigrams include snippets from English poet John Dryden: Here lies my wife: here let her lie! Now she’s at rest ‘“ and so am I; English poet Alexander Poper: I am His Highness’ dog at Kew; Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?
Epigrams can also take on a non-poetic form, and these are often much quoted sayings or ‘quotable quotes’. Examples of such epigrams include Oscar Wilde’s “I am not young enough to know everything’ and Groucho Marx’s “No one is completely unhappy at the failure of his best friend’; and