1. Biographical data
Corinna was a lyric female poet, from Tanagra in Boeotia. Other places, including Thebes, Thespiae, and Corinth, have been proposed by ancient (Paus. 9.22.3) and Byzantine writers (Suda) as her native town. Most of the biographical information about Corinna is drawn from internal evidence within her extant fragments and later sources. Her dates are contested. Based on her style and content, literary critics prefer to date her to the third century BC. The earliest papyrus of her work dates to c. 200 AD and there are no references to her work prior to the first century BC (Anth. Pal. 9.26; Prop. 2.3.21).
2. Style and relation to her contemporaries
Her style is unlike that of choral Archaic poetry and closer to Attic drama, while her content does not embrace the Panhellenic ideal, in contrast to Pindar of Thebes. Roman sources, however, report that she was Pindar’s mentor (Plut. Mor. 347F-348A), and a student of Myrtis of Anthedon (Suda). As Pindar’s contemporary and rival, she was writing in the fifth century BC, and defeated him in competition once (Paus. 9.22.3) or five times (Ael. VH 13.25, Suda). Aelian reports that Pindar called her a “Boeotian sow” based on a foolish reference from the poet’s Olympian Ode (6.90), and Tatian attributes a statue of her to the bronze-caster Silanion, who floruit 328-325 BCE (Tatianus, Ad Gr. 33-4). According to Pausanias, her memorial was in a conspicuous part of Tanagra and a portrait of her tying her hair with a ribbon for her victory against Pindar existed in the gymnasium (9.22.3). In addition, Pausanias reports that she was beautiful, the fairest of women at that time, and that she sang in Aeolic, and not in Doric like Pindar.
Her poetry was divided into five books, but only about forty fragments have survived. Although the Suda describes her as a writer of epigrams, surviving fragments consist of lyric narratives dealing (almost exclusively) with local legends; titles attested are Boeotus, Seven against Thebes, Geroea, Euonymia, Iolaus, The Return, Orestes. Fragment 655 (Geroea) suggests that the narratives were sung by choirs of local girls at festivals. The largest papyrus found preserves two narratives: the first tells of a singing contest between the anthropomorphic mountains Cithaeron and Helicon; the second contains a speech by the seer Acraephen to the river-god Asopus explaining the disappearance of the latter's nine daughters.