Meters in Greek and Latin poetry will often be named with two words, one indicating the number of times a foot is repeated; the other discussed below. A foot consists of two or more syllables. For more on the study of meters, see Prosody.
In English, we talk about stressed and unstressed syllables. In Greek and Latin verse, the syllables were long or short. The slash represents a stressed (or long) syllable and the tilde an unstressed (or short) syllable.
- Iam - Iambic Meter~ / (unstressed, stressed)
- Trochee - Trochaic Meter /~ (stressed, unstressed)
- Anapest -Anapestic Meter ~ ~ / (unstressed, unstressed, stressed)
- Dactyl - Dactylic Meter / ~ ~ (stressed, unstressed, unstressed)
- Spondee - Spondaic Meter / / (stressed, stressed)
Latin Metrical Feet as Musical NotesUnlike stress-based English meter, Latin and Greek meter depends on the length of the vowels in the syllables. A long vowel (_) is twice the length of a short (u). A short vowel has a length of one mora. A mora can be thought of as like an eighth note in music. Here is a way of visualizing the feet actually used in Latin poetry and those that could potentially be so using musical quarter (♩) and eighth notes (♪) for the syllable vowels:
Feet of 3 Morae
- Trochee : _ u (♩ ♪)
- Iambus : u _ (♪ ♩)
- Tribrach : uuu (♪ ♪ ♪)
Feet of 4 Morae
- Dactyl : _ uu (♩♪♪)
- Anapest : uu _ (♪♪♩)
- Spondee : _ _ (♩♩)
- Proceleusmaticus : uuuu (♪♪♪♪)
Feet of 5 Morae
- Cretic : _ u _ (♩♪♩)
- First Paeon : _ uuu (♩♪♪♪)
- Fourth Paeon : uuu _ (♪♪♪♩)
- Bacchius : u _ _ (♪♩♩)
- Antibacchius : _ _ u (♩♩♪)
Feet of 6 Morae
- Ionicus a maiore : _ _ uu (♩♩♪♪)
- Ionicus a minore : uu _ _ (♪♪♩♩)
- Choriambus : _ u u _ (♩♪♪♩)
- Ditrochee : _ u _ u (♩♪♩♪)
- Diiambus : u _ u _ (♪♩♪♩)
Miscellaneous Possible Feet
- Pyrrhic : uu (♪♪)
- First Epitrite : u _ _ _ (♪♩♩♩)
- Second Epitrite : _ u _ _ (♩♪♩♩)
- Third Epitrite : _ _ u _ (♩♩♪♩)
- Fourth Epitrite : _ _ _ u (♩♩♩♪)
- Antispast : u _ _ u (♪♩♩♪)
- Dispondee : _ _ _ _ (♩♩♩♩)
- Second Paeon : u _ u u (♪♩♪♪)
- Third Paeon : u u _ u (♪♪♩♪)
- Molossus : _ _ _ (♩♩♩)
Some Greek and Latin Meters: Glyconic, Alcaic, Sapphic, and Asclepeadean.
Greek and Latin Poetry Meter FAQ Index:
- What Is an Anceps?
- What's the Difference Between Caesura and Diaeresis?
- What's an Example of a Caesura?
- What Is Dactylic Hexameter?
- What Is an Example of an Elegiac Couplet?
- What Is an Ictus?
- What Is Meter?
- What Are the Main Latin Meters?
- What Is a Metron?
- What is Prosody?
- How Do You Scan a Line of Latin Poetry?