In Attic drama, the coryphaeus, corypheus, or koryphaios (Greek κορυφαῖος koryphaîos, from κορυφή koryphḗ́, the top of the head) was the leader of the chorus. Hence the term (sometimes in an Anglicized form "coryphe") is used for the chief or leader of any company or movement. The coryphaeus spoke for all the rest, whenever the chorus took part in the action, in quality of a person of the drama, during the course of the acts.
The term is sometimes used for the chief or principal of any company, corporation, sect, opinion, etc. Thus, Eustathius of Antioch is called the coryphaeus of the First Council of Nicaea, and Cicero calls Zeno the coryphaeus of the Stoics.
In 1856 at the University of Oxford, the office of Coryphaeus or Praecentor was founded, whose duty it was to lead the musical performances directed by the Choragus. The office ceased to exist in 1899.
In Solzhenitsyn’s First Circle, Stalin is often referred to as Coryphaeus, meaning that he speaks for all in the Soviet Union.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). . Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 212.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chambers, Ephraim, ed. (1728). "Coryphæus". Cyclopædia, or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (first ed.). James and John Knapton, et al.