As a coryphae, a personality is distinguished, which is outstanding in a specialist field or a leader. The term can be used to designate persons of all professions, usually leading scientists or outstanding artists. In the ancient Greek theater of the ancient world, the choral or singing leader was described as a coryphae, which is why the term was retained in the modern theater, where the leader of the ballets or a dancer spoke.
The term can be derived from the Greek (κορυφή ~ koryphé) and translated with summits or the top ones. Thus the translation already refers to what is at issue in principle: namely, something outstanding, which certainly stands over the other, which means either an outstanding personality or the leaders of the chorus and of the ballet. This conceptuality is exemplified by Cicero, a Roman philosopher and politician of antiquity:
[…] During my stay at Athens, I diligently listened to Zeno,
to whom my Philo the chiefs of the epicureans
to be called […]
The above example is taken from Cicero’s work De natura deorum (The essence of the gods), meaning not verbatim. Cicero, in this section, tells of his stay in Athens, and that, in the impulse of Philos, he attended the lectures of Zeno. Zeno, also a philosopher, is described by Philo, the teacher of Cicero, as a coryphae.
Zeno is, therefore, a professional in regard to the philosophical, and also a leading figure of the Epicureans, the adherent of the doctrine of the Epicurus. This is, by the way, the Zenon of Sidon, a late pikureer and pupil of Apollodorus, whom Cicero, During an Athenian journey.
Koryphäe in theater and ballet
The term also played a role in the ancient theater and is still used today in ballet. In the ancient theater, the singing or choral leader was designated, while the ballet usually means a dancer; so someone who dances before others.
The choir in the ancient Greek tragedy had to be loud and exaggerated, so that every spectator could follow the sung. For this purpose, the choir, which consisted mostly of 12 to 15 singers, used different stylistic devices and tricks (for example, choric speech or echoes).
This choir is usually composed of citizens, led by a choral leader, the so-called Korypähe. This led to the other singers, and gave them what to do.
In the ballet, the term is usually referred to as the first solo dancer. In ballet there is a strict hierarchy. Below are the eleven, the students. This is followed by the dancers of the second and first quadrilles, the luminaries and the Petits sujets, the Grands sujets and the premiers danseurs / danseuses, with the Danseurs / Danseuses Etoiles standing at the top.
Short overview: The most important thing about the Koryphäe in review
As a coryphae was originally a leader. Nowadays, the term usually means a personality that is outstanding in a particular field. However, the term can be used for almost every profession and every art.
In antiquity, the word also referred to the singing or choral leader, the Koryphäe also playing a role in the ballet today and describing a solo dancer.