Piyyut (Hebrew; פִּיּוּט; Greek: ποιητής) is a lyrical composition with the intention to embellish an obligatory prayer or any other religious ceremony.
Piyyutim have been written since the second Temple time in Hebrew and Aramaic. They follow some poetic scheme, such as an acrostic following the order of the Hebrew alphabet or spelling out the name of the author.
In ancient times, the Piyyut was intended to replace most of the prayers. They ensured variety of the obligatory prayers, mainly on Sabbaths and festivals.
The earliest paytan that we can talk about was Yose b. Yose, who lived and worked in Israel in approximately the sixth century. With Yose b. Yose begins the period of the paytanim whose names are known. The most important of these paytanim are Yannai, Simeon b. Megas and Eleazar b. Kallir.
The ancient anonymous piyyut did not employ rhyme. There are only a few piyyutim that were composed with the characteristic method of dividing each poetic line into four feet, each one having two or three stresses. With the beginning of the use of rhyme, especially with the activity of Yannai, the paytanim concentrates much more on rhyme than on rhythm.
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