1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Apollonius of Rhodes

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APOLLONIUS OF RHODES (Rhodius), a Greek epic poet and grammarian, of Alexandria, who flourished under the Ptolemies Philopator and Epiphanes (222-181 B.C.). He was the pupil of Callimachus, with whom he subsequently quarrelled. In his youth he composed the work for which he is known—Argonautica, an epic in four books on the legend of the Argonauts. When he read it at Alexandria, it was rejected through the influence of Callimachus and his party. Disgusted with his failure, Apollonius withdrew to Rhodes, where he was very successful as a rhetorician, and a revised edition of his epic was well received. In recognition of his talents the Rhodians bestowed the freedom of their city upon him—the origin of his surname. Returning to Alexandria, he again recited his poem, this time with general applause. In 196, Ptolemy Epiphanes appointed him librarian of the Museum, which office he probably held until his death. As to the Argonautica, Longinus’ (De Sublim. p. 54, 19) and Quintilian’s (Instit. x. 1, 54) verdict of mediocrity seems hardly deserved; although it lacks the naturalness of Homer, it possesses a certain simplicity and contains some beautiful passages. There is a valuable collection of scholia. The work, highly esteemed by the Romans, was imitated by Virgil (Aeneid, iv.), Varro Atacinus, and Valerius Flaccus. Marianus (about A.D. 500) paraphrased it in iambic trimeters. Apollonius also wrote epigrams; grammatical and critical works; and Κτίσεις (the foundations of cities).

Editio Princeps (Florence, 1496); Merkel-Keil (with scholia, 1854); Seaton (1900). English translations: Verse, by Greene (1780); Fawkes (1780); Preston (1811); Way (1901); Prose by Coleridge (1889); see also Couat, La Poésie alexandrine; Susemihl, Geschichte der griech. Lit. in der alexandrinischen Zeit.