1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Choerilus

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CHOERILUS. (1) An Athenian tragic poet, who exhibited plays as early as 524 B.C. He was said to have competed with Aeschylus, Pratinas and even Sophocles. According to F. G. Welcker, however, the rival of Sophocles was a son of Choerilus, who bore the same name. Suidas states that Choerilus wrote 150 tragedies and gained the prize 13 times. His works are all lost; only Pausanias (i. 14) mentions a play by him entitled Alope (a mythological personage who was the subject of dramas by Euripfides and Carcinus). His reputation as a writer of satyric dramas is attested in the well-known line

ἡνίκα μἑν βασιλεὐς ἥν Χοιρίλοε έν Σατύροις.

The Choerilean metre, mentioned by the Latin grammarians, is probably so called because the above line is the oldest extant specimen. Choerilus was also said to have introduced considerable improvements in theatrical masks and costumes.

See A. Nauck, Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta (1889); F. G. Welcker, Die griechischen Tragödien, pp. 18, 892.

(2) An epic poet of Samos, who flourished at the end of the 5th century B.C. After the fall of Athens he settled at the court of Archelaus, king of Macedonia, where he was the associate of Agathon, Melanippides, and Plato the comic poet. The only work that can with certainty be attributed to him is the Περσηίς or Περσικά, a history of the struggle of the Greeks against Persia, the central point of which was the battle of Salamis. His importance consists in his having taken for his theme national and contemporary events in place of the deeds of old-time heroes. For this new departure he apologizes in the introductory verses (preserved in the scholiast on Aristotle, Rhetoric, iii. 14), where he says that, the subjects of epic poetry being all exhausted, it was necessary to strike out a new path. The story of his intimacy with Herodotus is probably due to the fact that he imitated him and had recourse to his history for the incidents of his poem. The Perseis was at first highly successful and was said to have been read, together with the Homeric poems, at the Panathenaea, but later critics reversed this favourable judgment. Aristotle (Topica, viii. 1) calls Choerilus's comparisons far-fetched and obscure, and the Alexandrians displaced him by Antimachus in the canon of epic poets. The fragments are artificial in tone.

G. Kinkel, Epicorum Graecorum Frag. i. (1877); for another view of his relations with Herodotus see Müder in Klio (1907), 29-44.

(3) An epic poet of Iasus in Caria, who lived in the 4th century B.C. He accompanied Alexander the Great on his campaigns as court-poet. He is well known from the passages in Horace (Epistles, ii. i, 232; Ars Poëtica, 357), according to which he received a piece of gold for every good verse he wrote in celebration of the glorious deeds of his master. The quality of his verses may be estimated from the remark attributed to Alexander, that he would rather be the Thersites of Homer than the Achilles of Choerilus. The epitaph on Sardanapalus, said to have been translated from the Chaldean (quoted in Athenaeus, viii. p. 336), is generally supposed to be by Choerilus.

See G. Kinkel, Epicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, i. (1877); A. F. Näke, De Choerili Samii Aetate Vita et Poesi aliisque Choerilis (1817), where the above poets are carefully distinguished; and the articles in Pauly-Wissowa's Realencyclopädie, iii. 2 (1899).