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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aratus of Soli

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ARATUS, of Soli in Cilicia, Greek didactic poet, a contemporary of Callimachus and Theocritus, was born about 315 B.C. He was invited (about 276) to the court of Antigonus Gonatas of Macedonia, where he wrote his most famous poem, Φαινόμενα (Appearances, or Phenomena). He then spent some time with Antiochus I. of Syria; but subsequently returned to Macedonia, where he died about 245. Aratus’s only extant works are two short poems, or two fragments of his one poem, written in hexameters; an imitation of a prose work on astronomy by Eudoxus of Cnidus, and Διοσημεῖα (on weather signs), chiefly from Theophrastus. The work has all the characteristics of the Alexandrian school of poetry. Although Aratus was ignorant of astronomy, his poem attracted the favourable notice of distinguished specialists, such as Hipparchus, who wrote commentaries upon it. Amongst the Romans it enjoyed a high reputation (Ovid, Amores, i. 15, 16). Cicero, Caesar Germanicus and Avienus translated it; the two last versions and fragments of Cicero’s are still extant. Quintilian (Instit. x. i, 55) is less enthusiastic. Virgil has imitated the Prognostica to some extent in the Georgics. One verse from the opening invocation to Zeus has become famous from being quoted by St Paul (Acts xvii. 28). Several accounts of his life are extant, by anonymous Greek writers.

Editio princeps, 1499; Buhle, 1793; Maass, 1893; Aratea (1892), Commentariorum in Aratum Reliquiae (1898), by the same. English translations: Lamb, 1848; Poste, 1880; R. Brown, 1885; Prince, 1895. On recently discovered fragments, see H. I. Bell, in Classical Quarterly, April 1907; also Berliner Klassikertexte, Heft v. 1, pp. 47-54.