1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bion (poet)

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BION, Greek bucolic poet, was born at Phlossa near Smyrna, and flourished about 100 B.C. The account formerly given of him, that he was the contemporary and imitator of Theocritus, the friend and tutor of Moschus, and lived about 280 B.C., is now generally regarded as incorrect. W. Stein (De Moschi et Bionis aetate, Tübingen, 1893) puts Bion, chiefly on metrical grounds, in the first half of the 1st century B.C. Nothing is known of him except that he lived in Sicily. The story that he died of poison, administered to him by some jealous rivals, who afterwards suffered the penalty of their crime, is probably only an invention of the author of the Ἐπιτάφιος Βίωνος (see Moschus). Although his poems are included in the general class of bucolic poetry, the remains show little of the vigour and truthfulness to nature characteristic of Theocritus. They breathe an exaggerated sentimentality, and show traces of the overstrained reflection frequently observable in later developments of pastoral poetry. The longest and best of them is the Lament for Adonis (Ἐπιτάφιος Ἀδώνιδος). It refers to the first day of the festival of Adonis (q.v.), on which the death of the favourite of Aphrodite was lamented, thus forming an introduction to the Adoniazusae of Theocritus, the subject of which is the second day, when the reunion of Adonis and Aphrodite was celebrated. Fragments of his other pieces are preserved in Stobaeus; the epithalamium of Achilles and Deidameia is not his.

Bion and Moschus have been edited separately by G. Hermann (1849) and C. Ziegler (Tübingen, 1869), the Epitaphios Adonidos by H. L. Ahrens (1854) and E. Hiller in Beiträge zur Textegeschichte der griechischen Bukoliker (1888). Bion’s poems are generally included in the editions of Theocritus. There are English translations by J. Banks (1853) in Bohn’s Classical Library, and by Andrew Long (1889), with Theocritus and Moschus; there is an edition of the text by U. Wilamowitz-Möllendorff in the Oxford Scriptorum Classicorum Bibliotheca (1905). On the date of Bion see F. Bücheler in Rheinisches Museum, xxx. (1875), pp. 33-41; also G. Knaack in Pauly-Wissowa’s Realencyclopädie, s.v.; and F. Susemihl, Geschichte der griechischen Litteratur in der Alexandrinerzeit, i. (1891), p. 233.