1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Callimachus (poet)

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17663401911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 5 — Callimachus (poet)

CALLIMACHUS, Greek poet and grammarian, a native of Cyrene and a descendant of the illustrious house of the Battiadae, flourished about 250 B.C. He opened a school in the suburbs of Alexandria, and some of the most distinguished grammarians and poets were his pupils. He was subsequently appointed by Ptolemy Philadelphus chief librarian of the Alexandrian library, which office he held till his death (about 240). His Pinakes (tablets), in 120 books, a critical and chronologically arranged catalogue of the library, laid the foundation of a history of Greek literature. According to Suidas, he wrote about 800 works, in verse and prose; of these only six hymns, sixty-four epigrams and some fragments are extant; a considerable fragment of the Hecale, an idyllic epic, has also been discovered in the Rainer papyri (see Kenyon in Classical Review, November 1893). His Coma Berenices is only known from the celebrated imitation of Catullus. His Aitia (causes) was a collection of elegiac poems in four books, dealing with the foundation of cities, religious ceremonies and other customs. According to Quintilian (Instit. x. i. 58) he was the chief of the elegiac poets; his elegies were highly esteemed by the Romans, and imitated by Ovid, Catullus and especially Propertius. The extant hymns are extremely learned, and written in a laboured and artificial style. The epigrams, some of the best specimens of their kind, have been incorporated in the Greek Anthology. Art and learning are his chief characteristics, unrelieved by any real poetic genius; in the words of Ovid (Amores, i. 15)—

“Quamvis ingenio non valet, arte valet.”

Editions.—Hymns, epigrams and fragments (the last collected by Bentley) by J. A. Ernesti (1761), and O. Schneider (1870–1873) (with elaborate indices and excursuses); hymns and epigrams, by A. Meineke (1861), and U. Wilamowitz-Möllendorff (1897). See Neue Bruchstücke aus der Hekale des Kallimachus, by T. Gomperz (1893); also G. Knaack, Callimachea (1896); A. Bertrami, Gl’ Inni di Callimacho e il Nomo di Terpandro (1896); K. Kuiper, Studia Callimachea (1896); A. Hamette, Les Épigrammes de Callimaque: étude critique et litteraire (Paris, 1907). There are English translations (verse) by W. Dodd (1755) and H. W. Tytler (1793); (prose) by J. Banks (1856). See also Sandys, Hist. of Class. Schol. i. (ed. 1906), p. 122.