1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hyginus, Gaius Julius

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379861911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 14 — Hyginus, Gaius Julius

HYGINUS, GAIUS JULIUS, Latin author, a native of Spain (or Alexandria), was a pupil of the famous Cornelius Alexander Polyhistor and a freedman of Augustus, by whom he was made superintendent of the Palatine library (Suetonius, De Grammaticis, 20). He is said to have fallen into great poverty in his old age, and to have been supported by the historian Clodius Licinus. He was a voluminous author, and his works included topographical and biographical treatises, commentaries on Helvius Cinna and the poems of Virgil, and disquisitions on agriculture and bee-keeping. All these are lost.

Under the name of Hyginus two school treatises on mythology are extant: (1) Fabularum Liber, some 300 mythological legends and celestial genealogies, valuable for the use made by the author of the works of Greek tragedians now lost; (2) De Astronomia, usually called Poetica Astronomica, containing an elementary treatise on astronomy and the myths connected with the stars, chiefly based on the Καταστερισμοί of Eratosthenes. Both are abridgments and both are by the same hand; but the style and Latinity and the elementary mistakes (especially in the rendering of the Greek originals) are held to prove that they cannot have been the work of so distinguished a scholar as C. Julius Hyginus. It is suggested that these treatises are an abridgment (made in the latter half of the 2nd century) of the Genealogiae of Hyginus by an unknown grammarian, who added a complete treatise on mythology.

Editions.—Fabulae, by M. Schmidt (1872); De Astronomia, by B. Bunte (1875); see also Bunte, De C. Julii Hygini, Augusti Liberti, Vita et Scriptis (1846).