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Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology/Bion 1.

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BION (Βίων). 1. Of Proconnesus, a contemporary of Pherecydes of Syros, who consequently lived about B. C. 560. He is mentioned by Diogenes Laërtius (iv. 58) as the author of two works which he does not specify; but we must infer from Clemens of Alexandria (Strom. vi. p. 267), that one of these was an abridgement of the work of the ancient historian, Cadmus of Miletus.

2. A mathematician of Abdera, and a pupil of Democritus. He wrote both in the Ionic and Attic dialects, and was the first who said that there were some parts of the earth in which it was night for six months, while the remaining six months were one uninterrupted day. (Diog. Laërt. iv. 58.) He is probably the same as the one whom Strabo (i. p. 29) calls an astrologer.

3. Of Soli, is mentioned by Diogenes Laërtius (iv. 58) as the author of a work on Aethiopia (Αἰθιοπικά), of which a few fragments are preserved in Pliny (vi. 35), Athenaeus (xiii. p. 566), and in Cramer's Anecdota (iii. p. 415). Whether he is the same as the one from whom Plutarch (Thes. 26) quotes a tradition respecting the Amazons, and from whom Agathias (ii. 25; comp. Syncellus, p. 676, ed. Dindorf) quotes a statement respecting the history of Assyria, is uncertain. Varro (De Re Rust. i. 1) mentions Bion of Soli among the writers on agriculture; and Pliny refers to the same or similar works, in the Elenchi to several books. (Lib. 8, 10, 14, 15, 17, 18.) Some think that Bion of Soli is the same as Caecilius Bion. [Bion, Caecilius.]

4. Of Smyrna, or rather of the small place of Phlossa on the river Meles, near Smyrna. (Suid. s. v. Θεόκριτος.) AH that we know about him is the little that can be inferred from the third Idyl of Moschus, who laments his untimely death. The time at which he lived can be pretty accurately determined by the fact, that he was older than Moschus, who calls himself the pupil of Bion. (Mosch. iii. 96, &c.) His flourishing period must therefore have very nearly coincided with that of Theocritus, and must be fixed at about B. C. 280. Moschus states, that Bion left his native country and spent the last years of his life in Sicily, cultivating bucolic poetry, the natural growth of that island. Whether he also visited Macedonia and Thrace, as Moschus (iii. 17, &c.) intimates, is uncertain, since it may be that Moschus mentions those countries only because he calls Bion the Doric Orpheus. He died of poison, which had been administered to him by several persons, who afterwards received their well-deserved punishment for the crime. With respect to the relation of master and pupil between Bion and Moschus, we cannot say anything with certainty, except that the resemblance between the productions of the two poets obliges us to suppose, at least, that Moschus imitated Bion; and this may, in fact, be all that is meant when Moschus calls himself a disciple of the latter. The subjects of Bion's poetry, viz. shepherds' and love-songs, are beautifully described by Moschus (iii. 82, &c.); but we can now form only a partial judgment on the spirit and style of his poetry, on account of the fragmentary condition in which his works have come down to us. Some of his idyls, as his poems are usually called, are extant entire, but of others we have only fragments. Their style is very refined, the sentiments soft and sentimental, and his versification (he uses the hexameter exclusively) is very fluent and elegant. In the invention and management of his subjects he is superior to Moschus, but in strength and depth of feeling, and in the truthfulness of his sentiments, he is much inferior to Theocritus. This is particularly visible in the greatest of his extant poems, Ἐπιτάφιος Ἀδώνιδος. He is usually reckoned among the bucolic poets; but it must be remembered that this name is not confined to the subjects it really indicates; for in the time of Bion bucolic poetry also embraced that class of poems in which the legends about gods and heroes were treated from an erotic point of view. The language of such poems is usually the Doric dialect mixed with Attic and Ionic forms. Rare Doric forms, however, occur much less frequently in the poems of Bion than in those of Theocritus. In the first editions of Theocritus the poems of Bion are mixed with those of the former; and the first who separated them was Adolphus Mekerch, in his edition of Bion and Moschus. (Bruges, 1565, 4to.) In most of the subsequent editions of Theocritus the remains of Bion and Moschus are printed at the end, as in those of Winterton, Valckenaer, Brunck, Gaisford, and Schaefer. The text of the editions previous to those of Brunck and Valckenaer is that of Henry Stephens, and important corrections were first made by the former two scholars. The best among the subsequent editions are those of Fr. Jacobs (Gotha, 1795, 8vo.), Gilb. Wakefield (London, 1795), and J. F. Manso (Gotha, 1784, second edition, Leipzig, 1807, 8vo.), which contains an elaborate dissertation on the life and poetry of Bion, a commentary, and a German translation.

5. A tragic poet, whom Diogenes Laertius (iv. 58) describes as τραγῳδίας τῶν Ταρσικῶν λεγομένων. Casaubon (De Sat. Poes. i. 5) remarks, that Diogenes by these words meant to describe a poet whose works bore the character of extempore poetry, of which the inhabitants of Tarsus were particularly fond (Strab. xiv. p, 674), and that Bion lived shortly before or at the time of Strabo. Suidas (s.v. Αἰσχύλος) mentions a son of Aeschylus of the name of Bion who was likewise a tragic poet; but nothing further is known about him.

6. A melic poet, about whom no particulars are known. (Diog. Laërt. iv. 58; Eudoc. p. 94.)

7. A Greek sophist, who is said to have censured Homer for not giving a true account of the events he describes. (Acron, ad Horat. Epist. ii. 2.) He is perhaps the same as one of the two rhetoricians of this name.

8. The name of two Greek rhetoricians; the one, a native of Syracuse, was the author of theoretical works on rhetoric (τέχνας ῥητορικὰς γεγραφώς); the other, whose native country is unknown, was said to have written a work in nine books, which bore the names of the nine Muses. (Diog. Laërt. iv. 58.)

[L. S.]