Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Anthology

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1872887Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition — AnthologyRichard Garnett


ANTHOLOGY. The term anthology, literally denoting a collection of flowers, is figuratively applied to any selection of literary beauties, and especially to that great body of fugitive poetry, comprehending about 4500 pieces, by upwards of 300 writers, which is commonly known as the Greek Anthology.

Literary History of the Greek Anthology.—The art of occasional poetry had been cultivated in Greece from an early period,—less, however, as the vehicle of personal feeling, than as the recognis-ed commemoration of remarkable individuals or events, or the accompaniment of votive offerings. Such compositions were termed epigrams, i.e., inscriptions. The modern use of the word is a departure from the original sense, which simply indicated that the composition was intended to be engraved or inscribed. Such a composition must necessarily be brief, and the restraints attendant upon its publication concurred with the simplicity of Greek taste in prescribing conciseness of expression, pregnancy of meaning, purity of diction, and singleness of thought, as the indispensable conditions of excellence in the epigrammatic style. The term was soon extended to any piece by which these conditions were fulfilled. The transition from the monumental to the purely literary character of the epigram was favoured by the exhaustion of more lofty forms of poetry, the general increase, from the general diffusion of culture, of accomplished writers and tasteful readers, but, above all things, by the changed political circumstances of the times, which induced numbers who would otherwise have engaged in public affairs to addict themselves to literary pursuits. These causes came into full operation during the Alexandrian era, in which we find every description of epigrammatic composition perfectly developed. About 90 B.C., the sophist and poet, Meleager of Gadara, undertook to combine the choicest effusions of his predecessors into a single body of fugitive poetry. Collections of monumental inscriptions, or of poems on particular subjects, had previously been formed by Polemon the grammarian, Alcetas, and others; but Meleager first gave the principle a comprehensive application. His selection, compiled from forty-six of his predecessors, from Sappho downward, and including numerous contributions of his own, was entitled The Garland (Στέφανος); and in an introductory poem each poet is compared to some flower, fancifully deemed appropriate to his genius. The arrangement of the collection was alphabetical, according to the initial letter of each epigram.
In the age of Tiberius (rather than of Trajan, as commonly stated) the work of Meleager was continued by another epigrammatist, Philip of Thessalonica, who first employed the term anthology. His collection included the compositions of thirteen writers subsequent to Meleager. Somewhat later, another supplement was formed by the sophist Diogenianus, and, under Hadrian, Strato of Sardis compiled his elegant but tainted Μοῦσα παιδική from his own productions and those of earlier writers. No further collection from various sources is recorded until the time of Justinian, when epigrammatic writing, especially in its amatory department, experienced a great revival at the hands of Agathias, the historian, Paulus Silentiarius, and their circle. Their ingenious but mannered productions were collected by Agathias into a new anthology, entitled The Circle (Κύκλος); the first to be divided into books, and arranged with reference to the subjects of the pieces.
Five Greek anthologies, accordingly, existed at the commencement of the Middle Ages. The partial incorporation of these into a single body was the work of a certain Constantinus Cephalas, whose name alone is preserved in the single MS. of his compilation extant, but who probably lived during the temporary revival of letters under Constantine Porphyrogenitus, at the beginning of the 10th century. He appears to have merely made excerpts from the existing anthologies, with the addition of selections from Lucillius, Palladas, and other epigrammatists, whose compositions had been published separately. His arrangement, to which we shall have to recur, is founded on a principle of classification, and nearly corresponds to that adopted by Agathias. His principle of selection is unknown; it is only certain that while he omitted much that he should have retained, he has preserved much that would otherwise have perished. The extent of our obligations may be ascertained by a comparison between his anthology and that of the next editor, the monk Maximus Planudes

(1320 A.D.), who has not merely grievously mutilated the anthology of Cephalas by omissions, but has disfigured it by interpolating verses of his own. We are, however, in debted to him for the preservation of the epigrams on works of art, which seem to have been accidentally omitted

from our only transcript of Cephalas.

The Planudean was the only recension of the anthology known at the revival of classical literature, and was first published at Florence, by Janus Lascaris, in 1594. It long continued to be the only accessible collection, for although the Palatine MS., the sole extant copy of the anthology of Cephalas, was discovered at Heidelberg by Salmasius in 1606, it was not published until 1772, when it was included in Brunck s Analecta Veterum Poetarum G rcecorum. This edition was superseded by the standard one of Friedrich Jacobs (Leipsic, 1794-1803, 13 vols.), the text of which was reprinted in a more convenient form in 1813-17, and occupies three pocket volumes in the Tauchnitz series of the classics. The best edition for general purposes is perhaps that of M. Dlibner in Didot s Bibliotheca (Paris, 1864-72), which contains the Palatine Anthology, the epigrams of the Planudean Anthology not comprised in the former, an appendix of pieces derived from other sources, copious notes selected from all quarters, a literal Latin prose translation by Boissonade, Bothe, and Lapaume, and the metrical Latin versions of Hugo Grotius. The best edition of the Planudean Anthology is the splendid one by Van Bosch and Van Lennep (Utrecht, 1795-1822). Welcker, Meineke, and other German scholars have written valuable monographs on the Anthology.

Arrangement of the Anthology.—The Palatine MS., the archetype of the present text, was transcribed by different persons at different times, and the actual arrangement of the collection does not correspond with that signalised in the index. It is as follows : Book 1. Christian epigrams ; 2. Christodorus s description of certain statues ; 3. In scriptions in the temple at Cyzicus ; 4. The prefaces of Meleager, Philip, and Agathias to their respective collec tions ; 5. Amatory epigrams ; G. Votive inscriptions ; 7. Epitaphs ; 8. The epigrams of Gregory of ISTazianzus ; 9. Rhetorical and illustrative epigrams ; 10. Ethical pieces; 11. Humorous and convivial ; 12. Strato s Movcra TraiSi/o; ; 13. Metrical curiosities; 14. Puzzles, enigmas, oracles; 15. Miscellanies. The epigrams on works of art, as already stated, are missing from the Codex Palatinus, and must be sought in an appendix of epigrams only occur- ing in the Planudean Anthology. The epigrams hitherto recovered from ancient monuments and similar sources form another appendix in the second volume of Diibner s edition.

Style and Value of the Anthology.—One of the principal

claims of the Anthology to attention is derived from its continuity, its existence as a living and growing body of poetry throughout all the vicissitudes of Greek civili sation. More ambitious descriptions of composition speedily ran their course, and having attained their complete de velopment became extinct, or at best lingered only in feeble or conventional imitations. The humbler strains of the epigrammatic muse, on the other hand, remained ever fresh and animated, ever in intimate union with the spirit of the generation that gave them birth. To peruse the entire collection, accordingly, is as it were to assist at the disinterment of an ancient city, where generation has suc ceeded generation on the same site, and each stratum of soil enshrines the vestiges of a distinct epoch, but where all epochs, nevertheless, combine to constitute an organic whole, and the transition from one to the other is hardly perceptible. Four stages may be indicated : 1. The Hellenic proper, of which Simonides is the characteristic representative. This is characterised by a simple dignity of phrase, which to a modern taste almost verges upon baldness, by a crystalline transparency of diction, and by an absolute fidelity to the original conception of the epi gram. Nearly all the pieces of this era are actual bona fide inscriptions, or addresses to real personages, whether living or deceased ; narratives, literary exercises, and sports of fancy are exceedingly rare. 2. The epigram received a great development in its second or Alexandrian era, when its range was so extended as to include anecdote, satire, and amorous longing ; when epitaphs and votive inscrip tions were composed on imaginary persons and things, and men of taste successively attempted the same subjects in mutual emulation, or sat down to compose verses as dis plays of their ingenuity. The result was a great gain in richness of style and general interest, counterbalanced by a falling off in purity of diction and sincerity of treatment. The modification, a perfectly legitimate one, the resources of the old style being exhausted, had its real source in the transformation of political life, but may be said to com mence with and to find its best representative in the play ful and elegant Leonidas of Tarentum, a contemporary of Pyrrhus, and to close with Antipater of Sidon, about 140 B.C. It should be noticed, however, that Callimachus, one of the most distinguished of the Alexandrian poets, affects the sternest simplicity in his epigrams, and copies the austerity of Simonides with as much success as an imitator can expect. 3. By a slight additional modification in the same direction, the Alexandrian passes into what, for the sake of preserving the parallelism with the eras of Greek prose literature, we may call the Roman style, although the peculiarities of its principal representative are decidedly Oriental. Meleager of Gadara was a Syrian ; his taste was less severe, and his temperament more fervent than those of his Greek predecessors ; his pieces are usually erotic, and their glowing imagery sometimes reminds us of the Song of Solomon. The luxuriance of his fancy occasion ally betrays him into far-fetched conceits, and the lavish- ness of his epithets is only redeemed by their exquisite felicity. Yet his effusions are manifestly the offspring of genuine feeling, and his epitaph on himself indicates a great advance on the exclusiveness of antique Greek patriot ism, and is perhaps the first clear enunciation of the spirit of universal humanity characteristic of the later Stoical philosophy. With respect to his more strictly poetical qualities, Mr Symonds does not overpraise him when he says " his poetry has the sweetness and the splendour of the rose, the rapture and full throated melody of the nightingale." His gaiety and licentiousness are imitated and exaggerated by his somewhat later contemporary, the Epicurean Philodemus, perhaps the liveliest of any of the epigrammatists; his fancy reappears with diminished bril liancy in Philodemus s contemporary, Zonas, in Crinagoras, who wrote under Augustus, and in Marcus Argentarius, of uncertain date ; his peculiar gorgeousness of colouring remains entirely his own. At a later period of the empire another genre, hitherto comparatively in abeyance, was developed, the satirical. Lucillius, who nourished under Nero, and Lucian, more renowned in other fields of litera ture, display a remarkable talent for shrewd, caustic epi gram, frequently embodying moral reflections of great cogency, often lashing vice and folly with signal effect, but not seldom indulging in mere trivialities, or deformed by scoffs at personal blemishes. This style of composition is not properly Greek, but Roman ; it answers to the modern definition of epigram, and has hence attained a celebrity in excess of its deserts. It is remarkable, however, as an almost solitary example of direct Latin influence on Greek literature. The same style obtains with Palladas, an Alexandrian grammarian of the 4th century, the last of the strictly classical epigrammatists, and the first to be guilty of downright bad taste. His better pieces, however, are characterised by an austere ethical impressiveness, and his literary position is very interesting, as that of an indig nant but despairing opponent of Christianity. 4. The fourth or Byzantine style of epigrammatic composition was culti vated by the beaux-esprits of the court of Justinian. To a great extent this is merely imitative, but the circumstances of the period operated so as to produce a species of origi nality. The peculiarly ornate and rechercM diction of Agathias and his compeers is not a merit in itself, but applied for the first time, it has the effect of revivifying an old form, and many of their new locutions are actual enrich ments of the language. The writers, moreover, were men of genuine poetical feeling, ingenious in invention, and capable of expressing emotion with energy and liveliness ; the colouring of their pieces is sometimes highly dramatic. The charge of impurity, alleged by Mr Symonds against them as a body, applies to Rufinus alone in any consider able degree, and he is purity itself compared with Martial. There is something very touching in the attitude of these last belated stragglers towards the antique culture from which they are hopelessly severed, their half-conscious yearning for the glorious past, whose monuments still sur rounded them on every side, but whose spirit had departed fur ever. With them the volume of the Greek anthology is closed, for the " Christian epigrams " are totally value

less in a literary point of view.

It would be hard to exaggerate the substantial value of the Anthology, whether as a storehouse of facts bearing on antique manners, customs, and ideas, or as one among the influences which have contributed to mould the literature of the modern world. The multitudinous votive inscrip tions, serious and sportive, connote the phases of Greek religious sentiment, from pious awe to irreverent familiarity and sarcastic scepticism ; the moral tone of the nation at various periods is mirrored with corresponding fidelity; the sepulchral inscriptions admit iis into the inmost sanc tuary of family affection, and reveal a depth and tenderness of feeling beyond the province of the historian to depict, and which we should not have surmised even from the dramatists ; the general tendency of the collection is to display antiquity on its most human side, and to mitigate those contrasts with the modern world which more am bitious modes of composition force into relief. The con stant reference to the details of private life renders the Anthology an inexhaustible treasury for the student of archaeology ; art, industry, and costume receive their fullest illustration from its pages. Its influence on Euro pean literatures will be appreciated in proportion to the inquirer s knowledge of each. The further his researches extend, the greater will be his astonishment at the extent to which the Anthology has been laid under contribution for thoughts which have become household words in all cultivated languages, and at the beneficial effect of the imitation of its brevity, simplicity, and absolute verbal accuracy upon the undisciplined luxuriance of modern genius.

Translations, Imitations, &c., of the Anthology.—The best versions of the Anthology ever made are the Latin renderings of select epigrams by Hugo Grotius. They have not been printed separately, but will be found in Eosch and Lennep s edition of the Planudean Anthology, in the Didot edition, and in Dr Wellesley s Anthologia Poly- fflotta. The number of more or less professed imitations in modern languages is infinite, that of actual translations less considerable. French and Italian, indeed, are ill adapted to this purpose, from their incapacity of approxi mating to the form of the original, and their poets have usually contented themselves with paraphrases or imitations, often exceedingly felicitous. Dehesme s French prose translation, however (1863), is most excellent and valuable. The German language alone admits of the pre servation of the original metre, a circumstance advan tageous to the German translators, Herder and Jacobs, who have not, however, compensated the loss inevitably consequent upon a change of idiom by any added beauties of their own. Though unfitted to reproduce the precise form, the English language, from its superior terseness, is better adapted to preserve the spirit of the original than the German; and the comparative ill success of many English translators must be chiefly attributed to the ex tremely low standard of fidelity and brevity observed by them. Bland, Merivale, and their associates (1806-13), are often intolerably diffuse and feeble, from want, not of ability, but of painstaking. Archdeacon Wrangham s too rare versions are much more spirited ; and John Sterling s translations of the inscriptions of Simonides deserve high praise. Professor Wilson (Blackivood s Magazine, 1 833-35) collected and commented upon the labours of these and other translators, with his accustomed critical insight and exuberant geniality, but damaged his essay by burdening it with the indifferent attempts of William Hay. In 1849 Dr Wellesley, principal of New Inn Hall, Oxford, pub lished his Anthologia Polyglotta, a most valuable collec tion of the best translations and imitations in all languages, with the original text. In this appeared some admirable versions by Mr Gold win Smith and Dean Merivale, which, with the other English renderings extant at the time, will be found accompanying the literal prose translation of the Public School Selections, execiited by the Rev. George Burges for Bohn s Classical Library (1854). This is a useful volume, but the editor s notes are worthless. In 1864 Major R. G. Macgregor published an almost complete translation of the Anthology, a work of stupendous industry and fidelity, which almost redeem the general mediocrity of the execution. Idylls and Epigrams, by R. Garnett (1869), include about 140 translations or imitations, with some original compositions in the same style. An agree able little volume on the Anthology, by Lord Neaves, is one of Collins s series of Ancient Classics for Modern Readers. Two recent critical contributions to the subject should be noticed, the Rev. James Davies s essay on Epigrams, in the Quarterly Review (vol. cxvii.), especially valuable for its lucid illustration of the distinction between Greek and Latin epigram ; and the brilliant disquisition in Mr J. A. Symonds s Studies of the Greek Poets (1873).

The Latin Anthology is the appellation bestowed

upon a collection of fugitive Latin verse, from the age of Ennius to about 1000 A.D., formed by Peter Burmann the Younger. Nothing corresponding to the Greek anthology is known to have existed among the Romans, though pro fessional epigrammatists likeMartialpublishedtheirvolumes on their own account, and detached sayings were excerpted from such sententious authors as Publius Syrus, while the Priapeia were probably but one. among many collec tions on special subjects. The first general collection of scattered pieces made by a modern scholar was Scaliger s, in 1573, succeeded by the more ample one of Pithoeus, in 1594. Numerous additions, principally from inscriptions, continued to be made, and in 1759 Burmann digested the whole into his Anthologia veterum Latinorum Epigramma- tum et Poematum. This, occasionally reprinted, has been the standard edition until recently ; but in 1869 Alexander Riese commenced a new and more critical recension, from which many pieces improperly inserted by Burmann are rejected, and his classified arrangement is discarded for one according to the sources whence the poems have been derived. The first volume contains those found in MSS., in the order of the importance of these documents ; those furnished by inscriptions are to follow. Being formed by scholars actuated by no aesthetic principles of selection, but solely intent on preserving everything they could find, the Latin anthology is much more heterogeneous than the Greek, and unspeakably inferior. The really beautiful poems of Petronius and Apuleius are more properly in serted in the collected editions of their writings, and more than half the remainder consists of the frigid conceits or pedantic professional exercises of grammarians of a very late period of the empire, relieved by an occasional gem, such as the apostrophe of the dying Hadrian to his spirit, or the epithalamium of Gallienus. The collection is also, for the most part, too recent in date, and too exclusively literary in character, to add much to our knowledge of classical antiquity. The epitaphs are interesting, but the genuine

ness of many of them is very questionable.
(r. g.)