Page:Loeb Classical Library, L001 (1912).djvu/15

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INTRODUCTION

ventional and commonplace epithets and phrases peculiar to epic poetry. Callimachus was in accordance with the spirit of the age when he proclaimed "a great book" to be "a great evil," and sought to confine poetical activity within the narrowest limits both of subject and space. Theocritus agreed with him, both in principle and practice. The chief characteristics of Alexandrianism are well summarized by Professor Robinson Ellis as follows: "Precision in form and metre, refinement in diction, a learning often degenerating into pedantry and obscurity, a resolute avoidance of everything commonplace in subject, sentiment or allusion." These traits are more prominent in Callimachus than in Apollonius, but they are certainly to be seen in the latter. He seems to have written the Argonautica out of bravado, to show that he could write an epic poem. But the influence of the age was too strong. Instead of the unity of an Epic we have merely a series of episodes, and it is the great beauty and power of one of these episodes that gives the poem its permanent value—the episode of the love of Jason and Medea. This occupies the greater part of the third book. The first and second books are taken up with the history of the voyage to Colchis, while the fourth book describes the return voyage. These portions

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