), of Proconnesus, a son of Caystrobius or Demochares, was an epic poet, who flourished, according to Suidas, about the time of Croesus and Cyrus.
The accounts of his life are as fabulous as those about Abaris the Hyperborean.
According to a tradition, which Herodotus (4.15
) heard at Metapontum, in southern Italy, he re-appeared there among the living 340 years after his death, and according to this tradition Aristeas would belong to the eighth or ninth century before the Christian era; and there are other traditions which place him before the time of Homer, or describe him as a contemporary and teacher of Homer. (Strab. xiv. p.639
In the account of Herodotus (4.13
), Tzetzes (Chil. 2.724, &c.) and Suidas (s. v.
), Aristeas was a magician, who rose after his death, and whose soul could leave and re-enter its body according to its pleasure.
He was, like Abaris, connected with the worship of Apollo, which he was said to have introduced at Metapontum. Herodotus calls him the favourite and inspired bard of Apollo (φοιβόλαμπτος
He is said to have travelled through the countries north and east of the Euxine, and to have visited the countries of the Issedones, Arimaspae, Cimmerii, Hyperborei, and other mythical nations, and after his return to have written an epic poem, in three books, called τὰ Ἀριμάσπεια
, in which he seems to have described all that he had seen or pretended to have seen.
This work, which was unquestionably full of marvellous stories, was nevertheless looked upon as a source of historical and geographical information, and some writers reckoned Aristeas among the logographers.
But it was nevertheless a poetical production, and Strabo (i. p.21
, xiii. p. 589) seems to judge too harshly of him, when he calls him an ἀνὴρ γόης εἴ τις ἄλλος
The poem " Arimaspeia" is frequently mentioned by the ancients (Paus. 1.24.6
; Pollux, 9.5; Gellius, 9.4
; Plin. Nat. 7.2
), and thirteen hexameter verses of it are preserved in Longinus (De Sublim.
10.4) and Tzetzes (Chil.
The existence of the poem is thus attested beyond all doubt; but the ancients themselves denied to Aristeas the authorship of it. (Dionys. Jud. de Thuc.
It seems to have fallen into oblivion at an early period. Suidas also mentions a theogony of Aristeas, in prose, of which, however, nothing is known. (Vossius, De Hist. Graec.
p. 10, &c. ed. Westermann; Bode, Gesch. der Episch. Dichtk.