), one of the most celebrated Alexandrine grammarians and poets, was, according to Suidas, a son of Battus and Mesatme, and belonged to the celebrated family of the Battiadae at Cyrene, whence Ovid (1b.
53) and others call him simply Battiades. (Comp. Strab. xvii. p.837
He was a disciple of the grammarian Hermocrates, and afterwards taught at Eleusis, a suburb of Alexandria.
He was highly esteemed by Ptolemy Philadelphus, who invited him to a place in the Museum. (Suid.; Strab. xvii. p.838
.) Callimachus was still alive in the reign of Ptolemy Euergetes, the successor of Philadelphus. (Schol. ad Callim. Hymn.
It was formerly believed, but is now established as an historical fact, that Callimachus was chief librarian of the famous library of Alexandria.
This fact leads us to the conclusion, that he was the successor of Zenodotus, and that he held this office from about B. C. 260 until his death about B. C. 240. (Ritschl, Die Alexandrin. Biblioth. &c.
pp. 19, 84, &c.)
This calculation agrees with the statement of A. Gellius (17.21
), that Callimachus lived shortly before the first Punic war.
He was married to a daughter of Euphrates of Syracuse, and had a sister Megatime, who was married to Stasenorus, and a son Callimachus, who is distinguished from his uncle by being called the younger, and is called by Suidas the author of an epic poem Περὶ νήσων
Callimachus was one of the most distinguished grammarians, critics, and poets of the Alexandrine period, and his celebrity surpassed that of nearly all the other Alexandrine scholars and poets. Several of the most distinguished men of that period, such as his successor Eratosthenes, Philostephanus, Aristophanes of Byzantium, Apollonius Rhodius, Ister, and Hermippus, were among his pupils.
Callimachus was one of the most fertile writers of antiquity, and if the number in Suidas be correct, he wrote 800 works though we may take it for granted that most of them were not of great extent, if he followed his own maxim, that a great book was equal to a great evil. (Athen. 3.72
The number of his works of which the titles or fragments are known to us, amounts to upwards of forty.
But what we possess is very little, and consists principally of poetical productions, apparently the least valuable of all his works, since Callimachus, notwithstanding the reputation he enjoyed for his poems, was not a man of real poetical talent: labour and learning are with him the substitutes for poetic genius and talent. His prose works, on the other hand, which would have furnished us with some highly important information concerning ancient mythology, history, literature, &c., are completely lost.
The poetical productions of Callimachus still extant are:
1. Hymns, six in number, of which five are written in hexameter verse and in the Ionic dialect, and one, on the bath of Pallas, in distichs and in the Doric dialect.
These hymns, which bear greater resemblance to epic than to lyric poetry, are the productions of labour and learning, like most of the poems of that period. Almost every line furnishes some curious mythical information, and it is perhaps not saying too much to assert, that these hymns are more overloaded with learning than any other poetical production of that time. Their style has nothing of the easy flow of genuine poetry, and is evidently studied and laboured.
There are some ancient Greek scholia on these hymns, which however have no great merit.
2. Seventy-three epigrams, which belong to the best specimens of this kind of poetry.
The high estimation they enjoyed in antiquity is attested by the fact, that Archibius, the grammarian, who lived, at the latest, one generation after Callimachus, wrote a commentary upon them, and that Marianus, in the reign of the emperor Anastasius, wrote a paraphrase of them in iambics. They were incorporated in the Greek Anthology at an early time, and have thus been preserved.
These are lost with the exception of some fragments, but there are imitations of them by the Roman poets, the most celebrated of which is the De Coma Berenices
of Catullus. If we may believe the Roman critics, Callimachus was the greatest among the elegiac poets (Quint. Inst. 10.1.53
), and Ovid, Propertius, and Catullus took Callimachus for their model in this species of poetry. We have mention of several more poetical productions, but all of them have perished except a few fragments, and however much we may lament their loss on account of the information we might have derived from them, we have very little reason to regret their loss as specimens of poetry.
Among them we may mention,
, an epic poem in four books on the causes of the various mythical stories, religious ceremonies, and other customs.
The work is often referred to, and was paraphrased by Marianus; but the paraphrase is lost, and of the original we have only a few fragments.
An epic poem entitled Ἐκάλη
, which was the name of an old woman who had received Theseus hospitably when he went out to fight against the Marathonian bull.
This work was likewise paraphrased by Marianus, and we still possess some fragments of the original.
The works entitled Γαλάτεια
were in all probability likewise epic poems.
It appears that there was scarcely any kind of poetry in which Callimachus did not try his strength, for he is said to have written comedies, tragedies, iambic, and choliambic poems. Respecting his poem Ibis
see APOLLONIUS RHODIUS.
Of his numerous prose works not one is extant entire, though there were among them some of the highest importance.
The one of which the loss is most to be lamented was entitled Πίναξ παντοδαπῶν συγγραμμάτων
, or πίνακες τῶν ὲν πάσῃ παιδείᾳ διαλαμψάντων καὶ ὧν συνέγραψαν
, in 120 books.
This work was the first comprehensive history of Greek literature.
It contained, systematically arranged, lists of the authors and their works.
The various departments of literature appear to have been classified, so that Callimachus spoke of the comic and tragic poets, of the orators, law-givers, philosophers, &c., in separate books, in which the authors were enumerated in their chronological succession. (Athen. 2.70
, vi. p.252, xiii. p. 585, xv. p. 669; D. L. 4.23
It is natural to suppose that this work was the fruit of his studies in the libraries of Alexandria, and that it mainly recorded such authors as were contained in those libraries. His pupil Aristophanes of Byzantium wrote a commentary upon it. (Athen. 9.408
; Etym. Mag. s. v. Πίναξ
.) Among his other prose works we find mentioned the following:--
A list of his works is given by Suidas, and a more complete one by Fabricius. (Bibl. Graec.
iii. p. 815, &c.)
The first edition of the six hymns of Callimachus appeared at Florence in 4to., probably between 1494 and 1500. It was followed by the Aldine, Venice, 1513, 8vo.
, but a better edition, in which some gaps are filled up and the Greek scholia are added, is that of S. Gelenius, Basel, 1532, 4to., reprinted at Paris, 1549, 4to. A more complete edition than any of the preceding ones is that of H. Stephanus, Paris, 1566, fol. in the collection of Poetae principes Heroici Carminis.
This edition is the basis of the text which from that time has been regarded as the vulgate. A second edition by H. Stephanus (Geneva, 1577, 4to.) is greatly improved
: it contains the Greek scholia, a Latin translation, thirty-three epigrams of Callimachus, and a few fragments of his other works. Henceforth scarcely anything was done for the text, until Th. Graevius undertook a new and comprehensive edition, which was completed by his father J. G. Graevius.
It appeared at Utrecht, 1697, 2 vols. 8vo.
It contains the notes of the previous editors, of R. Bentley, and the famous commentary of Ez. Spanheim. This edition is the basis of the one edited by J. A. Ernesti at Leiden, 1761, 2 vols. 8vo.
, which contains the whole of the commentary of Graevius' edition, a much improved text, a more complete collection of the fragments, and additioal notes by Hemsterhuis and Ruhnken. Among the subsequent editions we need only mention those of Ch. F.Loesner (Leipzig, 1774, 8vo.)
, H. F. M. Volzer (Leizig, 1817, 8vo.)
, and C. F. Blomfield (London, 1815, 8vo.)