1. Of Cumae, a celebrated Greek historian, was, according to Suidas, to whom we are indebted for our information respecting his life, a son either of Demophilus or Antiochus; but as Plutarch (Ei ap. Delph.
p. 389a.) mentions only the former name, and as Ephorus's son was called Demophilus (Athen. 6.232
), we must believe that the father of Ephorus was called Demophilus. Ephorus was a contemporary of Theopompus, and lived about B. C. 408, a date which Marx, one of his editors, strangely mistakes for the time at which Ephorus was born. Ephorus must have survived the accession of Alexander the Great, for Clemens of Alexandria (Strom.
i. p. 403) states that Ephorus reckoned 735 years from the return of the Heracleidae down to B. C. 333, or the year in which Alexander
went to Asia.
The best period of his life must therefore have fallen in the reign of Philip. Ephoris was a pupil of Isocrates in rhetoric, at the time when that rhetorician had opened his school in the island of Chios; but not being very much gifted by nature, like most of his countrymen, he was found unfit for entering upon life when he returned home, and his father therefore sent him to school a second time. (Plut. Vit. X Orat.
In order not to disappoint his father again, Ephorus now zealously devoted himself to the study of oratory, and his efforts were crowned with success, for he and Theopompus were the most distinguished among the pupils of Isocrates (Menand. Rhet. Διαιρές
. p. 626 ed. Aldus), and from Seneca (de Tranq. Anim.
6) it might almost appear, that Ephorus began the career of a public orator. Isocrates, however, dissuaded him from that course, for he well knew that oratory was not the field on which Ephorus could win laurels, and he exhorted him to devote himself to the study and composition of history. As Ephorus was of a more quiet and contemplative disposition than Theopompus, Isocrates advised the former to write the early history of Greece, and the latter to take up the later and more turbulent periods of history. (Suidas; Cic. de Orat. 3.9
; Phot. Bibl. Cod.
176, 260.) Plutarch (de Stoic. Repugn.
10) relates that Ephorus was among those who were accused of having conspired against the life of king Alexander
, but that he successfully refuted the charge when he was summoned before the king.
The above is all that is known respecting the life of Ephorus.
The most celebrated of all his works, none of which have come down to us, was--
A History (Ἱστορίαι
) in thirty books.
It began with the return of the Heracleidae, or, according to Suidas, with the Trojan times, and brought the history down to the siege of Perinthus in B. C. 341.
It treated of the history of the barbarians as well as of that of the Greeks, and was thus the first attempt at writing a universal history that was ever made in Greece.
It embraced a period of 750 years, and each of the thirty books contained a compact portion of the history, which formed a complete whole by itself. Each also contained a special preface and might bear a separate title, which either Ephorus himself or some later grammarian seems actually to have given to each book, for we know that the fourth book was called Εὐρώπη
. (Diod. 4.1
; Plb. 5.33
; Strab. vii. p.302
; Clem. Al. Strom. i. p. 403
.) Ephorus himself did not live to complete his work. and it was finished by his son Demophilus. [DEMOPHILUS, No. 1.] Diyllus began his history at the point at which the work of Ephorus left off.
As the work is unfortunately lost, and we possess only isolated fragments of it, it is not possible in all cases to determine the exact contents of each book; but the two collectors and editors of the fragments of Ephorus have done so, as far as it is feasible.
Among the other works of Ephorus we may mention--
, or on inventions, in two books. (Suidas; Athen. 4.182
, viii. p. 352, xiv. p. 637; Strab. xiii. p.622
. (Plut. de Vit. et Poes. Homer.
This work, however, seems to have been nothing but a chapter of the fifth book of the ἱστορίαι
. (Theon, Progymn.
2, 22; comp. Cic. Orat.
This work, too, like a few others which are mentioned as separate productions, may have been only a portion of the History. Suidas mentions some more works, such as Περὶ ἀγαθῶν καὶ κακῶν
, and Παραδόξων τῶν ἑκασταχοῦ Βιβλία
, of which, however, nothing at all is known, and it is not impossible that they may have been excerpta or abridgments of certain portions of the History, which were made by late compilers and published tinder his name.
As for the character of Ephorus as an historian, we have ample evidence that, in accordance with the simplicity and sincerity of his character, he desired to give a faithful account of the events he had to relate.
He shewed his good sense in not attempting to write a history of the period previous to the return of the Heracleidae; but the history of the subsequent time is still greatly intermixed with fables and mythical traditions; and it must be acknowledged that his attempts to restore a genuine history by divesting the traditions from what he considered mythical or fabulous, were in most cases highly unsuccessful, and sometimes even absurd and puerile.
He exercised a sort of criticism which is anything but that of a real historian (Strab. xii. p.550
), and in some instances he forced his authorities to suit his own views. For the early times he seems to have preferred the logographers to the epic poets, though the latter, too, were not neglected. Even the later portions of his history, where Ephorus had such guides as Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon, contained such discrepancies from his great predecessors, and on points on which they were entitled to credit, that Ephorus, to say the least, cannot be regarded as a sound and sate guide in the study of history.
The severest critic of Ephorus was Timaeus, who never neglected an opportunity of pointing out his inaccuracies; several authors also wrote separate books against Ephorus, such as Alexinus, the pupil of Eubulides (D. L. 2.106
), and Strato the Peripatetic. (D. L. 5.59
.) Porphyrius (ap. Euseb. Praep. Evang.
10.2) charges Ephorus with constant plagiarisns; but this accusation is undoubtedly very much exaggerated, for we not only find no traces of plagiarism in the fragments extant, but we frequently find Ephorus disputing the statements of his predecessors. (Joseph. c. Apion.
1.3.) Polybius (12.25
) praises him for his knowledge of maritime warfare, but adds that he was utterly ignorant of the mode of warfare on land; Strabo (viii. p.332
) acknowledges his merits, by saying that he separated the historical from the geographical portions of his work; and, in regard to the latter, he did not confine himself to mere lists of names, but he introduced investigations concerning the origin of nations, their constitutions and manners, and many of the geographical fragments which have come down to us contain lively and beautiful descriptions. (Plb. 9.1
; Strab. ix. p.400
, &c., x. pp. 465, 479, &c.)
As regards the style of Ephorus, it is such as might be expected from a disciple of Isocrates : it is clear, lucid, and elaborately polished, but at the same time diffuse and deficient in power and energy, so that Ephorus is by no means equal to his master. (Plb. 12.28
; Dionys. de Comp. Verb.
26 ; Demetr. Περὶ ἑρμην
. § 68; Dion Chrysost. Orat.
xviii. p. 256, ed. Morel.; Plut. Per. 28
; Philostr. Vit. Soph.
1.17; Cic. Orat.
51; Phot. Bibl.
The fragments of the works of Ephorus, the number of which might probably be much increased if Diodorus had always mentioned his authorities, were first collected by Meier Marx, Carlsruhe, 1815, 8vo.
, who afterwards published some additions in Friedemann and Seebode's Miscellan. Crit. 2.4, p. 754, &c. They are also contained in C. and Th. Müller's Fragm. Historicor. Graec. pp. 234-277, Paris, 1841, 3vo.
Both editors have prefixed to their editions critical dissertations on the life and writings of Ephorus.